Saturday, December 9, 2006

In search of V - la Vuelta part 2

La Vuelta end of the first Act .....

In search of V

Cycling is a bit like life, well a lot, and writing as well , nobody owns it, it is a matter of things flying back and forth, collaboration, affect, the composition of bodies out of different materials, and so on. Some of the things we do and are at any given time come from outside of us, we fold them up and they become us. The Vuelta is a place where you can make friends, enemies, see and hear the highs and lows of it all. It is a search that continues even when it is over, even before it has started. And not being so big as say Le Tour, not being so big that those considered the biggest have it in their sights, means maybe that it is a little closer to reality. And reality is like everything, a double sided machine, it pulls in two directions at the same time, and the task continually is to find a little space in which to breathe and live. The Vuelta is beyond good and evil, it simply is the Vuelta.

We started off only a week ago with the search for the new Vuelta. Some came to win, some came to prove that they could perform when the going got tough, those ones that wanted to show that they didn't deserve any reputaion for being slack. Others came to do there job and do their daily work as domestiques. The race needed to prove it was beyong the reach of the Guardia Civil, of suspicion, and that it could come out of the maelstrom that the Operacion Puerto investigation had descended it into. It was a search for the new Vuelta and a new sport of the Velociped. A search for V ala Pynchon.

Since La Covatilla which seems already so long ago so much has happened. one thing to note is that the mountains have been cut up each day by long days in the saddle. The change of rythmn playing havoc on the legs. One day a gearing of 53 or 54/11, the next 39/23 or more. One day churning out the power with a huge gear across the flat, the next climbing or surviving up mountains, steeper and steeper. The heat continues, now the race cruises the northern coast of the peninsula some would rather be at the beach than on the bike. Lucklily stage 6 didn't see any wind come into play, the cross winds of Castille Leon that normally cut the peloton to ribbons was a tailwind and helped rather than hindered. There were a few nerves with the road turning here and there, but nerves didn't turn into actual danger.

Stages 7, 8 and 9 were the days la V turned into a duel between V and V. the hunt for V between V and V. Not in any of the seven years of the American's domination have we seen exciotement like this. Life (as in Vivir), vitality, visualised on the road and the screen. I am sorry if you can't get it all on TVE with the wonderful Carlos de Andres and Perico Delgado at the microphone, or by reading El Pais with the more than wonderful and cuddly Carlos Arribas and Pedro Horrillo at the keyboard.

Stage 7 to Morredero a narrow brute of a climb. Vinokourov away in a small group a smidgen of seconds ahead of the group of leaders (on that day it was di Luca in the gold). Attack after attack by Valverde, attack after attack after attack. Then with a kilometre to go Vinokourov again. He went so far, so strong, with 200 metres to the line he had it won. He had it won. I saw it. The chasers were within sight, but come on, he had it won. Then a flash. A flash nothing more. Up out of the saddle, the white jersey of Valverde. There was nothing left to race, there was nothing left of the course. It was still going uphill and Vino, the Khazak looked so good. I saw him do it to O'Grady in Soria two years ago - "the bloke's got a kick like a track sprinter" said O'Grady afterwards. I saw it on the telly last year when he flew past the American at Couchevel (just don't believe the yanks when they say the American gave it to him - most of them can't read a race, only the hype). And then poor old Vino had to suffer the white bullet. Vino who has suffered playing second and third fiddle at Telekom. Who suffered being outed from the Tour by hypocrites who are happy to benefit from the spectacle but not prepared to be honest about it. Vino who is suffering from not having a Pro Tour licence for his team, just couldn't believe his luck. He couldn't do a thing, nobody could has Valverde closed the gap between him, Vino and the finish in no time at all. I doubt this has been seen, ever before. Tell me where and I will look. if you have the stage on video, if you can find it anywhere (google for example) get it and watch it and watch it. It was a classic to stand along Leige, Fleche Wallone and hopefully many more to come.

This started something that just doesn't seem to be able to stop. The duel, yes a real duel. Something to give cycling life with a capital V. Eso es la vida!. Stage 8. No shellshocked Khazak. No American global control. No boredom. No Mayo, I got beat so I'm going home to mum and the mates.

Stage 8 into Lugo. The first time in so many years. The first time the TdF virtual winner Oscar Periero has ridden as a pro in his home country. First lap of Lugo, he gets away and soaks up the atmposphere. the local hero who's face adorns everything now, including road safety signs where he tells you not to speed. The peloton, how many kilometres, at 52 kph - it's fast, and guess what it's till hot. The last lap around Lugo, the speed exceeds 80 kph. The peloton is strung out, for minutes as a result. The final stretch, uphill, one kilomtere, the strong men are heading to fight it out. And Vino jumps, and goes. Nobody,but nobody will catch him today. Reward for the bitter taste of the day before. And then number 9.

Number 9. When have you seen anything like that before? 207 kilometres, six categorised climbs, 5025 metres of climbing. At the first climb, kilometre 35, Horillo and others are already dropped. They form a team, though not teammates to find their way to the finish without being disqualified as too slow. Ahead Discovery (cycling's symbol of multinational globalisation) Channel have the Basque Egoi Martinez, Banesto (I can call them that if I like) have Arroyo, and the hope of Euskadi for the future, Igor Anton. They formed the day's break, all with their eyes on being ahead to help their team leaders when the crunch came (Note to some American viewers, they were not trying to win but this is called tactics and teamwork). They were brought back before the foot of the last climb, too early maybe. But Arroyo was still able to form a part of Valverde's praetorian guard for the long pull up La Coberttoria. Martinez had to help out his ailing leader, Brakjovic (all 53 kilos of him) in his last day in gold. Anton didn't have the legs to help Samu up the hill. And well Mayo, was Mayo, and should be at lunch at his mum's house by now.

The stunning thing was, and this is the thing I ask have you seen such a thing since I don't know when, Vino Attacked just a little way in to the climb. Vino Attacked then nearly immediately Kashechkin followed him. The two Khazaks, from the team that bears the name of of the Khazak capital, mounted a two man time trial up the climb. Well a one man time trial. Vino ahead pulling his younger teammate all the way, as far as he could go. Kashechkin higher on GC after Vino lost time on the first day of La Vuelta's climbing of La Covatilla.

And then. Valverde, calm behind, with his guard having done their work pulling the names, like Pimiento Marchante and Sastre, the tailor of Burgos. And then, a kilometre or so to go, maybe a little more. Valverde jumps. Away, up into the slipstream nearly of the Khazak pair. Kashechkin says to Vino, "you go, you go for the win". And he does. This time glancing over his shoulder every few strokes to check that it won't happen again. That Valverde won't get him and pass him in front of the no less than the Khazak Prime Minister, here all the way from Astana to see his team, Astana, (the lost souls or forgotten soul of Manolo Saiz?), back to wreak havoc. Valverde realises today he can't catch him without giving too much away, too much that might make it impossible another day. He rides himself into gold, but foregoes passing Vino. (Another note to American viewers - he didn't give it to him, he just decided that today was not to be). Vino and Valverde, the twinned V’s, doubleV, not a W, back to give us some life with a capital V - eso es la vida, Vino, Valverde, La Vuelta.

Thankyou lord.

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