Lisbon Faro Day 0

 Once again the extended team of middle aged male cyclists is doing an adventure ride.  

The group has contracted and expanded over the years but generally is between 15 and 20.  We've cycled from Paris to Geneva, Brussels to Paris and many other routes but we're currently at the end of a three year challenge to cycle down Portugal.  We spent 2019 in the Duro valley and the surrounding hills, and then, when COVID abated, last year we cycled up the coast north of Lisbon.

This year is the final leg from Lisbon to Faro.  We can then say we have "done" Portugal and it looks like it will be a great ride when it starts tomorrow.

However, Day 0 is the day when everybody tries to get their bikes to Stansted airport, get through security, get on a flight, retrieve their bike in Lisbon and then get themselves, their luggage and their bike to our starting point in Setúbal.  

Despite JJ's exceptionally comprehensive planning and his extremely detailed instructions, there are a surprising number of opportunities for chaos and confusion.  As is well known, when groups of middle aged men congregate in one place, the probability of some error goes up very fast and those errors tend to compound and cascade.  As I sit here in Leon in Stansted airport, we have had one set of pedals which didn't come off or maybe Greg just didn't have the right tools.  Two groups of cyclist on the train in different places and a swarm of WhatsApp messages.

Moody shot of a bike bag being left on the tarmac.

Of course, the minor level of chaos couldn't be maintained.  One person arrived too late and therefore couldn't get checked in, it became clear that some important things had been forgotten, getting on the plane was a nightmare.

The RyanAir kettling procedure.  Let's hope nobody sets fire to themselves.

Luckily for all concerned the flight was on time and landed on time.  Because RyanAir is so cheap, we had to get a bus which appeared to take the long route from the stand to the terminal via Africa.  

It all started to kick off at the luggage carousels.  

Yes, this was fun.

A bunch of blokes hanging around a "wide load" carousel while chatting and on their phones is never going to work out well and as we walked out of the arrivals hall, at least 25% of our party was either late or lost.  The traditional "cat herding" was about to start.  John Lane headed off to find the taxi driver.  I headed off to find the taxi driver.  Other people headed off to find me.  I took moody Rouleur style photos of peoples ears and shoes.  It was a laugh a minute.

The ear of a champion
I call this shot.."foot".

William and Greg waffling in front of a waffle shop.

It was, of course, an omnishambles getting to the place to leave the bags.  For reasons unknown to us all, Guy decided to buy some water at the shop just as we were leaving the airport.  The taxi drivers were confused, we were confused, everybody was confused.  Still, at least we didn't have to get the train.  That would have been...challenging.

Eventually we got in the taxis and our taxi driver showed us the driving technique known as "binary driving". You either have your foot full on the accelerator or full on the brake.  It was a hairy old trip.

Greg entering a zen like state as he contemplates imminent multi-car pile-up death.

We crossed the Tagus on a giant impressive bridge.  If it wasn't 11:30pm, I would write a bit of stuff about the bridge, what an amazing infrastructure project is is, how old it's 11:30pm.  Look it up yourself.

Setúbal itself is a kinda nice town with some ok hotels and nice restaurants.  We met Karim and Sally at the hotel and then proceeded to take about twice as long as we should to make up our bikes, pack away the bike bags and bikes and get to the restaurant where we were having dinner.  There are, naturally, a couple of massive mechanicals waiting to happen tomorrow but...hey ho...that's part of the fun.  Who wouldn't laugh like a drain when somebody's bike collapses under them 10km into the ride?  

Meal tonight was a kinda tapasy thing.  Food good, too much wine drunk.

Nicely oversaturated shot of the "team dinner".

Very much the Rouleur shot of the pre-race team dinner.

And with that, Day 0 is over.  

I, for one, had forgotten how incredibly difficult it is to get 16 blokes to the right place at the right time.  You would think that some order would naturally emerge from a group but, in fact, it just gets more and more chaotic as you add more people.

That being said, it was lovely to meet everybody again, share stories, find out what they're doing, shoot the shit about...stuff.  

It's hard to write a cycling blog about a day where you don't cycle.  So this one was really a simple travelogue about a day travelling -- albeit livened up with arty photos of ears.  Tomorrow, we ride at 8:30...or is it 8:45...or maybe 9:00.  Who knows?  We'll work it out and tomorrow should be a nice day.  Longish but not too much climbing.  

And a lot of time to prepare stories for tomorrow's blog...


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