The Vuelta a España has changed over the last few years, since ASO has taken a bigger hand in the organization many things have improved, there is less of a feeling of ‘mañana’ and things are a bit slicker. But the race has become a little less friendly.
One thing that has improved is the food in the pressroom; previously there wasn’t any, water yes, but food no. Although sometimes there was a big paella on the go for the staff that was (in the end) for everyone. Now there is coffee and croissants, fruit, orange juice etc. available all day and a nice steak dinner at lunchtime. Thank you Unipublic/ASO.
One thing that has not changed are the podium girls, obviously they are not the same ones as my first Vuelta 13 years ago, but they are still the best. I caught the two girls from Cava Gran Ducey resting up before their stint with the stage winner; they had just about dried out from a soaking from Cannondale’s Alessandro De Marchi on stage 7.
The guys from Festina had a lot of those blue tube things, that make lots of noise, to hand out, they had a few in this van and tons of them in a truck.
The ‘Sala Prensa’ was only 200 meters from the finish line, so not far to walk of that steak. The last kilometer looked long, but it was straight and flat, perfect for the bunch gallop. Although out on the road all hell was being let loose with attacks going off in the crosswinds.
200 meters out at a very busy roadside bar was English ex-professional Steve Sefton with his wife Jo and the kids. Steve is quite familiar with finish straights as he had quite a few big wins at the end of the 80’s. Sat with them was another ex-champ from Scotland; Andrew Davies of The Bicycle Works in Edinburgh, recovering from a broken collarbone, enjoying the sunshine and the bike racing.
Talking of ex-champions; past Tour de France and Vuelta a España winner Perico Delgado had started the live coverage of the stage. As a commentator he thinks he’s being funny sometimes when he isn’t, but when it comes to race analysis he see’s the race as only an ex-pro rider can.
On my walk down the finish straight I spotted Sky supremo Sir David Brailsford. Relaxed as always, he wasn’t worried about Chris Froome’s crash the other day, commenting, “it was nothing.” As to the rest of the Vuelta “Chris will take it day by day. Its good that he has ridden a Grand Tour this year and anything else is a bonus.” So no pressure then? Meanwhile out on the road Sky and BMC were splitting the peloton to pieces on the flat, windswept roads of Castilla la Mancha.
The Euro-wide supermarket chain Carrefour has taken over la Vuelta, they are the main sponsor of the race and the overall leaders jersey, in the Tour de France you will see the name on the spotted mountains jersey. Here in Spain the name is everywhere on the race and these young ladies where organizing the free give away’s.
The main difference in the ‘new’ Vuelta is the publicity caravan; it’s not the Tour, but maybe one day.
Bit of a Carrefour overdose, but the best one had to be for the National Christmas lottery ‘El Gordo’. It’s a Mercedes-Benz with the ball that they use to pick the winning numbers crashed through the roof.
We could see the race was getting closer on the mobile big screen TV, but there is always time for a dance from the publicity girls.
Time for the publicity caravan to leave, probably a good idea to check that your float fits under the banner first!
Out on the road the race had been split in the crosswinds and there was a lot of chasing and hard riding, but there was still going to be a bunch sprint. The official finish line photo position was a bit far back and on a slight curve, so a barrier position next to the mobile press office was much better, as long as you can keep the local TV camera-crew out of your face.
The race barreled into town and Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ took the win. But he moved from his line to hold off Orica-GreenEDGE’s Michael Matthews, no complaints, but it was much worse than the John Degenkolb on stage 5. I guess all’s fair in love and sprinting.
Time for the scrum of the podium pictures and the TV interviews.
And maybe one last cake and coffee before the drive home.
Viva la Vuelta!