Monday, September 7, 2009

La Vuelta Goes to Venlo, and So Do I!


After a late night Sunday at the festival I awoke to an empty house. The finish of the Vuelta was going to be in Venlo but not until around 5. I had a light bite to eat then headed out. Venlo is right near the border of Germany so I wanted to see what ol’ Deutschland had to offer.

Before heading to Germany I passed through the finish area.

The Vuelta had even brought Spanish police to the race! Good work if you can get it.

I took a few more pics then stopped to get the tires aired up. Cities in Holland are packed with bike shops so getting air or lube is never an issue. I asked the guy which way to Germany.

“Down that way, or so they tell me!”

I took off in that direction. Within 15 minutes I was there.

I stopped and ate some peanut butter on crackers. Germany eh?

I got back on the bike and rode to Kaldenkirchen. The city seemed about the same as a Dutch city. The bike lanes weren’t as nice but they were still there. I headed out to Bracht, then on to Bruggen before turning around in Born.

Along the way I found this bike trail and rode for a few k. The area was very verdant and had some nice hills.

The ride was really nice, especially knowing I had the Vuelta waiting for me. The Germans seemed to be as nice as the Dutch, albeit a bit more stern initially-not as many smiles. It was my first time in Germany so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I arrived back in Venlo I noticed the Vacansoleil boys were getting set up.

I headed back to the house and got showered. After that I grabbed my pack and boogied over to the start. The finish was already getting crowded so I did what any right-thinking cyclofan would do, I picked a spot along the railing and waited for two hours.

I stood in anticipation as the sun beamed down. I had a chat or two with some Dutch guys next to me.

“California!” they said. Oh yes boys, and it’s as sweet as it sounds.

Finally, the lead cars started rolling through. By this time you get people lined up two and three deep. It’s imperative you keep your elbows to the rail at this point. There’s always some scavenger waiting to take your railspace. I learned this the hard way when I went and locked my bike up. (Note: the woman who took a portion of “my” railspace never actually affected my view. But still, be vigilant.)

Voila! The moment was upon me! After 2+ hours the blood, sweat, and glory that is the PRO peloton rolled right past. At 60 kmph I recognized a total of 0 riders.

Ah, the exhilaration. Oh and yes, the longer you wait for them the better it is. Isn’t that the same with everything in life?

Okay, show’s over. I hopped on my steed and searched for the team vans.

“Donde esta los autos de los equipes?” I asked a crew of Vuelta hands. They got the picture and pointed me in the right direction.

Along the way I passed this guy. He said there were no riders today.

(Note: this is the sweeper car or voiture balai, if you will. This is the last car to come through and it picks up riders who can’t go on any longer. This was a flat stage but in the mountains these guys get a lot of action.)

I saw this guy hanging around. (Matt White.) I think I have more pics of him than anyone. That could be because he’s one of the few DS’s I recognize.

Not far away were the laborers…

Ahh, what a day. I rode around a bit more like a kid in a candy shop then headed to the grocery store. Holland has really great flavored yogurts (I assure you they’re no better or worse than the ones with have in the U.S.) so I picked a few of them up as well as some smoked fish and brie. Party time!

When I got back Tammy and Nora were there. Tammy had made us reservations at a Spanish place in honor of the Vuelta. What a host!

After dinner we went back to the festival grounds for more music. As far as I know they have a festival every night of the year in Venlo, or at least that’s my assumption after my two nights there.

“Don’t you people ever work?” said Tammy.

After an hour or so we headed back to the house. I was a bit melancholy about having to leave the next day and it being my last day of the Vuelta. Venlo was really cool and the old school was so fun to stay in.

Tammy and I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It was okay but I wasn’t so keen on the hyper-or should I say uber-violence (German joke). I peaced out and went to bed.

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