Alentejo, Cycling Portugal, General, guided tours

Look Back In Wonder

Jaci on the climb up to Monsanto

Planning and leading cycle tours can be great fun. Every time we run a trip, Carolyn and I get to take a bunch of cyclists and show them some of our favourite roads and sights in Portugal.

We ride, we admire the scenery, we eat, we drink, we swap stories and sleep. And then we do it all again the next day.

Our riders are often from several countries and with a range of backgrounds. Some come back for several trips (the best compliment there can be). For others, it’s their first time in Portugal as well as the first time with us.

By the end of each day, it’s not unusual for everyone to be a bit hot, sweaty, tired, hungry and thirsty. But it’s incredibly satisfying when riders turn round and say “how did you find that road?”, “that was a fantastic ride”, or just “thank you for a great day”.

Deane, Jen & John heading south

It’s also inspiring for me on a personal level when I’m leading groups that include riders who are older than me (sometimes by more than a decade) and often fitter.

When we’re on the road, though, it can be easy to forget some of the above.

Each day has fresh questions to deal with: are all the bikes okay, have we got bread for lunch, is there enough water in the van, which way is the wind blowing, where are we stopping for coffee, where are we going to buy bananas etc?

When we’re on tour, whether on my bike or driving the support van, Portugal rarely fails to put a smile on my face. But it can still be hard to take it all in. Which is why it’s good to look back at the photos and remind myself of where we’ve just been and what we’ve done.

Simon in the lead… again

The Eastern Frontier tour we’ve just finished was my third version of the route – and Carolyn tells me the best. (I would say ‘so far’ but she might kill me if I suggest ‘tweaking’ the route again.)

We left Guarda just over two weeks ago (on the one damp morning of the trip) and headed to Trancoso for our first night before continuing north, via a fabulous rural tourismo, to the Douro.

Dropping down into the Douro valley was great fun but the climb out, followed later that day by a descent into the Côa valley and back up again made for the toughest day of our trip.

Coming down to where the Coa meets the Douro

A day off the bikes in Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo gave us an opportunity to rest our legs and visit both Almeida and the medieval village at Castelo Rodrigo itself (with what turned out to be a very popular craft ale bar).

After that, the rest of the journey was tough but not quite as gruelling – though the climbs to Monsanto and Marvão were reasonably hard at the end of long days of riding.

Our detour into Spain, riding across the parched expanses of Extremadura, added an extra dimension to the range of landscapes, and Elvas made for a dramatic finishing point after crossing back into Portugal.

This trip was originally due to take place in autumn 2020 but was one of the many things to fall foul of Covid. We had hoped again to run it last year but that wasn’t to be. So, third time lucky!

It was definitely a good tour, for all kinds of reasons. Hopefully to be repeated in October 2023. The pictures below show some of the cycling and sights along the way.

Exploring the castle at Moreira de Rei near Trancoso
Jackie & Andy on the descent from Chas
Jen close behind
Heading down after the first hairpins
Looking north, on the way to the Douro
Jaci and Lesley coming down into the Coa valley
Looking west along the Douro
Simon pauses for the view
Tiled signs at Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo
Rua de Relogio (clock tower) in Castelo Rodrigo
Deane & Jen, back for their second tour
Spot the cyclists
Sunrise at Monsanto
Ruined chapel among giant boulders at Monsanto
Morning light on the castle at Monsanto – soon to feature in House of the Dragon
Carolyn on the road south
Lowflying budgie
Empty landscapes of Extremadura
Neil on the road from Alcantara
Jo… always smiling
There may be a hill ahead
Castle at Marvao
Dawn light at Marvao
Our 12 riders get ready for the last leg to Elvas

1 thought on “Look Back In Wonder”

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