So, here we are today live from Madrid, penultimate day on the Dirty Nomad tour of Spain and the last stage of the 2013 Vuelta!

Yes, today was the dreaded first step in the end of another adventure… There is a common theme here, as these trips come to an end they usually involve a migration from an awesome mountainous location (Sospel, Whistler, Varese, Niseko) to a large city (Nice, Vancouver, Milan, Sapporo) that acts as a bridge back to the real world (well, as real as my world is right now). Today it was Las Caldas to Madrid.

Google maps says it should take about 4 hours to drive, but Mario Maps managed to cut it out in 3… Who knew that a VW Caravelle van had a cruising speed of 160kph? “Is possible“. The only benefit of todays trip was we got to see another Vuelta stage, without that it would have been a rather dragging day!

Along the way I did get to enjoy the rolling Spanish countryside that I am now thoroughly in love with. Seems I have a thing for brown dry hills dotted with green trees, awesome set up. No pics I am afraid, slightly tricky to open the window when you’re going the same speed as a helicopter. Soon though, we were in Madrid:

Yes, actually on the race route...

Yes, actually on the race route…

If you want to follow a Grand Tour, there is one golden word that makes or breaks your trip: Accreditation. Basically this means the difference between having a Million dollars or zero… We have accreditation, which means we can beat all the road blocks and closures, which is pure gold. Also meant we could drive along the closed finishing circuit to the hotel, not really what its for, but I wasn’t complaining. Race route scenery not too bad, time for old famous building stuff:

Looks important, take photo

Looks important, take photo

A quick lunch with the crew and we were ready to roll to watch the 8 finishing laps of the 2013 Vuelta:

Dickie was so excited he brought his hat

Dickie was so excited he brought his hat

Stage 21 – 8 x 5.6km finishing laps of Madrid

If you’re coming to watch a Grand Tour and want to watch the finish, then arrive 3 hours early… Or have a VIP pass. We didn’t manage the former and had blown out on the latter. As such, a slightly mixed bag in terms of positioning, but it didn’t detract from enjoying the action! The opening laps were clearly relaxed as the lads rolling through a lovely finishing circuit of Madrid:

This years winning team in their final Grand Tour in Orange kit

This years winning team in their final Grand Tour in Orange kit

Didn’t take long for a suicidal break of two to get away, allowed to waft away like mice to be slaughtered later on:

Solid effort boys

Solid effort boys

Look, you're on TV!!!!

Look, you’re on TV!!!!

I managed to catch Nibbles, here he is mid pack in white… SO should have been in red:

You're still EVERYONE's fav nibbles...

You’re still EVERYONE’s fav nibbles…

The last three laps were noticeably fast… The call went out and the pace cranked up. Man, once these guys start to crank it, its quite freaky in terms of the speed that they manage to smash out. Garmin clearly had a plan for Farrar:

Time to clean up...

Time to clean up…

Into the last lap and I was on the fence with about 300m to go… So, the peloton was going FULL gas and its quite a sight to behold. Even the Go Pro couldn’t cope with getting shots that weren’t blurred, these guys are FLYING:

Stage winner about to be dished up... piping hot!

Stage winner about to be dished up… piping hot!

That’s Mr Matthews 4th wheel about to demolish it to win the stage… Farrar on his wheel and clearly not strong enough to come around the Aussie.

You can see the happiness and relief of the riders not contesting the sprint that they have only 300m to go to finish a 3361km Grand tour… Amazing distance, incredible endurance and a shitload of faaaarking hard climbs! It must be an amazing feeling to finish one of these things, coming and watching one will give anyone a greater appreciation of how epic they are. Not many other sporting events go for 3 weeks… Or allow such excellent access for stalking.

Post stage 21 PRO stalking

What’s the last thing you need as a PRO when you’ve just finished riding a 3300km race? Yip, people up in your GRILL, chasing you, pushing and demanding photos. Madrid has been the most feverish I have seen so far. I worked out today that there are two awesome ways to get a PRO to stop for a photo:

  1. Throw a kid in front of them like a mini judder bar, best results if you dress the kid in team kit
  2. Be a Spanish Cougar (a slightly famous one an advantage)

Here is Olympic Champion Sammy Sanchez getting stitched up by both at the same time, result of his error in stopping, swamped:

Sammy: Spanish MILF hunter

Sammy: Spanish MILF hunter

I am pretty sure the guy behind Sammu (as we call him) is looking to get a cheeky lick in, seriously committed fans. Sammy is a major favourite, along with Valverde and ‘Purito’ (Joaquim Rodriguez) and NIBBLES. Here we are trapping Purito in his team car when he is trying to leave (I was swept up into the fever):

"Lets try and touch him!!!!"

“Lets try and touch him!!!!”

"Venga, venga, I see the Dirty Nomad, rapido out of here!"

“Venga, venga, I see the Dirty Nomad, rapido out of here!”

Given I am not a Spanish Cougar and my attempts at kidnapping some local kids were unsuccessful, my strike rate with PRO’s today was poor, here is the best I could do:

"Really, you're following me? Please fuck off...."

“Really, you’re following me? Please fuck off….”

Jacob "I was once a GT contender and then nibbles showed up" Fulsang

Jacob “I was once a GT contender and then nibbles showed up” Fulsang. The first onto the CANS

First top 5 in a Grand Tour for Nicholas Roche

First top 5 in a Grand Tour for Nicholas Roche

Igor Anton - Very glad I changed my use of him in the Velotipper comp...

Igor Anton – Very glad I changed my use of him in the Velotipper comp…

And finally – NIBBLES arrived back at the Astana bus… Again, want to get close to the hero of the people, you need to be quick and early. He is somewhere in there:

Don't crush him people, he's VERY skinny FFS!!!

Don’t crush him people, he’s VERY skinny FFS!!! FEVER

Unable to get close to Nibbles, I stalked his bike instead… Poor substitute:

I'll just take the Campy and the SRM... leave the rest

I’ll just take the Campy and the SRM… leave the rest

We were hanging out to stalk Sammy S some more, given he is mates with Mario, we had a legitimate reason to do so. Here is Mario getting some free caps from Sammy out of the back of his Beemer. Sammy was keen to get the fuck out ASAP before the next wave of Kids and Cougars pounced on him:

"Damn meddling kids..."

“Damn meddling kids…”

So, there we have it… Vuelta is done and dusted and the PRO’s now head for Maccas (Hell yes I would), the party tonight and then on to the world champs… For me, its off to Barcelona tomorrow before the return to the land of Humidity and Concrete.

Before I close out today – From Spanish legends to Japanese ones, a massive dirty SHOUT out to the IRONhawk of Niseko, who, instead of resting after Ironman domination decided to go and take out the KOM in the Tour of Hokkaido and second place on stage 2!!!! Its time for him to go full PRO:

SWEET Hanazono revenge!

SWEET Hanazono revenge!

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