It’s 10:00 pm and we’ve just finished dinner in our ‘local’ at Cangas de Onis, we were here last night too. The Mahou is cold, the food is good and the wi-fi is free. It’s a working dinner, words and pictures get dealt with in between patatas bravas and chorizo… ‘Lagos de Covadonga’ – one of the Vuelta legends.
We’re glad we went up there yesterday to do the ‘preview thing,’ today was horrible – wet, cold and virtually zero visibility.
The problem with charging around at a Grand Tour – even for a few days – is that it all starts to merge into one; you have to sit down, look back through your pictures and pick out the memories.
Even yesterday is sliding away in our minds because today’s stage start is looming – who to talk to? What to ask? The best team buses to visit?
The crowds yesterday weren’t the biggest but that’s because of the weather and where we are.
This isn’t tourist country for other European nations; it’s a long way from other parts of Spain and it’s not France at the height of the holiday season – we’ve not heard a word of English spoken.
The Asturians aren’t unfriendly but they’re not friendly, either – ‘we’ll take your money and we won’t be rude, but don’t expect any warmth from us.’
And the Vuelta isn’t the Tour – it never will be. If the Tour Doon Haem is light years from the Tour, then from Doon Haem to the Vuelta is only a few hundred yards.
The police involvement is big but other aspects like race and support signage are of a much lesser order.
The start village isn’t on the same scale and there’s nothing like the same journalistic presence on the race – and no one ever checks your credentials.
But that’s all part of the charm of the Vuelta; we love it – and we love Spain.
Asturias has a lot of similarities with Scotland – rugged terrain, discomfort with central government controlling their fate, mining, fishing – and bagpipes.
They were skirling away atop Covadonga, yesterday.
We were glad to hear them, they lead us to the free hospitality tent where the bean soup was superb and there was shelter from the rain.
Sergei Outschakov appeared for a coffee, he looks cool in a Ukrainian-retro kind of way, still sporting the same haircut as he did in his Tour de France stage winning days.
We checked him out on one of the palmares websites and according to them, he only had one pro win – that Tour stage where he beat Lance.
But there was also the time he ‘won’ a stage, was declassed for irregularities in the sprint and then appeared on the podium to accept the spoils of victory.
It took a wee while to get him off the stage and ‘back in his box’.
A thing that was a bit surprising to us at the finish was that some riders just spun round and headed off the mountain, no cape, no arm warmers – and in Frank Schleck’s case, no hat.
Maybe they’re getting weary – it’s a long season.
Men of the day for us were Barredo – it was cool to be standing with his neebz and granny – and the irrepressible Mosquera.
Low key, relaxed, but battling it out with the mega teams; and no regard for budgets, palmares or reputation – riders like him make the sport special.