Lisbon Faro Day 1: Hell of the South.

 Stats at the end but this was a lovely but hot day.

We had decided to start the day with a time trial prologue.  This is a tradition in the grand tours and sorts out the strong riders from the weaker ones who are going to grovel for the rest of the tour.

A beautiful section of the time trial route

It was a 15km route out along the coast and back involving some pretty punchy climbs.  This was going to be painful.  The "race of truth" (as time trials are known) involves sticking to your FTP for 40 minutes, not going into the red zone but burying yourself at the end to gain ultimate glory.  The results of the time trial are below.  

  1. Khalil.  40:22
  2. McNeil J: DNF
  3. McNeil P: DNF
  4. Tamberlin: DNF
  5. Kirk: DNF
  6. Quantrill: DNF
  7. Glass: DNF
  8. Tyndal: DNF
  9. Boyce Cam: DNF
  10. Howe: DNF
  11. Fennel: DNF
  12. Veenman: DNF
  13. Smith: DNF
  14. Flynn: DNF
  15. Guthrie: DNF
  16. Lane: DNF
To be completely clear, in this case, DNF means "did not actually get out of bed and start the race" but DNAGOOBASTR isn't a great initialism.  First blood to Karim I think.

Surprisingly there wasn't a huge amount of faffing in the morning. We loaded the van and took the usual photographs.

There was time for our leader to give us important instructions.

Strong Nurenberg energy going on here.

And, of course, the group photo.

The team photo of Jumbo-Visma doesn't look like this.

And then we were off...about 2km to the ferry terminal. 

There was considerable confusion because there were about 400 Portuguese teenagers also joining the ferry but despite that, tickets were bought and we crossed the estuary in some style.

Some confused but happy people.

Bikes, cars, people in blue jerseys.  

A small subset of the 400 teenagers.  We just blended right in.

And then it was over.  

We...well, *I*...made a bit of an error on the first 20k because we...sorry *I*...went off a bit too fast.  I was obviously smarting a bit from my DNAGOOBASTR in the time trial and wanted to put down a marker for future performance.  A ghostly Irish Sean Kelly voice droned in my ear "Well, he's really givin it one hundert percent out of the gate and it's blowin the peloton apart.  They will be majorly suffering at the back of the peloton but I tink it's going to be a real difficult one for him to keep this oop when he hits the hills.  It all depends if he's got the legs but it's givin a bit of exposure to his sponsor.  Team ShitShirt is going to be pleased with the screen time.  That's always a good ting in these early stages of the race.  Back when I was racin Carlton, we'd pop a few amphetamines at the start line and then ride until our eyeballs bled".

My eyeballs were bleeding.

Eventually sanity was restored and we rolled through some really nice littoral scenery.  Sandy soils, fragrant pines and a nice following wind.

The peloton sweeps round the corner

The first coffee stop was at Melides.  Typically Portuguese cafes are not well set up for a bunch of blokes to roll in and order 17 coffees.  It takes a long time for stuff to arrive. 

Important emails while waiting for coffee.

The peloton

I should point out the in the lefthand side of this picture, Tim is fixing his bike.  Tim had forgotten to pack (or lost) the top cap of his stem.  Whilst it's possible to ride without it, it does increase the probability of expensive and extensive dental reconstruction surgery a lot so Tim had spent the morning with Mick buying a top cap at a Setúbal bike shop.  Tim is fitting it.

One thing that isn't very clear from these pictures is that the "blue" tops we are wearing are effectively sweat soaked flannels which get progressively heavier and heavier as the day goes on.  I understand that this is also an issue for the Aston Villa womens' football team.  Unfortunately, there's no exit clause in our "ShitShirts" contract.  There was some loose talk about wearing our tops two days in a row but I think that is banned by various international biological weapons conventions.

I'm not entirely sure what happened between coffee and lunch.  I set off pretty sharpish from coffee and ground out most of that part of the route on my own.

It probably looked a bit like this.  I dunno though.

Some subsets of the group reformed as we got closer to the lunch stop at Santiago do Cacém.  It was hot and Santiago do Cacém is on top of a hill.  For some of us, this involved doing a bit of commando cycling through a building site which tragically I don't have a photograph of.  For others it was an opportunity to violently get rid of some breakfast in a ditch.  

Lunch was a rolling affair with people arriving in dribs and drabs.  An enormous amount of Coke Zero and Callipos were consumed from this Pasteleria.

Although the drinks and food were good, it smelled of feet and body odour.

From here to the end, the groups split and fractured.  A group consisting of me, JJ, Tim, Christopher, Adrian, Layton and Karim left pretty early and started to grind out the long hot 40 kilometers to the end.

Tim got hot, Adrian got hotter.  We stopped quite a lot to cool off in some shade.

Adrian looking surprisingly perky as he nearly passes out.

Adrian and Tim looking a lot less perky.

The final 40km were enlivened by us attempting to stay ahead of "Fat Electric Gandalf".  FEG had (surprise!) an electric bike and (also surprise!) looked like a short fat version of Gandalf.  We would sweep past him and then stop to cool down and he would come past us.  This caused some consternation for some people in our small group...I'm looking here at you JJ.

The whole "can we beat FEG?" thing was getting pretty tetchy and difficult.  I did manage to sneak a picture of Fat Electric Gandalf when he came into the cafe that we were using for emergency rehydration.

Oh the humiliation.  He had caught us again.

The arrival of FEG in our cafe meant we were back on the bikes in 30 seconds and time trialing it out of the village at high speed.

Karim did an absolutely stand up job of leading from the front and guiding us into the outskirts of Vila Nova de Milfontes where we are staying tonight.  

Of course, it wasn't going to be completely plain sailing even this close to the finish line...

This is what it looks like when you lose the van

The group behind split and was short of water and therefore water had to be left at drops beside the road.

A cheeky little composition entitled "Water and foot in bus shelter"

The final 3km turned into our own private "Hell Of The South".  Monstrous cobble stones are really the last thing you want to see at the end of a long hot day.

Every one transmitting pain and suffering into your body.

Eventually we rolled through a beautiful (but cobbled) seaside town and we rolled up to a beautiful beach side hotel which...critically...had a bar which served liquids...I guess like most bars maybe??

A welcome sight

We all shared one beer.  We are high performance athletes.

The team is spread all around the town in various satellite hotels but hopefully we are all going to make it to dinner at 7:30.  

Dinner was at the Milafontes Beach Hotel which has a gargantuan buffet which was custom-designed to satiate the appetite of a bunch of blokes who had ridden a long way in sweat-soaked flannel tops.  The fact that the buffet also included unlimited wine added to its aforementioned attractions.

Free food.  Woo hoo!

Unfortunately, there wasn't room in the main dining room for us. I suspect the waiters worked out that a bunch of pissed up middle aged blokes wasn't going to make the dining experience of their other customers terribly nice.  However, somebody in the group managed to use their legendary charm and organisational skills to arrange a private room where we could eat together and be loud and cycle-blokey without inducing withering looks from the couples out for a romantic buffet...with free unlimited wine(*)!

The free wine came in a barrel.  It wasn't good.

(*) A quick footnote here.  After we had pillaged the free wine like a horde of Vikings, it was pointed out that there was a small (and easily overlooked) sign which said that the buffet included one glass of white wine and one glass of red wine. That would have worked out as 34 glasses of wine for our party.  I'm pretty sure a couple of people drank 34 glasses themselves...

We had the usual discussion of tomorrow's route, the timings for tomorrow and everybody drunkenly agreed to time.  What could possibly go wrong.

The team, diligently discussing tomorrow's route while drinking cheap wine.

So today was a pretty good day.  I blotted my copybook by putting the hammer down in the first 20km (and I'm not going to be allowed to forget it).  From morning coffee until the end it was relentlessly hot but the countryside is really pretty and the gradients today weren't too bad.

Tomorrow is the hardest day.  120km and a lot of climbing mostly in the afternoon when the heat has built up.  It's going to be hard for everybody.

  • Distance: 109km
  • Climbing: 713m
  • Average Speed: 23.4km/h
Not a massive day but challenging.


  1. This is one of wittiest blogs I have read and inspires me to pedal harder - AF!


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