Among the Grand Tours, the Vuelta can be seen as its rebellious sister, a race of crazy stage profiles that take the riders to almost lunar scenarios, surreal atmospheres that make cycling seem like a dreamlike journey of pain, blessings and visions. 

Alberto Contador has dominated this competition three times in his career - in 2008, 2012 and 2014 - igniting the stages with unforgettable actions. 

"The Vuelta is a very special three-week tour," explained Il Pistolero. "Even more so if you are Spanish, because it is your home race, with your fans, your people. For me, the 2008 edition was even more special because I was at the start of a GT that I had never won."

In 2008, Alberto Contador had already won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, but the Vuelta was missing. The dream of a lifetime, the one that every child aspires to in a cycling career, finally turned into reality.

"The 2008 Vuelta was an important event," says the Madrid champion. "I remember very well that it was schedulled on the calendar after the Olympic Games and that is why I was not in Beijing. I wanted to prepare for this race with all my heart; it was really a key goal that I wanted to obtain that year. I had already won two major races and this would be a historic achievement for me, for my sporting career and my personal development. I went to the start of a race that was completely new to me as the big favourite and with the deep desire to win. I felt good, I was in good shape, but I think the day I really knew I was going to win was on the Angliru, a mythical climb that was the backdrop to an extraordinary stage."

On this infernal Asturian giant Alberto wrote a true academic page of cycling, attacking with five kilometres to go and driving the fans crazy in the most crowded corners. A masterful, dominating climb that crowned him overall leader. A throne he never relinquished until Madrid.

"That year was truly epic," confirms Contador. "Although the most exciting moment was undoubtedly the second last stage: a time trial along the streets around Madrid, in the places where I live. I knew the route almost by heart and would have liked to win that stage, which was very special for me. But the battle with Levi Leipheimer was tough, I was at the end of my tether, I had spent a lot. In any case, it was an incredibly emotional day, surrounded by the warmth of my people."

On the eve of another Vuelta, this time as a commentator, the Pistolero confirms that this is a race where you can expect anything:

"Like the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España is a very open race. Compared to the Tour, the gaps are much smaller and suspense lasts until the end.  There is always a surprise around the corner and everything can change in just one day."

Unpredictable, gruelling and full of challenges. Since last Saturday, the Spanish race has had everyone glued to their televisions as millions of fans take to the streets to watch another exciting spectacle in yellow and red.