Stage 16: Santillana del Mar > Torrelavega Individual Time Trial
Stage 16: Santillana del Mar > Torrelavega Individual Time Trial
Tuesday, 11th September 2018
Tuesday, 11th September 2018

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.

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

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.

Cobble groans

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.

An absolute circus

While I photographed the riders, The Don talked his way to the front of the queue of team cars. La Vuelta lets press cars follow behind the individual time trialists, which makes our job much easier as we can make numerous stops. We slid in behind a Quickstep team car, constantly checking the rear view mirror to make sure there were no faster riders coming up from behind to give way to.

The first spot I’d scoped out was a beautiful old church with the riders passing just in front. Then we piggybacked onto another rider and team car heading for the climb. My ‘hero shot’ spot was already overrun with a dozen other photographers, so I had to rethink my plans. Instead of shooting the riders against the classic backdrops of green rolling hills, and mountain vistas, I set up in the gritty industrial areas of Torrelavega, showing a different face of the race. From there it was only 3km to where the final competitors were gritting their teeth over the finish line.

For some reason the general public had access to the area where the soigneurs waited for their riders. As each competitor wobbled to a stop, they were mobbed as they tried to make it to the shelter of the team cars. What an absolute circus. Meanwhile Rohan Dennis waited (safely out of grabbing range) for the last rider to arrive before his win was confirmed and he could celebrate another victory.
Stage 16: Santillana del Mar > Torrelavega Individual Time Trial
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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