(Just to convey to you the proper Spanish flavor of the event, here’s the Official Vuelta a Espana Big Rig, parked in front of Santiago Bernabau Stadium, home of Real Madrid.)
Man, I’m tired. It’s been a long day under an f-ing hot Spanish sun in long pants because that’s just how the Euros roll. Things got underway (for me) around 11, when I metro’d out to the race site. Who should I meet on the Subway other than Nico from Todocyclismo. Turns out he’s a Williams alum. His two cents is tomorrow will be a breakaway. I’m still dubious. He ditched me with his sweet press pass. Friggin’ legitimate journalists. Think they’re so hot just ’cause they can go inside the fences. Due to previous obligations, I missed much of the women’s race, but arrived just before the end. An American motivated hard for the late escape, but the field pulled it back, leaving the lead out to the Germans and Aussies, who pretty much had their way with the field. Group gallop for the Rainbow Stripes taken by a German (missed her name; look it up on cyclingnews) followed closely by Nicole Cooke, as she was by first the first to pass me (about 200m after the line). Probably started her kick too late, as she appeared dejected. Onoenoneoeneone Wood from Australia was 3rd.
After the race, you were able to go pretty much anywhere, so I wandered about for a bit. There was lots to see. Hot women, free stuff, and fancy pants new equipment, hitherto only available at exclusive trade shows. Equipment like Shimano’s new 105 kit, carbon and tubeless wheelsets. Of course, I’d already seen the tubeless wheels on Tim Duggan’s TIAA-Cref rig back when I gave his DQ’d backside a lift back to the Start/Finish at the Boulder Stage Race, but I figured I’d let you all in on it, too. Biggest news of the day perhaps was that they’d changed the McEwen bend from a true 180 to this sort of J-shaped thing that hardly seems safer. It does make for a little more speed coming out, though, and more room to accelerate before the line. Advantage: Petacchi.
Of course, there’s still the extremely narrow section following a tight turn for the would-be Rainbow Jerseys to worry about tomorrow. Ale-Jet himself was on hand this AM (dudes, I swear it’s him – I just suck with a camera), bundled up like it was Het Volk on this 30+ C day. Still, the odds-on favorite seemed chill, soft-pedalling and blabbing on his cell (see photo). I did some scouting and found a decent place to stand, around 170m from the line. Things are a bit obstructed, but at least can see the line (something that’s impossible from much of the rest of the course, without having a press pass or buying a ticket.) Turns out for a Euro each trip, you can metro all over the course. Each jump takes about 30 minutes, but should be a great way to breakdown the monotony of tomorrow’s 7 hour trek. I busted out to the top of one of the “climbs” at 14.8k. People have been sh!t-talking them, but they aren’t easy.
U23 race went off slowly. No big deal. They’d get up to speed in time. After a few early no-hopers, things got nasty around the second or third lap, with a group of 3, some 10-20 chasers, and a peloton behind. Gaps of about 45 seconds and 2 minutes between. Then the real fun began, with riders bouncing and bridging all over the place. With 2 to go, an Italian, Dall- something or other) made a solo move, but the gap was flat flown across by a peppy Ukrainian. A few other chasers jumped and cranked at just after the bell, it was pulled together. A USA-ha-ha-ha (Farrar probably) was tucked into the peloton in the top 6, and for 10k, it looked like they were gonna go at it in a bunch charge. Then the Ukrainian dropped the hammer over the first nasty climb at 13k to go. He instantly had a 9-second gap. On an easy grade 5%, that’s something. He pulled it out to 15, then 20, then 27, then 35, and by then it was pretty much said and done. Even if the chasers had immediately gotten their shiz together, they would have been hard pressed to get him (if they could even get him at all). The peloton cried tears and never even caught the case, and an Aussie and Ruskie got clear from the second group for the next two spots. Then the peloton managed to crash on the way in. Nice work, guys.
After the race was over, I wondered around until I ran into the new u23 World Champ. He seems awful surly in this picture, but actually seemed to be quite reverent toward the honor he had earned. There were also a few other persons of significance on hand. Afterwards, I went to TGI-Fridays with some Irish race fans, John and Eric, whom I came across on the metro, and feasted on processed meats and deep-fat fry for the first time in a week, being somewhat famished after having not eaten all day. They said they’d be out at the Irish Rover tonight, and that it’s a damned good pub, but a bit crowded. I might make it out there. We’ll see. Tomorrow is a long day, and word on the street is, it’s gonna rain. That will be fuÂ¢&ing fantabulous. Stay tuned for an even sweeter report tomorrow and I’ll catch you cats on the flipside.