Sunday, August 7, 2011

The 75th Descenso Internacional del Sella

We watched the start of the race, at Arriondas, on TV.  The president of the race association died recently so there was a ceremony for him, with the spilling of his ashes into the Sella.  Then the Asturian anthem was played and sung.  The end of the anthem signaled the beginning of the race.  Paddles, which were locked in some sort of apparatus, were released and the racers ran to their piraguas (kayak-like canoes), slid into the water and began paddling.  August and Oliver told us that they had practiced this type of start in piraguas.

After watching a bit on TV, we went out to the bridge to secure a spot for watching the end of the race.  The streets and bridge were packed.  People were hanging out on the roofs and balconies to watch, choosing any vantage point possible to get a glimpse of the piraguas as they came into Ribadesella and crossed the finish at the bridge.

The crowd waits and watches:
Looking across the bridge from the village side.

The intersection at the entrance to the village side of the bridge.

Any vantage point with a view works, even a skylight.

The bridge fills up with spectators.

 The crowd control:
Civil Guard
The officials set up on the winner's podium at the river's edge.
 The media:
And the winners:
First place winners of double canoes bring their canoe in.

Second place double canoes row in.

Second place winners.

First place single canoe winner.

We knew that August and Oliver's coach, Kiko Vega, from the piraguas course they took, was racing in a single canoe.  We had no idea he was a contender until we heard the announcer say that he was in second place as of the town of Llovio.  We finished our canoe trips in Llovio so we knew it was just a few minutes up river from the finish.

Kiko finished second!  It was very exciting to watch someone we had met win!  What a cool opportunity piraguas turned out to be for the boys.

Kiko (059) paddles to the winners' podium, in San Miguel cowboy hat.

Kiko is easy to spot.  He is almost as blond as Oliver (and his ears stick out almost as much as Louis' do).

Kiko carries his piragua up the stairs.

Award ceremony for men's double and single canoes, Kiko at far end.
Ditto..with traditional Asturian hats.
Kiko is interviewed as he returns down the steps to get his canoe and paddle back to the canoe house.
Although the party part of the Descenco is crazy and not really pleasant for those living here, the race turned out to be very cool.  As people began descending on Ribadesella I was having second thoughts about us staying here for the race.   I'm glad we didn't miss the race.  Very exciting.

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