Officially for the PRO’s on the Vuelta today was a rest day… Given I am still as fresh as a Wellington Southerly, there was no rest going down at DN Spanish HQ. For today, Gu-Tee had an 80km ride from the hotel planned, apparently a beautiful loop around the valley that was quiet and essentially went in the opposite direction of yesterdays Vuelta stage. Sounds good to me GT, lets get it done! Slow start to the morning though, pulled out Spec Ops to find a flat front tire… To be replaced by a faulty tube… Tire rage ensued.

The best thing about riding on roads the Vuelta has just been on? They are all brand new essentially… Epic amounts of new Hotmix has been lavishly splashed along roads that see only a few cars per hour. Unrad if you’re a taxpayer, very rad if you’re a cyclist. As the following Bike Cam shots will illustrate, the opening 30km’s of the ride was a smooth operator:

Lead us to the goodness Spanish Gu

Lead us to the goodness Spanish Gu

The opening stanza was through one of the most beautiful valleys you could hope to ride through, add in smooth roads and no cars and you have the recipe for excellence:

Spain - The gift that keeps on giving...

Spain – The gift that keeps on giving…

Can anyone remember what a car looks like?

Can anyone remember what a car looks like?

We had a gliding pace going, great weather and epic scenery… It was all good in the Valley of Radness. Eventually though, regrettably, we had to leave the valley behind and make the turn for our first climb of the day, a 9km grind at around 5%. The lower half though was more around the constant 8% mark:

Yes my Gu, work son...

Yes my Gu, work son…

This was quite a different experience, it was wide, open, deserted and felt ‘Big’. As me and GT were away again, he gave me the run down on the Spanish Governments decision a few years back to build massive fuck off roads in places where there were no cars. He pointed out that the old road was much better for cycling and this new one was built for cars, of which he said there were only 30 per hour! Yip, this would appear to be a case of epic wastage and it was deserted:

Head for the bridge...

Head for the bridge…

Near the summit we had a 2.6km tunnel to contend with… Given it was already a bit chilly, this was like riding through a terrifying uphill fridge:

Si, now we go in tunnel, attention

Si, now we go in tunnel, attention

Given this was a relatively boring climb, I took the chance to ask GT about training and racing with and for Super Mario and Pantani… Was cool to hear some old war storied first hand about old school legends!

Si, we make it through the tunnel!

Si, we make it through the tunnel!

The valley on the opposite side was a bit of a non event and more ‘industrial’ shall we say? But it did lead us back to the final and main climb of the day, the one which GT and I had been quietly waiting for… A repeat show down after yesterday’s Miracle in Formigal was on the cards.

The 12.8km climb from Biescas to the summit of Puerto de Cotefablo was familiar now, we had ridden down it yesterday and driven up it twice. At 4.8%, it had NOMAD written all over it, yet had I checked the riders hand book I would have seen that the last 3km were between 7 and 8%, so beware.

At the base, GT utilised his PRO practicality, turning to Richard to say “Ok, Riiiichard, we see you later ok? We go and see you at hotel (some 25km’s away) Si”. Not one to look a gift-horse in the smacker, I got on the front and off we went! I had a top 10 strava time in mind and with some good tactics, to break the Spanish Gu again! Once more, we were back on a beautiful and deserted climb – Sequence time:

Clear road ahead and a Spaniard glued to my wheel

Clear road ahead and a Spaniard glued to my wheel

Halfway up... Getting hotter and a little steeper...

Halfway up… Getting hotter and a little steeper…

Ok, so now this one feels a little harder...

Ok, so now this one feels a little harder…

I was still feeling good, so started to vary the pace, not in an obvious fashion, but just a few short uppings of the tempo. When this didn’t work, the digs became more pronounced… When the Gu was still all over me like shit to bear fur, they became all out assaults. The most obvious after a flatish hairpin turn that then ramped up, I was on the drops and out of the saddle….

Still…. the Gu hung on. Sure he was breathing like a Rhino giving birth to an elephant, but Spanish pride was on the line and I could see he wasn’t having a bar of yesterday being replayed. I was also starting to max out a bit and with 3km’s still to go on the steeper gradient, I had to try and recover a bit. I tried a few more times, with a final kick to the summit (which is the entrance to another tunnel), but GT hung on… We exchanged a worthy fist pump and both made obligatory ‘fuck that was hard’ noises. Good enough for a few Strava top 10’s even.

The ride back to the hotel was beautiful and good… For us. Evidence presented here:

Shot of the DAY!

Shot of the DAY!

At the turn off to Torla, GT told me to go ahead and get the first shower and get ready to roll, while he waited for Richard so he didn’t miss the turn. I duly did and then sat around waiting for them to arrive…

An hour went past… Hmmmm… Yes, we had been giving it some stick, but this was a bit odd. Eventually the Gu arrived back with the news that Riccardo had gone down somewhere and been taken to hospital by ambulance, yikes. It was a stark reminder that you never, ever want to crash on your road bike, especially in another country. Its now 9.50pm and I still have seen Richard, he’s staying overnight in hospital apparently, so a bit of a blow out. Some ride stats for the day:

  • 87km’s
  • 1323m of climbing
  • 3.08 ride time
  • 27.7kph avg speed
  • Strava ride file: http://app.strava.com/activities/81446826

If you are around this area, GPX download this bad boy and ride the first valley – Its absolutely stunning!!!!

Given we were now Dickless, it was time to head to the next location/hotel… Which of course we are sharing with Omega-Pharma (there are only 3 riders left from 9) and Garmin Sharp (they are down to 5 from 9). First thing on arrival? Commence stalking:

Team issue Skoda anyone?

Team issue Skoda anyone?

I thought it was a score finding the team cars, then I went around the corner, TA DA:

"Seriously, we don't want your help, you can't even change a tube"

“Seriously, we don’t want your help, you can’t even change a tube”

When there's only 3 bikes to prep, life becomes a little easier...

When there’s only 3 bikes to prep, life becomes a little easier…

Whats even better than team trucks and bikes at the back of your hotel? This handy list by the lifts to the room to help your stalking… With the names of the riders and their room numbers. WTF? Yes, true story. Privacy laws obviously lower down the hierarchy of needs in Spain:

"Hi Mr Farrar, I'm from the Dirty Nomad and we have some questions for you please..."

“Hi Mr Farrar, I’m from the Dirty Nomad and we have some questions for you please…”

Tomorrow (Weds) we are on to stage 17 and it looks like its a stage start, ride and then stage finish day… Rammed, but with Spanish goodness. I am now the only remaining paying customer in the tour group, so that should mean some close attention!

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