Vuelta Travelogue - Anticipation and Trepidation
Stage 8, September 2nd,
Lugo, 181.6 km
Never Say Die!
Here in the northeastern part of Spain we are in the region of Galicia, where green meadows, eucalyptus forests and great headlands of granite meet the Atlantic coast. Galicia is, above all, Celtic country. The Celts built their round-house settlements mostly on hilltops and today their culture is kept very much alive. The Moors came and stayed briefly, no doubt not appreciating the rugged climate. The Romans were somewhat tougher and in today's stage finish town of Lugo their legacy is the Roman town wall (built in the third Century) which survives intact and is the finest example of late Roman fortifications in Europe .
Now surrounded by buildings, the 3rd Century Roman city wall survives intact in Lugo
Galicia is famed for its seafood. Shellfish including spider crabs, oysters and scallops (vieras) are washed down with young wines from little china cups on pedestals. More rustic dishes include caldo gallego, a soup/stew with greens and meat, and lacon con grelos, pork hock with turnip tops.
The disciplined peloton will unfortunately be avoiding the local specialties and instead be feasting on their daily rations of pasta and fresh fruits. While the stage only includes one Cat 3 climb, the riders will need all the pasta created energy that they can muster. The rugged, winding roads will entice serious attempts to escape the peloton and the pressure will be on all day.
Team pre-race preparation started early today as a tired peloton set out from Ponferrada at 09:56 Spanish time. Following a 9km “pre-start” (neutral zone) the official start flag dropped. The first hour featured aggressive racing before Quick Step's Kevin Van Impe (Bel) escaped solo at the 68km mark. His maximum time gap grew to 5'48” through the feed zone.
Kevin Van Impe's solo breakaway ( Image © Unipublic )
Van Impe's advantage began to tumble as the sprinter's teams drove the pursuit. A brave Van Impe refused to surrender but was caught with 8.5 km to go. Immediately counter-attacks began. To the delight of the home town fans Oscar Pereiro broke away with Gerolsteiner's Rene Haselbacher. But Big Magnus Backstedt did a massive pull on the front of the strung-out peloton.
Pereiro (L) Haselbacher (R) ( Image © Unipublic )
With 5 km to go the 2 were caught. Backstedt again pushed the pace to 70 km/h on the front of a splitting peloton. Under the 3 km banner Backstadt was finished. Gerolsteiner, then Credit Agricole drive the lead group under the 1 km banner. Luca Paolini got a gap at 400 meters, but Astana's “never say die” captain Alexandre Vinokourov blows past Paolini to gain the stage win.
"Never Say Die!" ( Image © Unipublic )
The pure sprinters were cheated today with the tremendous speed of the final 7 km of the stage. The struggling peloton split into 11 different groups crossing the finish line. Janez Brajkovic retained the race lead and the 10th placed Vinokourov showed he has some unfinished business. Stay tuned...
Vino's Reward ( Image © Unipublic )
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