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VUELTA’18 ROADSIDE: A Day Never To Be Missed!
Roadside PEZ: Eighteen years of history couldn't go to waste and so our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, had to make his yearly pilgrimage to La Vuelta a España. Just a sprint stage finish, but it's a Grand Tour, top riders, good weather and all the raz-a-mataz of a pro bike race. A day never to be missed.


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I didn't think I would manage to see any of the 2018 Vuelta, and then I started thinking about the first time I saw the Spanish Grand Tour in the flesh, I had been to the Tour de France in 1980, but not La Vuelta. I had been living in Spain for nearly a year and stage 6 of the 2000 Vuelta started in Benidorm and finished in Valencia, the route hugged the coast and passed about 20 from my house, so just the right distance for unfit legs to ride. It was last day of August and hot, as it should be, I found a nice place under a tree on the main road to Calpe and the peloton so easily rode up the slight incline on what was a sprinters day. Alex Zulle looked very relaxed in the gold leaders jersey... and so began my love of La Vuelta.


Alex Zulle in the 2000 Vuelta a España leaders jersey

I've seen every Vuelta since then and from 2002 as an accredited journalist, so you can understand why I had to get to visit at least the nearest stage. Stage 6 from Huércal-Overa to San Javier, Mar Menor was always going to finish in a sprint, but hey, it's La Vuelta and there is a lot of atmosphere to soak up.



The day didn't start very well - A rear tyre blow out on the motorway is never a good thing. A 15 minute wheel change and the only worry was "would I miss lunch?" Those roads in Murcia are rough.



Good luck and the use of the accelerator pedal had me sat before a fine spread of fish and rice, with pan con alioli, tomato salad, Russian salad with anchovy and a little cake dessert. I could have had a jug of beer to wash it down, but it wasn't a good idea.



The team buses had arrived early, no fans yet. Later you couldn't get near as they were six deep. Movistar and Bora being the most popular.



The difference in bus size between WorldTour (UAE Team Emirates) and ProTour (Euskadi-Murias)



World champion, Peter Sagan, had his own camper-van.



The finish straight was long and straight, but on the narrow side.



Now that is a big screen!



As always the souvenir vans were doing a great trade.



The Vuelta Toro is very popular with the kids, but I don't think the umbrella was helping him stay cool in the 30ºC plus temperatures. The day was very humid and you could see the sweat trail.



The cameras were ready, but no action yet.



Ready for the sprinters.



For once the Belgians out numbered the Colombians.



Time for a dance and 'Welcome to Yorkshire'



The Namedsport Lambo was back again this year, they drive it from Italy and then round the full Vuelta route - How much does that cost in fuel?



The big unanswered question was: "Why is Richie Porte in the break?" No one could work it out, Amy the BMC presser said it wasn't in the plan.



Two very big Namedsport bottles... With legs!



European champion, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) wasn't too happy with the Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) sprint.



And with a final lunge, the tough Frenchman got the victory from Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo).



Bouhanni was very happy after the previous day's alleged punching incident. Elia Viviani finished a fast 3rd, had he sprinted earlier...



Bouhanni got the better of Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Ivan Garcia (Bahrain-Merida), Omar Fraile (Astana), Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana) and World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).



Overall leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) crossed the line safe in the bunch on the wheel of Rigo Uran (EF Education First-Drapac).



Another day in red for Rudy Molard.



The Spanish airforce made an appearance.



And came back.



Bouhanni tells it like it is.



Alejandro Valverde tuned up in the white jersey for the podium presentation, but...



No presentation and returned to his bus in the team jersey.



KOM, Luis Angel Mate celebrates a good day for the Cofidis team.



Just spotted Canadian champion, Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ), coming in at nearly 5 minutes down. That late crash had caught a few riders out.



Bouhanni: "I'm not the bad guy they are trying to make out."



How long can Molard hold the overall lead?



The team prize of the day went to BMC.



No podium girls at La Vuelta.



KOM, Mate amongst the podium chaos.



Overall leader, Rudy Molard, likes his Haribo.



The fans had descended on the team buses, so better give it a miss.



Back to the press room for the televised Bouhanni interview and coffee and cakes before the drive home. Lets hope there will be another 'PEZ Roadside' from La Vuelta this year, but there is always next year.

Viva la Vuelta!



 


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