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article by Nicola Pucci

Many will remember Dalmacio Langarica as the sporting director of the legendary Spanish team Kas, a team of which he was undoubtedly the guru in every sense. But a few decades earlier, that distinguished and helpful gentleman, who knew how to forge the talent of his athletes, giving a much better image of Spain in the Franco era, he had been a good runner. One capable of winning and convincing at home, without however guaranteeing visibility abroad due to the semi-isolation into which Franco’s then very poor and backward Spain had found itself.

In 1946, the year in which the sixth edition of the Vuelta was held, Spain was experiencing the economic difficulties of the post-war period and the end of the Second World War. The news on cycling is interspersed with that of the Nuremberg trials, the execution of a Nazi or the first tensions between the United States and the USSR, while the United Nations discusses Franco’s dictatorship, deciding on a form of embargo against the regime in 1946 (including closing the border with France) which will have little success while instead increasing support. And It is in this context that from 7 to 30 May 1946, with a route of 3,797 km divided into 23 stages, with departure and arrival in Madrid, that 48 runners (32 Spanish, 6 Dutch, 5 Portuguese and 5 Swiss) showed up at the startto succeed the Belgian Gustaaf Deloor in the roll of honor, who achieved a double in the first two editions, 1935 and 1936, in Julian Berrendero, in turn first in 1941 and 1942, ea Delio Rodriguezreigning champion for the success achieved in 1945. E the two latest winners, teammates at Galindo, are the two favorites on the eve of a race which, among the novelties, presents the first team time trial in its history.

Langarica, a 26-year-old Basque from Ochandiano, is an excellent climberso much so that he won the National Mountain Championship in 1945 and 1946, to which to add the prestigious success in the Subida al Naranco in 1944, and even if he is in the pay of the Galindo, he hopes to improve on his 14th place in the previous editioncomforted by the support of the Basques who firmly believe in him and in his chances of final victory.

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In Salamanca Joaquin Olmos, fast in the sprint, took the first red and white leader’s jersey, but his record was short-lived because the following daydespite the bad weather that is raging on the race, first Pirelli wins the morning team time trial allowing Antonio Martin to take the lead, then in the afternoon Galindo’s blue jerseys redeem themselves orchestrating the escape of Langarica, Berrendero, Delio Rodriguez, Sancho and Fombellida which, completed victoriously with a 14 minute advantage over the team’s direct rivals Pirelli, it grants Langarica, in the evening, the honor of wearing the insignia of primacy.

The fifth stage, between Badajoz and Seville, gives wings to the two great favorites of the day before, Berrendero and Delio Rodriguezwho respond to an attempt by Langarica himself to take off in turn and present themselves at the finish line in blissful solitude with 45″ on Manuel Costa and almost 4 minutes on the leader, suffering from cramps and almost on the point of abandoning, who slips into third position at 3’38” from Delio Rodriguez, beaten by Berrendero in the two-man sprint.

The 1946 Vuelta, however, is open, even to runners of foreign origin, so much so that during the sixth stagestill marked by rain and neutralized at the beginning due to an error by an organization motorbike which led the Dutchman Jan Lambrichs and the two Spaniards Gual and Orbaiceta onto the wrong path, the same Dutch rider at the second attempt gets the right breakaway with Manuel Costa, crossing the finish line in second place but then being awarded the victory due to an irregularity in the sprint by the Catalanwho runs independently, who thanks to the 27 minute advantage takes over the red and white jersey in the evening with 22 minutes on Berrendero and 23 on Langaricawhile Delio Rodriguez, delayed by 47 minutes, slips to the back.

Costa will lead the ranking for 12 daysmeanwhile the opponents, who are mainly the riders of the Galindo and the formation of the Netherlands, they try to mend the deficit, with Langarica first in Baza and Barcelonawhere five climbs of Montjuich are planned and despite a puncture which forces them to chase to make up for a 3 minute delay, with Lambrichs and his teammates to do the 67 kilometer team time trial between Valencia and Castellonand with Delio Rodriguez to place a consecutive hat trick in Lerida, Zaragoza and San Sebastianobefore the race gets to the heart of the decisive stages.

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Own from San Sebastiano, on May 23rd, for the 16th stage we go to Bilbaoat Langarica’s home, and the darling of the Basque people, who is second in the general classification and has to make up for a delay of 15’39”, attacks on the climb that leads to Urkiola. Costa, delayed on the descent by a fall, he breaks a wheel and, unable to repair it, instead of waiting for his car, he changes bikes with Olmos, which is prohibited by the regulations. So much so that at the finish line the four minute delay suffered by Langarica, who in the meantime crossed the finish line with arms raised, they are burdened by ten additional minutes of penalties, so that in the evening the ranking reads: Costa leader, Langarica second at 1’40”, Lambrichs third at 20’13”.

And after that Delio Rodriguez has brought personal poker to Santanderon May 25th the 1946 Vuelta experienced another turning point. Langarica, undoubtedly the strongest uphill, attacks together with Emilio Rodriguez on the grim climbs of Castillo Pedroso and El Escudofollowed closely by Lambrichs and the Swiss Kuhn, Costa fails to catch on and reaches the finish line 4’09” behind the Basqueonce again first on arrival, which it ousts him from the top of the standings which now gives him an advantage of 2’49”, with Lambrichs still third at 18’33”.

To secure the final victory, as no one, apart from the people of Bilbao, expected on the eve of the race, all that remains is the seal before the 53 kilometer time trial in Oviedo, in which Langarica prevails ahead of Berrenderowho the following day won in Leon, by just 3″ and beating Costa by a good 7’52”. and then the Vallodolid stage, won by Alejandro Fombellida, in which both Costa and Lambrichs puncture, seeing one assigned another 10 minutes of penalty, the other 2 additional minutes, with the Dutchman overtaking the Spaniard to take second place. But it’s not over yet, on the contrary.

Right on the last dive, in the 200 kilometers that lead from Vallodolid to Madrid, Berrendero unleashes a brawl to try to recover the minute, or little less, that separates him from Lambrichs and Costa, and on the Puerto de Navacerrada he achieved the feat. In fact, no one will ever see the wheels of the 34-year-old ex-winner again, who arrives in Madrid with 7’08” on what remains of the peloton, overtaking the two riders who precede him for a final classification that proclaims, without appeal, Dalmacio Langarica, Basque from Ochandiano, king of Spain, with Berrendero second at 17′ 32” and Lambrichs third at 23’54”with Costa remaining on the edge of the podium for just 25 seconds.

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Here, really, the history of Iberian cycling is being made.

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