Beardy McBeard and his Caravan - La Vuelta Stage 3

Beardy McBeard

Aug / 29 / 2018

This isn’t peanut butter

My legs groaned as I stumbled out of bed this morning to ride Stage 3 of the Vuelta course, but I consoled myself with the fact that Valverde would be feeling even worse after going head to head with me yesterday.

The issue with riding the race route can be battling traffic trying to get places before the closures. Even with our early start, we still had to ride in single file out of Mijas, hugging the shoulder for safety like an Abuela greeting her grandchildren. Dios bendiga Joe who was driving the support car behind us for safety, getting honked at for his troubles.

Once again, it was coming up 3 hours (including a 20km climb) before I could mainline my first caffeine of the day. A “Doble” espresso, followed by a second, paired with toast and….lard? I looked at the little container of pure pig fat dubiously. With 180km to cover today, I couldn’t afford to turn down extra calories. Maybe if I just closed my eyes, it would taste like peanut butter.

While it wasn’t quite the same as “Sanitarium Original Smooth”, once melted on warm bread the lard was surprisingly delicious, and the whole table dug in.

It’s a dog’s life

High on caffeine and pigs fat (does the UCI test for this combo?) the long descent down from the mountain made me feel like I was flying.

The township of Ronda dazzled white on the cliffs above us. By the time we sweltered up the hill, it was boiling hot again. Much as there was to admire with the ancient city walls and one of Spain’s largest bullfighting arenas, it was the cool, splashing fountains that really drew my attention. The local dogs had the right idea.

Leaving the canine swim squad behind, we got stuck into the second climb of the day. The epic rocky background reflected how I was feeling as I struggled through the first half. Lightheaded from the heat, I realised I needed to eat more and chomped down on a Cliff bar. But my mouth was so dry it stuck my jaw together, and I had to choke down half a bottle of water to get free.

By the time we reached the halfway point, I was starting to feel seriously unwell – in the kind of way which made me wish I wasn’t wearing bib shorts.

The deadly ‘Dumoulins’

Whether it was the dehydration, the double caffeine, the lard or a particularly poisonous combination, I didn’t know. But the fact remained, I was about to be in serious trouble. Handy Joe was at the ready with a roll of toilet paper, but I was determined not to do a Dumoulin on the roadside.

As I struggled on I could see a town off in the distance, promising proper flushing facilities. The surrounding landscape was amazing, and I was torn between stabbing pain in my guts and incredible views to shoot. I’m sure there’s an inspirational quote in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it to you to find it.

My guts twisted again, leaving no time for philosophical musings. I descended down the hill to the town at race speeds, making the service station just in time.

Leaving my dignity on the roadside

Still feeling a bit green around the gills, I decided that might be it for me today and put my bike on the van. But by the time we caught the rest of the group I felt up to getting back out there, only missing 5km of the ride.

I’m glad I did because the next section of road was the most amazing descent so far, helping nudge my average speed back towards a respectable 25 km/hr. With my stomach still emitting the odd Gollum-like gurgle, I kept to a liquid diet of 50% coke, 50% water with some electrolytes thrown in for good measure.

I started to think I was going to make it to the finish incident free…but then the dreaded Dumoulins returned, this time with more urgency. (Please stop reading now, sponsors). I had no choice but to duck behind some rubbish bins.

After leaving my dignity on the roadside, there was no way I was going to give up now - I was battling to regain some shred of honour. Weaving my way through the crowds around the publicity caravan, I eventually wobbled over the line in Alhaurín de la Torre in a sweaty mess.

I quickly cleaned myself up and chucked on a photographers bib, heading for the finish line. As I listened to my fellow photogs complain about the heat, I started to feel a small measure of my self-respect return – I had just made it through the entire stage, after all.

While Viviani won the sprint today, I was just glad I didn’t have to sprint for the bathroom again.