Now I know how those Taliban guys felt when the CIA tortured them by depriving them of sleep and playing Ted Nugent at pain threshold decibels.

I collapsed into bed at midnight only to be awakened at 02:00 am by the repetitive beats from the foam party at the next village, which is two kilometres away.

Such is life during Fiesta Season in Spain.

Today’s stage starts in Benidorm, not beside the sea but on the north side of town, away from the football strip clad, burnt red, stag and hen madness and the karaoke bars.

There was the usual traffic chaos en route the start but we managed 20 minutes snapping before we had to bolt back to the car.

Photo©Ed Hood

Former Vuelta star, Purito Rodriguez was still looking sharp and earning his keep, drawing the jersey raffle numbers.

Photo©Ed Hood

Whilst EF’s Tour de Suisse king of the mountains, Hugh Carthy was looking relaxed, content with the team’s fourth place in the team time trial.

Photo©Ed Hood

As usual, the riders’ flight path to the sign on from the busses wasn’t too clear and the boys had to resort to stairs; Sam Bennett does a bit of that ‘X’ stuff.

Photo©Ed Hood

The stairs well ‘all good’ for the autograph hunters, though.

Photo©Ed Hood

Whilst some riders had to resort to ‘louping the fence’ to get to the sign on.

All good for snappers like us.

Nairo Quintana. Photo©Martin Williamson

Nairo Quintana was all smiles, relaxed and happy to sign autographs, jerseys and race guides.

Photo©Martin Williamson

Classification leaders like Jacob Fuglsang were much in demand.

Time to vamos; but we’re trapped behind the barriers – a few smiles for the cop, get the guy to move his dog and we’re away… 

Photo©Ed Hood

Puerto de Confrides [20.6 K @ 3.6%], we’re 25 K in to the stage, park up – we don’t have to wait long, a Lotto and a Burgos – little gears, comfortable.

Messrs. Armee and Madrazo; a good day for the latter with the king of the mountains jersey to hang over the bedroom chair tonight – a big deal for a small team like Burgos. 

Photo©Ed Hood

There’s a gap and a Caja Rural, Lastra with a Katusha, Smit in tow; no surprise to see Burgos and Caja Rural up the road – them pro Conti teams have to justify being on the race.

Photo©Martin Williamson

Astana lead the peloton, no panic, line astern, simply riding tempo and keeping things in hand; whilst Lopez won’t use his team up to defend, if they can keep the jersey without going too deep then that’s cool. 

Photo©Ed Hood

Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana are well up the peloton, their Movistar henchmen in close attendance.

Hugh Carthy dumps a nice EF musette at my feet – ‘cheers, my boy.

It has a Rapha logo on it, Dave won’t be happy with that. 

I also collect another three bidons – Marlene will be pleased…

Photo©Ed Hood
Photo©Martin Williamson
Thomas De Gendt. Photo©Martin Williamson
Photo©Ed Hood

The [Super] man in red is half way down the bunch, looking like he’s coming back from the team car.

Photo©Ed Hood

Meanwhile Fuglsang in the king of the mountains jersey is off the back.

I had him down as a race fave – wrong again…

Photo©Ed Hood

Not a fun day for big former British Champion, Ian Stannard but he got back and finished in the group @ 9:51.

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

Last man on the road is Sunweb’s Martijn Tusveld – and there are still 100 miles to ride; but he did get himself back into gruppo and came in with Stannard. 

We head back down the hill and head for the Puig Lorenca climb the second categorised ascent of the day, late in the day and much shorter than Confides at just 3.1 K – but also much steeper @ 8.8%.

It’s hot, real hot, damn hot but there’s a little bit of breeze – most welcome. 

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

It’s compatto and ‘on’ with Oliviera, Dillier all to the fore; but the time they get to Martin a little further up the climb it’s ‘all change’ with the Big Bears showing their claws – eventual winner Quintana, Valverde and Lopez all to the fore.

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Gregor Mühlberger. Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Fabio Jakobsen. Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Dario Cataldo. Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

‘And the first shall be last’ with early escapee Armee now struggling to hold the gruppo.

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Martin Williamson

The Emerald Isle National Champion Sam Bennett has 11 UCI wins in 2019 by our reckoning but he’s not going to make it 12 today…

[That would come on the morrow]

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Martin Williamson

German chrono king, Tony Martin is another man feeling the strain today but in his role as a ‘super domestique’ his job is done and it’s now about saving every watt he can between here and the finish. 

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

Stone faced Ineos Belarusian case-hardened hardman, Vasil Kiryienka is last on the road. Martin gives him a shout, the former world time trial champion would finish the day @ 26 minutes…

Al’s local knowledge meant that whilst we missed the main peloton, we caught the stragglers again, before the finish.

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

Martin was straight ‘on it,’ here snapping Sunweb’s Dane, Casper Pedersen. 

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

The gruppos stream by with Bahrain’s former Aussie Champ Heinrich Haussler looking singularly unimpressed with the local architecture.  

Nairo Quintana
Photo©Ed Hood

Kiwi former track star and winner of a stage in the recent Czech Tour, Shane Archbold – aka ‘Mullet Man’/’Novvie’ – looked a tad happier than ‘Heino’ though, as he lead his gruppo home.

Nairo Quintana
Tony Martin. Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Luka Pibernik. Photo©Martin Williamson
Nairo Quintana
Photo©Martin Williamson

Kiri was still propping up the classification – stone last.

With Kiri safely past we headed for home, picking up the Vuelta Twitter and WhatsApp feeds as we drove.

Nairo Quintana sending the Colombian fans into raptures with a late escape to win the stage in a good finale.

He’ll spend his next three seasons – probably his last – with Arkea Samsic, as will brother Dayer, countryman Winner Ascona [currently Cofidis] and Italian Ineos man Diego Rosa.

The jersey slid off Lopez shoulders on to those of Ireland’s Nico Roche [Sunweb] in his ninth Vuelta and 22nd Grand Tour.

We headed back to Al’s for some Chinese and nosh and a sleep free of foam party sounds…