As Ed said there wasn’t much to look at on the motorway to Madrid, apart from an empty road and I even had the same photo of a strange tower building thing that he has in his 1st article. The road was (sort of) closed to traffic, but the City of Madrid has a population of 3.3 million and the Madrid metropolitan area has 6.5 million people, making it the third largest city in the EU, so closing the centre was not the easiest. The actual circuit had been shut for a long time before and didn’t have a flow of traffic up the finish straight two hours after John Degenkolb crossed the line.
When we hit the finishing circuit the crowds were four and five deep in places around its 5.7 kilometres. There is always a strange feeling driving into a big city with its roads empty of its normal traffic, up to the Plaza de Espaсa, along the Gran Via with its theatres and then the Paseo del Prado, the oldest street in Madrid, wide and tree lined up to the Plaza Cibeles.
Turning onto the finish straight there was the 1K banner sponsored by Andorra, it always look a little unstable, the triangular “thing” is based on the logo of the Principality, its shape and the colour of its flag, but it doesn’t look safe.
Parking had its usual problems, but a very helpful policeman (yes, Madrid has one!) was stopping people from putting their cars in what became my spot. Those “Prensa” stickers on the car are worth more than I can ever say. The “Sala de Prensa” (press room) was situated in the 5 star Ritz Hotel, I didn’t need to go, but you can’t miss a press room with candelabras.
The podium was set in front of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Town Hall), just after the finish, a fine old building and a great setting.
On the way up, there was the usual distribution of freebees to the crowd by some of the podium girls, the Cava Gran Ducay ladies were handing out sweets but unfortunately no bubbly. One of the girls got rather more than she expected on the podium later, the video from YouTube is in EuroTrash Thursday.
I missed the two soon to be retired riders; David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) come through on the first passage as they had been allowed to take the acclaim of the crown by the peloton. Moncoutie had heard that applause as king of the mountains on four previous occasions in Madrid but this year it wasn’t to be with Simon Clarke surprising everybody for that position.
From the side of the finish area it was possible to see the race pass from three positions enabling me to see Alberto Contador up front on his special Vuelta Specialized coming out of the Banco de Espaсa corner chasing down the break of Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM), Kevin Seeldrayers (Astana), Sergio Carrasco & Javier Chacon (Andalucнa), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural).
The six escapees didn’t get more than a half a minute lead and were caught in good time for the sprint, last to be captured by the Sky and Argos-Shimano led bunch was Vacansoleil-DCM’s champion of Uzbekistan; Sergey Lagutin.
John Degenkolb had been shepherded all day by his team and apart from the danger of previous Madrid winner Daniel Bennatti and Elia Viviani he wasn’t going to be put under too much stress.
Coming off the wheels at 200 metres out he had it in the bag. The action was just behind him as Alejandro Valverde wanted a high placing to take the points jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez. Eventually he was 6th and Purito was 21st meaning that the points and combination jersey’s moved from Catalan to Murcian shoulders.
Young pro, Bert-Jan Lindeman was glad to see the Madrid finish line, but said he “was feeling strong.” Would I see him in Calpe again this winter? “Yea I should think so!” It’s good to see someone you have interviewed ride well, especially when it’s a rider in his first year as a pro and a nice guy.
Ainara Hernando was looking her best, as usual, for her interviews on lavueltatv. You might have seen her on some of the different TV broadcasts or go to the Vuelta web-site for more.
Eventually the podium presentations started and yes there was KOM winner, Simon Clarke with his “call me, maybe” classic.
Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez had his Catalan fan club behind the podium and he received nearly as big an ovation as Contador. The little Catalan is very popular; his fans had followed him all through the Vuelta with the banner stating “JOAQUIM RODRНGUEZ – The whole family is with you – CHAMPION!!”
There was also a not so friendly placard, that was not so happy with the banks and the politicians. He was moved from behind the podium, but in this photo he is behind a certain Mr. Tinkov.
To a big cheer Alberto Contador stood on the top step, it was time for his pistol shot, we had Valverde for the points and the combination jersey’s & Movistar for the team prize. Then it was time for the Spanish National anthem, a speech from Contador and then the cava had to be squirted around and that was it.
The anti-political brigade were out in strength and booed every time the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella Serrano made an appearance. She is right wing and married to the ex-Prime Minister of Spain; Josй Marнa Aznar. She is against same sex marriage and adoption, she was criticized for her failure to tackle Madrid’s air pollution which frequently exceeded permitted levels while she was responsible for the city’s environment and when asked about the problems of street beggars in Madrid she said “Beggars are an added difficulty for cleaning the streets.” Another placard was not too keen on recent financial happenings in Spain and the rest of Europe, this one stated: “GERMANY BLASTS EUROPE, today without bombs. NO.”
Enough of that, I was hungry so it was off to a nice little tapas bar not far from the Paseo del Prado which was surprisingly cheap. Not sure what this arty shop sold, as it was closed, but it had an interesting front. I had a 5 hour return journey so staying for a beer with Ed and Martin wasn’t an option and worse yet I had been given an invite to the Vuelta party by Patricia. Oh well, maybe next year.
I must give a big thank you to Christian Miller for coming with me and relieving the boredom and stopping me falling asleep at the wheel. He sent his wife and kids back to Oslo the day before and changed his flight to Monday to come with me, Cheers Chris.
That’s the 2012 Vuelta a Espaсa over and for me it was the best Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d’Italia came close and the Tour de France….well. Let’s hope next year’s race is as good or even better, bring on 2013!