If you were planning on going to see the ninth stage of La Vuelta, Spain’s
version of the Tour de France, then you could have become a little frustrated.
Over the past two weeks there have been confused messages coming from
different sources about where exactly this stage of the race would start and
the route it would take.
It was originally planned to begin in Torrevieja. However, following the
Barcelona terror attacks doubt was cast on the ability of the city to safeguard
those attending and taking part. The mayor, José Manuel Dolón, was
concerned that the city had insufficient police resources to protect those
participants and those watching at the start of the race.
According to the mayor, 53 police officers were needed to cover the different
points of the race. At the moment there are 160 local police officers in
Torrevieja who are distributed according to three shifts, and this doesn’t take
into account the 15% absenteeism rate that the force currently experiences.
However, others stated that Torrevieja easily had the potential to host such an
event. The inspector of the local police, Óscar Cartón, had spoken on social
media to argue that Torrevieja could have played host quite safely. ‘From my
point of view,’ said Óscar Cartón, ‘I believe there are sufficient police officers
and with the help of the Civil Protection Service and the organising body (la
Vuelta) there is help available too.’
Eventually it was to be Orihuela where the ninth stage of the race would set
off from, this requiring a huge increase in security. The cyclists then passed
through the edge of Torrevieja and travelled up the coast through La Mata,
Guardamar, La Marina, Santa Pola, El Altet, Alicante, Vila Joiosa, Benidorm,
Calpe and finishing in Benitatxell.
The PP, however, have criticised the town hall for not staging the beginning of
the race, claiming that by not doing so they have lost out on €600,000 that
would have come through the hostelry trade, leisure and purchases. It’s
perhaps hard to see how so much additional money could be collected when
many hotels and restaurants are already busting at the seams with August’s
usual holiday makers.
It’s the Playa de la Glea de Campoamor, that eventually saw the start of the
next leg. Twenty two different teams were taking part with the Spanish team
already in front. And there was plenty of security in evidence. In order to
ensure the smooth running of the start 21 different streets were closed and
the security effort included departments from Alicante, the Guardia Civil, the
national police, the local police and civil protection.
In cases of emergency there were 20 volunteers on hand from Civil Protection
and 10 health workers from Cruz Roja. A fire engine, two other firefighting
vehicles and an ambulance were all on hand. The town of Orihuela has
claimed this as a victory over their tourist town neighbour, placing them as the
sporting and cultural capital of the Costa Blanca.
For those watching the race if you blinked you missed it. ‘I didn’t realise how
fast they go,’ explained one local resident. ‘I’ve only watched it on the
television before, they were just a blur. I don’t know what speeds they were
doing.’ This spectator had chosen the bridge by El Quirón hospital to watch
the cyclists pass. ‘I was looking out for the cyclist wearing the red shirt. He is
the leader. However, there seemed to be a few wearing red shirts so it wasn’t
easy to see.’
At the front there was a small group who were evidently in the lead and then a
couple of seconds later they were followed up by a larger group of cyclists.
This is one of the fastest sections of the race due to the flat terrain and their
passage along the N332 in Torrevieja was over in seconds. Was it worth
going? ‘It was over very quickly. I’ve watched marathons before and it’s worth
struggling to get the best vantage. I think I’ll watch it on television next time.’
Four hours and seven minutes after the start of the race it was Chris Froome
and team Sky who came in first.