By Darren Clark
The cycling has been pretty uneventful over the last two days, that is if you consider one puncture for Paul in the carpark before we managed to set off and a second 1.5 miles later the norm for day 15, over 4000 ft climbed on roller coaster type single track roads the norm for day 16 (when promised ‘it’s all down hill, from here’ by Mike the day before) and oh yeah the truly awful cobbled Portuguese town main streets – after the last one I felt like claiming for vibration white finger disease…
So I thought I’d share some thoughts on 3 distinctly different hotels we’ve stayed in / staying in since we crossed into Portugal…
Hotel 1 – Alfraites.
Just over the border from Spain, a very quite family run hotel. I can’t really figure out who would normally stay here, maybe it’s used by drugs mules or arms dealers given its proximity to the border.
On Sunday night we had the entire restaurant to ourselves and our host and his wife kindly laid on a homemade four course banquet for us (they don’t normally do Sunday’s) and to make the night complete they moved the tables to allow us to watch the euro2016 final. Needless to say our host was suitably happy with the result.
Hotel 2 – Castello Branco
My 1st thoughts on cycling up, along with – who the hell picked a hotel at the top of a steep off route climb, was Bond villain hideout. The hotel was perfectly perched at the top of a hill with glorious views across the valley from 3 sides, and on entering my thoughts came to life as the reception resembles the room used in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to brain wash a bunch of femme fatales.. The bedrooms were pleasent, although the the air con was only powerful enough to cool a space the size of a shoe box, so Mick and I resolved to open the balcony door. All went well until a bunch of what appeared to be school children upset the local dog community at about 11:30pm and all hell broke out for the remainder of the night with occasional stereo effect howling continuing on & off, normally with prefect timing to start just as you felt yourself drifting off…
Hotel 3 – Abrantes
Wow, what a place tonight’s accommodation is. It’s actually a retired show jumper / antiques dealers house and it is amazing. It’s as though the last 90 years have passed this place by, ornate bedrooms/bathrooms, stunning views and some truly remarkable antiques on display.
The standard is set high for my last night on the ride tomorrow….
By Darren Clark
In the three days we’ve climbed almost 10,000 ft in total. Day 8 was the warm up for two big climbs at either end of day 9 & day 10 was completed by our highest ascent yet 4920 ft (1.5km).
I’ll be honest, I like cycling up hills, the challenge of getting to the top beats the boredom of long straight roads, and then there’s the thrill of the all two short, but quick (just short of 40mph on one section) downhill.
We past over the border into Spain on day 8, which we almost missed as there’s no real sign or demarcation. Bit of a disappointment, I expected at least a welcome to Spain sign for a photo opportunity .. !
Northern Spain is dismal and industrial we could’ve been cycling through any Northern UK town/city, and at one point I thought we’d passed Forge Masters on Brightside Lane..
The climbs on Day 9 were great, a steep incline with switchback bends on the early morning one and long sweeping curves on the second.
For Day 10 we started at the top of last nights climb, and descend over 1000ft in the 1st 5 miles. That means only one thing – no pedalling, which is good for me because my left knee is very tender at the moment. It’s been aching for a few days, but today it’s worse and after a few miles and a dodgy change of gear that resulted in the chain coming off and my leg jarring straight, the pain is much worse.. Lunch in the beautiful town of Santo Domingo is served with painkillers as desert and as we leave we’re pretty much straight into our ascent up the highest point on the ride to date, Puerto de La Pedraja @ 1150m. After the usual team photo at the summit I switch off and the final 20 miles into Burgos in temperatures of 37c drag, so it’s plenty of water / isotonic fluid refills to see us through to the end. Our hotel in Burgos is at the side of the absolutely stunning Catedral de Burgos, and the city itself is definitely worth another more relaxing visit.