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La Vuelta a España 2008 – Day 1: Stage 12, Burgos – Suances


There’s gas in the car, the sun is out, we just had Donna Summer on Kiss FM and we’re en route Comillas to pester the Astana mechanics about what gears Bert and Levi will be riding tomorrow in Burgos – what more could you want out of life ?

I wasn’t so chirpy at 04.45 yesterday in the Days Inn at Stansted when the alarm rang.

The flight was ok and we picked up the hire car in Bilbao without drama. The weather was horrendous though, cold, windy and raining hard.

First stop was a roadside cantina for a café con leche and a bocadillo con tortilla (or two) then Suances to get ‘credded up.’

Dave looks pleased with his presents.

We got drenched trailing round the town in the pouring rain until we found the school gym where the magic pieces of plastic were to be had.

Security is non existent, compared to the Tour and it’s all much more laid back.

The vital bits of plastic safely stashed, we headed back off into the downpour to find the car.

We were actually on the finishing circuit for the stage – it was a ‘stotter,’ narrow, twisty, slippy and very technical.

That’s a long way down.

I was thinking “Oscar” but it was Pallo who eventually did the biz.

We bolted as quickly as we could, not wishing to be captured by the road closures.

Our objective for the day was further west, out of Cantabria and into Asturias.

It rained most of the way as we tracked the Bay of Biscay then headed south east of Oviedo to Mieres.

We took a wrong turn, ending up in a colliery car park – I felt quite at home; it reminded me of Kirkcaldy in my youth. But soon corrected and found La Foz, from where it’s a short distance to La Vega – and the mighty Angliru.

So’s that!

It really is hard to take in how savage a beast this is.

Dave and I drove up the Angliru four years ago when we were on a trip to Northern Spain to try and find echoes of the Civil War. But I had forgotten just how brutal it really is.

That’s a big hill!

Viktor rants about how is it’s men, not hills that make a race, but there is something in the human psych that will always want to tackle the highest or toughest mountain and bike fans are drawn inexorably to these spots.

And, like it or not, if you can’t climb, you can’t win a Grand Tour.

As I’ve said before, there are higher and longer climbs, but I can’t think of anything as unrelentingly tough as this.

At the top, it really is like another world; there’s a car park in the middle of a set from a sci-fi movie. The shepherd’s bothys make it all the more strange; who the hell would want to spend a night up here?

Spot the bothy.

It’s maybe a cliché, but the vista from the viewpoint at the top is like looking out of an aircraft window; the mountain you are on drops away so completely and rapidly, the impression is of hanging in space – amazing.

The cops were out in force; ETA have been quieter of late, but it’s not so long since I was on le Tour and they blew up an ‘outsiders’ holiday home in the Pyrenees, we saw the smoke pall as we drove the stage.

“No photos!”

Darkness was falling as we arrived in Oviedo to try and find our hotel – the Covadonga. That’s as in Lagos de Covadonga, where Robert Millar once made us teary eyed with national pride as he left the best Spanish climbers in his wake.

Eventually a kind couple jumped in the car and navigated us through the diabolic one way systems to our bed for the night.

It was gone midnight by the time I got the pics off into cyber space en route Vancouver.

I was too tired for copy, that had to wait until 07.00 am today.

We’ve actually just passed the Covadonga road end, so Comillas isn’t too far away – talk to you later.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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