One final climb

By Keith Senior
As I write this we have one final climb up to Christ the Redeemer.
I’m a little bit envious that I never got to do the full challenge and get stuck into the European leg, but saying that I’m happy I got the chance to have the experience in Brazil over the last 3 weeks.
From arriving in Recife and meeting some of the gang for the 1st time it has been a rollercoaster experience, which I knew would be the case.
From having done similar types of challenges I understand the trials and tribulations that are involved, the only difference is I have never done a challenge like this in terms of time scale, I tip my hat to the rest that did the full 6 weeks as 3 weeks away from home was definitely a massive challenge in itself for me.
Seeing Brazil as we have and actually experiancing most of the favelas and cultures was what I wanted to do, never being to brazil this was an opportunity I could not turn down from a selfish point of view, but also raising some valuable funds for some great charities gives it that added special touch.
The poverty is mainly in the north of Brazil and as you work down more to Rio you start to see the difference in lifestyles, one thing I must say no matter how poor some of the people were they still had pride in where they lived, to see some of the locals living in what we would call a garden shed, sweeping up leaves outside on the mud paths leading to their homes made you appreciate what you have, but on the other side of things how they still had a smile on their face and looked after what they did actually have.
One of the saddest things for me was the state of some of the animals in the poorer regions, having a dog myself and seeing a lot of strays living on the streets, some in very poor condition did actually bring a tear to my eye, I even gave up my food at times to feed them, I will definitely be giving my boy Dutch a massive cuddle when I get home.
Most of the days consisted of the same dirt track roads, long distance roads with nothing to see for miles on end except fields, trees and the odd horse,dog or bird, pot holes and speed bumps have been the bane of my life over here, if the road wasn’t as smooth as a baby bum then it was the worst case scenario of massive speed bumps and huge pot holes you could get lost in.
The traffic has been a lot better than what I expected, the locals are used to a lot of locals riding round on these old rust bikes in flip flops riding with their heels, making it look so easy as we are on the proper road bikes, clipped to our pedals to make it a little easier makes you realise just how easy some things are if you put your mind to it.
At the beginning conversations tend to be a little more informative as new people came in and started to find out a little bit about each other, as the weeks went on more and more crap started to get spoken just to get rid of the silence or pass the boredom of just staring at tarmac or the wheel in front of you, if I tried to explain some of them you wouldn’t have a clue what I was going on about, they were just that random.
There have been hiccups along the way as you can imagine, the biggest one was the road that was planned for most of our route to Rio, the BR 101, after doing some more research was known as the highway of Death, so as you can imagine after our first venture on this road and nearly getting taken out by numerous trucks, cars and busses travelling at top speeds a different alternative need to be found.
Tension and arguing was always going to be an issue, when a group of people doing a difficult challenge come together there is always going to be a clash of personalities and arguments along the way, its natural when fatigue and hunger sets in. I’m happy to say I never snapped but I guarantee you I was close to grabbing a few by the neck and throttling them, if you don’t know me i’m a guy that likes the simple things in life, a walk with my dog and keep myself to myself so coming into an environment where it can get frustrating at times was always going to be hard, but things like this are meant to be challenging, we started this as a team, and we will finish as a team, unless something drastic goes wrong tomorrow and somebody flips ha.
The best part of most challenges are the beginning, the end, then the time you get home and reflect on what an achievement it has been.
There have been plenty of highs and lows and has been an awesome experience meeting some great people and sharing this experience with them, one that I wont ever forget.
A big thank you from me to everyone that has been involved, and most of all a big thank you to everyone back home who has supported us, followed our journey and especially for the kind donations that have been gratefully received.
Its been emotional, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Bob on

Day 15 & 16 – Location, Location, Location

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….

Day 8,9 & 10 – Hills, Thrills & Bellyaches

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.