VUELTA’16 Roadside: Climbs And Chaos!
Vuelta Roadside: Stage 20 was billed as the showdown for the 2016 Vuelta a España with a serous climb to sort out the final result. The sting was taken out of the finalé tail due to the stage 19 time trial result, but it was still a day of action. Al Hamilton, our man Roadside, was in the mountains to soak up the crazy atmosphere.
The day started quite leisurely with the short trip down to the coastal holiday resort of Benidorm for the start. Due to a good part of the town being closed down, it was quite quiet for a Saturday morning. The beaches were empty and it wasn’t because of the clouds, the Vuelta was in town and everyone wanted piece of the action.
No problem getting a sun lounger.
The publicity caravan was very popular, free give-aways was one reason.
One of the first riders to sign on was Svein Tuft of Orica-BikeExchange – A hard day ahead.
In the start village one of the publicity ‘things’ was having a shave, he must have his eyes on one of the podium girls!
It was very strange to drive past the village I live in. It was good to see the old boys had set up tables and chair at the side of the street laden with beer bottles.
The first big climb of the day was the famous Coll de Rates, this climb is used by everyone in the area, a good guide to the form… or lack of it.
At the top it was a little cloudy, but that didn’t matter, the fans were out in the hundreds. On the final climb they were on the road in their thousands, but more of that later.
First rider to appear was the KOM, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), he was after more points to keep his jersey. It was not to be as he blew-up soon after.
The break was on his heels and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) had jumped from the bunch to cross to the break before making his own bid for success.
In the bunch; race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was looking cool, that was to change later.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was holding a good place on the early climb.
Orica-BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves was waiting for his chance to move back onto the podium.
PEZ mate, Rory Sutherland was looking OK, but it wasn’t his kind of day.
Young rider Hugh Carty (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) was a bit too close to the back of the field.
For me there was a short cut to the finish, this road is very popular with cyclists and it’s good to see these sign posts.
As expected there was a lot of fans on the climb, these two guys had the right idea. They were lower down on the climb and would only see the race pass once, but it was an oasis of calm.
This guy’s helmet seemed a bit busy, but it gave everyone a good laugh.
The burger van was doing a great trade. I felt very sorry for the guy who had just bought a sandwich and as he was struggling to put his change away, the sausage fell out the bottom of the bread. At least it still had the flavor of the sausage.
And of course Colombians.
The riders would pass here twice.
Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) made a good go at winning the stage, but it all went wrong later.
The remains of the break were still going well, but most of them would not taste success.
Darwin Atapuma (BMC) made it up to the front on the final part of the climb, but he was out-sprinted by Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) at the Aitana finish line.
Tiago Machado (Katusha) was still up there.
Damien Howson (Orica-BikeExchange) held back from the break to help launch teammate Chaves on to his podium ride.
Chaves was on his way up to Howson.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was leading the group of GC men up the Aitana for the first time.
Quintana was still looking cool, but the attacks from Chris Froome (Sky) were still to come.
Hugh Carty was trying to eat and climb at the same time.
It was Tuft’s turn to be near the back.
Once the race had passed for the first time, thousands of people made their way to the crossroads and up the finishing part of the climb, it was total chaos. The Guardia Civil had been in control (take note the French police), but now faced with this tidal wave of humanity, they had not chance.
All I can say is that it was crazy!
Having ‘race creds’ was of no use in this situation and the chance of any (decent) photos was impossible, this one of Chaves, as he headed up the final part of the climb, was the best of the many I took of the backs of people’s heads.
Time to make my long walk back to the car past the team busses, Astana were happy with their Vuelta Toros.
The Vuelta a España is over again. It’s been a great race, arguably the best three week Grand Tour on the calendar. There has been many things that have stuck out in the Vuelta, the amount of Colombians at the roadside is one and the openness of the racing being the other.
Stay tuned for the PEZ crew lowdown on the 2016 Vuelta a España up soon.
Adios, Viva la Vuelta!