La Vuelta: The closest ever finish in a cycling Grand Tour

( CNN) After 3,593 kilometers of racing, simply six seconds separated first and second place — no wonder the 1984 La Vuelta, the grand tour of Spain, has gone down in cycling lore.

Several minutes often distinguish the leading riders in cycling’s three Grand Tours, which also include the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. But the ‘8 4 Vuelta wasn’t so straightforward.

After 19 stages, comprising of three hour trials and 13 gut-busting mountain climbs, France’s Eric Caritoux and home favourite Alberto Fernandez were practically inseparable. On the final day of racing, the stage was set for the closest ever finish in a major cycling race.

An unlikely leader, Caritoux held a 36 -second lead over the Spaniard ahead of the final period trial. The Frenchman rode first and waited on as Fernandez ate away at his advantage.

In an era before sophisticated timing systems, a nail-biting postpone ensued.

It proved to be too little too late for Fernandez. Caritoux, phenomenal over the climbs in all regions of the race, held on to claim an historic victory — the only Grand Tour win of his career.

“I lost 30 seconds in the time trial but it took me a while were informed that I had won, ” Caritoux said in an interview with the Vuelta website earlier this year.

“It was raining at the end of the stage and, had I known I had such little margin, I would have taken more hazards and I could have fallen.

“Luck was on my side.”

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