Here we are at the start of this year’s Vuelta a España in the Galician Town of Vigo – if you don’t know where that is, its on the most westerly coast at the most northern bit, just above Portugal, in fact it’s only 30 kilometers from Portugal.
The Night Before
The Start of La Vuelta… Galicia is very like Scotland, the hills are not so high, but they play bagpipes, and up the road in Asturias they also wear kilts!
Vigo is sat in a beautiful bay area with villages and houses dotted all around some very green scenery, so just like Scotland it rains here a lot, but not today: the sky is blue and clear.
I left home at 4am, the day before the temperature was 38ºC; Vigo is a much more comfortable 20ºC. Thanks to Iberia Airlines I missed out on a catamaran trip up the River of Vigo and a lunch at the Yacht Club, and I also enjoyed the broken air-conditioning unit on the plane from Madrid
The Team Presentation
Thought I had better take walk down by the by the Royal Nautical Club to see what I had missed this afternoon… very high class area, so I was surprised to see Alan Buttler and Craig Geater, the two Discovery mechanics.
They were on their second or third large Gin and Tonics, so I didn’t get much sense out of them, or a lift to the team presentation! But it was good to see them, and they both wanted to know how fellow VeloVeritas man, Ed Hood was getting on, and where is he?
So, it was on the bus for me and what a very nice journey it was through what is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve been to. Lots of trees and parks, rolling roads with glimpses of the sea to one side and the people were all talkative and helpful.
The most helpful would be the manageress of the Ancla Dorada Hostel where I am staying. Don’t be fooled by the word Hostel: its en-suite, TV, and even has Wi-Fi. Down at the docks there were lots of fishing boats – yes, the ones that go to Scotland and Canada!
Team presentations look great on the television, but behind the scenes it’s completely different. Bored riders, tired Journo’s, uninterested team staff and stressed organization.
The teams trooped onto the stage as Pedro Delgado introduced them, the stages and this year’s Vuelta song, sung by a nice young lady whose name I can’t remember, but she was entertaining nonetheless.
Back to the Ancla Dorada to download my photos and write the article up. I’ve been on the go now for 20 hours, and tomorrow there is a race to watch and an night out in Vigo, I’ve been given the run down on the action from ex-Pro Fabian Jeker, he’s been here for a few days and knows where the action is. We’ll see!
Stage 1 – Vigo
After yesterday’s long, very long day I slept like a baby, a baby that lives next to a Night Club called Lolitas that is. I hadn’t seen it when I booked in to the Hostal Ancla Dorada; if I had I would have gone down to investigate, for journalistic reasons obviously! After I had closed the window there was no disturbance and it was back to sleep.
Stage 1 started at the bottom of the street from the Hostal, so a bit of a lie in and then down for breakfast which consisted of café con leche, croissant and a tortilla with some nice fresh bread. At races it’s always better to eat a good meal early in the day because you never know what might happen later and there either isn’t the time for eating or there isn’t any free food at the finish village. Today there was more food and drink on offer than I could have dreamt of, but we will come to that later.
A short stroll down to the Royal Yacht Club and it was all happening, music, food, police everywhere, chaos (as all Spanish races are) and Podium Girls!
Nice surprise was to bump into Agata and Pierre of Pietro y Ducos; they are the suppliers of all the really cool casual clothing for La Vuelta staff and have posh clothes shops, this year they are also working in conjunction with Nono Villa clothing.
Three years ago they drove me round the prologue in Granada in their BMW; Pierre’s driving was very memorable. They couldn’t give me a lift this year, but they did give me a nice Polo Shirt, thanks.
Food was eaten, women were photographed, and drink was drunk, so I thought I had better take a look at this bike race thing. I spotted an Australian/Davis convention as Scott Davis (T-Mobile) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) were chewing the fat before the start.
My big job of the day was to try to get in a car for some of the race, Fabian Jeker had no room, he said I could get a lift to the finish in another car, which was only about 5 kilometers away, but it would save me getting the bus or walking. In I jumped with Mauricio (Mauri) Rodriguez Quiroga, that’s when things took a turn for the better, he had to give two VIP’s a run round the first big lap and then to the finish and I had the front seat.
Mauri works for Vuelta organizers, Unipublic, full time and lives in Madrid, unlike most of the people who work on the race he was never a bike rider, but always a fan, a man after my own heart.
He remarked on how many good looking women their are in Vigo, driving back to the finish on the motorway he was driving at well over the speed limit on open roads, well, he had been doing this all day on closed race roads – his comment made sense; “all the police are at the race so…”. Fair enough!
So it was back to the finish to see the race and sample some more food, this time I accompanied the VIP’s into the enclosed area to see how the others live and yes they live very well. The usual scrum at the finish for the photographers and that was the first day over, the race part anyway.
Daniele Bennati (Italy & Lampre-Fondital) takes the first “chaqueta de oro”.
It’s now 10pm and time to go into town to see what’s happening in Vigo on a Saturday night and sample the local delicacies of any kind!
A Night Out In Vigo
By the time I had written about my day and sent the photos, it was 11 pm and hunger was kicking in big time, I manfully fought against the tiredness and with the help of Mila from the Hostel I headed towards; A) food and B) action. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!
Vigo is built round a natural harbour area and climbs away from the sea offering great views. There is an island at the mouth of the bay and after that if you carry on the west the next bit of land would be around Boston somewhere, so it must get pretty windy here in the winter, but today was warm and sunny, “Specially for La Vuelta” more than one local told me!
The area I was staying in was a quite “Bohemian” lots of wall art, gay and lesbian bars and a few drunks in the street: this is not normal in Spain, usually the only drunk people you see are tourists who have been sunbathing all day and then had a bit too much with their dinner and the spirit measures here are always BIG, you need to be careful. So out the door and see what was going on? My first port of call was a place called Bardo, I was drawn in by the front, very nice art deco design, but I was drawn out again by the lack of clients, and well, it was nearly midnight, early yet for a Saturday.
One of the new sponsors for La Vuelta is Cantina Mariachi, a chain of Mexican Restaurants, this had put Mexican food in my mind, didn’t know if there was a Cantina Mariachi in town, but did find Viva Zapata, which said it was a Cantina, one problem it didn’t sell food, but the music was good.
Hunger forced me on until I found a cheap restaurant that did boccadillo with meat (I think beef), lettuce, tomato, cheese with a mayo topping for 3 euros, add to that a side order of Sepia (squid) and Patatas Brava that were so Brava I needed two Mahou (beer) to take the burn away. So fully stocked up with cholesterol I was ready for the fray.
At this point the night got stranger. I found a bar called Bizarre, very lively, lots of people, in fact too many to drink inside, what I couldn’t understand was that it wasn’t bizarre inside, actually quite plain. But I did find the most bizarrely decorated bar ever. Plastic tables and chairs from the 60’s, lights under the floor, giant full wall mirrors and what looked like pointy bits of foam sprayed gold and silver on the ceiling. No customers, but the owner assured me it gets busy around 2.30 am! Well I wasn’t going to wait to find out; it was well past my bedtime.
I must tell you that there is a very good feeling at La Vuelta this year, new sponsors, new younger staff, more City center circuit finishes and a certain slickness that wasn’t there before, this will be the best Vuelta for a few years for everyone. I also think they now have a Vuelta Priest, he flew in on the same aero plane as me and I’ve spotted him quite a few times now at the stages. Maybe God is on La Vuelta’s side?
Well, that’s the Vuelta leaving Galicia after a very successful time here, lots of crowds and a home boy done good, smiles all round. If you are ever thinking of a touring holiday with your bike in a quiet area of Europe the have a serious look at Galicia, rolling hills, sea views, not much traffic, cheap accommodation, great food and the people are so friendly. I know I want to come back for a more relaxed visit.
Now its home again on Sunday and then back to the race when it comes more to the east of Spain, but that’s all for now. Hasta la proxima!
Stage 11 – Algemesi
In Vigo for the start of La Vuelta there was a great relaxed feeling at the race and lots of food, but today in Algemesi things were back to normal: stress, traffic jams, and photographers fighting for the best shots, and worse still – no food. But I did get my ugly mush on the TV!
Here I am in Algemesi, not far from the City of Valencia, and again I have missed lunch. This time it was a Paella for the press and race staff, they were eating it while I was sat in a traffic jam, all because I wanted to see what the last kilometer looked like. Today is going to be a sprinters day, for sure.
The last five kilometers are so flat, but with quite a few roundabouts, the most worrying aspect of the run-in is the street furniture and the speed ramps.
The Press Room
The Press room today is the local sports centre, a big basket ball hall, with as much atmosphere as a morgue! I am accosted by a TV crew who want to interview a member of the International Press, there was no escape, and I was the only one there, so that was it, the longest 5 minutes of my life.
At least when I was married in Spanish I had a rough idea what was going to happen, but a TV interview in Spanish was a little more nerve racking! I wish they had given me a clue to what they were going to ask me.