NewsWorldThe Sella vibrates again - EL PAÍS

The Sella vibrates again – EL PAÍS


Three years and three days later, the Sella vibrated again. In the competition and in the party around him. The two champion couples – the French Quentin Urban and Jeremy Candy in the men’s category and the Spanish Eva Barrios and Amaia Osaba in the women’s category – crossed the finish line in a thrilling finish. In K1, the victories went to Javier López and Irene Gana. On the banks, tens of thousands of people celebrated the return of the Sella International Descent, whose 84th edition was made to wait 1,098 days due to the pandemic. The victory of the marathon world champions Urban and Candy – the first of some foreign paddlers in 25 years and some French in the history of the test – was defined in the last kilometer. Four boats arrived with options for victory. Passing the island of La Boticaria, the canoe of Walter Bouzán and Álvaro Fiuza -with eight victories in the list of winners and the spirit of the local fans- commanded the race. With the forces almost at the limit, they did not notice the pull that the French were giving. “We did the most difficult thing, reaching the end with options and leaving the island scoring, but we left a hole inside and they sneaked in”, explained Bouzán calmly, leaning on a fence and with eyes that conveyed his sadness. “The key has been in rapport with Jeremy. He has given the attack order at the right time. I go ahead and direct, but I don’t see the opponents”, said an exultant Urban. Asked about the most special moment of the race, the recent champion gives an answer that sounds ironic: “The start, the start. With the anthem of Asturias… It’s impressive. We wanted to keep all the details, but we had to be finalized in the race”, he added laughing. The Sella is a peculiar race. The start brings together most of the public and is the most intense moment of the competition. Thousands of people gather in Arriondas to live a few minutes of high emotional charge. From the proclamation – read this year by Raúl Entrerríos – to the Asturias anthem, whose last note marks the start of the race, a moment of ecstasy is generated that culminates in the departure of 1,079 athletes from 15 countries aboard 769 boats . There is noise. There is tension. An inexplicable moment of silence. And, suddenly, a chaotic movement begins, full of color, of paddles that come in and out of the water, of boats that move forward, of canoes that capsize. Because there is even sun. An Asturian joke says “I love summer in Asturias, it’s my favorite day of the year”. In a kind of unwritten pact, the morning of the descent historically gets rid of the rain, although it had jugred with passion in the previous days. It was a Sella that was worth three and it was noticeable in the atmosphere. The staff wanted to party. In Arriondas, hours before the race, many people gathered in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Here there are people who meet again after three years, because they only see each other at the Piraguas party. A group of regulars gathered in front of the El Español hostel, where a concoction was served – “la compound” – whose composition gave rise to an intense debate. Some say that it mixes up to seven different liquors. The local boss, Fernando, prefers not to share the recipe. The most expert palates assure that the limit is two. “It was very long… seeing that it was not celebrated, we lost the rhythm and there were times when it was difficult to keep people plugged in,” recalled Juan Manuel Feliz, president of the Organizing Committee . The permanent team – made up of a dozen people who work altruistically – grows to almost two hundred during the previous week between volunteers and temporary staff. About 30 people are required just to control the traps at the start. The Committee has managed, since the last years before the pandemic, to return the Sella to its most folkloric and playful part while respecting its sporting aspect. The previous acts have been increased, which now last a week. And they have focused on promoting the participation of authorities and civil society in all activities. The success of the effort is perceived in the clothing of the attendees, which has massively incorporated the vest, the plywood cap and the paper collar, displacing the usually predominant football team shirts. Also in another detail: the lap of the pins, which have returned to the Sella as a form of self-definition. There are many ways to live a race that is not easy to follow -20 kilometers of river-. There are those who go to Arriondas to see the start and stay there to party all day. Those who follow the race in parallel aboard cars, motorcycles or bicycles from the National 634 (to which Quique González sang in his song Charo). Those who wait on the Ribadesella bridge for the arrival. Those who get one of the 511 tickets to travel on the FEVE train that has accompanied the race for 75 years. Those who see it on TV. And also, of course, those who follow her in their dreams after the previous day’s revelry. At the finish line in Ribadesella, the President of the Principality of Asturias, Adrián Barbón, accompanied by his Cantabrian counterpart, Miguel Ángel Revilla, stressed the importance not only of “ of recovering the festival of Asturias par excellence and with it life” but also “of the good atmosphere and the joy that is breathed”. Former Minister Salvador Illa highlighted the “symbolism” involved in the celebration of the descent and insisted on how much the atmosphere at the start had impressed him. Barrios and Osaba summed up the general feeling after achieving their third consecutive victory: “We already want to come back”. Not even ten minutes had passed since they had crossed the finish line. 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