The beginning of May saw the start of the Trans-Portugal, which is a race from the top of Portugal all the way to the southern most point and town of Sagres, 1100 km over 9 days with a ton of climbing.
Fellow Canberrans, Aaron Coles and Tara Geiss, joined me and 50 other riders for the event. A very small field where the staff nearly outnumbered the riders, the organisers would have loved to fill the full quota of 80 riders, but I suspect with the sheer number of these event now available, the economic climate and the difficulty level of the race, most all have impacted the entry numbers.
There were riders from about 14 different countries, mainly European and even some of the non-EU riders currently lived in the EU, me included…. travel costs must be a big factor.
3 girls amongst the riders and a handicap start instead of separate categories. First I thought that sounded stupid, but their handicap was actually quite will calculated with the strong female, Kate Aardal, finishing first and top three most days and a mix of some of the faster elite, 30+, 40+ and 50+ riders making it to top spots on different days. Then there was the machine-man, Jose Silva, who just was so much faster than anybody…. incredible.
Leading up to the race it seemed that it wasn’t meant to be, as first my Garmin packed it in and the whole race is about the Garmin, it doesn’t actually matter how you finish as long as you don’t use a motor… i.e. Horse would be fine, as long as you have tracked your stage, and dont miss anything more than 50 meters or you get a 30 minute penalty for every kilometre missed (I got 2 hours on one of the days…oops). Ok, the organisers tell me they have spare new Garmins to purchase if I have to, but luckily Aaron has a spare 800 which I can use.
Then, two days before the race I realise that the left pivot bearing has, once again, imploded. I contact the organisers again and together with Google searches we decide on the bearing we need and the race mechanic Joao actually manages to find a few of them. GREAT! I thought, but when we try to fit them they are the wrong ones 🙁 I still decide to ride. Surprisingly the bike holds up, although has a distinct lean to the right that got worse over the days.
Most days I was to start around 30 minutes ahead of the elite (scratch) where Aaron had to start each day, and Tara started about 15 minutes ahead of me.
I had organised my race entry a year ago while in peak form and not having ridden much in the last 6 month, I wasn’t looking good at riding the pointy end, although I had a go each day but usually ran out of puff part way through the stages.
First day was 145km and 3000m climbing, the temperature was hot and the climbs were steep (first gear most times). Tara ended up with some stomach issues and pulled the pin after day one, and I rode a couple more stages until my body was too sore, mostly lower back becoming too uncomfortable.
Aaron was unsure about stage racing and struggled a little early on but settled really nicely in the fast bunches on the later stages and finished 6th overall in the end. After a couple of rest days I burgled stage 7, which was fairly flat, and I managed to get 5th over the line, nice work with two day fresher legs… sorry guys!
Then had another rest day on the crazy hard 8th stage and cruised the last day just to finish with everyone and to pretend I completed the event 🙂
We loved the North of Portugal much more than the South, which is too touristy and infiltrated by foreigners with harsh country and really hot sun, where as the North is more rural, relaxed and has awesome country side and mountain ranges.
Every day we stayed in hotels, mostly in a single large hotels with buffet breakfasts and dinners. I signed up for daily massages and the bike wash & care packages so it felt like a nice holiday, once you were off the bike.
Not sure if I would do this event again, as the days are long and I cant go out there and not race, so would have to be in super fit condition.
One nice thing about small numbers of riders is that you pretty well talk to everyone, and meet some great characters, some for a 2nd time as they also go around the world event circuits.
Below are a bunch of photos from the event, taken by Pedro Cardoso and Agnelo Quelhas… thanks! Go here for all the photos: http://pedronc.smugmug.com/TRANSPORTUGAL-2014