Madrid has two fiestas, San Isidro and La Paloma. In the fifties and sixties it had another, the Copa del Rey final, which was always played here, and almost always involved Athletic Club, whose fans thrilled the city as they painted the town red (and white). These days the final is not necessarily held here and it is surrounded by the whole carry on around the national anthem. But we have seen the value of 'the other' Madrid fiesta, that of the Vuelta a España, with its closing stage along the Castellana, the final sprint to Cibeles where the awards ceremony takes place. Everyone goes out and has a good time watching that cyclists go round and then mix with the riders later. In no other sport can you get so close to your heroes.
Women's cycling opportunities
Yesterday there was a triple session, because in the morning it was the children's 'vuelta' of Cofidis, and then the women's race, which consisted only (for now, anyway) of a team time trial on Saturday, and the final day procession on the Castellana route. It is a step towards something that Javier Guillén, director of La Vuelta, intends to keep on doing little by little. Many girls and women ride a bike, however, there are very few good races for them to compete. In a time when the role of women is growing across society, including sports, it is wrong for cycling to be left behind. We have the CSD (the Spanish National Sports Council, pleasingly headed up by a woman, María José Rienda) which has an interesting part to play.
Spanish excitement and thanks
The Vuelta that finished yesterday took us on a beautiful journey and left us with an image of a podium of the future, with Simon Yates, Enric Mas and 'Superman' López. Mas has emerged from what Contador proclaimed as: the great national promise for three-week trials, one that is loved by our country. But the Vuelta was lit up by veteren Spaniard Alejandro Valverde more than anyone, who came "without any preconceptions, to enjoy the cycling" and he has done so. Here is a sportsman who manages his age (38) well and knows how to take pleasure in his sport with a true amateur spirit. He finished where he finished, and had already done plenty. He and young Mas from the Balearics have excited the fans. Thanks to both of you. And to everyone.