Cavendish. Schleck. Anton. Sastre.
It’s been 18 months since the peloton climbed the second category Coll de Rates in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, yet the names painted on the road by fans for its passing are still legible. The route of that stage, the ninth in that year’s race from Calpe to Alcoy, is being partly retracted by the Rapha Condor-Sharp squad today, albeit in reverse.
On September 5, 2010, temperatures for the riders soared into the mid thirties. According to the team car, it’s 10°C out this morning. Perfect climbing weather, I’d say.
The riders are only a few seconds into the fast descent, and are approaching the hairpin bend that was decorated with the aforementioned names when the Vuelta was in town. Photographer Chris and I are in the team car once again, which is trying to get out of the riders’ way before the corner. We don’t make the bend, instead we head straight on into a gravelly lay by. We stop, but we’re out of the way.
Phew. That was close.
“Three down,” team manager John Herety says, as he looks in the rear-view mirror.
Felix English, Mike Cuming and Australian Richard Lang are on the floor. They haven’t been so lucky. Black ice is the culprit. Where did that come from?
It’s no wonder we didn’t make the corner. It’s a miracle how more of the riders didn’t come down.
English has survived seemingly unscathed; he slid down the slippery slope before quickly coming to a stop. The other two have scrapped their right leg and arm, but are thankfully up and walking, albeit off the tarmac and onto the roadside.
While it’s nowhere near as warm out as the car says it is, there was no indication that the top of the climb – only 600m or so above sea level – would be so treacherous. I don’t dare move as I can feel how icy it is underfoot. Having walked up the road to see if his fallen riders were OK, Herety nearly gives the team a moment he would struggle to forget in a hurry as he tries to walk back to the team car.
Today’s ride – which takes in a touch under 3,000m of climbing – goes on until 3.30pm. On the Port de Tudons – the second big climb of the day – Cuming says that the pace and gradient have made him forget about the pain from his earlier crash.
He’s quickly moved on from his nasty looking tumble, but like those fans who painted the names of Cavendish et al on the Coll de Rates, three Rapha riders left their own mark on the climb this morning.