As a cycling fan, the time invested often rewards you in a special way. Such is Stage 9 of La Vuelta in Spain. I first met David de la Cruz when he asked Sarah and me for directions on the American River Parkway. He was preparing for the time trial in Folsom in 2014 and we had a short conversation with him and his Net App Endura teammates. Then I had a brief conversation with him at this year’s Giro outside the Etixx-Quick-Step bus as he stopped to sign my flag. He’s just 27 and he signed a contract extension just three days ago with Etixx-Quick-Step (one of cycling’s most competitive teams). He had yet to win any stages in a major tour.
Today’s stage had a steep descent in the middle and then ended “lumpy”. The series of steep hills at the end allowed about 11 riders to survive in the break away and stay away. David de la Cruz with Etixx-Quick-step cycling team was able to keep up and ultimately attacked on the final climb and left all but one rider behind–Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling). He shook him off with 700 meters to go and rode hard to the finish in the hopes of also winning the red jersey for the overall lead. Once the group that had red jersey Nairo Quintana came in it was official–he won just about every prize today–the stage, most aggressive, the combo jersey and the overall leader’s red jersey. His grin on the podium was about a mile wide. He earned his joy.
I am watching la Vuelta bike race every morning on NBC Sports Gold app. I startled Lulu this morning with my enthusiasm for de la Cruz’s achievement. Someday I may be able to travel to Spain to watch the third grand tour. It is always 3 weeks in August, and because it follows the Giro and Tour de France it often gets green riders who need grand tour experience or stars who are a bit tired from the Tour de France and this year the Olympics. Alberto Contador is back after injuries forced him to abandon the Tour de France. Chris Froome is contending even though he’s been almost around the world competing.
When I was on the Giro I appreciated how relaxed and less formal the race was as compared to the Tour de France. People kept saying, “Then you’d love the Vuelta.” One thing I do love is the good behavior of the fans. They appear to be there for the cycling and not so much to appear on television or to harass the cyclists (as in the Tour de France). There are also many more policeman only the side of the road and they appear to be much more willing to blow their whistle and remind people to stay back.
We are barely into the second week and I am looking forward to much more world class cycling.