As a guest of Trek Travel’s Vuelta a España race trip, Jordan Sher knew this year’s race was going to be special to him. But he couldn’t have predicted just how how special.
I’ve waited my entire life to see a Grand Tour in person. And this year was the dream, realized. As you can imagine, I had both hopes of what it would be like, and expectations of what was to come. But then came the reality of this year’s race, and it almost literally blew my mind. Where to begin? Let’s itemize it out:
The Race Route
WHAT I EXPECTED: I knew that we were going to climb two biggies: Los Manchucos, outside the town of Bustablado, with 28% ramps across 8km and the Angliru, often referred to as Europe’s most feared climb. Would they really be as bad as advertised?
WHAT I HOPED FOR: The Vuelta was always known for tremendous, hidden climbs that laid in wait for bike racers across Cantabrico, Spain. These weren’t the famous Alps, nor were they the high Dolomites in Italy. They were unique climbs with a special bite. I hoped we would be introduced to the teeth of Spain in a big way.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Oh man. The steeps were some of the steepest rides I’ve ever seen. I tipped over twice on Los Manchucos, in the rain, as Vuelta crowds cheered me on. I ground out the ride of a lifetime across the Angliru’s worst section, Cueña les Cabres, as crowds cheered me on. It was so pro. So Euro. So historic. I had never seen roads like these, and I may never see them again.
What’s even crazier? I rode them literally an hour before the pros rode them, and watched them do it. Their pain had never been more real.
The Race Itself
WHAT I EXPECTED: I knew Contador was a Spanish legend – but would I get wrapped up in it with the rest of the fans? I’d always liked his racing style, but never felt emotional about it. Maybe I’d finally be able to connect.
WHAT I HOPED FOR: I knew this was historic already. Chris Froome was lining up to win the Vuelta and the Tour in one season. All the heavies were there, including Roman Bardet, Vincenzo Nibali, and of course, Alberto Contador. It was Contador’s last race. Would I feel the gravitas?
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Unimaginable happiness. It started when we met Contador the night before the Angliru, and his storied ascent and win of the stage. He was gracious, friendly and personable. He took time on the biggest night of his life to be with us. How could I not be a fan for life?
Then, we got wrapped up in the rest of the race due to our sheer access to the big moments. We were there for Contador’s triumph. We were at the finish for his attack on Manchucos. And we found ourselves with ‘super’ VIP access at the last stage, where Contador was celebrated, Froome was awarded, and all the big hitters were giving their interviews. I was as close to the biggest names in cycling as you are to your computer screen right now.
I didn’t just get to watch this race. I got to be a part of it.
The Total Experience
WHAT I EXPECTED: There’s a certain level of excellence to any Trek Travel vacation, so my expectations on food, rides, service and hotels were pretty in line with my hopes. Trek Travel just has a way of delivering what you both expect and wish for.
WHAT I HOPED FOR: I had been on a Trek Travel vacation before and knew what to I was in for. But I definitely hoped for something special. They always had great guides, but I hoped these were amazing. We always did great food, but would this be amazing? Would the rides be better than advertised?
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: It’s tough to even list out how everything was better than I could imagine, but let’s try anyway:
• I stayed in the greatest hotel of my life: Stay at Hotel Castillo del Bosque
• I rode with Chechu Rubeira, former Discovery pro
• I ate dinner at a magical gem of a restaurant in Oviedo that I’ll never forget
• I toured the Trek bus and met several other members of the team (including Giro winner Ivan Basso!)
• I got a group selfie with Contador himself
• I could reach out and touch Chris Froome’s race bike
• I stood on the Vuelta podium
• Our guides got us past both the velvet rope and the rope beyond the velvet rope on several occasions with a little ingenuity
• And I rode every last peak, valley and country road I’ve ever wanted to through northern Spain
Let’s just say this is one rare time when reality GREATLY surpassed both my hopes and expectations.
As I mentioned at the start of this adventure, I’m no casual fan of bike racing. I could watch races, talk about races, and read about races for the rest of my life. But honestly? If the 2017 Vuelta a Espana is the first and last Grand Tour I ever get the privilege to attend, I can say, with confidence, that I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted.
And that’s truly a dream come true. Thanks, Trek Travel.
See more photos or follow Jordan on Instagram here
In case you missed it: Venga, Venga, Vuelta