The 2009 Vuelta a España was the 64th Vuelta a España. The event took place from 29 August to 20 September 2009. For only the second time in the race's history, it began away from Spanish soil, with the race not in fact reaching Spain until Stage 5.
The 2009 Vuelta has been described as having an easy start and a hard finish. This is because of the short individual time trial and three perfectly flat stages in the Netherlands (along with another in Spain in the race's first week), and eight of the final fourteen stages being mountain stages, with four mountaintop finishes.
In the 2009 Vuelta a España, four different jerseys are awarded. For the general classification, calculated by adding the finishing times of the stages per cyclist after deduction of time bonuses for high placings in stage finishes and at intermediate sprints, the leader receives a golden jersey. This classification is considered the most important of the Vuelta a España, and the winner of the general classification is considered the winner of the Vuelta.
Additionally, there is also a points classification, which awards a green jersey. In the points classification, cyclists receive points for finishing in the top 15 in a stage. The winner gets 25 points, second place 20, third 16, fourth 14, fifth 12, sixth 10, and one point per place less down the line, to a single point for fifteenth. In addition, some points can be won in intermediate sprints.
There is also a mountains classification, which awards a red jersey. In the mountains classifications, points were won by reaching the top of a mountain before other cyclists. Each climb is categorized, with most of the climbs being either first, second, third, or fourth category. There are also three "special category" climbs (equivalent to Hors Categorie in the Tour de France); these are the stage finishes on the Alto de Aitana, the Alto de Sierra Nevada, and the Sierra de La Pandera. These climbs award even more points than a first-category climb.
Finally, there is the combination classification. This is calculated by adding the rankings in the general, points and mountains classifications; the cyclist with the lowest combined ranking is the leader in the combination classification, and receives a white jersey.
There is also a classification for teams. In this classification, the times of the best three cyclists per stage are added, and the team with the lowest time is the leader.
Jersey wearers when one rider is leading two or more competitions
If a cyclist leads two or more competitions at the end of a stage, he receives all those jerseys. In the next stage, he can only wear one jersey, and he wears the jersey representing leadership in the most important competition (golden first, then green, then red, then white). The other jerseys that the cyclists owns are worn in the next stage by the second-place (or, if needed, third or fourth-place) rider in that classification.
The Vuelta was the penultimate event in the 2009 UCI World Ranking. The rankings leader, Alberto Contador, did not compete in the event, but five of the top ten did, including the race winner, Valverde, who earned enough points to ensure that the title was not yet decided. Valverde, however, remained banned from riding in Italy, and so did not take part in the final ranking event, the 2009 Giro di Lombardia.