Pit lanes and pageantry
Staying in the heart of Asturias, we awoke to crisp morning air and a panoramic view of the mountains in every direction. And, what was that, the sweet sound of bagpipes?!?
Indeed it was. It seemed we had somehow timed our stay with a local parade. As we tried to leave town (via the only small road available), we found ourselves caught up behind the townsfolk who had turned out in force for their yearly procession.
It seemed like every inhabitant had also dressed up for the occasion, slowly dancing along to the music - with us caught in the middle. With over 100 people all over the narrow road for their special day, there was no way we were getting past them. So we joined in, slowly creeping forward for the next hour as we waved enthusiastically out the window.
At least it gave me plenty of time to get out and document the traditional outfits, religious symbols and old-school buggies (pulled by cows).
I was so focussed on capturing the pageantry that I didn’t see the cow faeces on the road, stepping right in the middle of it. Stage 19 was off to an, ahem, interesting start,
We did eventually make it to the start line - but were so late we only had a couple of minutes to capture the riders before needing to head off for the climb. We were on such a tight timeline now that even our fuel stops became more like an F1 pit lane.
The first climb offered zero parking, so Don Àlvaro continued on down the descent after dropping me off, promising to come back. Meanwhile I got offered a glass of Sidra poured from an incredible height, straight into my glass. Truthfully though, most of it ended up on the grass.
The Don’s pick-up manoeuvre worked perfectly. As did the next diversion, allowing us to make it to the third climb of the day. Most of the climb was shrouded in trees, however there was an opening just before the top.
Parking was a nightmare (again) and, despite our best efforts, we got completely stuck on the way down. I later found out it was a public holiday in Asturias, explaining the phenomenal turnouts (and the bizarre parade).
We were neck-and-neck with the riders until a faster A road got us to the finish, with just under 16 km up our sleeve. What followed were some vintage Beardy's Caravan manoeuvres. I shuffle-ran up the finishing straight after The Don and the Skoda were ejected from the course (it was too late to make the press parking cut-off).
With the finishing line in sight, I slowed to a casual stroll, making out like we made it with ease. Our second finish line in as many days was capped off with a funny hat and Froome giving me a big thumbs up.