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FEATURE ❘ SANTIAGO TO GIBRALTAR


water was available when required. After climbing 1700 metres finally the descent arrived. This was at least 6 Km. long with a 7.5 % gradient, a thrill to cycle reaching speeds of up to 80 K/hr. The border with Portugal was about 20 Km. away with an approach of straight flat roads which were great for the riders to cycle although the temperature was slowly rising.


THE GROUP BREEZED INTO SPAIN Passing through the Spanish border town of Verin one of the riders had to take his bicycle to a bike mechanic as his gears were not synchronised and not changing with ease. To his surprise the derailleur had suffered some damage, most probably whilst in the support van on route to Santiago. This was rectified and everyone continued travelling towards the border, which would take longer to reach as one of the other riders suffered a blow up most probably due to the increase of tyre pressure owing to the heat on the tarmac. Thankfully at the time they were travelling on a flat straight road. The inner tube was changed and the riders continued. Shortly after the border was crossed and it was great that there were no border delays, contrary to what is being experienced elsewhere. After taking the customary photograph they continued.


Although being in Portugal nothing really changed apart from the traffic signs and the roads. Portuguese roads are narrower with a smaller hard shoulder though the road surface was very good.


The riders continued in their quest, to


reach Vila Real. Similarly to some of the Spanish towns they passed, the Portuguese cheered and clapped their hands as they group passed them, it was a great feeling which lifted the riders’ spirits.


Just before reaching the town of Chaves, the riders stopped underneath some large pine and eucalyptus trees for lunch. The support team were already there with the ham and cheese rolls they had bought earlier. It was a welcoming sight, they had even bought ice to chill the soft drinks. A quick lunch, replenishment of their bottles and 25 minutes later they were off on the last leg, 50 Km. to reach Vila Real.


THEY ENCOUNTERED LONG FLAT ROADS


Riding through one of the few long stretches of flat road on the route a number of cars were seen stopped ahead with people wearing luminous jackets, a traffic collision had just occurred, two cars in the ditch one of them overturned. The drivers and passengers of the cars had already alighted and were being consoled by persons residing in the area, they seemed to be OK though clearly shocked. We continued in our travels, but a strenuous reminder to all of the dangers on the road.


Continuing on their cycling, though feeling 42 www.cyclingworldmag.com


tired after cycling for 140km the riders were in high spirits practically in sight of their destination when blue and orange lights were seen flashing in the distance. Yet another TC. Three cars had been involved and on this occasion there seemed to be injuries. The ambulance overtook the riders further up the road with blues lights and sirens wailing. Was there going to be a third accident? No, finally arriving at the hotel in Vila Real after a long descent, welcomed by the support staff who had already checked in the riders and taken their luggage etc. to their respective rooms.


All the riders were in high spirits, they had achieved their objective with no injuries or incidents as such. It had been quite a challenging ride with a total ascent of close to 2000m in 158 km.


The bicycles were stored in a secure room provided by the hotel after which everyone had a shower and a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow sees the riders head to Trancoso. A shorter distance though with more challenging ascents than in the previous 2 days.


Vila Real to Trancoso


By 7.45 am, after being fully refuelled with food items containing protein and carbohydrates, the riders collected their bicycles from the 3rd level basement of the hotel where they had been stored overnight After checking them it was time to fill the bottles with water each mixed with a berry taste tablet containing electrolytes and magnesium after which the riders set off at 8.30 am sharp following their customary group photograph.


Although a shorter ride than the previous day at 113km, the riders would still be ascending 1900 m. to our destination at Trancoso situated at approximately 850m above sea level.


Soon after leaving the hotel and as the riders rode through the city centre, to their surprise they found that there were a group of police officers with their motorcycles waiting in the area. In addition there were numerous volunteers wearing red coloured T shirts with a charity logo and what appeared to be a finish marquee. Unknown to the riders there was a charity cycling event being held there too.


The first challenge was a short climb of 2 km before gradually descending 480m to 160m and then climbing again to the 300 metres. The scenery was magnificent with grape vines completely covering the different terraces hewn out of the mountain slopes. This was riding through wine country as evidenced by the number wine factories or ‘adegas’ they came across.


The riders then had to face a number of short ascents and descents until arriving at


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