Monday, 26 April 2010

Iberian Adventures (Portugal 2 – Jac 0)

Jac's been on holiday. She calls it racing but we think it's just an excuse for an early tan... ;)

After last year’s mixed success at the Trans Portugal, when one of the riders I met there suggested I try the Geo-Raid, the idea of another adventure was just too much to resist. However, the logistics were a bit more complicated that I hoped they would be.

The Geo-Raid is a 3 race series organised by Ciclonatur (the folks who run the Trans Portugal, which in itself indicates a bloomin’ good race and great hospitality and food). The series consists of 3 two-day enduro races all of which are pairs races. Like the Trans Portugal, there’s no course marking – it’s a GPS based race. Also like the TP, the race is handicapped. The idea is that everyone should finish by a given time in the evening, so depending on age and gender, you’re set off at different times in the morning, with the fittest, fastest young lads being set off last. The series is spread across the spring, summer and autumn, with each race being held in different areas of Portugal.

After not very much persuasion, we opted to have a bash at the first race (mostly because we knew that the races later in the year would be much, much hotter and, after the heatstroke at the TP last year, that would be an issue!). The first race was based in a small spa town called Sao Pedro do Sul in the north central mountainous region of Portugal. Both of the two days start and finish in the same place, so we could make Sao Pedro our base for the weekend.

However, as I said, logistics were a bit of a problem. After we’d entered the race and started looking at how we’d get there, we discovered that there are no flights from Scotland to anywhere other than the Algarve in the very south of Portugal. It’s an awful long drive from the Algarve to Sao Pedro on not very great roads, so that wasn’t going to be an option. What we came up with was a grand plan to fly direct to Madrid, hire a car and boot it westwards to Portugal. We figured it would be about a 5 or 6 hour drive from Madrid to Sao Pedro, so, for a weekend, vaguely do-able.

But when I realised I’d not be able to do my usual spring trip to Ciclo Montana in the south of Spain as well as a spring trip to Portugal, I had to get my thinking cap on. I came up with a bit of a plan which worked out… just. I flew out to Malaga from Glasgow then headed up to the Sierra Nevada for 6 days of “uphill traversing” and “toothy” singletrack descending with Mark and Jacky (although Mark factored in a lot more uphill traversing to give me some extra training for Portugal…. thanks!) before heading to Granada airport to catch a flight to Madrid where I met Chris.

Everything went smoothly and we managed to meet up in the massive Madrid airport, get the hire car and start the drive across La Mancha, Castile y Leon and across the border into Portugal. As far as road trips go, it was pretty good! Dramatic mountains and flat plains, oh, and the massive monument in El Escorial (built by Franco in a similar style to the giant Jesus in Rio).

The drive took a lot longer than expected, so we didn’t arrive in Sao Pedro until almost 10pm… just in time to get lots of hugs from the Ciclonatur folks, build the bikes, sign on, cram some food in, then bed. We were starting at 07.32 on the Saturday morning because of our handicap (me being a girl – not that being a girl is a handicap, but…) so not much time for socialising.

On the start line, my usual doubts set in when I saw the other teams. There were 8 teams all setting off at the same time as us – 7 mixed teams and one male team who were a bit older. The other mixed teams all looked REALLY fast! The usual leg check showed up some really strong (and all very tanned) looking legs and well as team kit that implied some pretty pro riders. Oh and there was also one girl with a tat on her calf…a sure sign that she’s a strong rider (you wouldn’t get a tat on your calf unless you were confident that your muscle tone was good!). Hey ho, my Minx jersey was MUCH prettier than their team kit and much more recognisable…it is more recognisable in the photos on the Geo-Raid website!

We ended up with an 8 minute time penalty before we started though, because our GPS went a bit wonky and started trying to tell us how to get from home to the start line. So we had to try to fix that before we started. Anyway, once that was fixed, we were off....

To be continued...

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