It may surprise you to learn – especially after the non-stop feasting of Álvaro (and at times, myself) at the Tour de France – that it took until stage 15 of La Vuelta for the two of us to visit the start village for a pre-race snacking session. How, I hear you ask? Well, I might have to fire my researchers: I didn’t even know there was a proper TDF-style village at the Vuelta until today.
It was as if a whole new world of possibilities had opened up for the two of us, with a bounty of local Asturian delicacies and fresh fruit to enjoy. There was also an extensive selection of olive oils to sample, including one that proudly labeled itself as the best in Spain – for six years running no less!
I made sure to soak up as much oil as possible, but with only one spot to shoot again today, I had to tear myself away from guzzling the expensive nectar and stuffing myself silly with other assorted treats to go and snap a few pics of the riders signing on. If this cycling photography gig ever dries up, maybe there’s a future for me in food blogging…
The feast continues
Today’s stage would be finishing atop Lagos de Covadonga, one of the only climbs in the Vuelta that is starting to earn a mythical reputation, alongside the Alpe d’Huezs and Stelvios of this world. I’d planned to shoot it five years ago on one of my very first grand tours, but after a last-minute cancellation of that trip, today would be my first chance to capture an epic shot on the iconic climb.
The beginning of the climb wasn’t that different from the others in Asturias, but as we got closer to the summit the view opened up and you could see the road below. Surprisingly, there was even a couple of steep descents as our car descended to the famous lagos (or lake), the water like a mirror reflecting the cliffs that reached skyward all around us.
It was only 3pm, so after making a mental map of where I’d shoot later, we pressed on to the press centre buffet. It must have been the seven hours of riding yesterday, because even after a decent breakfast and a gutful of Spanish olive oil and bread, I was still hungry.
You can therefore imagine my disappointment when we arrived at the press centre, with half empty plates and wine glasses strewn all about. Then I realised that the crowd of journalists in the corner were hiding the real gold: bubbling pots of Fabada (Asturian bean stew) and Ternera Estofada (meat stew). The bowls were so small I lined up three times, and after a glass of Rioja and a café con leche I was ready to rumble.
Soup of a different kind
Shooting race photos is a risky business as you’re constantly at the mercy of the weather, rogue fans or a poorly placed motorbike – and given the clouds that had been hanging threateningly to the horizon all day, today I was rolling the dice big time.
My shots from the packed-out finishes of the previous two stages had been quite spectator heavy, so I was keen to try something completely different. After walking two kilometres back down the mountain, I found the spot I’d made a note of on the drive up and sat down to wait for the bunch to arrive. As I did, the weather went from clear to ‘grandma’s homemade pea soup’ and back again. At one point the view opened up so much that two policia walking past asked if I could take a picture of them on their phones in front of the lake, to which I obliged – it’s always good to have friends on the other side.
Then, as the riders edged closer, the fog and cloud got thicker and thicker. It wasn’t going to be my day. Though it was great to see Thibaut Pinot come flying past on his way to a hard-earned stage win, the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. I would not be gifted with a clear shot of the riders and the lake on this day.
I was so disappointed, but I found out later I’d still managed to salvage a few photos from the mess. Thinking back, it was only after taking the photo for the policia that I never saw the view again – that’s the last time I do a favour for the cops!