The Bromance is back
With no need to get up before the crack of dawn today, I woke refreshed, looking forward to the novel experience of driving rather than riding La Vuelta Stage 10 route. A message was already waiting on my phone from Don Àlvaro - a little bromance to start the morning?
Instead Àlvaro was letting me know he’d gone to SKODA Madrid to pick up our car, but it hadn’t arrived. My beard was about to turn grey from stress on the spot. I messaged a bunch of panicked questions and instructions, but the Don had it in hand. By the time I’d finished breakfast, he’d negotiated to use one of the demo models and was on his way to Salamanca to pick me up. No hay problema.
Our long awaited reunion took place over a couple of cervas’ and the cheapest meal ever (scouted out by Àlvaro beforehand). Then we had the usual jobs of shopping for road trip snacks, picking up my media accreditation, and stickering the car. The dream team were back in business!
Founded in pre Ancient Rome, Salamanca is steeped in history, with incredible architecture everywhere you look. For sign on we were heading to Place Mayor, right in the heart of the city. This was my first official race start of La Vuelta and I was buzzing.
Compared with the craziness of le Tour, it’s a lot easier to have a low key chat with the riders, and I caught up with Richie Porte, Mitch Docker and Luka Mezgec. They all looked fresh after a rest day, but Mitch said their legs would be tired again after one stage.
Richie asked about my experiences riding the stages (even the pros have heard of my malliot naranjan!) and I was more than happy to tell them how hard it was, especially in the extreme Spanish heat. They agreed, Mitch saying in one of the hotter stages his team used 250 bidons!
I must have been enjoying reliving my exploits a little too much, because by the time I found Àlvaro and we headed to the car, the roads had closed and we had to wait for the start before we could leave. With the sudden change of plans, I had to scramble, finding myself a garbage bin so I could see over the crowd.
Following behind the race, I was a bit crestfallen to miss the riders leaving the city over the old bridge. It’s not often you get a second chance in this game, but today I was in luck, as the riders loop around and cross the bridge a second time during the stage. All I had to do is kick back and relax…a novel experience after the last 9 days.
The shot made, it was time to pick up the pace. With today looking like a sprint finish for sure, we didn’t want to mess around. (Not to mention the Don was pretty keen to see what the SKODA Karoq was made of!)
Used to getting around Spain under my own pedal power, I rejoiced in the ease of our four-wheeled chariot. We flew effortlessly up the steep Spanish hills, and laughed at the blisteringly hot sun, nicely cool in our air conditioned bubble.
That is, until the flashing blue lights of the Guardia Civil showed up in the rear view mirror - Àlvaro almost had a heart attack. But thankfully they sped straight past at double the speed limit, with no concern for us just nudging the rules.
We had time for a stop just after the feed zone, part-way up a big hill. As the colourful peloton pedalled past, I did have a pang of FOMO…at least until we got back into our sweet, sweet air conditioning.