Stage 12: Mondoñedo > Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón
Stage 12: Mondoñedo > Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón
Thursday, 6th September 2018
Thursday, 6th September 2018

Local knowledge

Woken by the drumming of heavy rain, I looked out the window to a sea of fog. Another wet day for Stage 12 of La Vuelta. Tempted as I was to hide under the duvet, there was a bike race waiting for us. I consoled myself with the fact that at least I wasn’t riding today.

The grey skies were no match for Àlvaro’s excitement, however. Galicia had been his annual family vacation spot for as long as he could remember, and he rattled off facts and memories merrily as we drove to the start.

Apparently the area has two official languages – the native Galician and the Spanish language, Castilian. The locals are split down the middle as to which they prefer to speak.

There was no blazing start today, the riders gingerly navigating the slippery cobblestones of Mondoñedo’s town square.

Win a piece of Beardy McBeard’s roadside haul from the 2018 Vuelta a España

OO Don

The other photographers laughed when I outlined our ambitious plan for the day. But what they didn’t know about was my secret weapon - 00 Don. Àlvaro knew these roads like the back of his hand, no spy gadgetry required.

Our first photo spot was by the river, a flat grey ribbon under the moody sky. In the curiously hushed surrounds, I could hear the hum of wheels and conversation between riders as the peloton passed.

The next stop brought us to the Galician coast. We had now travelled from one end of Spain to the other since the Vuelta rolled out in the South. The waves crashed against the rocky shore, and I put on my first jacket of the trip to shield against the stiff ocean breeze – very different from the flat Mediterranean and sweltering heat of Málaga.

The gato who got the crema

We bumped into the other photographers at this point, their only stop before heading straight to the finish. 00 Don had more ambitious plans however, with two more photo opportunities scheduled.

Hurtling towards the next location, we could see helicopters circling above and a long line of traffic. But the Don flicked on the hazards and charged straight to the front, dropping me metres from the intersection just before the peloton came into view. James Bond, eat your heart out.

Busting through the tape on the intersection, we exited the race course. As we drove, I caught glimpses of the colourful peloton on a parallel road. At the next intersection we caught them again flying down the descent towards Viveiro. Feeling as pleased with ourselves as the gato who got the crema, we swaggered towards the finish line.

A thorny situation

The finish was a lighthouse at Estaca de Bares, the Northernmost point of Spain. What the spot boasted in romance, it lacked in practicality, as there was only one narrow road in and out.

Rather than join the crowd at the finish line, I’d spotted a nice option on the final section of the route. I was still scouting the best angle when one of the local policía told me the riders were almost here. Flustered, I jumped the barriers and scrambled up the embankment at random. It was covered in a tangle of thorny bushes, and the policía winced as they watched me stagger through them. As the first riders crested the hill, I was still picking thorns out of my shins.

But it seemed the really thorny situation was at the finish line. While I was battling bushes, Àlvaro witnessed the disaster unfold. The policía told the photographers waiting at the line that they had to move as two cars were coming through. One of them was the President of Galicia and he couldn’t stop for anything.

Then the heavy handed policía started physically pushing the photographers out the way. The panicking press officer came running down to sort out the situation, just as the race arrived. He tried to run back out the way but it was too late, and the lead riders crashed into him at speed.

Two riders were injured, and the press officer was carted off in an ambulance. What a shambles. In true 00 Don style, Àlvaro managed to capture some snaps of the chaos but managed to stay out of trouble himself. It seems everyone involved is ok other than a few bumps and bruises, but I’m worried about how this incident might affect the Vuelta finish lines in future.
Stage 12: Mondoñedo > Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón
Stage 1: Málaga > Málaga, Individual Time Trial
Stage 2: Marbella > Caminito del Rey
Stage 3: Mijas > Alhaurín de la Torre
Stage 4: Vélez-Málaga > Alfacar. Sierra de la Alfaguara
Stage 5: Granada > Roquetas de Mar
Stage 6: Huércal-Overa > San Javier. Mar Menor


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