Stage Five of the Vuelta may seem like aeons ago given all the water which has flown under the bridge since, but I invite you to revisit it through the lens of my camera (well, iphone). This was the last of the five stages attended by Urlaub and myself, before we went off to explore Gipuzkoa and attend pelota matches in little towns while trying in vain to appear local. As such, it was rather bittersweet; we had a truly amazing time following the peloton around the Basque Country and La Rioja, somehow sharing a little of their odyssey though in rather more physical comfort.
Logroño is just over the border into La Rioja from the Basque province of Araba and a rather beautiful bus journey from Bilbao took us zigzagging back and forth across the dividing line, evidenced by the linguistic diversity of the road signs. The first noteworthy sight was in Bilbao's Termibus, where we espied this rather hilarious poster. Here is a glimpse of the Araba mountains, melting into the plains of Rioja (which is rather wonderfully known as 'Errioxa' in Basque).
When we arrived in Logroño and located the start-finish straight, it quickly became apparent that things were not quite as they had been in the information. It was chaotic. The team buses started to arrive at about the same time as us and clearly had no idea where to go when they eventually extricated themselves from the monster traffic jam into the city. Some dropped their riders off to sign on and then let them find their own way back, which many, including a lonesome and baffled Dario Cataldo, couldn't. We rather feared all this mess would rob us of valuable stalk..erm..rider viewing time, but as it turned out we did rather well in the end!
Moncoutie was the first rider we bumped into
Intxausti and girlfriend. He wasn't in a terribly good mood, giving an interview about the day before which included the word 'Sky' many times, accompanied by a lot of dramatic hand gestures. I gave him an encouraging pat on the back and he thanked me. I even made him smile :)
Elia Viviani almost headbuts me after almost riding into a small girl
Oroz is always smiling
Kashechkin and a wannabe BMC
Igor Anton, again in very high demand
Riders all on their way to the start, we positioned ourselves on the course. Initially it was rather packed anywhere near the finish line but once the riders had gone through for the first time the crowds started to migrate somewhat. We nabbed this rather good spot, which also had the benefit of a big screen and some toilets!
I'm sure this was a terribly boring stage to watch on TV, but being there was great fun, as was being able to see the peloton several times over as well as having a great view of the finish. if only Benna had held on! Bah! The one downside was the speaker right opposite us which blared out the Vuelta song constantly, giving me a headache and a near permanent earworm.
Stage done, we went back to the buses, which were just behind where we were standing. Here's Kash again, warming down on a turbo Sky-stylee!
How does this work? Seelie wasn't sure...
Terpstra, keen to get to the showers
Egoitz Garcia with his home crew
And so that was that. Off we toddled back to the bus station, being passed on the way by several riders cycling back to their hotels. The journey back yielded some more gorgeous vistas...
Our final glimpse of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana? A team hotel in Laguardia. Our highly uncooperative bus driver would not stop. Bah. Goodbye brave riders, thanks for the memories and good luck!
(not sure what this dude is doing with his hand, mind...)