Rest Day ramble
Having spent the last 2 plus weeks watching bikes, taking photos of bikes, writing about bikes and dreaming about bikes, what do I choose to do on a Vuelta rest day? Ride my bike, of course.
I woke early, excited to tackle the epic Lagos de Covadonga finishing climb from yesterday’s Stage 15 for myself. But it was still dark and cloudy, so I told myself to make the most of a sleep in opportunity. After all, the hill wasn’t going anywhere.
It was much steeper than I’d expected, as two downhill sections dropped the average gradient to 7.2%. Despite that, it was a truly magical climb, with the skies clearing halfway up to reveal what the fog had hidden yesterday – a jewel-like valley glistening in its mountain setting.
I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road, especially as the local cows were sunbathing right in the middle of it. I wasn’t keen to find out who the winner would be in a bike VS cow scenario.
A kangaroo loose in the upstairs paddock
Did I mention how magical the climb was? So much so, that when I reached the bottom, I turned around rode it a second time. And as three is the magic number in all Spanish fairytales, the next morning before we left Asturias I got up early and rode Covandonga a third time.
If Álvaro hadn’t decided long before that I was mildly - if harmlessly - insane (or, as we Aussies say, ‘he had a kangaroo loose in the upstairs paddock’), this would definitely have proved it. What I racked up in kilometres, he matched in sleep miles with two sleep-ins and a siesta for good measure.
Stage 16 was an individual time trial, which almost made it a rest day and a half (for us at least, definitely not the riders). After our respective sleep in and ride, Álvaro and I still arrived in historic Santillana del Mar with plenty of time to drive the whole 32km course scouting photo opportunities.
There’s an old saying that Santillana del Mar is The Town of Three Lies, since it is neither a Saint (Santo), nor flat (llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar) – there’s that magic three again! Unfortunately it was also The Town of a Million spectators as everyone and their dog had descended on it to watch the time trial.
The start was in the heart of the old town square, paved with uneven cobblestones. The poor riders juddered over them on their built-for-speed-not-handling time trial bikes with tyres inflated to super hard PSI. I sought sanctuary from the crowds and purity of photo in a nearby monastery, catching glimpses of the passing riders like visitors from another world.