Velo Club Moulin

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The 2009 TransPortugal. A wee bit of back story...

The 2009 TransPortugal...

A wee bit of back story... since hearing of the TransAlp and Ruta de Conquistadores I had always fancied the challenge and journey of a multi-day point to point bike race. I'm not sure why I never got around to doing anything about it until now... Anyhoo. Last year while Jac was enduring the muddy hell that was Sleepless in the Saddle she got chatting to a fellow soloist - a certain Mr Paul West - Endura test monkey, occasional contributor to Shred magazine and all round nice chap. Unsurprisingly their conversation veered towards warm, dry and more enjoyable things to be done on a bicycle and Paul told of an event called the TransPortugal - a small beautifully crafted event that cossets its entrants off the bike as much as it brutalises while on. Cutting a bold route the length and breadth of the country starting in the mountains and ending on an Algarve beach, stopping at plush hotels each night for a good feast and soft bed. Sounded pretty damn good to me. An extra tweak was the use of GPS for navigation and course timing - nice that we would not be bound by bits of red and white stripey tape.

So Jac and I did a little more investigating and we went for a ride with Paul and one of the chief race 'facilitators' Louize, who had recently moved to Perthshire. Over some hot chocolates and cakes she explained the finer detail of how the race is run and persuaded us to get some entries in.

A couple of emails and a fistful of high denomination Euros later we, and 67 other uh... athletes of 12 different nationalities were planning how to get good at [or even able to] ride 1000km over 8 days.

One of the other competitors admitted during the week that he had entered because he saw there were a couple of 50 year old women competitors and thought 'How hard can it be?'. He found out pretty quick that he should have asked how hard those ladies are...

Cue a number of months of trying to do as many big rides as we could, and get as much bike time as possible. Even still we both had doubts about what was going to happen - mainly because we had no real idea what to expect terrain wise, how we would be able to cope with the weather [mainly the heat], how the hell GPS works, nor what the other competitors and race 'vibe' would be like. My biggest concern was definitely the heat - there is little chance of getting any experience of riding in 30 deg C. heat in Scotland. Well, none, actually. So a week of bonus climbing and long-ish rides in Spain with actual sunshine and heat courtesy of Mark and Jackie at CicloMontana gave us both a bit more confidence.

All of a sudden at the end of April we made the final entry payments, our flights to Lisbon were booked and we had 4 weeks of last minute flapping around, mainly involving endless bike maintenance, buying lots of food and tyres, not riding, drinking, being ill and bodging gps brackets from jubilee clips and random parts.

Friday 29th May we flew out early to Lisbon via the fascinating parallel universe that is Heathrow. Needless to say we arrived in Lisbon with the vague promise from the nice baggage handler chap that our bikes would be arriving on the next flight due later that afternoon. BA strikes again... We were met by Jose and Patricia who were collecting a large pile of bike boxes in the arrivals concourse and shortly put us in a cab bound for the Hotel Barcelona to meet the other racers and board the coach for a long 6 hour trip from Lisbon to the Day 0 hotel in Braganca in the far north west of Portugal.

Day 0 - Braganca to Braganca : 0km : 0m climbing
After a long-ish lie we got some brekka and then set about building up the bikes, meeting other folks and getting our race packs and GPS units set up with the route. It was at this point I noticed a teeny hairline crack on the seat tube and top tube weld of my Rig - Similar to ones on some of my previous bikes. There was not much I could really do about it, and it was it was rideable, so I gambled that it would not get worse. Everyone went for a short ride about 7pm to follow the GPS route to the first village around 6km away and make sure everything worked. Jac and I headed out and instantly we were pretty warm, a short tarmac climb had us sweating and we decided to turn around for the hotel after grinding to a halt on the first dirt road climb after 7km because of the heat. It was mid 30's centigrade and almost 7.30 in the evening. Hmm... this ain't good. After dinner we shambled into the already underway briefing which Antonio, the race director did in Portuguese and Louize translated into english. Or vice versa. Nerves were definitely jangling.

Day 1 - Braganca to Friexo de Espada a Cinta: 141km : 3878m climbing
Winning time: 5hrs 47mins
Chris time: 9hrs 52m

To be continued...

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