Fantastic Finale to La Vuelta – ITT into Santiago

As usual on a race day cars and campervans went up and down looking for spots to park.  Also as usual many amateur riders took their crack at the course.  And fans walked and rode up and down as well.

Since it was the ITT many of the racers did a re-con ride, either alone or with others of their team.

Around noon a few vehicles pulled into the parking area of a building just up the road from us and proceeded to setup a large canopy.  They then put up some very large speakers – uh oh.  Not long after that the music started – just blasting away the peace and quiet we had enjoyed until then.

After a couple of hours I couldn’t stand it anymore so took a stroll up to have a word with them.  I asked when they were going to stop and and was told it would go on all day!  I cried out ‘no!’ and they just looked at me like I was crazy.  I finally begged them to at least turn the speaker around so it was facing them and not us, and to please turn it down a bit.  They did turn the speaker around, but the lowered volume only lasted a minute or two.

The start today is much later than usual, so that the last rider would arrive in Santiago di Compostella near sunset.

I did take a walk to the corner just below us – it’s a very sharp corner with quite a steep gradient.

There are, of course, quite a few people gathered, including not one, but two bagpipe players, a bongo drummer and a guy with a horn – literally a horn.  In addition there’s the lady in the jester’s costume that had walked past us earlier with the cute baby.

The caravan – small as it is in the Vuelta – arrived at 3:48.  We did score a couple of hats – I gave one to the little fellow next to us – as well as several key rings and a bag of olives.

The first rider came by us at almost 5:20, followed by points winner Fabio Jakobsen (I’ve been spelling his name incorrectly previously).  Even though he will win the green jersey he’s in second to last place overall, thus the second to start the ITT which goes in reverse order.

The folks up the road with the blaring music do look like they’re enjoying themselves, but we just couldn’t take any more so relocated down to the corner where the atmosphere was so much more fun for us.

One of the bagpipers was now dressed – we think – as a wolf, although wookie also came to mind.

The other bagpiper and the guy with the horn were in skeleton outfits.

There was also a superman.

As we were taking photos of the riders and the cars, folks in some of the cars and on the motos were also taking pics of us.

Even though it’s the final stage and as long as they all stay on their bikes the overall results are not likely to change much, no-one seems to be slacking in their efforts.

In the end Jack Haig hung in for third overall…

…Mas for second, and getting a very well deserved win – both the stage and the overall, Primos Roglic.

We waited for a short while before deciding what to do about leaving – we asked our neighbours in the other campervan if they were leaving or staying the night and their opinion was the very same as ours…if the folks with the horrible loud music were staying, then we were leaving – if they left, then we were going to stay.

Luckily for all of us the party people started to take down their equipment and in very quick time were out of there – blessed peace!!

From Viegu back to Santa Eulalia de Oscos, and on to Quintans – More Vuelta!

Shortly after the race passed our nice little spot in Viegu we got going north towards the coast, stopping at an aire not far from the town of Ribadesella.  That’s the town that’s made headlines recently for it’s tongue-in-cheek response to criticism from tourists that had complained about the noise from roosters and church bells, etc.

We stopped in Gijon to re-stock on food, then continued straight west on the motorway until just before Ribadeo where we turned south along the route for the next day’s stage.

We followed the route to the town of A Fonsagrada, where we stopped so Colin could get some salve for his insect bites.  I haven’t been bitten at all, but they seem to really go for him!

Backtracking to the village of Santa Eulalia de Oscos we once again took advantage of the aire.  The race goes by on the road below, although it doesn’t actually go thru the village.

After a lovely glass of rioja we had a nice early night – there are only two other vans this time, as opposed to being almost full two weeks ago.

Early the next morning we followed the route several miles on and picked a nice wide spot to park and watch from.

There was a very large breakaway that arrived at 1:49…

…with the peloton, led by Jumbo Visma – with current overall leader Primoz Roglic – only two minutes behind (love his blue shoes!)…

…and team Ineos and Bernal not far back.

We once again saw our ‘friend’ the photographer who stopped right at our spot to take some photos.

We’ve met him several times now, including the Tour of Burgos three years ago and the world’s in Harrogate two years ago.  He liked the book I was reading that I’d set near my chair and commented on it.

Several minutes later, as usual, were the sprinters and others, including Jacobsen and several of his protective Quickstep team members.

After taking down the flags we had a somewhat leisurely drive back past Santiago and a bit south to the town of Padron – it’s the starting point for Sunday’s final stage that is an Individual Time Trial.  We know we’re not going to watch from Padron, but it has an aire that was pretty easy to find.

We actually didn’t really care for the site – it’s right across from a canal, and also right on one of the many Camino routes.  In fact there’s a marker showing that it’s at km 26,770 of the trail – not sure where they started counting from – China, maybe? Or, perhaps, as Colin reminded me, they use the comma and the decimal backwards here, and it more likely means 26.77 km to go to Santiago – maybe?? Hahaha.

The problem with the site is that it’s surrounded on two sides by large apartment blocks, and since it was Friday night there was a lot of activity, including drunken shouting and verbal altercations from some of the suites.

Leaving as early as possible the next morning we headed out on the route, looking for a spot somewhere on the one large climb of the finale on Sunday.  We passed a spot that Colin liked but I wanted to press on and see what was ahead – we ended up going another 15 km or so before turning around and parking in the first spot.

We were eventually joined by another campervan, and many more cruised up and down the road looking for places.

Vuelta from Viegu

We left our lovely aire and made our way north back to Asturias.

Along the way we passed thru some beautiful countryside that reminded me a lot of home.  Not far from the border there’s a reservoir/lake and the water’s so low that cattle are grazing on lands that used to be underwater.

There’s a pullout just before the town of Oseja de Sajambre and it has a trail down to a platform with wonderful views of the deep valley and surrounding mountains.

We left the main road shortly after entering Asturias and headed a few km west to the village of Viego – or Viegu, depending on what signs you look at.

We’d passed a couple of possible parking spots for the race tomorrow before we got to the village but continued on, stopping at a cafe/bar/restaurant for a coffee and to discuss our plan.

We quickly decided to stay where we were rather than continue up to the summit.  The cafe served food and good wine – why leave?

We had a nice fairly flat parking space right in front – we did move a bit to allow more customers to park but were assured by the waiter that we could stay overnight.  We promised to eat and drink there – he spoke very good english, and is also a cycling fan.

We had some tapas for lunch and got to watch the last bit of the day’s race on the tv inside.

We went for a short walk a bit further up the road – it’s very twisty and quite steep in spots so there’ll be plenty of good places to watch and shoot from.

There are several large dogs that roam around and aren’t on leads.  They don’t seem to be aggressive, but Mo and Henry bark at them anyway.

We’ve seen quite a few campervans going up the road, only to come back down again a short while later.  A couple of large ones came back to the village and we had fun watching them trying to squish into places to park.

Two boys carried a small soccer net to the square and a bunch of the local kids were playing when some slightly older ones arrived with brooms and started clearing the ground.

They did a very good job in a very short time.

A steady stream of vehicles went up and down the road the next morning, all hoping for a decent place to park.

As the morning progressed our little cafe got busier and busier and it seemed like the whole village gathered along the roadside.

The campervan next to us has a tiny dog we refer to as ‘rat dog’ and their friend that was parked down the road a bit has a fluffy little shi tzu.

We ended up parking the lawn chairs right behind the campervan to take our photos from.

The caravan passed by and I almost missed it – it’s nothing like the one for the Tour.

The first riders appeared just before 2:20, with several QuickStep riders protecting their green jersey holder Jacobsen only four minutes back.  It’s so, so good to see Jacobsen doing well again when only about a year ago he was in an induced coma from crash injuries.

About half an hour after the first pass it just started to pour…

…and pour…

One of the local ladies and her family were all wearing white t-shirts with ‘Viegu’ in black – I’m now the proud owner of one and put it on immediately.

The second pass of the race arrived just over an hour after the first – the rain had slacked a bit by then – Bernal and Roglic were alone in the lead by a few seconds.

The group was much more spread out this time taking over 15 minutes to pass us.  As soon as they were by we scooted inside the cafe to watch the last hour on one of their two tv’s.

It was a thrilling finish up the dreaded Covadonga with Roglic and Bernal staying out in front and Roglic finally getting away and putting over a minute into everyone else – very dominating and exciting ride!

Bonar, Barrio de Las Olas and Barky Dogs

It absolutely poured with rain during the night, and Mo, as usual, tried to out-bark the thunder.  We’ve noticed that the campground has made several improvements from the last time we were here.  The bathrooms, including the sinks and showers all seem new and they’ve spiffed up other things as well.

The one thing that hadn’t changed was that no one was at the office when we wanted to leave.  The last time we’d just left some cash in an envelope and put it thru the door slot, but this time we left a note that we’d be back later.

We had to go up to Lugo to try to get a couple of things fixed in the campervan.  Not only had the solar battery/electrics failed but the sink plug had sprung a leak – for the second time!  Adria:  we love the new campervan and many things about it, but some of the little things are just crap!

We made it to Lugo and the place we’d picked was very good – we got a replacement sink drain/fixture and one of their guys had a look at the battery.  He wasn’t an expert and couldn’t determine what was wrong so didn’t charge us anything, although Colin gave him some cash anyway.

We headed southeast back to the campground where we paid up, then further east past Leon, stopping at the edge of the town of Sahechores where we saw a bunch of campervans parked in a field.  It was quite pleasant, with a very nice restaurant/bar as well.

We were enjoying a nice beverage when a woman at a table near us lit a cigarette.  As this was very smelly, and I know isn’t allowed I motioned for her to put it out – no doing.  She gave me the evil eye until Colin went in to pay, then I went to her table and apologized for my response to her smoking, telling her that my mother had died due to cigarettes and it just made me sad.  She accepted my apology very contritely.

We had a nice quiet night – with…ta-da!  – full power on the battery in the morning.  We took a short walk – there’s a huge stork’s nest atop the chimney of a church, and a rock that looks like a frog (according to Colin) – a bit of imagination can be used, then I get it.

We got going before noon back to Leon to stock up again and then off northeast to the town of Bonar.  It’s in a lovely area and the aire is right on the river – 3 euros a night including electrics.

The aire is right across from the community swimming pool/recreation area and as it was Saturday they were having a party.  

Hundreds of people started to arrive and the music was blaring – we feared no sleep would be had until well after midnight.

We took a walk in to the town and had a nice drink at one of several cafe/bars.  

On the walk back two ladies looking out their window smiled as I waved at them then took their photo.

We were very pleasantly surprised when the music at the party across the road stopped at around 9:00 and we were able to get an early, peaceful night.

There were about 25 campervans in the place overnight but many left during the day.  We assume this is the last weekend of holidays in Spain and everyone has to get back to work or school.

There are several hiking and mountain-biking trails around here, as well as skiing in the winter.  We took a walk along a trail that was meant to take us to a waterfall, but it wasn’t well marked and we went about a kilometre the wrong way before backtracking.

It was still a nice walk, though, and we went back along the road rather than the trail.  There was more than one house with guard dogs, and one in particular had several large, loud ones.

Another walk into the town, and another refreshing beverage, this time with a couple of tapas.

On the walk back the sun was coming thru the clouds in brilliant rays – a lovely evening.

This morning we went for another walk, this time following the road rather than the unmarked trail.  It was easy walking until we came to the ‘dog house’.  This time there were no fewer than six very large dogs just hurling themselves at their gate to get at us so we hustled past.

Then a lone dog – a ridge-back, Colin thought – came after us up the road.  There was a fat old lady yelling at it to come back but it just kept coming at us.  I scooped Mo up in my arms and the dog went past us and on to Colin and Henry.  Colin gave it a light kick and it retreated back a bit, allowing us to pass.

I yelled at the old lady – even though it wasn’t in Spanish I’m sure she understood ‘get control of your f’ing dog!’.

I must say something about the dogs here – there are dogs everywhere, but here in Spain it seems the owners don’t care as much about having them on a leash and it can be quite frightening, especially when we have two fairly small dogs – always on their leads, of course.  

We continued on up to the nearby small village of Barrio de Las Ollas – unfortunately there wasn’t even a cafe, and several of the houses were for sale.

It wasn’t deserted or anything, in fact restoration work was being done on more than one place.

Not feeling very energetic we declined to go to town for a drink, opting instead to sit in the chairs outside and take it easy.

There are only four or five campervans here now and it’s very quiet.

The recreation area across the road had a bit of music as usual, but again it ended nice and early.