After having hiked up Arrate the day before, the stage start in Barakaldo was something of a luxury. Barakaldo is a suburb of Bilbao and is conveniently situated on the city’s superb metro, just a hop, step and jump away from our hotel in Indautxu(txutxutxu). There’s not really much to say about Barakaldo itself, other than that it’s the home of the Bilbao Exhibition Centre, otherwise known as the B!E!C!, surely to be pronounced with suitable emphasis. For the rest of the trip we added exclamation marks to BMC as well. This caused us a rather pathetic amount of amusement. Anyway, we arrived in a big carpark rather before the team buses did and watched the total chaos as they all battled for the optimum parking spot, while the Euskie bus had the same effect on the crowd as the Pied Piper of Hamelin did upon rats and small children. Want to see photos? Why, take a peek below the flip!
Here is the B!E!C! We weren't sure where to go exactly, so we followed the lady in the orange t-shirt. It worked.
Lloyd Mondory. I don't even know where to begin with this one.
To borrow Urlaub's description, Gabriel Rasch auditions for the Norwegian remake of the Blues Brothers.
Nacer Bouhanni studiously taped the profile to his handlebars while a gaggle of fans awaited his signature
Eliaaaaaa! And me.
Intxausti spent a good deal of time kissing babies, propelled at him by various local fans. He comes from Amorebieta which isn't far from Bilbao. One baby cried as soon as it was handed to him. Silly baby. This little boy is 8 year old Unax Cañibano whose parents have set up a foundation supported by many Basque sports stars to fund treatment for his heart condition in the States. He was delighted to meet his idols, even giving Jonathan Castroviejo a kiss!
Koen de Kort
Just get RID of the facial hair John, 'kay?!
Kessiakoff makes some Swedish fans very happy
Seriously, how young does Sarmiento look?!
Liquigas had a frog
By this stage the Euskie related scrum had abated somewhat as people made their way to watch the start, so we went in search of orange. Here is Gorka Verdugo.
Is Oroz trying to look cool or is his hand like that by accident?
Igor Anton was VERY popular indeed!
I gave him a hug, although he was so surrounded that he had no idea which camera to look at. He had his arm around me!!!! :-)
Leenoos, that is NOT your car
Being a bit vertically challenged, this is the best view of the start I could get
Sadly I have no pictures of Styby as I chose to chat to him rather than snap away. Yes, the great Zdenek Stybar remembered me even without my pink wellies and chatted away to me all smiley-like while I felt very important in front of the other fans ;-)
And so, riders safely on their way to Valdezcaray, we went off to be tourists. Further down the metro line is Portugalete, which has a wacky bridge, complete with gondola! It allows ships to get down the river to the city. Clever, huh?
Anyway, that is by the by. In the next and final instalment we leave Euskadi for the day and head into La Rioja (where we had no time for wine. Bah).