Stage 20. The last full stage and mountains of La Vuelta and of any Grand Tour.

This morning we overslept because I hadn’t set an alarm. Usually they come on every day but not today. I remember checking at 5.30am then the ne t thing it was after 7.30am. The time we should be leaving the hotel to drive to today’s start town. I got up and put the kettle on. This disturbed The sleeping Cyclist who was really unhappy when he found out what the time was. Now to get a shifty on and get out as fast as we can. He was walking around the room doing his thing saying tis is the one day we really had to be out early and we are really late! I did everything I could as fast as I could and took stuff to the car. Most of his muddy kit that I washed last night, was dry so he could use it again today.  We drove to Aviles which is a port town and set off.
About midday, I Stopped to make sandwich and the Cyclist stopped too instead of eating it in the go, but he necked it and set off leaving me to make his next one. I didn’t see him for 20Km and I had just started getting worried when I saw him in front. Just then my phone started ringing. It was him. I was behind him now so I honked the horn and he turned. As I pulled up to his side he was saying he was worried sick and that we have done 5900 miles at least so far so don’t lose him now as we are too close to the end!
Really raining now and as I drive past I can see his face glowing red with cold and water all over his face and running off his nose. I feel so sorry for him as I know he has circulation problems and so the cold affects his hands and feet so they will be painful for him. The time is only 2pm and it says we only have about 40Km to go so I stupidly thought we might be on our way to Sergovia, Madrid by 4.30pm. We are high so there was no chance of the rain giving over as it is also foggy. But its not foggy it is actually the clouds and we are in them.
This is second climb today, a Cat 2. Today the route gives one of each category climb with each getting harder as the day goes on. So by the time that we get to the HC climb of L’Angliru (the professionals don’t all make it up this one!), they have beaten your legs to a pulp already. Plus this area of Spain is cloudy and wet most of the time whatever the season so the chances of it being dry were remote if not impossible. But I had hoped for a miracle which was not delivered.
For a Cat2 climb it was brutal. What’s amazed me is this area. Not the cloud, not the scenery (as I can’t see any of it), but the deprivation and the amount of houses that have been left to crumble. These are mostly tiny at shackled places if they are lived in but there are as many falling down as there are lived in. Going up the climb on these tine narrow mountain tracks I stop outside a house. The lady of the house was probably about my age and the house was unkempt with the washing hanging from the balconies and broken stuff oit the front. My stopping here had caused some interest and she stood on the doorstep wanting to see what I was up to. I am a woman, alone, up a hostile mountain track in the flipping rain. What could I possibly be doing that was threatening? What O presume was her husband came past, from behind the Meriva,  carrying a bag. She said something to him and he grunted. He was a large bloke with a large belly dressed in shabby dark blue dungarees and was very scruffy with a worn out holy jumper on. Whatever he said made him turn round to me and he grunted again. Watching them was like that scene in Men in Black 1, when that awful farmer guy comes in and grunts to his wife before the Ant thing takes over his body.
The Cyclist was emerging up the lane from the fog so I got,out of the car, took a photo, got back in and went on my way under the watchful eye of the guy on his door step. What is it with these rural Spanish folk. They stare like I am an Alien being. Maybe not many UK cars come here. I don’t blame them. I certainly wouldn’t want to come if I knew what I was going to see. While I am sure under the fog, the terrain is pretty, this is the dead or dying industrial bit is Spain. This dead Yorkshire mining towns and the unemployment and what that does. If the places we have been through for the last two days were described as body parts, this area would be the bit of the Kangaroo they make you eat in the food challenge on Celebrity get me out of the Jungle. The coast is very pretty but go over the mountains that line the coast and you find a different world. One that was near to the coast and estuaries to export but that has died on its arse. Ah the Kangaroo again.
It was soon time for the last two climbs. It was up and over the Cat1 with the HC 1500Meter climb starting straight away. The Cyclist waved me down and told me to throw all I had in my bag of tricks, at him. So I did. Croissant, energy tablets, a 100mg caffeine gel, El Toro energy drink and a jelly to take the taste of the gel away. If that doesn’t give him a fighting chance when he is froze to the bone then nothing else will. There are times when you have to do what it takes and as we have watched you tube videos of then
Professionals doing this and failing, my Cyclist wanted more than anything not to let the mountain beet him. What might beet him is the road. These are steep (minimum 10% to 23.5% steep for the entire climb) tracks covered in mud and cow poo and those thin cycle tyres have a tendency to slip. They already did on the last climb so this was on his mind.
Ok. Off we go. Lets get it done. The Cyclist warned me that the little Meriva would probable struggle and my tyres would slip on the wet muddy climb. He said you are going to have to gun it to get up. If you go slow you will slip and then have to go backwards down and the try again. Ok. So it’s my little Meriva and my driving skill or its the mountain. Who is going to beet who? We will see. We will see. I am a little apprehensive as there are no walls and the fog means I can’t see the deepness of the drop offs. I am a little concerned about skidding off. If you were here then you wouldn’t think it’s a walk in the park either I’m pretty sure. Off we go.
On the Cat1 I do gun it where it is steep but on the odd time where it is not as steep I do stop and wait for The Cyclist. It’s really raining and I think of the hot sun we had not so many days ago. At the top it was desolate. A cow pat track and mud, but I got out and walked down to the last hairpin as I was worried that The Cyclist would do what he did yesterday and take the wrong road ending in the back of beyond (if there was any ore beyond that this!)  he was coming round the bend as I got there so I took a photo and ran up to the top to take his summit photos. God knows why there is nothing here. Posterity and to say he had done it, that’s why. He told me not to stick around and get off straight after him taking real care on the way down. I would be that’s for sure. After scaring myself to death a few days ago barely making it round a sheer drop hairpin with a skid after not paying attention to the road, I am sure as hell paying attention today.
I had chatted with Mm_Scimitar about these Spanish mountains and he told me what to do if the going got tough with this automatic gearbox. So I moved it to manual and dropped it to 2nd and slowly made my way down the mountain using both Sat Nav’s to know how the road was twisting and turning. Half way down the Cyclist was in the middle of the road, I slowed and asked what was up. He said he had no brake pads left at the back and a slither at the front so he was checking them and taking it very steady. Off he went and he waited for me atbthenstart of this dreaded and feared L’Angliru, for his obligatory photo next to the sign that said the climb was starting.
Now this was it. Me, the Meriva, The Cyclist or the mountain. Here we go…….
The first bits of the climb were not as steep and I jumped out when I could before it got too steep to stop or the cloud got too thick. There was stuff all over the road. Twigs, small branches, mud, grass, leaves, animal poo. Lovely and it all made for a slippy ascent. It wasn’t long before the very steep parts kicked in. I did as The Cyclist advised passing him and gunning it up the hill. That is not so great when you have an almost vertical hairpin to navigate up too. Still a little less throttle for a minute, a wide swing then foot to the floor and we are round keeping going to a bit that is not so steep. Then I stop and wait for the Cyclist to take a photo and to k ow that he is OK too. One of the times he went past as I got back in the car a wild horse and its foal came out of the bushes to his left right in front of him and stopped on the road.
I had to do the gun thing again and a coup,e of hairpins later I swung up a steep hairpin to the right and stopped suddenly. Right in the middle of the road was the most enormous cow I had ever seen and it had HUGE horns. Bloody Hell. It had a calf with it and I wondered how the Cyclist would get past. I waited and to see hat he did get past and followed him as I strutted not to, just to make sure he was through all the cows as there were more ahead. Just a bit further along it was very steep and I had the box in auto, but the Meriva was slowing as it was SO steep. The engine was sounding like it was dying and I was coming to a stop. I shifted to manual but it wouldn’t drop to first so I shifted back to auto and then  it did drop to first. Thank god.  I got up and around the hairpin. Hopefully that is all of the really steep sections done. Looks like its 1-0 to me and the Meriva then.
There was so much thorny debris in the road as there was two chaps chopping back all the trees and thorny brambles. It is no surprise that The Cyclist got a puncture 5Km from the top. He had a spare back wheel with an old tyre on in the wheel bag I carry so it was a quick change and a prayer that it would work else he was pretty much stuffed. It did and off we went again. About 1.5 Km from the top he got another puncture this time in the front. I asked if he wanted to stop and change it but he said not at the moment. If he can struggle and ride with it that means we get to the top sooner. I do hope so.
At the top the fog got really thick and I just wanted to get off this mountain. We have a 5hour drive Madrid bound and it is now 6pm. When the Cyclist got up I Tao.d him that I knew he would do it. I have never known determination like his. I am determined if I put my mind to it but he has something else. Obligatory photos, clean clothes, protein shake and sandwich sorted for him and off we go. Unfortunately we are so in the middle of nowhere we have to navigate the last two mountains before we get to a bigger town and proper roads.
62/63 stages of three Grand Cycling Tours done. Only the ride into Madrid left to challenge us. What a feat. What a truly amazing Cyclist. My husband. Chapeau that man! I am so proud as I have watched the tears, frustrations and joy since this began back in an Italian May.
Soundbites:
Ain’t No Doubt – Jimmy Nail ( I love this song and always found him ruggedly attractive. Basically it was the big nose and the Geordie accent. Why oh why am I subconsciously attracted to blokes with big noses. Maybe itnis because there is no truth in the other myth about shoe size and other related things. Ha ha! Make of that as you will
Brilliant disguise – Bruce Springsteen ( just love The Boss)
Handy Man – James Taylor ( I also have the original 60’s version)
Mirror in the bathroom – The Beat
Time for Action – Secret Affair
Hall of Fame – The Script
Hounds of Love – Kate Bush
Sweet Caroline – Status Quo (always reminds me of The Boss. My Boss not Mr Springsteen!)

2 Responses

  1. Bloody hell, you must be so relieved this section is over. I felt I was slipping backwards just reading this!! A fantastic sense of achievement. Good luck for the last stage and have a safe journey home – missed you loads !!!

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