La Vuelta a Espania
Cycling in Spain
Vuelta Blog #6: Our bunch finds some climbing form.
We’ve passed the halfway point of our Vuelta tour and I’m really getting in the Spanish swing of things: Sleeping in, late breakfasts, 1.30pm stage starts, and fantastic roads for touring. Saying goodbye to the coastal port of A Coruna was a little sad, as we had experienced great food, wine, and variety of rides. But we’ve moved on to another marvelous location near on the coast near Pontevedra.
We left by van to go see the start of Stage 17 in the provincial town of Estrada. Well, did this place come out for the occasion! There were marching bands, face painters for the kids, and even a posse of clowns walking through the crowd.
A great thing about getting to a stage start is the opportunity to catch up with a few old racing mates from the 80s and 90s. Having a chuckle with mullet-man Neil Stevens, I was telling him about the Aussie back-packer scene in San Sebastian. Being a local, he said he was unaware of anything but great things from the passive yobbos. Say no more. He did admit he lived a little out of town and I believe him: quite a ways out. I also found in the crowd my former Panasonic teammate, Eric Van Derarden. I didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he still owes me a Tour of Flanders.
After a coffee and gawking at the parade, we straddled our trusty rides and cycled south while the race steered west. Despite quite a tough climb out of Estrada, we were soon on the back roads that make this district a dream for cycle touring. Hill and dale, mostly dale, it was an enjoyable route that took us directly to the 2nd cat climb of Mont-Castrove which was the site of today’s Vuelta finish.
We chose a spot 3km from the summit, which was right where Aru jumped from the GC group. He’s truly a spectacular climber. Once the last rider passed, we rode to the stage finish line and threaded our way through the crowd so we could plunge down the other side to our hotel in the seaside resort town of Sanxeno.
We indulged again tonight, but this time the beer was well earned, as I’m proud to say our bunch managed the climb with great style and made it to our new hotel with huge smiles on their faces.
Doesn’t get much better.
Written by Phil Anderson