La Vuelta a España in Burgos. Friday: Alarm at 03:15, bolt at 04:00, 90 minutes to Prestwick, flight at 06:00, Stansted, flight at 14:00 – and here we are, Santander.
Santander is the main town of Cantabria; but we’re headed south to Burgos which is in Castilla y LeÃ³n, the same region as Madrid.
The stage finished today in Burgos – Dave just texted (musn’t say ‘SMS,’ Vik doesn’t like it) to tell us that it’s another CavFest.
Tomorrow won’t be; the stage runs north from Burgos to Peña Cabarga, a 1st cat. mountain top finish.
We’re skipping that one to get to, then spend the day on, the climb to the Covadonga Lakes.
This is the 75th birthday edition of the Vuelta and to ‘celebrate’ the race will head up among the bears, buzzards and wolves of the Picos de Europa.
The Picos are part of the ranges which run west from the Pyrennes along Spain’s northern coast from the Basque Country through Cantabria and Asturias to Galicia on Spain’s rugged north west corner.
This will be the 17th time the Vuelta has visited Lagos de Covadonga. The first winner was ONCE stalwart, Marino Lejaretta in 1983.
But of special interest if you’re a Scot is the fact that in 1986 Robert Millar took victory on this stage which has assumed ‘legend’ status very quickly.
The likes of the Tourmalet and the other great cols of the Tour have been around for decades.
We know from experiences on other great climbs – thinking specifically of the Ventoux in 2009 – that on race day it’s nigh impossible to see the climb; the hordes of fans, the noise, the heat all make it hard to get the ‘feel’ of the place.
Two years ago when Dave Henderson and I were at the Angliru, we drove up the climb prior to race day so as we could get our pictures and stop where we wanted.
Apart from the sheer sense of awe at the height you have gained in a relatively short distance and the magnificent views, there’s not much to see on the Angliru itself.
But the climb to the twin lakes of Enol and Ercina – to give them their individual names – is a historic route.
In 722 the Asturian chieftain Pelayo defeated the Moors (we’d call them Arabs, who ruled most of Spain for almost 800 years) at the battle of Covadonga.
It’s seen as the start of the ‘Reconquest’ the struggle which saw the Moors expelled from Spain – but leaving their architecture and place names.
‘Covadonga’ means ‘place of the long cave’ and pilgrims still come to see the cave where Pelayo prayed to the Virgin before the battle.
But that’s enough history.
Saturday morning: Finding the permanence in Burgos last night was difficult.
We couldn’t wheedle our creds out of the organisation and have to go back to the start, this morning.
Never mind, we’ll get the creds, watch the start, then head for Covadonga.
Wish us luck.
‘You come to the car at the start at 11:00 to get your accreditation; phone me if you have any problem,’ she told us last night; I knew she was just wanting rid of us.
Needless to say, no girl, no car and no reply to our phone calls.
Eventually we found the right man who sorted us in two minutes.
Ironically, we didn’t need creds for the bus park where we reckoned was our best place to get photo opportunities.
And so it proved.
Martin and I have ‘come out’ as fans of the Footon-Servetto kit and their Fuji bikes.
We had a chat with their Aussie Johnnie Walker, I did a phone interview him on the rest day, he’s a nice guy and eloquent to boot.
Theo Bos is also a good guy to talk to, but we had to wait ’til the pretty Oriental lady journo was finished with him – not that I’m saying being an attractive female makes it easier to get interviews with riders, you understand.
Meanwhile, I got my picture taken with Mosquera – sad I know, but I really admire the man.
Cav scowled; Karpets confirmed that he’s now more Spanish than Russian as he chatted like a native; Sanchez chilled but had time for a photo with the girls; Gusev moaned about his position and Anton basked in red.
We didn’t get time to see much of Burgos – but it’s a town where the coffee is good.
Time to head for Covadonga, ciao, ciao.