When I left to travel to Spain for my vacation, I was mildly annoyed that I would be missing three weekends of racing, through some fairly catastrophic vacation planning. To add to my MotoGP misery, I was planning a camping holiday, and so wouldn't even have access to TV. So I comforted myself with the thought that at least I would able to follow the racing in the extensive coverage found in the Spanish mainstream press. I needn't have worried. There would be so much more than this.
My first happy discovery was finding that the Spanish motorcycle magazine Motociclismo was a weekly publication. This meant that on the Tuesday after the Sepang race, I could luxuriate in 30+ pages of coverage of the thriller in Malaysia, including a lot of commentary about Valentino Rossi's little piece of chair-based theater on the podium. Was it meant as a gibe at Dani Pedrosa, who had been forced to use a chair after suffering injuries to both legs during a crash in Friday's practice session, or was it, as Rossi claimed, a light-hearted jest about how tiring his battle had been with Loris Capirossi? Opinion was divided, but the slice giving Rossi the benefit of the doubt was pretty thin.
It was to get even better, though. On the Saturday of the Australian GP, we decided to go hiking in the east of the Picos de Europa mountains. We drove from our campsite in Turieno to a tiny village called viñón, a hamlet consisting of some thirty-odd houses and a restaurant. We parked the rental car in the restaurant car park (the only sizable flat surface available), and went inside for a coffee, to give us a boost before heading up into the hills. Coming out of the bright late summer sunshine into the darkness of the bar, the first thing to greet us was the roar of the ubiquitous TV set which stands in pride of place in every Spanish bar. As I glanced up, I saw to my delight that they were showing a full-length repeat of that morning's 250 qualifying session at Phillip Island. Hoping that whoever had put the 250 qualifying on would know who had got the MotoGP pole, I waited for the bar staff to appear. I was less hopeful when a young girl of 19 entered, but decided to ask anyway. Now, where I live in Holland, the chances of a 19 year old woman knowing anything about motorcycle racing are virtually zero. But Spain is different. The waitress immediately told me that Hayden had grabbed the pole, filled me in on where Rossi, and Pedrosa had placed, and affirmed her conviction that Rossi would yet clinch the title before the end of the year. I was delighted, both at finding out who was on pole, and at meeting a young woman so knowledgeable about MotoGP. After our coffee, we went off for a walk through the fantastic scenery.
On Sunday, we decided to go for a drive around the Picos, to visit a couple of villages which we'd been told were beautiful. We stopped in the small town of Arenas de Cabrales, to have a look around and buy some of the strong blue cheese the town is famous for, and as is our habit, stopped at a bar for a coffee and a bite to eat. I'd dismissed the idea of being able to see the race, thinking I would catch up with the result in the next day's papers. But again, as I entered the bar, the TV was showing the full-length repeat of the race (the Spanish are race fans, but even so, they don't like getting up at 6 in the morning to watch the race). I sat watching the second half of the race, swapping comments in my poor Spanish with a couple of the regulars. I didn't find out until the next day that I'd missed the pit chaos of MotoGP's first flag-to-flag race, but just being able to watch Melandri's outstanding win, Rossi's astonishing charge through the field, and Hayden's gutsy fight to hang on to Rossi was a real pleasure. As to the famous question of the yellow flag, I couldn't see it clearly, as I sat at an angle to the TV, but I'm sure I'll return to this in my discussion of the races, which will follow in a couple of days. After the race finished, we paid, left and continued our trip, happy to have caught most of the race.
So, if you find yourself in need of a vacation, but don't want to miss much of the racing, I can only recommend that choose Spain as your destination. Apart from the outstanding scenery, great weather, fantastic food and friendly people, you get to stay up-to-date with your favorite sport. What more could a MotoGP fan want?