A questionable aroma
Five days into my new pro-rider lifestyle, I was looking forward to a sleep-in and a recovery ride…relatively speaking. For today’s La Vuelta Stage 6, I would get to loll in bed until a lazy 7.25am, and roll out (in daylight!) for a mere 150km with 1600m of vertical. Oh, the luxury.
After 4 hard stages, my left knee was making its complaints known. While a day off the bike was probably what it needed, 5 and a half hours of riding was better than 8, so fingers crossed it would hang in there.
We set off for Murcia, land of El Pozo football and the ‘Chorizo Mafia’…and also, it seems, land of the questionable aroma. I don’t know what they spray on the fields as fertilizer, and probably don’t want to – it stinks! I soon regretted my last beard trim as I could have used the extra length for an emergency breathing filter.
Mother’s little helper
I wondered if the smell was making me hallucinate as the barren landscape sprouted a growth of shimmering white plastic, stretching as far as I could see. They were enormous plastic tents, providing protection from the blistering sun to help farmers grow vegetables in soil that’s more rock than dirt. Apparently the sea of white plastic is visible from space.
The Mediterranean glistened blue on the horizon like a mirage as we descended, a stark contrast to the rocky desert surrounds. I was grateful to the view as a distraction from my now very painful left knee. Trusty Uri saw through my attempts at stoicness, and signalled to Joseph, our second support driver. (Now we have both Joe and Joseph, but to make things a little more Spanish, let’s just call them the Joses).
Jose 2 drove ahead to the farmacia to buy me some drugs. Now I really felt like a pro rider! Before you ask, I made sure all the pills I took complied with the USAD anti-dopage laws. The last thing I needed was to have to fabricate a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) to avoid being booted from La Vuelta.
Whoever said ‘no pain, no gain’ obviously didn’t have access to a Spanish farmacia. I flew up the next climb in a pain-free daze.
Descending down to the next township, we had a coffee stop on our minds. But most of the houses looked abandoned, making our chance of refreshments seem slim. Just before we resigned ourselves to pressing on with only our luke warm bidon water for nourishment, we found the local store.
The owner looked like he’d been sitting on the same porch chair for the last 20 years, nodding off between sips on his beer(s) and puffs of his cigar. His wife behind the bar was a bit bamboozled by our order of 4 coffees, 3 sparkling waters, a beer, an ice cream and some fruto secos. The dog snoozing under the billiard table opened his eyes long enough to dismiss us and went back to sleep – which I’m sure the owners would be doing too as soon as we left.
We paid the check, which came to a whopping 17 euros. I felt about ready to join the dog under the billiard table, but we had one last category 3 climb to conquer.
Time for a cold one
My knee was back to screaming complaints, so I chomped down some more pills, happy it was flatlands all the way to the finish (even if there was an epic crosswind). I’d almost forgotten what a flat road looked like!
We made it well in front of the race today (sorry, Clarkey), and headed straight back to the hotel. I had a massage, massive steak and cold beer firmly in my sights, raising a glass to today’s winner Bouhanni while I was at it. Salud!
Beardy McBeard (Team Amateur)
Total Distance: 150 km
Ascent: 1582 m
Active Time: 5:41:05
Paused Time: 1:35:27
Average Speed: 26.4 km/hr
COOKED METER READING: Pulpo a la gallega - boiled octopus (like my legs)
“Whoever said ‘no pain, no gain’ obviously didn’t have access to a Spanish farmacia”
Nacer Bouhanni (Team Cofidis, Solutions Crédits)
Total Distance: 155.7 km
Active Time: 3:58:35
Paused Time: 0:00:00
Average Speed: 39.16 km/hr
“I changed my train today and I had very good legs and got myself into a great position. Four years ago I won in a very similar type of sprint and I’m delighted to have won again”