Guinea Pigs On Tour

I’m starting to get excited. And a little bit nervous. In just seven days time I’ll be meeting the riders taking part in the very first Pedal Portugal guided tour.

I’ve got five Brits, one Irishman, two Germans and two Canadians due to arrive in Lagos next Sunday, expecting me to lead them round the Algarve and show them not just some great sights but also some really good cycling.

Bordeira beach - one of the stops on the west coast

Bordeira beach – one of the stops on the west coast for the first tour

In my head I know I can do it. I’ve cycled the roads myself before, some of them quite a few times and I know the scenery is stunning. The hotels are sorted, the support vehicle is booked, airport transfers arranged etc. etc.

But although I’ve spent years giving advice on cycling in Portugal this will still be the first time I’ve led a tour. I can’t help but be aware that other people’s ideas and expectations don’t always match your own – which is why it’s starting to get a little nerve-wracking.

At least my first 10 riders know they’re guinea pigs. (Hopefully they’ll remember that’s why the tour was advertised on a not-for-profit basis!) And if there are any issues to iron out, I’d like to think they’ll help me get it right for the second tour, which repeats the same circuit, setting off on 28th February.

There are six Canadians signed up for that one – is it something about the weather over there? (Which means four places still available if anyone’s interested – click here for more info.)

Jan minus 01

Over the hills and far away – grey skies but magnificent views on the way to Sao Marcos da Serra

Although the main route for the Algarve Winter Tour is all sorted, I went out today to check out a possible alternative option for the ride from Silves to Monchique.

Phew. I knew it would be quite a tough option but my legs are still aching (although I did also ride the extra 39km back to Lagos).

I caught an early train to Silves and was off on my bike by about 8.30am.

It was an easy route to navigate – one road to São Marcos da Serra and then one to Monchique.

Fabulous scenery too. And that was on a fairly grey, overcast day with only occasional glimpses of sun.

The first bit of the ride was quite gentle. But then the climbing started. It wasn’t continuous. There were downhills. And then the inevitable climb back up afterwards.

I was very relieved to get to São Marcos and find a cafe for a coffee and well-deserved cake.

Then it was off again on the road to Monchique, with yet more gorgeous views… plus some even bigger hills. On the plus side, I think I only saw five cars on the first 30km to São Marcos and maybe double that on the ‘busier’ road to Monchique.

According to RideWithGPS.com it was about 56km from Silves to Monchique with getting on for 1,380m of climbing.

Hmm. A wonderful ride but I’ll have to make sure the clients know what’s involved before suggesting that as an option!

Getting to Monchique was quite a relief. Luckily, the rest of my ride back to Lagos was mostly downhill. Clocked up almost 96km in the end and over 1,600m of climbing. Not bad for a Sunday jaunt!

Now I’ve just got to hope my first two tours all go according to plan. Because after them I’ve got more to come later in the year in various different parts of Portugal. For the full tour schedule, click here.

The cake was good... as was the cold beer when I got home

The cake was good… as was the cold beer when I got home

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