Viva La Vuelta VII

I’m back from getting up close and personal with the Vuelta in the Basque country. It was the Vuelta’s first visit to the cycling mad region in 33 years and the fans did not disappoint, lining the route whenever they could, and particularly on the climbs, to encourage all the Basque riders. Despite the cessation of hostilities in the region, the Vuelta organisers were taking no chances and both days there was a significant, albeit discrete, police presence. Despite that, the Vuelta is much more intimate than the Tour and it’s possible to get much closer to the riders and the race. To be fair, the Tour is a much bigger affair, attracting much more interest internationally, and therefore one can appreciate the necessity of the measures put in place by ASO.

Stage 19 started in Noja, a charming seaside town in Cantabria, with fabulous beaches, just an hour’s drive from Bilbao. At the sign on I happened to be standing next to some friends of JuanJo who came over to greet them. He had the look of a man who couldn’t quite believe what was happening to him. Lots of young local riders were there in their cycling kit and the riders were only too happy to pose with them and make their day. I easily managed to attract the attention of both of my friends and wish them luck. At this stage of the race, many are just counting down the hours until they reach Madrid and finally home. Most have been away for almost a month.

Geoffroy Lequatre
Nice smile

I managed to handover the cakes my friend ordered after the race. Picking my way carefully through the streams of water issuing forth from the coaches as the riders enjoyed a post-race shower, I handed them over to one of the mechanics. I’d wisely made enough for the entire crew. I only hoped they would enjoy them.

Stage 20 started in Bilbao with a perambulation around the city, showcasing it’s various monuments, before wending its way to the third main town in the Basque country, Vitoria. While San Sebastian and Bilbao have much to recommend them, the same cannot be said for Vitoria’s new part of town. Again, after a pleasant lunch in a local bar, we took our places on the finish line in full view of the big screen to watch the action unfold. This was going to be a stage for the sprinters and their teams, including that of one of my friend’s, were driving the peloton in the last 15km. Clearly, the cakes had worked their magic and given everyone a fillip. The team’s sprinter finished 2nd behind Leopard Trek’s Daniele Bennati.

Andrey Mizurov
Nice smile

 

Positively sizzling

Yesterday, I was even busier (is that possible?) than the day before. We were having a BBQ at the club for all the volunteers without whom the club wouldn’t be able to stage any events. Of course, it’s always the same crowd who volunteers and this is one small way of saying “thank you”. My beloved kindly offered to cook the sausages and chicken on the BBQ and his efforts were much appreciated by the assembled throng. Here’s a picture of him looking dashing in my plastic frog apron. 

He wields a mean pair of tongs

Spending the club’s money is not the same as spending one’s own. I confess I never, ever look at the price of goods in the supermarket but the last two days I have done the rounds of the super and hypermarkets snapping up every deal going. Two for the price of one, 3rd item free, 2nd at 50% – that’ll do nicely, thank you. This means I have ventured into places I never normally frequent, such as Lidl. 

Everything is now ready for transporting at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. My checklist has been ticked off and, as ever, nothing, but nothing has been left to the vagaries of chance. There remains just one thing left to do. I have to break the bad news to my beloved that he’s got to order a taxi for tomorrow morning. He’s now relaxing down by the pool, which I have yet to visit this year, so he should be in a good mood when he returns. 

We rode together this morning, while it was still a little fresh, on one of my favourite Saturday circuits. My beloved remarked that he’d never seen me ride so well up the hills. See, all that training is paying off. 

I managed to catch the highlights of yesterday’s 228.5km Queen stage  from Oswiecim to Terma Bukowina in the Tour of Poland. As I switched on the TV none other than Johnny Hoogerland and Gorka Izaguirre (last seen winning the Ordiziako Klasika) hove into view, remnants of the early breakaway. They were absorbed by the peloton which, led by Garmin, withstood a number of subsequent, well-timed attacks. Finally, Bauke Mollema launched a solo attack on the final ascent of the day to record his first ever Pro-Tour win. He’s now 3rd on GC behind Grega Bole (2nd) and Dan Martin (who grabbed yellow on Thursday). Johnny Hoogerland looks to have sewn up the KOM jersey and the sprint jersey.

Postscript: On today’s final stage, despite the downpour,  the podium remained unchanged. Well done to fellow Brummie, Dan Martin, on his first of, no doubt, many Pro-Tour wins.

Postpostscript: My beloved took the news well. Did he want to leave for the airport with me at 05:30 or with a taxi at 06:30? No brainer really.