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Vuelta’15 ROADSIDE: Crazy Cumbre Del Sol!

Roadside: After his stage 8 finish in Murcia we sent Al Hamilton to cover the full stage from Torrevieja to the climb of the Cumbre del Sol, the climb he previewed earlier this week. The start was busy, but the final climb of the Alto de Puig Llorença was just crazy. It was a tough day, but a good one.

Amazingly I had spent the night in Murcia and not had the Vuelta press stickers stolen from my car, which makes a change from previous years. So the morning was off to a good start, a leisurely breakfast of coffee and croissant was just right, but had I known that would be my last meal for twelve hours I would have had the toast as well.

Torrevieja is a mixture of port, seaside resort and housing estates with a big mix of nationalities and cultures, plus short-term visitors and the large amount of non-Spanish permanent incomers. A bit like the port, it has a strange mix of craft.

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There was an enormous crowd just to see the sign-on and hope to get an autograph and a selfie and most if not all riders accepted. MTN-Qhubeka rider, Natnael Berhane was the lucky recipient of a big kiss form a lady in her later years, 70 or 80. He was very good and complied with her wishes; it seemed to put a sparkle in her eye.

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The ‘Race Village’ was quite busy with the usual giveaways, Vodafone being the best, a little loudspeaker that links to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. There were also the usual hats, bags and sweets. There was also a lot of fresh fruit, so I had to have a photo, you don’t see someone from Glasgow next to that much fruit very often.

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The Colombian fans were out in force again, but it was the local guys who were the big draw: Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez. Overall leader Esteban Chaves was his happy self, but maybe not so much by the end of the stage.

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Sign-on done it was time for the off, but there was some hold up, that gave a good chance to have some words with a few riders. Stephen Cummings was having a chat with Geraint Thomas, but when I asked about nearly winning stage 6 he said that the profile of the final climb was nothing like in the book and that caught him out. I asked Rory Sutherland if the interview we did at the end of last year was OK? His answer was: “must have been, I’ve still got a job.” And what about the finish today? “My job will be done by then!”

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Laura Meseguer used the delay well by talking to Tom Dumoulin, he was going to have a good day and maybe he knew it. Neil Stevens of Orica-GreenEDGE was waiting for the off, how did he think the day would pan out? “The break will go early and then it will all happen on the last climb.” He was right, but his man Chaves was the loser.

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With that the race was gone.

If you get mixed up with a bike race, never follow the team busses, they cause a very big hold up. With a bit of a short cut and possibly pushing the speed limits to the maximum, I managed to get ahead of the race.

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The climb looked very different from the preview the week before… there was a lot of people.

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On the first time over the climb; king of the mountains Omar Fraile took the points from a split escape, Geraint Thomas wasn’t far behind, they came back together on the descent, but their time up front was soon to finish.

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Behind them the main GC riders were still together, Chaves was sticking to the rear wheel of Nico Roche and it looked very hard.

The kilometer walk up to the finish line was steep, very steep and hot. The Colombians had beaten me too it thought. They get everywhere!

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Tom Dumoulin fought his way past Chris Froome for the stage win and the overall. He seemed quite fresh, the same couldn’t be said for Froome, he had dug deep and it showed.

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Stage 7 winner Bert-Jan Lindeman had also put in 100%, as he finished, his countryman Dumoulin was receiving the red jersey. Frank Schleck looked as though he had taken it easy, maybe a big ride is on the horizon. As the riders crossed the line they needed catchers and pushers, but of course this was all in front of the podium and so it was all crazy and time to end a long hot day in the saddle.

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On the way down the hill the last rider was on his way up, Katusha’s Vladimir Isaichev, he still go a big cheer and had his own motorbike escort. Another stage down only another twelve to go.

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