At last! The day I have been waiting for, my first ride in another new country, it was time to get up and hit the roads of Spain, or more correctly, the roads of the Vuelta! Day one of riding saw us ride 4km’s from the hotel and turn on to the very road that the race would be covering later on that day for the last 60km’s to the finish line!
The couple next door did their best to keep me awake last night with a few more hammer sessions, I suspect they will need to borrow my Keywin shammy cream if they want to have another night of it, so hopefully I can get an early night.
I realise yesterday post was word heavy and photo light, so I intend to (try to) reverse that trend today and to be fair, with what was laid on for us, it won’t be hard. In fact, I took so many photos that its hard to know which ones to post up. Taking so many photos also turned out to be severely detrimental in other ways as I shall elaborate on later.
Let me get one thing out of the way upfront that’s quite important: This was a fucking fabulous day of road riding, in fact, into the top 5 of ALL TIME I would say. Big call? Allow me to present evidence and without delay, let the dirty photofest commence – Stage 16 and day 1 of riding in all its glory:
There was only 3 of us riding today, Me, Richard the Accountant from Melbourne and Gu-Tee (not how you spell his name, but how you pronounce it), who was also an Ex-PRO rider and who was a Domestique for none other than Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani – Holy F*ck!
Straight out of the hotel and in 4km’s we were on to the Cat 2 Puerto de Cotefablo climb that was the penultimate climb for the Vuelta peloton today. Richard was straight out the arse in 500m, so it was me and Gu-Tee powering away:
This was a great climb and more to the point, I felt AMAZING… Oddly so, happy times:
At 10km’s and an average of 3%, it wasn’t a ball breaker, but a nice warm up. However, a few things did occur to me early on:
- I love Spain – Its awesome
- A proper, real rest week has an amazing effect on your body and legs, I felt like a new person
- Ex-PRO’s are used to ride extremely close to you and don’t mind rubbing shoulders. Fart noise.
A fast descent and we were soon back into the next climb, which was meandering along the race route. Time to put Gu-Tee to work:
He was the best kind of tour guide – We didn’t f*ck around and wait, we just smashed on, gold:
Soon we came across some lakes… I’m a huge fan of lakes, so GT decided we would do a detour off the main road and race route to take in some views and a nice short, but steep little climb. Was it a good call? HELL YES:
On the climb (which had sections of 11%, it was 2.3km’s @ 7.6%), I happened across some Spanish dudes who were in the process of smashing themselves up and taking the piss out of one another, so I dirty nomaded into the middle of their party and it was ON! The leader, on the left here, shot away and I was after him:
I caught him with 500m to go… I looked down and I was doing 187 BPM on the heart rate, except I was sitting down and feeling excellent… In fact I wasn’t even struggling, even with an 11% gradient – WTF was going on? This is what it must feel like to ride on PED’s I suspect… A ringing endorsement for the powers of a rest week! I smashed it over the top, exchanging fist pumps with the Spanish dude as we had vaporised his mates. The view was handy to:
Clearly worried that they had a rampant guest on their hands, GT radioed for Spanish reinforcements, Marcelino turning up to provide some additional Ex-PRO firepower:
No matter… I was having a day on the bike that I can’t recall having in a LONG time… everything felt easy, it was like I was riding without a chain to be honest and these days are very rare. I literally couldn’t do anything wrong. With 15km’s to go and the last Cat 1 climb of the day to the summit finish, prudence suggested I should chill, after all, it was day 1 of riding.
However, days like this are rare, so it was time to go FULL gas. The last climb to Formigal was around 10km’s long with an average gradient of about 5% – Right in the DN honey hole in terms of what I can get into. The last 4km’s ramped up apparently, but let me rewind a bit first to some shots just after the 15km mark… How about this for an award winner:
To the final SHOWDOWN – Passing under the 10km to go Vuelta banner and it was just me and GT, on brand new sealed road that felt amazing… I felt amazing… the bike felt amazing… The cranks were going around like they were motorised. I could not believe the sensations, the views, the speed, the occasion. Here I was, on the Vuelta course a few hours ahead of the race and feeling the best I have felt all year on the bike.
Usually I would sit back and follow the wheel, but with 8km’s to go I decided to get on the front and set my own tempo. It was like I was possessed… By the 7km to go banner I could hear GT breathing, he wasn’t about to pop, but there was exertion. I went into a rabid trance like state, pushing harder and harder. The drag up to the 4km to go banner was tough, a straight road and direct into a head wind, you wouldn’t want to be on the front here in the PRO peloton a few hours later.
The road then jacked up a bit and I was still on the front powering away. If you have been following this blog, you know that the usual script is that I get to about 3kms to go and then blow or fade and have to crawl home having been dropped.
For the past few months I have been the nail to Clarso, the Ironhawk or the Singapore Nationals Hammer. Today however, I got to be the hammer. Not just any hammer, but a mother trucking sledge hammer. Into the last 2km’s and I was confused at how well I was going, it was a freak show. What had I taken? Did I do a BB at some stage without realising? I was expecting GT to attack me at any moment, so given I had been on the front for 6km’s I decided to accelerate, yes, I could add more gas and I put in a few bursts to see what would happen. A miracle happened. GT broke… He snapped… I looked back, there was a gap. OMFG, a gap?! Stay calm, don’t grenade yourself… Just keep going…
I rode that last 1.5km’s like it was for the World Champs jersey… I can count days I have had on the bike feeling this good on one hand I think and I will never forget today to be honest. I was SO feverish I even tried to ride across the actual Vuelta finish line (I had zipped up my jersey and all), only to be stopped by armed police… So this would have to do:
How could this day get better?! Well, GT decided to get in early and confess to his demise, so it was sweet ego massage when Marcelino rocked up and said “So, you smoked Gu-Tee in the last 2km’s, excellent, he is broken…” BOOM. Coke has never tasted so good. I suspect though that I have set myself up for a fall and Spanish revenge will be dished up super cold at some point.
How could this day get any better?! Well, Gu-Tee rose like a Phoenix from his Nomad arranged cauldron of hot demise to score us some VI motherF P passes at the finish line!!! FREE shit and the best seats in town:
So, I was all set… In position and awaiting the PRO peloton, watching them climb the very climb I had just ruthlessly dispatched (with some Strava KOM’s might I add), poised to get the most MASSIVE photo and video scoop for you, the loyal DN readership. This was going to be epic!!
Then, there they were – Uran and that Argos Shimano rider who is not famous, they came into view, ready to wind it up for my photos and their sprint finish… My iPhone was set, I brought it up to shoot up a storm. Black screen.
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttt the FUCK!?!!!!!!!
Yip… I had used it so much that in spite of not giving me a 20 or 10% warning it had died. I desperately tried to restart it, but it was too late… the GC contenders were blasting by as my iCock phone tried to reboot itself. I managed this one photo of the PRO’s, two stragglers, before it died completely:
I don’t even know who these dudes are… But I can say this – When the leaders were sprinting for the line it was brain meltingly fast… It was like they were going downhill, not up a 6% gradient at the end of a 10km climb. Weapons. And, amazing to see in person, even if your iShit has shagged itself. Also into the shagged camp was Nibbles, he looked rooted when he came past me with 25m to go, a stark contrast to Rodriguez and Horner who were nailing it.
Speaking of shagging, the mystery couple next door turns out to be the head guide (AKA tour company owner) and his wife. Glad I brought it up at dinner. I realise I have now made this the worlds longest post, so some quick stats after a map:
Strava load shoot file is here if you so choose, but some key data points (That’s cuntspeak for ride stats):
- 1,738m of climbing
- Avg HR of 144 BPM
- Avg speed of 22.1kph
- 2.55 ride time
Well done if you have made it to the end of the longest post ever… I have gotten rabidly carried away with my Spanish Fever (there’s a joke you couldn’t make in 1918) and will make sure I get a hold of myself tomorrow, where we have an 80km loop with a big climb given its a Rest Day on the Vuelta.