I think my take on things is a bit different to Chris’…..
We fly out to Lisbon early tomorrow morning and then join up with the rest of the riders to be transferred by coach to Braganca, the start point for the race.
For those who don’t know what the race is all about, it’s a solo, 8 day stage race which starts in Braganca in the north of Portugal and finishes, 1,000km later, in Sagres on the Algarve (yes, where the beer is). The race is a bit different to other stage races in that there are no course markings at all and we don’t know the exact route in advance. Instead, the route is downloaded onto GPS’s each evening and we follow our GPS each day. Throughout the day, we’re unsupported, so the GPS has water fountains and café’s marked on it so that we can refuel throughout the day, but we have to be sure to leave and return to the route at the same point (kind of like most other unsupported stage races).
To get to Sagres, we’ll be riding parallel to the Spanish border until day 7 when we hang a right and head towards the coast and then day 8 sees us ride down the coast to Cape Saint Vincent and round the corner to Sagres, finishing up on the beach. Our average day will be 125k with 2,500m of climbing (with one whopper of 160k and one “easy” day of 95k). So, it’s fair to say, it’s quite a big bike ride. On the plus side, the race organisers have organised nice hotel accommodation each night and our luggage will magically be transported into our hotel rooms each night.
I’ve had lots of great advice and tips from other more experienced endurance riders (Jenn Hopkins, Andy Wardman, Dan Darwood, Dom Perry, Stevie Lockhart, Jacqui Phelan and, of course, Andy Cathcart) on training, nutrition and mental preparation. So there’s not much more I can do now. So, on Sunday morning I’ll set off with a little ginger angel placed firmly on my shoulder to shout at me and tell me to keep riding whenever my legs and head start telling me to stop (and probably smiling and nodding knowingly whenever I ride the nice techy sections). I’m sure he’ll also remind me that it’s not really a race and to be sensible – of course the bully bangles will be there too to give me a kick in the pants whenever I get too girly!
So, now the bags and sun cream are packed, bikes all checked (and re-fixed after I managed to mangle my brand new chain and chainrings on Tuesday night!). There’s not really much more to do now except settle into a long journey tomorrow, avoiding getting too psyched out by the nervous chatter of other riders, then just hope that my legs remember what to do when I roll up to the start line at 08.10 on Sunday morning.