WHAT A VEULTA !

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Seldom have I seen a Grand Tour like this one. Normally I watch the Tour de France  on a daily basis and the days conform to what you would expect, either a GC day in the mountains, or a massed sprint on the flat stages.

So this year I decide to watch the Veulta a Espana and I’m thrilled from start to finish. The race gets underway with a short team time trial with BMC winning and Chris Froome’s team of Sky in third place.

With a very high number of mountain top finishes and some other very lumpy stages its easy to see why most teams have left their sprinters at home.

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Chris takes the lead on Stage 3 by a mere 2′ but takes every opportunity to grab time, even taking bonus seconds on an intermediate sprint!! By Stage 7 he has increased his lead to 11′ and then has an impressive win on Stage 9 surging out to 36′ on a very nasty uphill finish.

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First Stage win

At the end of Stage 11 Chris has a commanding lead of 1.13′ over Nibali but of course now the commentary team of Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll are advocating that he should give away the jersey and save his team from doing all the daily hard work of grinding down the opposition.

However, Sky has the team to crush the opposition and by setting the tempo they can wear other teams down who then can’t support their stars on breakaway attempts. With a Grand Tour of this type with climbers going to win the overall every second counts and the smallest error in any department from hydration, feeding, to going into the red zone, or a mechanical, or even a crash can wipe out all the hard work in one fell swoop.

Stage 12 sees that scenario come to life as Overall Leader Chris crashes on a simple left downhill turn for no apparent reason. The levers get damaged on this crash and he take a spare bike………..

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Simple crash but bents the levers

Within a very short distance on the next right hander the front wheel slips away and he is on the ground again! He wasn’t really up to speed when this happened and apart from the mental feelings he was able to dig deep, and with the aid of two team members made it to the finish only losing 20′.

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How did this happen?

With his lead down to 53′ the numbers flip flop on the next 3 stages and as he enters the individual time trial his lead has crept up to 1.01′. Time trialing is one of his strengths and he wins Stage 16 with his overall lead up to 1.58′

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Second Stage Win

Stages 17 and 20 are the two toughest climbs for everybody and as they start up the tortuous climbs of Stage 17 it appears Chris has put too much out there on the Time Trial. He loses most of his gains to Nibali and finishes with only a  1.16′ advantage. This is really “edge of the seat” stuff and on paper it all comes down to the fearsome Angliru on Stage 20.

Alberto Contador is on his last professional ride of his career and has spent the last week breaking away whenever he could and clearly wants a win on this tour.

Stage 18 looks like the GC riders should all finish together and save themselves for the “big one” of Stage 20. Like the rest of this race more surprises and Chris gains another 21′ on this stage  which he maintains on Stage 19.

Special gearing for this big monster and once again Contador hits the break and very few can stay with him and he is clearly a man on a mission. Chris and a team mate set off and as they approach the top they are not that far behind as Chris further extends his overall lead to 2.15′ and I must confess I’m somewhat relieved after 3 weeks of nail biting stuff.

Contador wins this epic stage and his career on a high note. I do think that perhaps Chris let him have this one as a fitting tribute.

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A great way to finish a career

All that remains is the usual run into Madrid and several laps of the city. At this stage Chris is the leader of 3 of the 4 jerseys and as we get into the intermediate sprint Chris is right up there with the leading sprinters. Some say this was foolhardy as a serious crash at this stage could have ruined all the hard work. The number 2 rider in the Green Jersey competition, Trentin, wins the intermediate but now has to win the stage and have Chris finish worse than 13th. Chris as a GC man never really has a chance at a Green jersey and its pretty clear he WANTS IT!

Trentin wins the stage but Chris finishes 11th and takes the Green. What a race! ….. perhaps the best I’ve ever seen.

 

TONY DOWN

LAKETIME

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We are looking at “5 Branches” No 14 on the map

Its the middle of August and time for an inspection of another Lake and RV Park with slots on the waterline. About 85 miles away, but with more amenities than our local ones!

A Wednesday drive over on a stormy Summer’s Day. We duly arrive and survey the area. Plenty of places to eat, village stores, and of course some waterfront drinking holes. That’s a good start, so what has the RV park got? Plenty of sites on the edge of the lake, launch ramp, tie up spots for adventurous boaters, and plenty of camp facilities.

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The Camp Office and Store

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Bathrooms

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………. and toilets!

Fishing we are told is excellent at the beginning of the season but is falling off a bit now. The rain finally stops and on the way back we stop for lunch overlooking the marina. Very popular and some reasonable fish n’ chips! ……. the venue is booked for Labor Day weekend and I add on a “personal day” to give us the Friday to travel.

Friday September 1st and off we go with Brenda in the Cadi + boat and me in the Safari. Two hours later we arrive and check in. Very pleasant location amid the pine trees with a lot of “set aside” for nature’s flowers and fauna and some other amusing touches.

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Plenty of interesting wild flowers

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Amusing touches on the walk to the Office

We are in our slot but with the electric plug in on the shore line we are in backwards like all the travel trailers ? There has to be a way to fix this.

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In backwards ?

Over at the camp office we find the way with a 30 amp extension cord and after an afternoon ice cream scoop or two the Safari is turned round to face the lake.

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A 30 amp extension cord

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Success and an ice cream

Tables, arm chairs, out and time for lunch with some of my “2nd attempt” radish.

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Now facing the lake

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Fresh home grown radish and cheese

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Fire pit at the ready

Tomorrow we will launch Plan B from the rather steep and narrow boat ramp………. and so to bed ………. up again and a pleasant morning and while Brenda goes through her morning RV clean up ritual I  try a spot of fishing despite having watched many casting away without any sniff of a bite…………. 20 minutes into the mission and a giant take and its “fish on!”

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A 19 inch rainbow trout  for supper

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“Nice one” says Woody

With many “Vet” helpers and camp guides Plan B slides easily into the lake and we set off for a gentle runaround before testing the shore anchor.

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We put to sea once more

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Only 7-10′ deep in this section

Lunch and before we can go out again the weather changes with a few showers, strong winds, and some thunder and lightning. Oh well, get the cribbage board out again and drink heavily after first putting on the new boat cover.

Vallecito Lake is another of these mercury free lakes like Groundhog and the trout flesh is a gorgeous orange color and cooks and eats well.

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Fire pit in action and Smores

We will be back next year, and staying longer as this trip was way too short! The lake is to our liking and we believe it will work very well now we have given it a try.

 

TONY DOWN