Easter in Portugal was spent with our very dear friends Tim and Sue at their home in Paderne on The Algarve. My plan was to start our trip back with a long ride. After a week or more of fairly short jaunts on the bike I was looking at a longer distance using a fairly simple route that meant Kaye would have no problems with the team car and at a decent pace so I would not be on the bike all day.
After reading a couple of positive reviews on different routes in Portugal I settled on a ride from Paderne to Evora. Heading north from Paderne to Messines and then the N124 east before joining the northbound N2 to Evora.
From Messines it was gentle climb up to Alte, Pena and Salir and the temperature was already at 24c . The N24 is a main road but fairly quiet, the road surface is breaking up badly so you have to pick your line riding with one eye over your shoulder for approaching traffic.
Once onto the N2 the road wound all the way up to the highest part of ride at Pelados that gave you stunning views of the surrounding countryside and I met Kaye and the team car for coffee.
From this point the ride profile showed a very long downhill but with another 3300ft of climbing there were going to be some anomalies along the way. After an initial descent that quickly lost 1100ft the road quickly became a series of tight hairpin bends and undulations.
The town of Almodovar was the major town between coffee and the planned lunch stop at Castro Verde, there were major road works approaching the town and apart from the awful road surface there were a series of trench cuts that had been filled with gravel and had rutted badly with passing traffic. Most of the work seemed to be undertaken with shovel wielding navvies, a JCB grading a bank on the side of the road was precariously balanced on three wheels and had a banksman directing traffic by waving his flat cap.
After Almodovar the road straightened as the hills gave way to flat plains but the constant undulations made getting a rhythm difficult and a climbing temperature and strengthening headwind did not make progress any easier.
I met Kaye again just outside Castro Verde for a quick lunch with 65 miles completed. The afternoon started with another long straight road and at 80 miles I got the first sign of cramp in my thighs. not something I normally suffer from and not at that distance. I readily took on more fluid but at that point it was too late and I suspect that a weekend of excess, a hot day with a lot of climbing with not enough fluid was beginning to take its toll. I had also started off at a decent pace without too much heed to the route profile and the amount of climbing involved.
I climbed off the bike at 101 miles having climbed 6300ft and with excruciating cramp, I was pleased and disappointed at the same time, I was hoping to have covered the full distance to Evora so what did I learn, well mainly that poor preparation precedes poor performance.
I had taken the ride far too lightly, having had a few days off with a bit too much alcohol, not reading the route profile, not taking enough fluid and starting at an unrealistic pace on a hot day with a strong headwind thinking I could just knock the miles off.
It was a good wakeup call and not one I wish to repeat at any time soon, and a timely reminder to always respect the ride.