Friday

03:30 alarm, shower, shave, jump in the van, Hughie Morgan on Radio Two, bus, plane, the two lad beside us are wasted on Magners and red vino already – happy holidays boys. Alicante, ice cold San Miguel – I almost forgave the airport prices.

Damn – It’s hot! 

But there’s our boy Al to collect us and the air-con in the Megane works just fine.

Torrevieja, apparently aka “Costa Delle Yorkshire,” there are so many expats here – and venue for the opening nocturne TTT of La Vuelta 2019. 

La Vuelta 2019 opens in the salt processing area of Torrevieja. Photo©Ed Hood

The big industry here is salt – yes, the stuff you put on your chips – and what they scatter on the road to melt the ice and rot your car.

The flamingos fish in the salt lagoons; the more salt in the water, the pinker they get.

There are huge piles of the stuff everywhere.

Photo©Ed Hood

We find Race HQ and are soon in possession of the all-important credentials.

Time for lunch, 108 Euros for the langoustines? This isn’t the place…

Al takes us to a fave burger joint in the hills, our server is Belgian; we agree that Deceuninck are the boys on the flat but come those big mountains – not so much.

Back to Polop, I have a nap.

Photo©Ed Hood

Dinner is in the hills, the views are stunning.

Aqua only for Ed, that burger is laying heavy…

* * *

La Vuelta 2019 – Stage One

Despite the best efforts of the donkeys and dogs who conversed well into the night, I slept well.

Photo©Ed Hood

The forced march from Al’s up to town was worth it; spectacular views of the Leon Dormido and a few Euros buys you a café con leche and a LARGE Veterano up at the café which bears the same name as the huge rock.

Photo©Ed Hood
Photo©Ed Hood

Café con leche and a large Veterano – that’s a Spanish brandy, not for the faint hearted – as the local cycling club gathers for their Saturday morning run before the real heat of the day kicks in.

Photo©Ed Hood

Walk back to Al’s, do that computer stuff and lunch at the car wash – nice,

And now we’re en route Torrevieja…

Guardia Civil Tráfico motos as far as the eye can see. Photo©Martin Williamson
Jacob Fuglsang isn’t happy with his pedal. Photo©Martin Williamson
Photo©Ed Hood

‘Weight of a Nation,’ the crowd round the Movistar bus is huge, there’s a roar, the masses parts and there he is, ‘Bala’ – champion of the world, Alejandro Valverde.

No smiles from ‘Bala,’ ‘Spain expects,’ the pressure on the Movistar guys is palapable.

Seventh on the day – not so many seasons ago they would have won this…

Astana head for the win. Photo©Martin Williamson
Deceuninck second as the light fades. Photo©Martin Williamson
Sunweb third, in perfect formation. Photo©Martin Williamson
EF finished fourth. Photo©Ed Hood
Bora finish fifth on the salty, slippy roads. Photo©Martin Williamson
Sixth place for CCC. Photo©Martin Williamson
Movistar – seventh. Photo©Martin Williamson

But not this day; Astana ran out winners from Deceuninck by two seconds – but the Belgians were baulked by the parked-up Jumbo Visma car.

Photo©Ed Hood

Aforementioned ‘Green Bullet’ was the first rider we saw when we arrived, ‘trying out’ the circuit with his companeros.

Photo©Ed Hood

Jumbo Visma were pre-race faves and looked mean on their ‘try out’ but came down heavily on water from a burst paddling pool in the race, washing away their chances.  

Fabio Jakobsen spots a fan. Photo©Martin Williamson
Photo©Ed Hood

I left the on-course snapping to Martin and Al and headed off to see what was going on in the bus park, with a nervous looking Burgos team heading out to the salt mine.

Photo©Ed Hood

Meanwhile, over at Caja Rural there were last minute adjustments to brakes.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

The Bahrain Meridas were getting their final shine before their high speed dash around the salt lagoons.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Presh or not, the fans have to be kept happy; I remember when Fran Ventoso was a fresh faced young sprinter with Saunier Duval, now he’s a battle hardened road captain.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Sam Bennett too was happy to oblige with the photo ops.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Much more serious over at Lotto Soudal however.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

And at Deceuninck, no time for autographs – the vehicles parked in such a way as to keep the public well back from the athletes.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Burgos arrived back in varying states of wastedness…

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

The Jumbo Visma boys were back on the turbos after their try-out with Roglič looking nervous despite the cooling water mist he was being sprayed with. 

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Fabio Aru heads for the start, the comeback continues, he was 14th in le Tour, albeit this wasn’t a good day for UAE, crash victims on a wet corner along with Jumbo.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

All that preparation for nothing, powerhouse Tony Martin’s TTT would end on water spilled from a kiddie’s paddling pool.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

The BIG weaponry deploys, Deceuninck; ice vests and cold stares but the masters were compromised by a badly parked Jumbo car; ‘that’s pro bike racing…

La Vuelta 2019
Hugh Carthy and his EF teammates rode a great TTT. Photo©Ed Hood

EF come back from the office, not a bad shift, fourth over the salt. 

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Chaves, killer TTT or not, the man still has that winning smile for his public.

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Ed Hood

Which team was she on, Amigo?

La Vuelta 2019
Photo©Martin Williamson

Time for us to drive back to Polop – for the mechanics, the work just keeps on coming…