Today’s ride begins in Mijas (photo, left), one of the classic “white towns” of Andalucía, so named for the sun-bleached white stone buildings that perch on the hilltop ridges above the coast. Like many cities in this part of Spain, Mijas has known rulers from the Romans and Visigoths to the Moors who, in the 15th century, battled the Christians for dominance in Spain. The “white towns” with their wide-open views of the coastline served as strategic defensive positions against invading armies and ship-looting pirates. Centuries-old look-out towers constructed to guard against such incursions endure today, picturesque monuments to a bloody era.
The peloton will retrace the steps of thieving pirates on the run from law enforcement as they make their first Category One climb in Stage Three, ascending nearly 1,000 meters up the Puerto del León. In addition to a Category Three climb early in the day, the riders will also contest a sprint, with green jersey points awarded to the first finishers.
As they approach the last kilometer of the race, the riders will enter Malaga (right), one of the oldest cities in Europe, with roots dating back to Phoenician times (770 BC) when the city was known as Malaka. Subsequent cultures left their imprint as well: Carthaginians, Romans, Moors and, ultimately, the Christians all called the city their own. In fact, Málaga remained under Moorish rule longer than any other city in Spain, as part of the Emirate of Granada. In later years, this city’s defeat was a key victory in Francisco Franco’s overthrow of the central government during Spain’s civil war.
All of these influences are visible in the city’s art and architecture. Everywhere you look are examples of the mudéjar building style, which contains elements of both Christian and Islamic influence. Málaga was also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and there is a wonderful museum in the city center paying tribute to his amazing body of work.
Which Wines to Drink?
As I mentioned in the wine summary from Stage One, sweet wines are traditional throughout the region. However, dry table wine production is centered in a sub-region of Málaga called Serrania de Ronda, where red wines are made from from Romé and more familiar grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. White wines from Chardonnay, Macabeo, and Sauvignon Blanc are also available.
For today’s Vuelta Vaso suggestion, I recommend finding an example of Tempranillo. It may not be possible to find one from Málaga, but this grape grows just about everywhere in Spain. Pick up one from Rioja, Ribero del Duero, or another reason that piques your curiosity. Or better yet, pick up two from different regions and compare them. Which do you prefer?
Enjoy the stage and, as always, Viva la Vuelta!