Today, stage ten, really was about as flat as the Vuelta Espana gets.
Having said that the organisers still couldn’t resist chucking in a canyon from which the riders had to escape, up the climb of the Alto de Fermoselle, around thirty kilometres from the finish.
For the sprinters it was a bit like an episode of one of Bear Grylls’ ridiculous “survival” shows.
“Right, we’re going to pack you off into this canyon with nothing but a bike, some energy gels, and the support of the entire infrastructure of an international sporting event…”
Those sprinters who escaped the canyon without mishap or misfortune knew they had a chance, on the flat run-in, to win the race.
The sprinters at the Vuelta, of course, come prepared for a few climbs. The ones who need a pan-flat parcours along which to unfurl their mighty sprint don’t bother turning up. Marcel Kittel, for example, six-foot-two and eighty-odd kilos, is not a fan of the race.
I’m not saying he would go “full Grylls” – trapped in that canyon, drinking his own urine, eating raw snake meat for supper – but he’d get dropped for sure. With no hope of contesting the sprint he’d wonder what the hell he was doing in Spain.
And where on earth his next bottle of German engineered Alpecin shampoo might be coming from.
On that crucial climb today Bora Hansgrohe set a blistering pace, clearly attempting to drop sprinters and enhance the chances of their man Sagan. The peloton stretched behind them, and then frayed a bit, and splintered slightly, a whiff of jeopardy in the air.
But no more than a whiff.
By the summit the peloton was still sizeable, with all the big names present and correct. The climb not quite enough to precipitate a survival situation.
The only riders who missed the cut and remained abandoned were surely there by choice. Tired of the bike race and delighted by the change of scene and the opportunity to test their survival skills. Relishing the prospect of a refreshing glass of urine to wash down their slices of raw Viper.
These unstable characters shall remain nameless.
Beyond that, the finale was indeed a simple affair.
Viviani’s Quick Step team seized control of the front of the race, peeling off one by one in the final kilometres, to deliver their man. He won his second stage of the race without drama.Embed from Getty Images
And the finishing town today was, in fact, no more than a village. By some estimations the smallest ever finishing town (village) on a Grand Tour, with a population of a mere one-thousand and some. Presumably just about all of them out on the street watching Viviani’s win.
My sources, who know a thing or two about Fermoselle (ahem…thanks Wikipedia), tell me that it’s the home territory of a couple of species of endangered birds, one of them being the Royal Owl. Which is all lovely, of course, but to me, the consummate cycling blogger, is still a cycling related piece of info.
I’m not aware of any current pro cyclists who were born in the area, but if any are in future they have the perfect nickname. In fact, for the time being, perhaps we can bestow it on Elia Viviani in honour of his Vuelta stage win.
From this day, he becomes “the Royal Owl of Fermoselle.”