This weekend "La Vuelta a España", which was pushed back by 2 months thanks to Covid19, will be passing right through the area we live in :-)
We currently live in Boltaña and the race will pass through Ainsa, 6km east of here at the 100km mark and again through Fiscal, 20km west of us at the 160km mark. With luck we should be able to see the race both times. Race officials are predicting about an hour and a half of riding between the two points while they take in the "Añisclo Canyon" with its "Alto de Vio" and "Alto de Fanlo" climbs. Plenty of time for us to get from one to the other.....
The weather and temperature differences between mid August and mid October are worlds apart. The weather is currently too changeable to try and predict. Yesterday I was working in shorts and a T shirt - today I'm at home and it's raining and cold. Overall I'd guess that this is going to be a much colder & wetter Vuelta than usual.
Stage 5 is following a different route than that which was originally released last year. It finishes in a different place - I assume because of the snow on the peaks at this time of year.
The race will leave the town of Huesca and head east towards Barbastro. They'll be on the "old road" not the new dual-carriageway that we would use. It's an undulating road which, overall, descends very slightly between the two towns.
In Barbastro they will turn left (North) and head towards Ainsa. 20km outside of Barbastro they will start riding alongside the El Grado Dam (Embalse del Grado) followed by the Mediano Dam (Embalse de Mediano) which takes them all the way up to Ainsa. The Mediano Dam has an abondoned village in the middle of it - you can see the top of the church tower, even when the dam is full. Currently the dam is 3/4 empty!
Through Ainsa and 11km up to Escalona where they turn left again (West) and hit the two climbs of the day. This road is not an easy road to get any speed up on - up and down and very wiggly! The riders will have to pay attention here. It does take in some really stunning scenary though. We've driven it several times.
They exit the valley at the small town of Sarvise, about 145km into the stage and turn left (South) to head down to Fiscal. This road is downhill all the way to Fiscal and it's not a bad road. From Fiscal to the finsh in Sabiñanigo they will be on, for the most part, a relatively new nice wide road that includes a 3km long tunnel and a 2nd Cat climb. I would expect an all out sprint for the last 20km of the race!
Incidentally, the road from Sarvise all the way to the finish line in Sabiñanigo is the same road that they rode back on 4th September 2016 at the beginning of Stage 15 of La Vuelta - but in reverse. That was the day Nairo and Alberto dropped everyone in the first 10km of the Stage!
The new route for Stage 6 has been released and it is almost an exact copy of Stage 15 from 2016 - except that they start in Biescas then head down to Sabiñanigo (last time they started in Sabiñanigo) and do a loop through Fiscal, Broto, Biescas and finish up with the climb to Formigal.
Can't have been easy wanting to close down towns at short notice - some of these roads/towns will now be closed two days running - but at least the road condition will be good because they are re-riding some of todays route.
It's perfect for us because we can now see tomorrows Stage 6 really easily. I am as happy as a sandboy!
We had a coffee in Ainsa and you really wouldn't know that a Grand Tour is about to pass through there other than there being more police than normal.....
We walked to a spot just outside Ainsa to watch the race. With the Peloton 10km away we could hear the helicopters in the distance and the first team cars and official cars started passing us . . . .
Mrs Bonus (Andrea) had her SA flag with her. She's actually British but she lived there so long . . . . and she's been supporting Team NTT.
We were at a point about 100km into a 184km race.
The break went past, then the bunch - looked like Froome was near the back of the bunch - then a little while later the back group passed.
After everyone had passed we walked back into Ainsa to jump in the car and drive a cut-through road to the second spot where we could see the race. In Ainsa lots of support vehicals were also taking the cut through road to jump ahead of the riders who were going to take about an hour and a half to do what we could do in 30 mins.
We parked in Fiscal and walked out to the Intermediate Sprint Point where we could wait for the race to catch us up. First came a breakaway of three riders - they held out to the end - then the Peloton nearly 5 mins later, followed little groups and riders for 20 minutes aftrewards!
I didn't get pics of the riders passing - I was too busy shouting and cheering! So lots of pics of cars instead :-)
Sunday I was able to drive 30km west of where we live to see Stage 6 of La Vuelta.
I was going to go to Sabiñanigo so that I could watch them pass twice there (they looped the town) and then up to Biescas, where the stage started, to see them pass on their way to Formigal. I could see that the weather was closing in so when I saw several team cars parked at the side of the road on a long steady climb about a third of the way around the route I realised that I was passing the feed-point and I decided to stop there and watch.
After a while more team cars arrived and I was able to get some nice pics.
20 minutes before the first riders arrived, the rain came in from the west and one of the team drivers I was talking to told me that the riders were already soacked!
When the break passed us, not one of them took a bottle or a musset. When the bunch arrived it was a different story. Aside from me, there were only two other people watching the race at the feed point, so I managed to pick up a few goodies for myself . . . .
18 Bottles and 6 Mussets, a dozen gels and assorted bits of food!
Yesterday I did part of Zona Zero Route 15 (ZZ-015) which is five minutes down the road from Boltaña town.
A 40 minute climb on a really nice gravel track followed by a 12 minute descent on a combination of farm trail / jeep track / goodness knows what.
The trail goes up to the village of Silves, which actually consists of two parts - the upper and the lower villages (Silves Alto and Silves Bajo). The village is semi-inhabited. The houses will all have been "in the family" for ever and I'm not certain but I believe that the houses that are occupied are actually holiday places and the families actually live elsewhere. The village sits at about 900m and the views are, as usual, stunning.
It's surprising how quickly you find youself way up above the road you were just on!
Getting some altitude now . . . . .
Sometimes at the top of a climb I just stop and yell "HELL YEEEEEEAH"