Strictly speaking our vacation is over and we’ve been back home for a while. Embarrassingly, it’s been almost three weeks since we left our delightful Casa Rural some 50km from Ponferrada and started our slow exploratory journey home via the Mediterranean coast. Of course, I’d been meaning to put finger to keyboard while we were there but spotty WiFi and little time spent in our hotel bedroom, other than for sleeping, rendered that well-nigh impossible. In addition, the weather improved immeasurably allowing my beloved and I to cycle around the Leon Hills most mornings and the course itself. I should add that a couple of times was enough. No need to go the full 200km+.
At this point I should say that I have no idea who decided Ponferrada would be an ideal course for the likes of Messrs Cancellara, Boonen and Sagan when it patently wasn’t, hence the reshuffled Liege-Bastogne-Liege podium for the Men’s Road Race. The Germans and Australians, as usual, seemed to dominate the podiums though it was good to see new talent emerge and existing talent confirmed.
Everyone staying at our Casa Rural was, like us, there for the cycling. Two couples had sons riding against one another in the Juniors and another was the national champion of Hungary who was self-financing her participation in the Elite Women’s road race, though Hungary had provided her and her trainer with kit and a track suit!
After a long, tiring day watching the racing we were all only too happy to return for a delicious home-cooked dinner washed down by a bottle of local wine and enjoy a lively discussion with our fellow guests about the day’s racing. On our day off, Thursday, we drove into Leon, home of Velonews reporter Andrew Hood who kindly provided me with recommendations of what to see and do in Leon – Cathedral, San Marcos and San Isidoro. We followed them to the letter and weren’t disappointed. Architecturally, it’s a beautiful town and, like neighbouring Astorga, boasts a Gaudi building. This one was now a bank but my beloved felt it wouldn’t be out of place in a Harry Potter film.
We were able to thank Andrew personally the following day. I also finally met up with Jose Been who was commentating for television with Phil Liggett. She’s a lovely, bubbly lady who should be awarded much more commentary work on the basis of her knowledge about and enthusiasm for cycling. As usual, I also met up with a number of former fellow volunteers who had once again offered to help out and were royally enjoying the Spanish hospitality.
Like all World Championships, Ponferrada had its plus and minus points but, on balance, was very positive from a spectator experience. Now if only they could have only solved the issue of the road-crossing pinch point…………they’d have gotten a far higher mark. Richmond 2015 promises to be a very different kettle of fish.
Our first stop on the way back from Ponferrada was Zaragoza. A charming old town, well worth a week-end visit. I felt we were unable to do it justice with our evening whistle-stop tour. Thereafter, we spent a couple of days living the high-life as the sole guests in a small château in Argeles-sur-Mer.
The old town was quite charming but the beach area, fronted by miles of golden sandy beach, was a purpose-built, inexpensive, French, family holiday resort. That was not a ringing endorsement. The small villages in the hills above Argeles were however charming as were the smaller coastal towns nearby which put one in mind of Cornish rocky coves. The château had its own vineyard and a very acceptable range of wines which we tasted in its nearby restaurant. That’s the advantage of hiring the Kangoo, plenty of room for bottles of wine.
As we wend our way back home, we popped into the wholly charming town of Sete. My beloved has been wanting to visit for some time as I have a pastel painting of the area and he was able to identify the buildings in the painting. Not too much had changed in the 15 years since it was painted.
We’ve discovered that it’s an excellent idea to get back from a longish vacation on a Friday evening. That way one has all week end to catch up with various bits and pieces, ready for work on Monday morning.
The end of the WorldTour cycling season usually sees us putting dates in diaries and making hotel bookings for next year, particularly for the Worlds, the Tour of the Basque country and La Clasica. We’re also thinking further ahead to 2016 when we won’t go to the worlds in Qatar but might well follow La Vuelta. Something to look forward to!