Today saw the end of two things:
- Riding in Spain
- The Vuelta (effectively)
And, with that order in mind, this is how todays update shall roll… If you do decide to come to this part of Spain and destroy yourself on ANGLIRU, then I can highly recommend staying in the only 5 star hotel I have ever seen in a small village (Las Caldas), odd? Yes. Complaining? Not a chance:
Trust me, you will need it after the havoc that Angliru will wreak on your nervous system. For todays ride it was time for a change in guide and I was handed over to Mario the missile for an adventure around his stomping ground and old training loops. A few key facts on Mario, another Ex-Pro tour guide and Spanish porn star:
- U23 team mates with Sammy Sanchez (Olympic road race champion)
- Wore the mountain jersey at the Vuelta once upon a time
- Very handy with Podium girls (see above point)
- Goes downhill like a missile – Reportedly one of the fastest pro’s downhill in his day
- Likes to go on training rides with his mate, Fernando Alonso, F1 world champion
Ok then, so he’s relatively accomplished! He was also out on the PISS until 3.30am and turned up on a bike that had Campy EPS (electronic gears) with a flat battery, so was stuck in the 16 at the back (a faarking hard gear to be riding). Interesting.
It took until the first climb to realise that I was empty, totally cooked and on a platter after emptying the tank yesterday… My legs collapsed completely. Worse, hung over and single gear Mario rode away from me… ouch. Riding the last 3 climbs of stage 19 perhaps not a great call.
As we approached the 2nd climb, Mario outlined to me that he hadn’t ridden up this climb since 2005… The last time was in a race, a stage race, where his 38 year old Italian team mate had a heart attack and died on the roadside during the stage. As such, we stopped at the monument and paid respect to his fallen team mate:
A sombre moment yes, but a good reminder to maximise on life and always make sure that you do the things that you love as much as you can. On this theme, the views around this region continued to be beautiful:
The descent from here led to the final climb of the day and a rather famous Spanish climb of Alto del Naranco. Along the way, Mario told me the story of how he and Sammy Sanchez had attacked here to win a stage of a major race when they were under 23 team mates… GOLD.
I struggled up Naranco, legs empty and dead… I had definitely left it all on the Angliru yesterday and it was massively worth it, so I wasn’t worried given I hadn’t expected to climb another 1200m today. Well worth it for the view over Oviedo though:
Back to Las Caldas for a Coke and then into the van for PRO time! My legs didn’t need 70km’s of riding today, but I can honestly say I have maximised on Spanish riding!
PRO time on the Angliru – Vuelta stage 20:
Lets start with just a thought about how AMAZING Pro riders are… Yes, they clearly have some downsides and the last 20 years haven’t been their finest at times, but forget all that and focus on just how incredible it is what they can do on their bikes.
Today was a classic example of that – They arrived at the Angliru after aprox 3200km’s of RACING over 3 weeks and then proceeded to climb it at almost twice the speed of me and the boys yesterday (Horner rode up it in 43 mins today, we were around 1.09). WTF?! To watch these guys up close over a week and follow a tour is quite an amazing experience and it definitely draws you closer into the sport and gives you a new found respect for the riders (Aside from Americans on Treks).
I have to say that watching what these guys have done and ridden some of the stuff they have been over (at half the speed) has reinforced to me what incredible athletes they are. Better than that though, all their kit is PERFECT and super PRO, not to mention the way they ride the bikes, its all super smooth and effortless, even when they are clearly fucked.
Today we lucked in and got to see them twice, first time on our way to Angliru to watch the Grand Finale. Here is the break:
And then, like a cross between an angry snake and a bullet train, the Peloton arrived:
The best part of this corner was watching the Caja Rural team car come in waaaaay too fast and almost drive into the barrier on the exit of the corner, it was feral and good enough for a Policia motorbike to set off in pursuit for a word.
On to the Angliru and it was time to watch the final thrusts of the swords in this years massively evil and hard Vuelta. I am not sure who is responsible for making this beast the last climb in an already VERY hard 3 week Grand Tour, but they are a bad mother*cker whomever they are, as this was brutal. If this short video works (good chance it won’t play), then it will outline how steep it is near the top, in ordinary human terms:
We arrived in time to pick out a spot on a section that was around 18% or so I think? It was steep enough to slow the PRO’s down so that we could see them and get some decent shots! I was all set:
Soon, we could see the Choppers buzzing overhead, support vehicles sped past us, motorbikes blasted up the hill… Anticipation gave way to FEVER and I started to foam at the mouth! This is as good as it PRO gets, a grand tour was about to be decided and you can’t get any closer to the action. Finally, the break and eventual stage winner was upon us.
Whilst I almost fell into a ditch doing it, here are shots from the Dirty Angliru as the PRO’s battled past me:
I was STOKED to see Nibbles on the attack and looking like he was giving it a huge crack to take back the jersey, which is what we ALL wanted! VENGA! As soon as the leaders smashed past us (this is the slowest I have seen them ride all week, with good reason, it was fucking steep), I set off alone to run down the hill to find a spot to watch the final battle further up the mountain. Luckily I was taken in by a whole club of Spanish Dirty Nomad fans:
Now, let me tell you… When Nibbles attacked, the crowd cheered… You could feel how much everyone wanted him (or Purito) to win and take the Vuelta. When Horner finally cracked the hero of the people, there was at best a muted response… Not to mention a lot of shoulder shrugging when he crossed the line to seal the Vuelta (and to become the oldest Grand Tour winner in history). Interesting…
Watching the last 4km’s on TV I am super glad that we rode it yesterday and not today, not to mention how all those fans got up to the top the way they did, it looked feral! Yesterday was Tranquilo and a lot nicer weather wise:
So, the riding it wrapped up… the Vuelta is wrapped up… and tomorrow we leave for Madrid to watch the final flat stage. My legs are ready to leave (or to have a rest day at least), but it will be with sadness that I depart Las Caldas, its been an incredible few days, not to mention week! But, lets not dwell on departure yet, there is still a Vuelta stage to come and more PROness to be stalked!