27 May 2020 By Wijtze De Groot History

A photo of the first Tour of Catalonia

This year the 100th edition of the Tour of Catalonia was planned. Unfortunately, the 100th edition was cancelled due to the Corona virus. The first edition took place in 1911 and this makes it, after the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy, the oldest cycling race in the world. The Tour of Catalonia has taken place over the years in many different months. Since 2010 the Tour of Catalonia has been held every year in March. The Tour of Catalonia should not be confused with the smaller Catalan Week. The Catalan week was held up until 2005. In 2010 the Tour of Catalonia moved to the end of March on the cycling calendar, where the Catalan Week used to be held. Since 2018, on the last day of this round, there is also a one-day race for women.


The Tour of Catalonia is of course dominated by Spaniards & Catalans. The Spaniards have won 61 of the 99 editions. The record of the most victories is still held by Mariano Cañardo. Mariano won the Tour of Catalonia 7 times. And that in a time that this Tour was still really tough, the mountain passes were still unpaved and the riders were regularly refused by hotels because they smelled too much and were too dirty. Mariano won the Tour in 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1936 and 1939. Actually, Mariano should have won eight times. During a sun-drenched ride in 1931 he died of thirst and accepted a bottle of beer to quench his thirst. That beer cost Marino a 5-minute time penalty and thus victory.

Mariano Cañardo - king of the Volta a Cataluña

Marià Cañardo Lacasta was born in 1906 in Olite (Navarra) as son of a sheep and goat shepherd. Mariano turned out to be a real sportsman; he played football, handball and running. But cycling was his greatest success. He started his cycling career in 1926, and had a long career that lasted until 1943. As a professional cyclist, Mariano achieved more than a hundred victories and was a complete rider who was truly unbeatable in the downhill and the sprint.

Although he was born outside Catalonia, he was seen as a real Catalan and he also felt like one.  He was a fanatical supporter of FC Barcelona and an outspoken Catalan separatist. This even landed him in prison, but his powerful friends got him out of there quickly.

After his active cycling career, he was the real king of this race one more time in 1950 - namely as technical director. He was also coach of the Spanish team at the Tour de France and president of the Catalan cycling federation. Mariano died on 19 June 1987.

In the 99 previous editions of the Tour of Catalonia, four riders from the Low Countries won the race. These included three Belgian riders, namely Richard Van Genechten (1958), Eddy Merckx (1968) and Freddy Maertens (1977). The only Dutchman who has been honoured as a winner is Arie den Hartog, who won the race in 1966.

Arie den Hartog

This round was also won by a number of other big names in cycling history, such as:

         Bic orange                            Peugeot                          Faema                                                                              
     Jacques Anquetil                Eddy Merckx                  Robbert Millar 

               1967                                1968                               1985

Are you curious about other retro cycling shirts? Check them out here. 

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