A Testing Test Ride

I had a tough but wonderful ride into the hills of the Algarve today as I continue to check bits of the route for the next Pedal Portugal guidebook – which is going to cover the western half of the region.

Although I’ve ridden quite a few of the roads involved (and am getting lots of guidance from fellow cyclist Andy Smallwood), I don’t know all of them and I’d hate to be accused of sending people up climbs I’m afraid to tackle myself!

Looking back at the easy bit

That’s the easy bit over…

So this morning I hopped on the train to Silves and followed the section of my Algarve Adventure touring route that goes from Silves up into the Serra de Monchique. The first part was easy – about 21km going west from Silves and up the Odelouca valley. The weather wasn’t so good as a couple of days ago – I could see the cloud sitting on the hills and some of them looked pretty black.

The next part of the ride was also a lot tougher. About 5.6km (3.5 miles) of almost continuous climbing, from nearly sea level to about 430m above – I think this works out as an average gradient of just under 8% but some bits were certainly steeper!

Looking NW into the hills from just outside Alferce

Looking NW into the hills from just outside Alferce

My coffee stop in Alferce

My coffee stop in Alferce

After that, though, it was a lot easier and the scenery was stunning. Up and over to a village called Alferce for another coffee and then a winding road around the hillsides – mostly flat or slightly downhill – to get to Monchique. A bit of a descent and then another gorgeous section of contour-following as I headed west.

The scenery was gorgeous and (apart from the bits where I was panting madly) I was cycling along with a big grin on my face. Lots of orange and lemon groves, small farms, eucalyptus forest, cork oak trees and hillsides covered with cistus and other scrub. Lots of birds around and hardly any traffic – and apart from a spot of drizzle I stayed almost dry.

Then after about 46km in total it was time to turn left and go down, down, down for the run home. Damp in places but all of it rural, some of it quite wild looking and, again, hardly any traffic. A great ride, except…

I’ve got a terrible confession to make. I bumped into another group of cyclists (from my former home in Cornwall) and sent them on a wild goose chase.

They were looking for the road to the Algarve’s International Autodrome (apparently you can cycle around it) and I told them the wrong way. I’m really sorry folks! My only defence is that I was right about where we were on your map… I was just wrong about where the Autodrome was (which wasn’t on the map). Hope you found it and got home safely. (I did say I didn’t really know the area!)

It's all down hill from here... except for when you get sent the wrong way!

It’s all down hill from here… except for when you get sent the wrong way!

If anyone’s interested in the route I took (about 77km), take a look at the map below.

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