Each of the Grand Tours seems to be engaged in an ongoing battle to assert itself as the definitive benchmark by which the others will be judged. Fired up and fuelled with national pride, these tours reflect the best features the hosting countries have to offer.
We are presented with a bespoke three-week cultural and geographic insight into Italy, France and Spain that's better than any tourist board commercial.
This year's Vuelta a España began a fortnight ahead of the Tour of Britain - enough time for it to get firmly engrained into the hearts and souls of an audience still in denial about the last Grand Tour. The Tour of Britain was televised back-to-back with the Vuelta, allowing a direct comparison between two nations. It's always good to see your homeland but the constant sun and jaw-dropping beauty of Spain won every round.
The Giro saw Alberto Contador announce his intention of completing a Giro/Tour de France Grand Tour double. He rode well, winning the race and setting the stage for an intriguing TdF. It was interesting to note the appearance of Fabio Aru and his single day in pink.
For us the Tour de France, although a great race, felt a bit flat this year. Yes it was amazing to see the tactics of Chris Froome and Team Sky pretty much dominate the race but it all began to feel a bit like another era of one-team control. Sorry Chris, you are a great rider but for us the real excitement revolved around who was going to come second. It was the constant attacking of Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana that gave the race its real edge.
The Vuelta is the purest, least spoiled and, in some ways, most innocent of the Grand Tours. The riders come across as being calmer and more relaxed as the season's end draws near. Chris Froome was ready to attempt his own Tour Double, Vincenzo Nibali wanted to another opportunity to shine at a Grand Tour along with a host of riders including Tom Dumoulin, Dan Martin and Tejay van Garderen sidelined by crashes and injury at the previous Tour.
This year's Vuelta was extreme. The climbs, the crashes, the heat, the cheating of Nibali and the spirited performance of one rider... Billed as the best time trialist in the race, Tom Dumoulin was never rated as a contender but as the race unfolded he emerged as one with some inspired, spirited and talented riding. For us, his will to succeed will remain as the defining spectacle of this year's Vuelta. Seemingly out of nowhere he took the red jersey and looked capable of securing overall victory from the likes of Fabio Aru. Dumoulin's ride was the type of performance that dreams are made of. He literally came from nowhere to ride the race of his career (so far).
It's true that everyone loves an underdog - to see a rider excel like Dumoulin, it's easy to see why. He made this year's Vuelta unmissable - we just didn't want it to end! If you missed it first time round we highly recommend you catch it on YouTube