You have to hand it to those in charge of the Vuelta; they know exactly what they’re doing. They know that in the sixty days since the start of the Tour de France we have seen, as of this morning, forty-nine days of Grand Tour bike racing. Across France, Italy, and now Spain.
Even those of us obsessed with the sport are flagging a little.
And so, on Stage 8, it seemed reasonable we might be tempted to tune in just for the last fifteen kilometres or so. Just to keep in touch and get a feel for it. We would see fifteen minutes of Team Movistar lining up a reduced fifty-strong peloton for a ragged old climb up Alto de Moncalvillo.
Eight kilometres in length, with ramps of twelve percent, fifteen, eighteen. The kind of climb that you almost feel bad for watching, as the riders suffer like skinny dogs for your watching pleasure.
You soon get over these feelings of sympathy and find yourself screaming at the telly. Suggesting your favourite riders should: “Pedal faster,” “try harder,” and “be quicker!”
That sort of thing.Embed from Getty Images
Were you, like me, shouting at Hugh Carthy?
He, with five kilometres remaining, took all three pieces of your advice and set his man Mike Woods to work. Then, at the opportune moment, struck out for glory. “That’s it Hugh,” we confirmed, “faster, harder, and if at all possible quicker.”
He shouldn’t have listened.
He’d gone too early.
From that point the stage was carnage. Tense, exciting, carnage. Carapaz and Roglic took turns to take wild swings at each other. Attack, and counter attack. Carthy and nodding dog Dan Martin close behind. Alexandr Vlasov the interloper in yet one more mighty GC contest.Embed from Getty Images
At the finish, last man standing was Roglic. Grimacing with the pain of it all. Crossing the line to win and remembering – a touch too late – to raise his arms and celebrate. Maybe all this racing has numbed his excitement too.
Or maybe that’s just what an almighty battle with Richard Carapaz can do to a man.
Whatever. We have a top four of Carapaz, Roglic, Martin and Carthy, separated by less than a minute, and with another thirteen stages of Grand Tour bike racing in this exhausting, compressed season.
The Vuelta, no doubt, with further tricks up its sleeve.