Cutting it fine
Before leaving the finish line shambles yesterday we had to organise a carpool, as only cars with 4 passengers were eligible to receive an access sticker for the final climb. Unfortunately, the hombre with the stickers was the same man who got mowed down at the finish line and carted off in an ambulance. Luckily he eventually returned, with a bandage around his head but his sticker-issuing abilities intact.
We planned to join forces with Yuzuru Sunada and his Italian driver, meeting at the press room at 3pm to drive to the Stage 13 cumbre. With the late-starting La Vuelta stages that didn’t give us much time to play with. So I snapped a couple of shots at the start in the quaint seaside town of Puerto de Candás, then we headed to the mountains of Asturias.
We ended up cutting it a little close, with only 7 minutes to spare by the time we reached the press room. I could still see Sunada’s car parked outside, but once we packed our bags and went inside, we couldn’t find him. We asked the press officer on duty, and he’d left just moments ago. Alvaro and I scrambled outside, only to find his car had gone. Disaster.
The Golden Ticket
It wasn’t hard to look pathetic as we begged for a sticker from the press officer. By a stroke of luck, there was another stranded photographer also looking for a lift. So we argued that 3 was close enough to 4, and managed to wrangle ourselves the golden ticket. We were off to climb fudge mountain.
La Camperona is the kind of finish you only find at La Vuelta - so steep it would have at one stage been an unsurfaced service road, until the race scouts found it in their search for Spain’s most heinous climbs. It was first gear all the way up in the car, weaving around spectators and taking in the incredible views as the world opened up below us.
When we did make it to the top, I decided that actually, it was 1km back down the road that I needed to be for the best shot. But first, I had some words to say to Sunada, who was sitting sheepishly in his car. I strode over to him and said “Happy Birthday”. It was actually his birthday, and I hadn’t had a chance to say it yet.
White On Rice
While I try to search out unique photo angles where I can, sometimes there’s a reason 20 photographers are clustered around one spot like moscas on mierda. This shot of the colourful spectator-lined road disappearing against the distant mountains was just too perfect to pass up. So I joined the photographer’s conga line and waited for the action.
In contrast to yesterday, there was a distinct lack of heavy-handed Guardia Civil on the climb. (Perhaps their Rambo mobiles couldn’t handle the gradient?) The atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed. It was so much easier to get the shot, no riders were knocked over, and everything went perfectly. I know these races need a police presence but it can be hard to get the right balance sometimes.
When the riders struggled into sight you could see every vertical metre of the climb etched onto their faces. Sweat dripping, tongues hanging out - this was the hardest I’d seen them working all tour. Stage winner Rodriguez definitely earned his victory today!