La Vuelta a España – Day 4: Stage 14, Oviedo – E. E. Fuentes de Invierno
The weather was glorious on Sunday morning. After liberating the car from the car park - at huge expense - we were off, and stumbled right onto race route. The direction arrows made life very easy as we followed the whole 100 mile parcours.
Race route ran through El Padrun, a tiny hill top village, in fact it was the first classified climb of the day. Four years ago, Davie and I stumbled upon El Padrun whilst searching for the Angliru.: :
: There's a sidreria in the village which is like something from an episode of Doctor Who - step through the door and it's 1951.
Jose Manuel Fuente's picture graces the wall, but so does Franco's. That's like walking into a pub in Germany and seeing a picture of Hitler on the wall.
I had a bottle of local cider, took in the atmosphere then lurched out into the sun.
Asturias really is socialist mining territory; we'd call them 'pits.' Miners would tell you that you walk into a mine, but take a cage down into a pit.
Every valley has it's winding tower, very similar to the ones I remember from my younger days in Fife.
Unlike the Fife coal fields with it's gently rolling countryside, the Asturian pits are all tucked away in valleys, folded into the wooded hills. It's hard to know if some of these pits are working or not, even the active ones are very dilapitated.
There are huge contrasts very close to each other in Asturias. In the hills, it's quiet, sleepy and dusty, with spectacular peaks, Alpine meadows, wonderful vistas and traditional fences around the fields.
Down in the mining valleys the towns are very similar to the bland 'New Towns' that were created in Scotland in the 60's. You could be anywhere in Europe as you drive through these places.
The main attraction on the bill was the climb of the San Isidoro. There was a long gently rising approach to the foot of the climb proper, then it reared over the last six-or-so kilometres, high into the rock faces, with hairpins and ramps, but at least on a decent surface.
The magic creds got us all the way up, through the finish line at the ski resort and a good spot for a quick post race getaway.
We liked the mobile press hospitality suite with its ice cold Coke lite and tasty tapas, we also liked the portaloos!
There must have been a mix up with the TV captions, one minute they read 18 K to go then two minutes later it said four K.
We had to bolt from our spot in the mobile VIP lounge, gulping our Coke as we went - but not before Valverde and Satre both cracked under the pressure being applied by a man who I have added to my very short list of heroes - Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo-Galicia.
The finish straight was flat, but there was actually a descent to it, so we stationed ourselves just before the drop.
Davie met a Dutchman who had studied in Scotland and rode Girvan for VC Astar in 1999 - altogether; "its a small world!"
Contador was in golden 'solitary splendour' with Leipheimer trying to shake Mosquera, right behind.
Sastre's face showed desperation as he tried to limit his losses.
The rest were spread over 25 minutes, with the last finishers just 'touring' in.
The busses were parked just after one kilometre to go and the early finishers started to ride back down immediately - a tad confusing for novice spectators.
Contador made it look easy, if he rides the Tour next year, he'll win - there's no one to beat him.
Lance? Well, maybe; he'll have done the testing and wouldn't be coming back if he didn't think he could win.
The 'Indy 500' off the mountain wasn't as bad as usual and were soon in the press room, which was on race route, 15 K from the line.
One thing about the Vuelta is that the press room is much smaller than that of both the Giro and Tour; on Sunday night there were barely 20 of us there. One big 'neg' is that there's no buffet, just bottles of water in an ancient chest freezer.
The wi-fi was good though, and as I BlackBerry-ed the report, Davie sent the pics from the laptop.
It was dark when we left the press room, one of the last to go - again.
We actually have two jobs to do in the press room - get the words down, edited and away, plus download, edit, label and send the pictures.
Sending text is simple, I write a lot of my stuff as I go, on the BlackBerry; but if the wi-fi is having a bad turn then sending the pics can be a frustrating affair.
We stopped for a reviving cafe con leche at a wee bar in the middle of nowhere; it did the trick and we were soon driving through the pedestrian precincts of Oviedo to the car park - the one way systems are so complex we gave up and designed our own route back to the digs.
Davie was set on paella, so paella it was, albeit took an age to arrive.
At around 04.00 I became aware that the paella wasn't as "amazing" as I first thought!
Never mind, a little bit of "pulpo's revenge" never hurt anyone.
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