Just one more day! After eight long days and nights, the rest day was just around the corner. Incredibly, we had somehow clocked up over 2300 kms along the way. To put that in perspective, we had almost driven the equivalent of Amsterdam to Moscow!
Stage 9 was another mountaintop finish, and Don Àlvaro’s sources said the last climb needed to be accessed before 3.30pm. This was because the riders navigated the lower slopes twice, before they took another road on the second lap all the way up to the summit of Cumbre del Sol.
With that in mind, we knew we could get two runs at the same location - the la Vuelta organisers had done some of the work for us! To celebrate we went directly to the pressroom buffet.
Today it was located in a primary school cafeteria, perched on the hillside not far from the finish. It was an amazing location and I imagined the kids riding to school up the huge hill. I’m not sure if any would actually do this, but it was a nice image nonetheless. If they do, the next Contador may be cutting his (or her) teeth before the school bell rings.
The stage 9 buffet was a little light-on - just an enormous heap of fried finger food. This was in stark contrast to the the lovingly hand-created artworks which adorned the cafeteria walls. The kids had poured their little hearts and souls into messages about healthy snacks and nutrition - a message a number of the press here (currently up to their elbows in the fried finger food trough) would do well to heed. As for me, I felt like the eyes of the next generation were watching me, looking down on me from the walls, hoping I would listen to them and their important crayon message.
So I did - our celebratory banquet would have to wait. All was not lost though. In addition to not disappointing dozens of innocent kids, and The Don scored himself a free hat, courtesy of the local property developer.
The 1-2 punch
The climb to Cumbre del Sol was a strange mix of half-finished housing developments and uninhabited white rocky slopes, similar to Mont Ventoux. The rock provided plenty of opportunities to find interesting viewpoints, so I got to work clambering over boulders until I found two places. One for the first pass, then another for the second.
As the riders came past the first time the breakaway was still out in front, grabbing at bottles and feed bags for the last 40kms. The last pass to the top was a different situation, with Froome and his frenemies obliterating the rest of the peloton. These guys were descending back down the hill to the buses before the majority of riders had made it anywhere near the top. Guess they were keen to get to the rest day as well.