Category: Cycling

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 5

Another excellent sleep at another lovely aire – Spain has this down!

The drive to our spot to watch the final stage was not far, and we were the first ones there.  There’s a fairly large area right before the summit of the second climb of the day and we had our choice of spots.

We’re right beside a memorial of some sort – beautiful fresh flowers, some inside a heart-shaped rock formation.

Not long after we arrived the fellows came along to paint the summit line.

Slowly but surely more cars arrived, including several team cars.  The one that pulled in right beside us was Ineos, and they were friendly and both spoke very good english.  Without even having to ask they offered us each a bidon – Yates’s!  They set about loading their rider’s musettes with bottles and power bars, etc. 

At one point a car pulled in and the driver got our and added two more lovely floral arrangements to the memorial.  A while later a couple of the cars had to shuffle around to let two cars through and up the road – it wasn’t so much a pullout as it was a very wide entrance to a side road and the other cars were, in fact, blocking it.

A breakaway of six arrived about five minutes before the peloton.

Once again they passed as one large group, with only a few stragglers.  The team cars in our pullout were very accommodating – I asked the Astana guy for a bidon and he gave me a full musette.  And Colin got an EF bidon thrown by a rider.

Since we hadn’t put any flags up it was quick and easy to get on our way.  We drove generally west to Ampudia, just north of Valladolid to find yet another lovely aire for the night.

There was some sort of outdoor opera happening in the town but we were too tired to go down and investigate, opting instead to just have dinner and an early night.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 4

The teenagers playing basketball next to us last night knocked off when darkness fell, although we could hear other children playing nearby until quite late.  It didn’t keep me from sleeping and I had another very good night.

The next morning we had a bit of a time finding a spot to watch the day’s stage from – we took, as I call it, the ‘scenic route’, passing through almost every village on the day’s route before coming to a decision in the town of Caleruega.

We parked right next to the road under some lovely large trees.

As we had a bit of a wait we took the doggies up the hill for a walk about the town – once again El Cid is a big figure in the area.

The town is quite nice and we eventually found a little bar to sit at for a bit with a chilled beverage.

By the time we returned to the campervan locals were starting to show up to watch the race – we’re at a very sharp corner and with the trees for shade it seems a popular spot.

Even some professional moto-photogs showed up – one even joined me on the stone wall I’d chosen as a my watching place.

As I up higher I could see further around the corner and down the road when the first lone rider came – he was from the local Burgos team which made the crowd very happy.

The peloton was only about a minute behind, and arrived in one bunch, rounding the corner at an incredible speed.

The entire group passed in less than a minute and it was over – still worth the wait, though.

We parked for the night at yet another aire – these places in Spain are great.  This one is also next to tennis courts, an immaculately kept soccer field, swimming pool and picnic area.

In the evening Colin was sitting outside with the dogs when a large bunch of local kids on bikes came up and almost swarmed him.  But they weren’t nasty – just the opposite – they were very interested in the dogs, and where we were from, etc.  One of the older boys acted as interpreter and they asked all sorts of questions.  Then they played in the tennis area for a bit and left abruptly after a relatively short time on their bikes.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 3

Another bright looking morning – sunny but not yet too hot.  After some nice tea we left the lovely aire and headed to our next destination a little bit northeast just outside the village of Cereceda.

We picked a spot just past the summit of the climb in one of the only pullouts available.

We had lunch as other vehicles started to come along looking for spots to park – there weren’t that many but some cars did venture onto the verge, as well as some motorbikes.

The area around here reminds me of home.

We put up one flagpole with three flags and they did fly well although it became extremely windy.  We had to put an extra bungee at the bottom to keep them from tilting – we wouldn’t want to be those ‘stupid fans’ that let something fall in the path of the riders!

There was a breakaway of four to the top of the Alto la Varga and was taken uncontested by a young rider from Caja Rural.

I still smile and wave at almost everyone that comes past – campervans, team cars, motos, police – and so many of them either wave back or at least toot their horns.  

One moto cop stopped at the line for a couple of minutes and chatted a bit – the peloton was 2 km behind and would take a couple more minutes to arrive.  He gave a big smile and went on his way.

The peloton arrived about seven minutes after the breakaway, and I got a photo of both of the Yates twins – now riding for different teams – near the back of the pack.

After the race had passed and we’d taken down the flags we were on our way again – this time back south past Burgos to get somewhere along the route of stage 4.

Olympic news:  Damian Warner has won the gold for Canada in the decathlon!!  Way to go!!  And Andre de Grasse has won the gold in the 200 metres!  Way to go Canada!

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 2

After yet another rain storm during the night we woke to fairly pleasant weather.  In no particular hurry we had breakfast then headed northeast to the village of Monasterio de Rodilla.

We once again followed the route for a ways in the opposite direction, then turned around and went back to a spot we’d passed by.  It was a decent sized pullout with good views back along the road.

Again there was a breakaway of five riders, and again all from local teams.

The peloton was only about three minutes behind this time.

After the last racer passed one of the team cars – Qhubeka – pulled to the side of the road almost across from us.  He flagged down the ambulance and had a word with them.

They turned around just ahead of us and went back the other way – we assumed that a rider had crashed and the ambulance had to go back for him.  We hope he’s alright.

We got going quickly and scooted up to today’s finishing city of Briviesca, where there was another lovely free aire.  

After getting organized we took the doggies out for the short walk down to the finishing area.

There was a nice bench just waiting for us about 250 metres from the line so we sat down and relaxed for the short wait – and guess what?  We’re on the Camino again – imagine that!

The peloton had caught the breakaway, as expected, and they all tore around the corner just below us and blazed past as one big bunch.

Some of the locals were watching from their apartments across the street…

Walking back to the campervan we passed the place where all the police motos had lined up – they thought it was quite funny I was taking a photo of their parked BMW’s.

We stopped at an outside table at a bar along the way and got a refreshing beverage, then on back to the aire to relax and have a light dinner.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 1

After trying out the oven for the first time – roast chicken! – we treated ourselves the next night to a meal in the campground’s restaurant.  We had a lovely smoked salmon and asparagus salad for a starter and both chose the veal with potatoes as a main.  I don’t often opt for veal but it was pretty good.

The water seems to stop at least once or twice a day – there’s been a tanker truck filling up the pool and other things to compensate for the shortage.

On Tuesday morning we got going at a decent time to find a place on the route for the first day of the Vuelta a Burgos – another of our favourite races.  We were accredited photographers two years ago and had applied again this year, but due to covid restrictions were regretfully turned down this year.

We headed southwest from the campground and picked up the route in the reverse direction.

After passing Santa Maria del Campo we turned around and backtracked to Pampliega, a picturesque town on a river where we decided to stay and watch/photograph from.

As we had some time we took the doggies for a walk around the village – uphill to the main part of town.

After asking a local fellow where a cafe/bar was – in Spanish! – we found the place we were directed to and stopped for refreshments, then on to the church that overlooks everything.

The door was open so I went inside – the stained glass windows weren’t that great but everything else was outstanding.  I got ready to take my first photo but a fellow inside immediately said ‘no photos’, and pointed to a sign on the wall that I hadn’t seen.

It was a shame I couldn’t take photos – it was by far the most interesting church I’ve been in for a long time.  Like in many churches the ceilings soar and are vaulted and the walls are covered in sculptures.  But they also had a ‘wing’ with priests’ vestments behind glass – a whole bunch of them.  Some looked like they were embroidered in gold thread and lots of silk.  Also a display case that contained some relics, including some very old-looking scrolls.

Returning to the campervan we re-conned some possible spots to shoot from.  There’s a fairly sharp turn before the riders get onto the bridge and we hoped that would slow them down a bit.

The river, along with the lovely park and walkways was a great attraction and thoughout the morning more and more locals arrived to swim and fish.  They also opened both of the kiosks at each end of the park area and must have done a good business.

There was a good crowd gathered, and the race arrived with five in the breakaway – I got a pretty good shot of them coming across the bridge.

They were all from local Spanish teams and had been allowed to get a seven minute gap on the peloton.

I didn’t recognize too many riders in my photos but there are a lot of big-name racers here.  It’s a good warmup race for the Vuelta a Espana later this month.

After the racers had all passed we took our time going back to Santa Maria del Campo where there was a very nice free aire for the night.

Colin got his drone up for the first time but the strong wind made it difficult to nagivate – it ended up in a tree, but we did manage to retrieve it safely and without damage.

San Sebastián Classico in the Fog

After pouring rain off and on all night race day dawned foggy and wet.  I’m very glad I went for my scenic walk yesterday as it doesn’t look good for the great views today.  The sheep didn’t mind the inclement weather, though, and meandered from a field on one side of the road to the other at their leisure.

The San Sebastián Classic is one of our favourite races and this will be the third time we’ve seen it.  The last one was two years ago and young Remco Evenepoel was the winner.

We’re at the exact same spot we were at three years ago, just around the bend from the summit of the Jaizkibel climb, and they’ve erected summit markers 

Some cars joined us during the morning and the occupants stood around under their umbrellas.  I eventually approached a few that were in front of us and asked when the race was expected to arrive.

None of them spoke english, italian or french, but one young lady had a phone and she understood enough to show me a time schedule – for the women’s race (which, to be honest, we don’t really care about).  Just a guess as to when the men will be by.

The first of the women arrived right at noon with a three-rider breakaway, the main peloton a minute or two behind, and small groups straggling along about half an hour back.  Most of our fellow spectators turned out to be giving out water bottles to the riders, and as soon as the last rider passed they all left.

More fans arrived throughout the afternoon and once again our pullout was full.  A few of them setup tables and had a meal while waiting, and it was really nice to see the fog dissipate and have some blue sky overhead.

It was quite funny – at 3:50 I got a nice clear shot of some of the police motos, then we watched as the fog blew in again and swept across the hill to envelope us once more.  Only thirteen minutes later a lone racer arrived – you could hardly see him approaching through the fog.

Alaphilippe passed by about 3 minutes later with a couple of teammates…

I was glad to be wearing my winter coat as it was so cold and windy – it must have been awful for the riders.

Not wanting to drive in the foggy darkness we opted to stay another night at the roadside.  Having no 4G or other reception we didn’t find out the winner until the next morning after we’d left – Nelson Powless of EF won – good for him!

After another very rainy and windy night we left on Sunday morning, backtracking a bit before skirting Pamplona where we turned west and on past Logrono to Burgos and a campground we’d been to before just south of the city.

The Camino is very big around here – even the highway is named for it.

We arrived in good time to the campground only to be told that we could only stay two nights, not three, but that’s ok.  They have a decent restaurant but the wi-if sucks.

Monpaple Art, Tusson Cap, Hope Charity Hat

On Sunday morning we had lots of time for a bike ride before the final stage of the Tour started – they have it a little later now so that the presentations can be done near sunset at the Arc de Triomphe..

Our ride took us past the nearby village of Monpaple, which was having an art exhibition.  

We rode by and on to Aunac where we stopped for another of the very strong coffees.

On our return to Mansle we did stop in Monpaple and had a look around.

There was an abundance of clown paintings – including clown’s painting – but lots of other subjects as well.

The final TdF stage was the usual boring bunk for the first couple of hours – the winner and his team riding side-by-side drinking champagne, etc.  I always hope someone’s going to go for it but it never happens.

The only exciting part is when they hit the Champs-Élysées and do the eight circuits to the finish.  I was, of course, loudly cheering on Cavendish, but he was pinned in and couldn’t get past Wout van Aert, who won yet another stage.  That’s now a very difficult mountain stage, the individual time trial, and the final sprint that he’s won – seems like the young Belgian can do it all.  Still, even though he didn’t break Merckx’s record the Cav did tie it, and what a comeback Tour it was for him!

On Tuesday morning we heard sirens rushing along the highway and when we drove up to Ruffec to do some shopping we saw why.  A semi-truck had flipped into the ditch and looked like it had caught on fire.

There were several fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and it looked like they were trying to decide how to get the trailers uprighted.

On our ride on Wednesday we went to Tusson for coffee.

Along the way we saw a couple more of the ‘mannequins’ lounging around.

The coffee shop we ended up going to was awesome – it looked quite small from the outside but had a lovely fairly large terrace area at the back.

Most of the folks that came in for coffee and cake were brits, and we enjoyed the best cappuccino we’ve had since we left Italy.

For the first time I ventured into the church that’s on one side of the main square in Mansle.

It actually has some nice stained glass windows, and was wonderfully cool and quiet.

On Thursday we went to the Hope Charity shop in Sauze-Vaussais and picked up a few jigsaw puzzles and some books.  On the way out Colin pointed to the hat section and I scored a great black sun hat – I could have used it last weekend and avoided the raccoon eyes.

At Last a Race – TdF ITT

Race day dawned sunny and beautiful, with enough of a breeze to make the flags fly well.

There was one campervan behind us in our great little pullout, as well as several cars that had arrived during the morning.  The lady in the campervan warned Colin to wear a hat and indicated we should be careful of the sun – good advice, of course.  I had already smeared shea butter on my forearms, back of the neck and top of my ears (more on that later).

As usual for the Individual Time Trial many of the riders took a re-con ride around the course throughout the morning.

Also as usual at the Tour the Caravan was eagerly awaited by all…

It arrived a bit late, but was worth the wait…

It was even bigger and better than ever, and we cleaned up on goodies…

Including several packets of the doggies’ favourite sausage treats…

Third off the line in the ITT was Mark Cavendish – having tied the great Eddy Merckx’s TDF stage record earlier in the week it’s not likely he’ll break it today, although he’s not a bad time trialer.

It was easy to tell whenever a French racer was approaching as the crowds before us would go crazy.

We’re a bit concerned for a couple of fans just down from us – they keep taking off their shirts and seem unbothered by the fact that they might look like lobsters tomorrow.

As soon as the last rider – current overall leader Tadej Pogacar – passed I ran to our neighbour’s campervan where they had the race on tv.

Wout van Aert won!

And almost better the young 2nd overall Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard was so fast he almost caught up to 3rd place overall Richard Carapaz.  That would have been sweet!

We had contemplated staying another night but the traffic didn’t seem to be backed up too badly so we decided to get back to Mansle.  The drive was better than expected and we were home in good time.

The next morning I realized what I had missed when applying the shea butter to protect from the sun – my forehead and upper chest were bright red.  I look like a raccoon – or maybe the elusive red panda (and I don’t mean the small Italian car!).

Heading to the ITT

Got another nice ride in – a lovely route around to Aunac, with a stop for coffee.

Bastille Day celebrations were fairly subdued – no huge parties or fireworks that I could hear or see.

We got away mid-morning on Thursday – we’re both pretty organized and packing up the campervan didn’t take long.  The trip south to the time-trial course took about 2 ½ hours as we travelled on smaller, quieter roads.

The yellow route marking arrows weren’t up yet, but it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re on the route…

We looked for a parking spot along almost the entire route, starting in Libourne and going almost all the way to Saint-Emilion before pulling over and claiming our spot. 

We’d passed quite a few campervans already and knew many more would come but didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the wide shoulder as the ground looked a bit soft.

We’re in a nice wide spot with room for one or two more campervans, right next to a large vineyard.  This is a UNESCO Heritage area and is well known for it’s excellent wine – we’re beside a field of Merlot grapes.

They’re doing spraying of the vines right now – great timing!  We kept all of the windows shut for part of the day but luckily the sprayers knocked off fairly early.

We’ve discovered a problem with the campervan – the sink isn’t draining properly.  There’s a bit right at the top that’s a plastic piece of crap and has broken so all of the drain water flows directly into the cutlery drawer underneath.  I am now doing dishes in the bathroom sink.

The town of Libourne had their fireworks on Thursday night – I was already in bed but listened to them for quite awhile.  Mo heard them too and did her usual little barky/growly thing at them before settling back down on my feet.

Just after breakfast Friday morning a fellow pulled up in a car beside us – the vineyard side, not the road side.  We wondered if we were going to get asked to move, but all he did was warn us to close all of the windows as the sprayers would be coming soon.

We knew the machine was approaching, but appreciated the warning and kept the windows closed for an hour after he’d passed.

In the afternoon we took a walk back to the next group of campervans and on the way passed a very beautiful garden that must belong to the owner of the vineyard.

We had a rather lazy day – I finished the last of the three Genghis Khan books and was left wishing for a fourth.  We found a second problem with the campervan – the freezer has stopped working and the chicken as well as the salmon were both completely defrosted.  Chicken is Friday’s dinner so that’s ok and I made a teriyaki marinade for the salmon so it’s all good.

Late in the evening a bunch of vehicles pulled up on the road, including a semi-truck and several vans. They commenced to put up large signs and some barriers.  Apparently we’re right at the ‘4 km to go’ point.

The team had men from several different countries, including a fellow from Louisiana who said he used to do setups for the Cirque du Soleil.

It was quite a production and they didn’t finish until almost 10:30.

Manx Missile Explodes – We Ride for Coffee

A week ago Friday there was a dinner at the bar – we both chose the scampi and chips.  As usual there were quite a few Brits there, although they’d put the tables a bit further apart so not so much socializing.  During the lockdown last year Edith and Sylvain had used the time to re-decorate a bit – it’s lighter and spiffed up, and looks really good.

When returning home from Ruffec one day we stopped to say a quick hello to Tony and Joyce in Fontenille.  It’s the first time I’ve seen Tony since he did the two beautiful paintings for Colin based on two of my photos so I finally go to thank him personally for doing them.  One of them is in Papiano, so I’d already seen it last year but the other – of Mo and Benny – I didn’t see until we got to Mansle ten days ago.

We’ve taken a couple of walks down to the campground, and the river is still pretty high, although after the flooding several weeks ago it actually has subsided.

They’ve finished putting the new windows in the Mairie and it looks pretty good – Colin is especially pleased that they’re no longer flying the EU flag.

Last Sunday there was a regional cycling race and Colin drove the lead car while I took a few photos.

Unfortunately the weather sucked and there were a couple of periods of torrential rain where I had to go and take shelter in the car.

During one break in the rain I took the opportunity to walk home before the next downpour hit.

We’ve gone for a couple of nice bike rides – the first up to Aunac for coffee.  I have to say it’s very pleasant to ride on roads that aren’t just pothole after pothole – even the small back roads here are in much better shape than most of the ‘main’ roads in Italy.

This Friday we took a day-trip to Cognac, with a quick stop first at a bike shop in Angouleme to get new pads for my front brake.  By the time we got to the campervan store near Cognac they had already closed for lunch so we took the opportunity to find a place to eat.

We came upon a cafe in a nearby village and had a lovely roast chicken lunch alongside a bunch of locals.

A very very exciting Tour de France stage a couple of days ago – Mark Cavendish has now tied Eddy Merckx’s stage win record with his fourth win of this year’s race.  After being a last minute choice to even go to the TDF, and almost a write-off in some people’s minds makes it even more special for the Manx Missile.

Yesterday we went for another, longer bike ride, this time up to Aigre for coffee.  A very good last minute decision was to wear my rain jacket/windbreaker – we were halfway to our destination when the clouds opened and we just got poured on.

The coffee was good and strong, although I do miss Italian cappuccino – cafe creme is not the same!

On the way home we got more rain, but thankfully it didn’t last very long.  At the village of Villesoubis there are several cute stuffed ‘scarecrows’, two of which depicted bike riders.

Another special day at the TDF yesterday – Cdn. Michael Woods is now the proud wearer of the King of the Mountains jersey.  It would be great if he can keep it until the end next Sunday.