Lisbon Faro Day 2: Hot, head wind, long climbs

 It was the trifecta of pain today.  A lot of tired and broken people at the end.  I am one of those broken people so the blog may be a little more perfunctory today and I may rely a bit more on photographs rather than witty and engaging writing.  Nobody can do witty and engaging text after a day like today.

The day dawned bright and cool.  We all met for breakfast at the main hotel and got the bikes ready.  As usual, there was a lot of pumping tyres and a lot of odd stretching going on.

Greg bowing to the sun...or something.

Tony obsessively pumping up his tires to 110psi.

Christopher looking cool and calm.  This would not last.

Ashley doing his Michael Flatley impression.

Godric and Paul looking both purposeful and oversaturated.

The first 20km out of Vila Nova de Milfontes was insane.  Karim, Godric, Layton, Tim, Ashley and myself hammered along the road in a paceline at 30-35kmh in the cool morning air.  Eventually, I dropped off the elite group (the spectral Sean Kelly droned "he doesn't have the legs today Carleton.  He's cooked").  The road gently kicked up with a few cheeky little climbs to make sure that everybody was concentrating.

Part of the cork forest

It got a bit hotter and, as we wound through the cork forests, the weather was promising to give us a hard time later on.  It delivered on the promise.

A lot of the road looked like this

There was a lovely swooping descent into Odemira but, due to Odemira not being the highest point on the route today, we were clearly writing climbing cheques which were going to have to be paid later on.  Thanks topography!

The bridge at Odemira

As soon as we had crossed the river at Odemira, the bailiffs came round to demand payment of those cheques.  There was a sustained hill of 13% out of Odemira and after that, although it was a bit flatter, it just got more windy and hot.

The climbs started to come a bit more regularly and we hadn't even hit the main climb of the day.  I stopped at the side of the road for a drink and a rest on one of the climbs.

Look carefully at the picture.
This is the important thing I missed.

Yes, stretching your back out over an Armco barrier when there's an electrified cattle fence on the other side is not a terribly good idea.  I got a lovely shock across my chest.  Sadly getting an ersatz defibrillation didn't make the climbing any easier.

We also from this point until the end, there were an increasing number of these signs.

Translating the Portuguese: "This road is in a terrible state and
as a cyclist, you will spend all your time avoiding potholes and cracks
in the road.  You may die.".  

It was a long, hot and windy ride to the coffee stop.   The wind had really kicked up and was a horrible head wind.  The temperature was kicking up towards 34-35ยบ and, at that temperature, the wind doesn't cool you.  It just heats you up more.  There were a lot of rude words hurled into the teeth of the hot gale.

Nobody looking terribly happy at coffee

Me looking a bit pissed off at coffee.
Note two double espressos.  Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug. 

But Guy looked happy despite being about to pass out.

The elite group was up the road and the climb started here so we got on it and started the main 15km climb.  

It was brutal.  Sensible gradients but unbearably hot.  We knew that we had about 20km to Montchique but it was going to be hard.  The team was fractured all over the road.  Ghostly Sean Kelly droned on again "Well Carleton, I think we're seeing a majorly difficult part of the climb and it's going to be a difficult one to get the group together before the big descent.  I tink we're seeing who has the legs right now.  When I was racing we used to snort horse tranquilliser off the buttocks of the masseuse and then ride until our heads exploded but youse would know where youse stood in the boonch.".  Our heads were exploding.

Greg, William and I rode together for a while and serendipitously discovered a roadside fountain.

It is hard to explain just how good it felt putting your head in the fountain.

It was like this

The climb continued.  The cooling effect of dunking your head repeatedly in a fountain wore off pretty quickly and there was nothing to do but try and survive.

The view from the "top".

Greg, William and I got to the "top" about an hour behind the elite group.  It was supposed to be a simple descent into Monchique but the Portuguese hills had one more kick in the crotch waiting for us.  A little "bonus climb" before the lunch stop.  <sigh>.

At some point Tony met some people from Huddersfield whom he could do "northern bonding" with.  

"We're from Huddersfield! No way! We aren't!"

The elite group had been at Velochique in Monchique for about an hour.  As we arrived, they were definitely into their second beer and the food was great.  If you're ever in Monchique, we can thoroughly recommend it. 

Not far to go now.

There was a bloke in the cafe who looked exactly like Gandalf including a properly Lord Of The Rings Wizard Hat.  I took a photo of him but my media consultant (Godric) explained that it would contravene a number of GDPR regulations were I to post it.  Just sort of imagine somebody that looked a lot like Gandalf.  He looked like that.

It was only 30km to Silves where we are staying tonight and it looked like a lot of it would be downhill. 

In a long day punctuated by moments of misery, the last 30km were maybe the worst bit.  The road down from Monchique is busy and fast.  Some (but not all) Portuguese drivers delight in zooming past cyclists at 100kmh inches from your bike.  Some of them even give you a cheery and bowel loosening parp on the horn as they skim your elbow with their wing mirror.  All the while, a hot and gusty wind was blowing in our faces and the "piso em mau estado".  

The road into Silves without 100kmh racers on it.  This
was a rare sight.

Going over one large pothole Ashley created "waterbottlegate" when his bidon popped out of the cage, over a wall and down a hill.

Waterbottlegate.  Or maybe derailleurgate.

Paul's electronic derailleur broke and he had to cycle the last 20km in one gear.  

The bridges of Silves couldn't come fast enough.

I think this might be a Roman bridge.  I am honestly too tired to even
look it up on Wikipedia.

However, we made it to the hotel and the traditional one beer was shared by all of us.

"Just the one beer gents?"

Tonight we have a restaurant booked.  I had suspected that it was going to be a subdued evening...but, much to my surprise it turned out that everybody was feeling pretty up for a big evening.

Walking to the restaurant

We booked a restaurant called Compromiso which was excellent.  Any establishment which can deal with this group of 17 blokes with the sort of grace and charm that the owners of Compromiso managed deserves some recognition.  The food and wine was exactly right.

Everyone looking happy after a hard day.  Which is all you really want.

As I walked back from the restaurant through the beautiful town of Silves (trying to ignore the thumping techno which has been reverberating through the town from the moment we arrived)...I thought about how lucky we all are to be able to do this.

Silves looking wonderful.  Shame about the non-stop techno music.

A group of 17 middle aged blokes with reasonably disparate backgrounds get together once a year and test themselves against a fairly tough challenge.  We suffer but we also laugh and enjoy each others' company.  There is "banter" but there's also real care about the well-being of other people.

It's important to recognise that this sort of trip doesn't come together without a mind-bending amount of pre-planning and organisation.  JJ takes on this burden and, every year, produces a trip that we are all proud to be a part of.  Long may the tradition continue.

The stats for today are
  • Distance: 120km
  • Ascent: 1385m
  • Average Speed: 18.5kmh.  
Note that average speed is my average speed.  The elite group will have done considerably better than this.

Reading back through this blog post, it comes across as a brutal and miserable day.  It was...but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a great day for me and for others.  Part of the joy of these trips is pushing oneself into the misery zone but doing it with people who make you laugh and make you glad you're here.

Tomorrow there's two routes.  Day 3 Short and Day 3 Long.  Almost everybody will be doing the shorter route because I there are a lot of tired legs in the group.  The last day is traditionally a bitter-sweet moment.  It's nice to finish but it's not nice that it's over.


  1. Top Ewan. Great pics.

  2. As a newbie to this tour I’ve loved being a part of a group ride that morphs into new shapes at each stage … what a privilege. Thank you all.

  3. This entertaining blog has doubled my enjoyment of the ride . The curation of memorable
    Photos far surpasses
    The meagre photos I was too exhausted to capture as I struggled through the difficult moments
    Of the ride - GG


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