Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cycle race perfect excuse for trip to Girona

Heavy rain, low clouds, grey skies every day, high winds and low temperatures over the last few weeks have put a major damper on things. This continual bad weather is uncharacteristic and depressing. One of the highlights of the year in the village is the Asparagus Festival to be held last Sunday — Cancelled! Even though more restaurants are open they often sit quite empty since few visitors are around in this weather. It has rained so much that there is considerable water damage in our guest bedroom. Much more rain and some of the ceiling will collapse. Hopefully, this will be repaired and painted soon, not “maƱana.”

Even though the weather was bad we stuck to our plan of visiting Girona on Wednesday to see the Tour of Cataluyna cycling race. Many of the big names were taking part: Froome, Porte, Valverde, and of course Contador. The weather on Wednesday morning was foul even though the rain had stopped. It was cold with gale-force winds. We had hats, gloves, scarves and layers of sweaters on. Usually, there is no need for hats and gloves here. At the train station we had to brace ourselves not to get blown over.

Forty-five minutes later in Girona the weather was much better. In fact all the winter gear was stowed in my bag. Fortunately, the route of the Tour was close to the station. After a quick ham-and-cheese baguette we picked our spot on a roundabout figuring that the cyclists would have to slow down a little at this point instead of going by in a blur, so we might actually see them and we did. Race motorbikes, race cars and some team cars passed by, and then we could hear the throbbing of a helicopter signifying the riders were near. The bright yellow of the Saxo Tinkoff riders, including Alberto Contador, the Movistar boys with race favorite Valverde, and some Sky riders raced by. After the first group passed by there were several other groups and individual riders not one big peloton.

Now we had over an hour while the cyclists rode another forty kilometers and then back to the finish line. Girona is built on either side of a river and is a lovely city to walk around. Unfortunately, I  was trying out some daily contact lenses that kept fogging up and they wouldn't clear even after trying to clean them over and over. Girona is a city with lots of optical stores but of course none of them were open until 4:30. The first riders would be at the finish line at 5:00. We waited outside one store and finally the lady turned up at 4:35. I ran in, selected some lenses, threw out the fogged up lenses and put in the new ones. Eureka. I could see.

We made it back to the last stretch of the race. Once again all the race vehicles appeared and then the helicopter. A lone cyclist wearing the colors of Credit Agricole was pelting towards the finish line. It was Domenico Pozzovivo. There had been some crashes out on the course and the peloton had been broken up so the rest of the riders arrived in small and large groups. We waited to see the presentations including for the current Tour leader Pierre Rolland. Of all the cycling races we have seen this one was the best for catching more than a fleeting glimpse of the riders.

While waiting for the train back to the Port we saw a beautiful sunset over Girona. It seemed that the bad weather had finally broken. It was not to be. Arriving back at Llanca station it was still cold and so windy we hung on to each other as we staggered to the car.

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