IT’S not every day that twice Tour de France winner Chris Froome races past your house. But today is one of those days . . .
La Vuelta a España – the Tour of Spain – is one of the world’s oldest cycle races, and although perhaps not as famous as le Tour de France, it is no less gruelling.
At 3,374 kilometres divided into 21 sections, today’s stage starts at Jódar, north of Granada, and terminates in the Moorish village of Capileira, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
At 4.35pm the peloton is due to reach the spa town of Lanjaron, pass the end of our track about four minutes later on its way to Orgiva, then twist up a god-almighty road to one of the highest villages in Europe.
My Youngs road bike remains propped against its post, where it has reposed – I am ashamed to say – since we arrived in Spain on July 5. But the tyres are hard and the chain has been oiled. If Froome or his Team Sky team-mate, Geraint Thomas, get a puncture, they are more than welcome to borrow it. I have dusted the saddle.
We prepare for La Vuelta as we prepared for watching Le Tour one summer’s day many years ago when it passed through Sarlat, in the Dordogne. Preparation consists of much standing, much sitting, much bobbing up and down, and much checking of camera settings.
In this atmosphere of expectation, unknown people emerge from the olive and almond groves to stand at the roadside; strangers hand their biscuits around; neighbours we have never seen become friends. Even the Guardia Civil pip their horns and wave as they speed past. It’s an event in a place where events seldom happen.
We wait. And we wait some more. But we enjoy the waiting.
And, just as in Sarlat, a breakaway of several riders speeds through amid a shrieking of sirens and clatter of applause. Then silence and more waiting. Then, more shrieking and wailing and a thunder of motorbike and helicopter engines as the peloton streams past like a silent machine, gears and wheel rims flashing in the sun as a hundred riders position themselves for the steep descent to Orgiva – and face the muscle-tearing climb to the mountain villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and the finish line at Capileira.
We failed to pick out Chris Froome in that hectic jumble of noise and images. But at least we’ve met the neighbours.
MORE INFO . . .
FOR highlights of today’s (Friday, August 28) stage of La Vuelta a España, watch ITV 4 at 7pm. And for the official website and results, click here.