Monday, 18 August 2014

Eiger Bike - Swiss Marathon Champs

Post holiday it was time for another race.  Time to put all that road work behind me and back to the serious stuff.  Always one of those moments of how well has my training been going.  Especially when you have not really been following what your supposed to be doing and have just been doing it by feel.

The Eiger bike race this year was the Swiss National Marathon champs.  There were some big names there but once again I was too far back in the pack to see any of them.

To say that it was one of the nicest days riding of the year was an understatement.  There was a fresh round of snow above about 2800 metres and it was just on 4 degrees at the start.  Complete clear skies and the imposing north face of the Eiger as a back drop for the whole race.  I know it would warm up quickly over the day to start it was more or less straight up a big hill with 1000 metres of climbing before down a bit and then back up again.  The race course was 88km long with 3900 metres of climbing.

We got to start in one big group and I thought wow the big boys are taking it easy today.  Nice and relaxed start with heart rate in a good zone for me.  Wasn't long before that was all over.  Heart rate after about 5km was at full max and had a to back off that few percent to remain in control.  Tried to focus on staying with a woman but she rode away from me.  Turns out it was Ariane Kleinhans, last years Swiss champ and winner of a huge number of big races around the world.

Down the first hill and back up to First before going down some ultra steep trails on tarmac.  Narrow with lots of grip but oh so fast.  I was thinking it would be impossible to ride them back up the other way. Sure enough along came the steep bits to go back up.  Oh boy it was steep.  Smallest gear occasionally off the seat trying to keep the momentum going.  3-4 km long climb with extremely steep ramps in it of 22-26% at 200 metres long.  Small break and then repeat about 5 times with the gradient dropping slowly dropping towards the top.  However it went from tarmac to gravel before it was grass and I didn't see many ride the end bit.  Huge crowds were cheering everybody on and somehow I managed to stay on the bike and ride over the top.

Huge downhill after this for a big rest.  I was riding with two others and one of them was like a 14 year old kid.  Thought he was doing fairly well till I realised that he was doing a 20 km loop and I was already at over 45k.  All the guys around me were doing the shorter loops.  When we split it was a very lonely ride. All the way from 1000 metres high all the way back up to 2000 metres again.

Only a few riders around me and managed to pass quite a few on the climb.  I did have one steamroll past me at the top of the climb though.  The top of Kleine Scheidegg was a relief and the views were amazing.  Jungfrau on my left as I went through.  Two spectators were yelling Bravo, at me and I asked it they'd turned around and seen the view behind them.  Simply stunning.

The down was uneventful and I'm sure one maybe two riders came past me.  No big deal.  I knew I wasn't doing that bad and I'm not the fastest down hiller.  Something about age and fear I think.  I've also realised it's better to finish in one piece than die trying.

I finished in 13th place in class and 69th overall.  Very happy with this.  Such a dream day on the bike and the views just amazing.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Italian Mountains

Just a quick bunch of Pics from two weeks in the Italian Alps.  Amazing riding for anyone.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The big one - Tour Du Mont Blanc

The biggest and maybe the toughest ride of the year.  Well on paper anyway.  It was my only road bike "race" of the year.  330km and 8000 climbing metres

I only really had two goals this year.  Trans-Portugal and Swiss Epic,  both multi day stage races.  I'd thrown in a number of other event to try and get a bit more speed and use them as experience for another year.  Not quite sure why this one made the list although it was on the short list for 2013 as well and I never entered due to my broken ankle.

Nigel was also coming so at least I'd know someone.  Early start at 5am with lights on the bike.  A lot would need lights much later in the day (night) as well.  And of course the weather was not forecast to be the best.  You had the opportunity to have bags at 2 places around the course so at least you could get some dry warm clothes.  I put my stuff at the top of the Grand Saint Bernard pass and the Petite Saint Bernard.  Basically the two highest points but more importantly well spaced.  At the start line Nigel turned up with Arm warmers on his legs.  Last minute I decided to take both a Gillet and a rain jacket with the arm warmers.

We started behind the motorbikes just after 5am for the "Neutral" descent.  The road was rough and the field spread out massively.  First small hill post the official race start and 20 riders went away.  I decided just to let them do it.  There would be a time and place for bridging gaps but now 20 km into a massive day was not one of them.  They were 200-300 metres in front and no one was helping me so I just cruised with maybe 20-25 other riders.

We hit the first real hill at 40k's and boys will be boys.  For some reason several riders decided it was time to put the hammer down.  By the time we hit the Col Des Montets we were basically individual  riders and several had gone off up the road.  More had also gone off the back.  I hit the top of Col De La Forclaz for the hammer down into Switzerland.  In fact I think i set a top ten in Strava down the Forclaz.  Pity I sat up halfway down as it was just so long.

First real feed stop before the biggest climb of the day, the imposing Grand Saint Bernard.  Grabbed drink and a bit of food and back on my way.  A small group of 4-5 of us were together before it was all gone again within a few km's as we rode at our own pace.  There were lots of Galleries and the weather had finally started to close in with light rain.  I slowly worked my way up to a rider over the first 20km and then we promptly exited the Gallery into the pouring rain.  Took me about 30 metres to promptly turn around and ride straight back to the Gallery and put the rain coat on over the Gillet.  The next 12km up over the top was a real grind.  Headwind and very cold rain.  I'm sure it's a nice climb on a nice day but 40km drag with 1800 metres of climbing in horrible weather was not so pleasant.

Got to the feed stop at the top and tried to decide what clothing to change.  Grabbed my bag and a few Gels and then decided that warmer gloves was what I needed.  However I couldn't get them on my cold hands.  Decided bugger it they would just get wet and make me colder and just get going and try to warm up.  The decent was long/lonely and very cold.  I couldn't decide if I was on the right road and was all by myself. We;d crossed into Italy here somewhere as well.  I'd see a rider in the distance every so often and decided since he was doing similar pace it must be right.  Fortunately it the right way and it stopped raining here somewhere, it took me at least another hour to warm up.  It was finally 22 degrees before I stripped off the Gillet, raincoat and arm warmers.

The race organisers had tacked in a new climb called the Col de San Carlo.  Forever more known as the Col of Bastards.  Damn this thing was steep.  I'd bridged to a group in the valley below and one of them was a fairly good climber.  I had front row seats to his self destruction on this hill.  I watched as he ran out of gears in the first 2-3 km and imploded.  There was just no way he could ride out of the seat for the whole hill.  I was very thank full for my triple at this point.  His 39x25 was no match for this hill.  Ramps at 12% but mainly a fairly constant 10% the whole way.  Not a nice hill when you have done close on 4000 metres of climbing and 200km just to get there.

The next biggie hill after this was the Petite Saint Bernard.  Awesome climb for me.  Just loved it.  Sunshine all the way with views.  Just seemed like I could climb it forever at a fast pace and I wouldn't implode.  I did get passed by another rider though.  The last rider I think that passed me all day.  Couldn't work out why he was going do fast but I think he was one of the few that only did half the course with another rider.

Started the Cormet de Roseland and the weather took a downhill turn.  Stopped to put the rain jacket on only to take it off later and then put it back on again after that.  Passed a few more riders but towards the top that was it.  None seen in front and none behind.  Long lonely climb in the weather before finely right at the top some beautiful warm rays of sunshine and a nice descent with only one climb to go.

Col de Saisies was the last climb.  Only 20 km to go and knew I could make it.  I hadn't quite counted on what was to come.  I rung the wife to tell here I was 20 mins away but was actually 20km away with a huge hill to climb.  I wasn't riding this for here not to be there at the finish !!!

About 5 mins later it started.  It was about 5:30pm and the wind started,  a few minutes later it was pitch black and the worlds biggest thunderstorm had come out of no where.  Torrential rain, lightening, thunder all around and me trying to ride a bike up the last hill.  Turned back on my bike lights and put my head down.  The water was at least 1cm deep on the roads and gravel was being washed onto it in huge chunks.  Trees bending over backward and pitch black.  The lightening all around with massive thunder.  The temperature had dripped form about 14 to 6 as well.

I made it about 45 mins later in the worlds smallest gear up not such a steep hill.  Wife was the only person there to greet me.  The finish line had been blown away including the barriers at the side of the road.  I didn't know but the finish line was just some timing matt's on the road.  I was shattered but had to ride the 1km up hill to the hotel.  Not so bad but boy did the body ache.

A very long hot shower and pizza was the order of the day.

Found out I was 16th, Gobsmacked really.  13 hours 33 mins in total with only 20 mins of stoppage time.  The winner did it in just over 11hours 18 mins whilst the longest took 18 hours and thirty mins.  I think nearly 70 never made it.  Nigel managed just on 17 hours and you read about his ride here...

Monday, 23 June 2014


2nd one day race of the season

One of those things when go to a race you gave never done before you don't quite know what to expect. Well in my case it turns out that there were multiple starting bunches.  And of course I was in the last one.  We got to start a full 30 mins behind the good guys.  At least Nigel was with me so someone to chat in English on the start line.

We got to start behind the motorbikes and I was right at the front.  On the first climb no one seemed so keen to get moving so I led the whole way up it.  Not long after this you look around and realise that there are very few people with you.  Of course your already passing people from the bunch in front.  A spectator was king enough to tell me that I was in third (from our starting group).

I was on the 2nd climb just minding my own business when an English decided to stop in for a chat.  I'm not always the friendliest when running at max on a hill climb.  Why bother chatting and wasting energy.  Requires some thought and effort to keep the legs turning at warp speed.

I'd learnt last year that backpacks if your fast are just a no go and of course my Bikes only got one space for a watter bottle.  The thing is though the the "french" races here in Switzerland just seem to have not much support.  Drinks offered to you in cups or small supermarket screw tops!!!  It becomes a battle to get water in a hurry at the stops.  I normally chuck the bottle and grab another where possible.  I've become quite adapt at yelling at whoever has a bottle at the side of the road to grab it.  Managed to get one and shared it with the English guy who was now tailing me.  Didn't see him for much longer after this.

Not much else happened the whole race.  More ups and more down and nothing to technical.  Nice sunny day.  Steamrolled past so many people.  Was really nice to see the wife and kids at the finish yelling and cheering for me. 

Believe I was in the top 5 for our bunch which was amazing.  I finished 17th in Class and 76th overall.  If I'd started with the front bunch 'm sure my results would have been better.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The little things - Elsa Bike

A few weeks past Trans-Portugal and I had my first one day MTB race of the season.

Been a few weeks of rest and relaxation thrown in before the race.  Trying to avoid the temptation to set PR's up every little hill in the region and just take it easy.  So hard when you feel fantastic but important to rest up because you have another half of the season to go.

Wasn't sure how I felt come race day.  Torn between stomping around and giving it everything and yet I also just couldn't be bothered.  Met Nigel before the start and was promptly at least half way back in the field just lining up for the start.  Off the start it was fast and furious and through horrible street furniture and just trying to avoid all the dangers.

I would have said the heart rate was running at full max for the first 10km whilst I set about passing everybody I could.  Set an easy pace on the downs and passed everybody on the ups.  Passed Adam somewhere towards the start and got on with things.  Adam would come back past me somewhere much later on.  Keeps saying he needs to be able to start faster.  I couldn't be bothered trying to stay with him.  I was struggling to see a bit on the downs with my new dark glasses and wasn't enjoying the point and squirt nature of the course.

Would have said I was somewhere in the top 20 of my class when I came around a corner and into a short sharp climb.  I'd already dropped to the granny and pulled up a few gears and bang.  There goes the chain.  I guess 1150km though Portugal and it had finally had enough.  Went through the pockets looking for my chain links to discover I had none.  Hmmmn, flashback to where I knew they were and realised I'd left them in the back of the car.  Had to remove the rear derailleur which had embedded itself into the cassette and started pushing the bike

Started running up the hill and stopped to take the whole chain and throw it in my pocket.  Sweat was pouring into my eyes as it was quite a hot day.  Stopped at the next marshalls to ask for help and my French or lack of let me down.  Asked each and every rider on the way past for a chain link and not one even acknowledged me.  Ran some more and thought this was getting pointless.  Finally stopped again and knew I had 20Km to go, how the hell was I going to get to the finish line.

Stopped to have a 2nd look and had another go at fixing the bike for a 2nd time.  Pulled the torn link and took me twenty minutes to push a pin back through the chain.  Didn't think it would work at all.  Past expierience shows that they just pop again.  On my way again finally and took it easy knowing that I'd lost 30 mins.  Finished with not a bad time but it just shows the little things make a difference.  I won't forget a chain link again !!!

Finished 89th in Class and 267th overall

Monday, 19 May 2014

Trans Portugal 2014, Post Race thoughts

Where to start.  Sitting in Lisbon airport waiting for my plane back to the lush green hills of Switzerland.

Well first I guess to say the race is amazing.  What's makes it so good are the open and friendly people and the amazing landscapes wherever you go.  It's so hard to describe, but nothing is a problem for the staff and during the racing everybody helps each over where needed.  Ok, so it's a race but when you see someone crash you stop.  When they have a bike issue you stop.  It's competitive but not at the cost of having some fun to.  

If you come you will meet like minded people,  people who race various rides all over the world.  What's makes it special is you will stay life long friends with some of these people and you will see them again somewhere in the world.

Several amazing feats by riders.  I think Peter had six punctures in one day,  Danny who crashed and broke his chain.  Fixed it to pedal off and then the chain fell off on the next descent.  He had to walk back up the trail to find it before getting further help to get it fixed by another competitor.  Special mention to Eddy,  broke his rear free hub and ran with his bike just getting on for the downhills for approx 30km.  They tried to fix his bike (which he took a penalty for) and then later on had to take a 2nd penalty when they gave him another bike.  He then rode a bike with wrong pedals which he couldn't clip into for the rest of the stage.  He made the time cut for the day and still finished in 15th place.

In regards to the race itself, it's very tough.  The number of competitors that after the first stage looked completely worn out was high.  Several looked completely exhausted and two were taken off to hospital because of dehydration.  The stages are long, can be physically exhausting and most people get some aches and pains somewhere.  Although it's physically tough I would say the mental aspect is the more important piece.  It's so easy just to step off and say that's it I'm done.  

Back to the bikes his year,  manufacturers must be doing something right.  Only one broken frame (Chinese special I think) and I would say in general less issues across the bike fleet.  A few spokes gone and a few chain issues but the biggest issues again are tyres.  Two years ago everybody seemed to be on Schwalbe, last year Continentals and this year it seemed to be Maxxis.  What ever you bring make sure they have tough sidewalls with extra protection.  There was a real mix of bikes and a lot less Epics this year.  More 26ers than last year too.  A real mix of hardtails and even full 140mm bikes with dropper seat posts.

In regards to the race format it's great.  It's tough to chase everybody each day from the back each day but it does give an oppurtunity for everybody.  The good riders are still able to come through and win the stages and place high on GC.  I love the follow a GPS track format.  It's so easy to go wrong when the brain is not functioning.  Also the self sufficiency part is great.  Don't carry enough spares the it's your own issue.  The organisation will fix your bike if required, but you will take a time penalty.

In regards to the course this year.  Well I've ridden it three times and I would say he trials were in the best shape this year.  Some of the climbs were so tough but this year it seemed easier.  Less rocks and rough stuff on the same trails.  The two new stages were ok.  A bit to much road in them but you can only do so much.

In regards to the hotels and food.  Some are average and some are amazing.  I would say most have very good food but as always one to two are very average.  The Hotel in Monchique is awful.  Closer to a hospital than a hotel.  What amazes me is that although they have WiFi and aircon most of the time it doesn't work.  That includes the 4-5 star places.

Portugal as a whole is awesome.  It's fairly cheap and easy to get around.  Enough English is spoken and the food is cheap and very good.

Lastly me.  Will I be back for a fourth time?  Not sure just yet.  Body feels good post finish and very happy to be on the podium.  Much higher than I thought I would place. I've got some training improvements I could make and easily loose another few kilos from me and a hardtail bike would make me a bit faster at the expense of some comfort.  Very happy that mentally for the whole nine days I was in the right place.  I had bad days but it didn't show that much and I still placed well.  Some days were must do very well days and I survived and managed this well.  The flatter days with a headwind were days not to loose your head.  I could have ploughed on alone and ridden 100km on my own because the group was a bit slow.  I however saved my energy and used it to my advantage in the following days.  I suffered where I needed to on Joses wheel and this alone made a huge difference.

What next?  Spend a good few weeks chilling out and much more time with my Family.  Back to base training and not much of it!  Next race is a few weeks away but not a priority on my schedule.  Be nice to have a race and have a bit more fun.  Doesn't mean I won't try but it does mean I can use it for the experience and keep some speed in my body.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Trans Portugal, DAY9, MONCHIQUE - SAGRE

9th STAGE / 18 MAY
99 Kms
Climbing - 1302 m

Weather - 30ish and sunny
Stage Place - 3rd
Overall Place - 3rd

The last day.  The day I dreaded.  I had Peter start 19 mins in front of me and I was approx 18 mins in front on GC.  I had to make at least a minute and hopefully a bit more in case of any issues.  I'd lost a place in GC last year in this stage and always have found it tough.

Bit of fun on the start line with Jose.  He picked up a hammer on the start line and said today we put the hammer down.  We started at 10am and promptly made a wrong turn.  I was first up over the climb 3km from the start which was a blessing for me.  I'm not slow in the climbs but sometimes being five metres behind someone else is five metres to far to get back to them.

Jose did indeed put the hammer down.  Don't know how fast we were going but I was the first to crack at close on 25 km.  Aaron and Luis were with me and Luis was having a much better day.  Luis kept saying to me to clam down and stop being nervous.  I guess it was showing with my riding.  They both came off the back at a similar time to me.  Jose is about the same speed as us on the flats, but when it comes to the hills he just powers up them like they are not there.  It's fine for the first few but with limited recovery between not many of us can hang on.

We were given a time gap not long after this and told we were only seven mins.  Luis wanted to congratulate me but I was not ready at this point.  Still had 70km to go and I was not going to let this slip away.  Next time gap was six minutes and I knew we could afford to calm down and do a bit more consistent riding rather than blow us all apart.

We rolled through the checkpoint one and asked and Peter and Eric had not gone through.  Confusion and doubt followed as we had not passed them on the trail.  There were only three riders left in front by the 2nd check point Raffelle, Jose and Kate.  

We hit the beach for the long run across the sand.  Exhausting at the best of times but with a bike and a steep climb at the end at was awful.  I knew that there were only a few more climbs to go and we could settle down.  Maria ( my masseur for the week) was at the last CP going mental at us when we passed and once again confirmed that Peter had not passed.  We set a nice steady pace to bring us all home together.  We caught Raffelle somewhere here and the last 20km were torture.  Normally fast roads with a tailwind were rough rutted roads with lots of sand and a headwind.

We hit the cliffs above Sagres which meant only 5km to go.  I had thought I'd let the other two go fight for third place on the stage as they certainly helped me in the 20-50km range when I was struggling.  I'd done enough after this though to redeem myself.  It was touch and go but Aaron and Luis could both have jumped a place in GC if we had gone harder.  Once we got to the last KM there was no way they were crossing the line before me.

Very happy with how it all went.  Still a little disbelief that I had done it.  The self doubts over winter training and my ability put at rest for a while. It turns out that Peter had made a wrong turn somewhere again but I think we would have got him somewhere anyway.

Been an incredible adventure once again to have made it for the third year in a row.  Lowest place on stages was 6th and highest 2nd (equal time).  3rd overall is just amazing and I have to thank those around me for believing in me and helping me.  The support from those people ( and you know who you are) is what makes the difference.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


8th STAGE / 17 MAY
138 Kms
Climbing - 3086 m

Weather - 33c and hot
Stage Place - 3rd
Overall Place - 3rd

Wow what a day.  We started again at 9am and within the first few km there was just four of us.  Jose lead the way with me next, Aaron and Luis hanging on at the back.  A few gates later and Jose was following a rider in the distance.  I looked down to see we were completly off track.  We had to back track a good kilometre till we came back to the track.  Easy to see why we missed it as it was a ploughed feild with the track 30 metres away.

We finally caught Danny's group after a good hour or so and went straight past.  Luis had allready dropped and not long after Aaron was gone as well.  Just me and Jose.  We had a discussion about how much time I needed to keep my third place.  Jose said something to me which helped me the rest of the day.  "Never give up".  I repeated it often.

Jose left me behind at roughly 45km on a rough uphill and I was 50-100 metres behind him on top of a dam wall on Tarmac.  I came across him a few minutes later on track as his GPS was switched off.  Offered to help but nothing that could really be done except swap batteries.  I continued and he come straight past me a few minutes later saying it had just switched off.  At 50km I came across him again at the first water point of the day.  We left together and I spent another 10 km in his company before the first climb of the day.

The first climb was good and not to bad. Just long but not to steep.  Down then through a checkpoint before going back up the other side.  Again not as bad as I remember from last year.  The next big hills were due at approx 110km.  I took some water and a coke at a shop somewhere at 90km.  Poor shop keeper and lady he was serving must have though I was mad.  Drunk half the coke in the shop and threw two litres of water into the camelbak and into bottle and back on the bike quite quickly.

I tried to rest till the next big climb but never really works.  Knew I has to push on and get Peter.  Finally saw three riders in the distance and knew I finally had them.  Right at the bottem of the big climb.  Used to be an awful climb.  It gets steeper and used to get rockier towards the top.  In the three times I've done it this year was the easiest.  Road in much better condition.  I must have distanced them 2-3 mins on this climb.

Post this there was only two Tarmac climbs to go.  I pushed hard to get us much time as possible.  I was told I was 7 minutes behind Kate but was only really interested to get time on Peter.  Turns out I was only 2 minutes ( I'd miss heard) and everyone thought I would catch her.  I put as much effort as I could into these two climbs.  I'm sure it will not be that past put hey I've ridden hard the last eight days.

I finished third for the stage and approx 90 seconds behind Kate.  I also finished nearly 10 mins in front of Peter which makes tomorrow much easier to keep 3rd in GC.  He's 18.5 mins down but gets a 20 minute head start.

Fingers crossed all will go well tomorrow

Friday, 16 May 2014

Trans Portugal, DAY7, ÉVORA - ALBERNOA

7th STAGE / 16 MAY
102 Kms
Climbing - 812 m

Weather - max 32c but actually not to hot and even a mild spot of rain
Stage Place - 6th equal
Overall Place - 3rd I think (just)

Horrible day...set off with the pack at 11am for a fast and furious ride into the wind...

Jose set the pace on the front and I helped where I could.  Luis was really struggling today.  We caught Danny's group after less than 15km.  That's how fast we were going.  Luis asked me if I was staying with Danny.  My aim was to get to Peter and the best way was to push on regardless of who was in the group.

The pace was high and it was obvious that Luis was having an off day.  Jose went back to get him once or twice and he was dropping on the rough fire roads with any slight incline.  It's always tough on this type of road and so easy to drop the wheel in front and you are gone.  Myself and Jose had the discussion that we couldn't wait all day.  Jose wanted to win the stage and I needed to get Peter to keep my GC place.

Jose attacked us with a helper at approx 40km.  The helper went, Jose overtook him and then the helper left the gap.  I was to slow to jump onto Jose and the 10 metre gap became 20.  We pegged it at about 50-100 metes for the next 2-3 km.  By 50km he was out of sight.

There was now four of us (Danny, Aarron, Eduardo and me) and we basically worked hard all day together.  I think we averaged close on 28 or 29km/h for the whole stage.  We made no stops what so ever except for 3km from the end when Danny lost his rear wheel and had another crash.  30 seconds to a minute to check he was all right before we continued.  Huge chunk out of his knee and lots of blood.  We should get the time credited back to us anyway ( except Danny) and if not It's no big deal.  I'd rather make sure someone is OK than leaving them in a ditch.

We crossed in 6th place which is the lowest place so far this year.  Jose mucking around at the start probably cost him the stage win.  I dropped another 15 mins on Peter and he has closed rapidly on me in the last two days.  Hopefully the mountains tomorrow will help me but I will still have to chase like hell.

Think I will still be in third on GC but only just.

Thursday, 15 May 2014


6th STAGE / 15 MAY
167 Kms
Climbing - 1554 m

Weather - bloody hot !!! 38c
Stage Place - 4th equal
Overall Place - 3rd but maybe slipped to 4th

Well... Not sure what to's been a long hot day that's for sure.

First 20km were the steep up and down bit.  The rest was Portugese flat on never ending dead straight roads that never seemed to finish.  Portugese flat means it's actually never flat and at 38c they are a killer.

We lost Jose on the first climb.  Not by a lot but enough for us not to see him again.  From here it was myself , Luis and Aaron that hung together.  We passed Danny on the trail.  Asked what was wrong and all I got told was we've been here for 10 mins already.  We creasted the hill and sat up with should we wait or should we go.  We hung around for 20 mins or probably longer on these massive rolling roads.  You could see riders 2km behind you.

Edgar bridged the gap to us and said Danny had lost his chain.  What this normally means is it's just off the chain ring.  In Danny's case he had literally lost it.  Off the bike completely and no idea where it is.  Turns out when we saw him it was being fixed and then on a rough downhill it had flown off the bike.  He had to run back up the trail looking for it otherwise his race was over.  They found it and repaired it for he second time with help from others.

We were 4 riders and pushed on.  I set the pace up the climbs to keep things moving.  It was a big wind again and we all worked fairly well together.  At the stops we went for water and lots of it.  Some went for coke at cafés whilst others lubed chains.  First stop was 69km in and it was already 35c.  It got to 38c later.  2nd stop we were all together still and had picked up a fifth rider.

We picked up Raffalle not long after the last water point and he hung with us for an hour or so.  There was a horrible old train track which we followed.  A bit odd cruising through old closed railway stations with no train tracks.  Horrible but fast track into a wind and it always felt up.  The group was working really well but I was not looking to finish with them.  I was looking for a place to get away from the group.  

Finally happened at the end of the railway.  On a 180 degree turn the wind was now tail and it headed up.  Perfect.  Only 10km to go.  Wasn't the best attack I ever did and Aaron bridged the gap to me.  Few more hills had me thinking WTF and did I make the right choice.  Running close on empty Luis only 50 metres behind me.  It did stick although it was not helped by two bad navigation decisions on my part and having to turn back twice.

Myself and Aaron finished together with the same time in 4th and 5th, and I gained 1-2 mins on Luis.  However Peter in front of us must have had storming day.  He's starts 20 mins in front each day and yet had 25 mins on us today.  Ouch !!!

Not sure which GC place I will be tonight but going to need to pull some finger out to keep third in the next three days.

Tomorrow is going to be just as hot and even faster.  We averaged over 27km/h on MTB trails for 166 km today.  Tomorrow is only 99km and flatter again...

By the way lovely hotel !!!

My room is there somewhere

The ice bath with Jose the leader post massage

View from the pool over the rooms.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


5th STAGE / 14 MAY
144 Kms
Climbing - 2186 m

Weather - 36c bloody hot
Stage Place - 4th
Overall Place - 4th or maybe even 3rd !!!

Wow what a day.  You knew it was going to be hot even before it was.  The view from the hotel window about 7am

The plan today was to take it easy until the last big water point at 105km and then push.  The stage is long and the first part fairly easy,  the last 30km however has a sting in the tail and you are always heading up.

Best made plans don't always work.  We lost Jose of the front somewhere near 10km on a smaller hill.  The Energizer bunny is what I've started calling him.  It was just myself, Aarron the Aussie, and Luis left.  We pused on and a few kilometres later Jose was stopped for a wee on the side of the track.  We linked up and Jose put the hammer down.

Big tail wind, but rolling fire roads,  it was hang on or be gone.  We flew past Danny, Edward and co like they were standing still.  We lost Aaron over the rolling hills here somewhere.  We did a quick splash and dash for water at 35km mark and the hammer went down again.  Jose the machine just sat on the front and eased up just a bit on some of the smaller climbs.  The talk was that we could catch Kate and put some big time on her today.  You also know your going hard when you reach for the first Gel at 20km.

At close on 75km or so Jose left us again.  We had just averaged over 31km/h for 2.5 hours on MTB trails !!!  Myself and Luis sat up for a bit of a breather.  Some where Luis had taken a knock to his calf from his pedal and was staying he could not feel his foot.  We hit a check point and stop sign at approx 85km.  I was just about to go when Luis said "water, water".  Stopping for me was not really in the plan for me and I knew I had enough till 105km.  

Its important to ride your own race and I left him to it.  Put the head down and pushed on not to hard in case he came back to me.  What followed was once again a lonely ride.  Just before the water stop I saw Jose just ahead of me.  I was a bit gob smacked, race leader still in sight !  I stopped at the water point and he did not so, I guess he'd just stopped elsewhere.

I took my time at the water point and filled up, lubed the bike, gels out of the back pack and still no one came.  From this point last year Danny took huge chunks of time out of me.  Wasn't going to let it happen this year.  I pushed on through the rolling terrain.  Planned where to take my gels to space them out and get me home.  I caught two guys on the climb, I mean walk if the day.  One of them was Peter the Belgian who is a danger for me on GC since he is strong and gets a lot of time on me each day.  The climb was 500 metres straight up at 25-30%.  The garmin was measuring 36c !!!

I rode the top of the climb and off into the hot day,  I was guessing I was 4th on the road and still hadn't passed Raffelle.  Caught him 10km later and straight past.  The last 15km felt like an eternity,  not much energy and no more Gels.  The last two km were steep and hot and rough cobbles.  Delight to see the finish line and I think my time was almost under the course record !!!

Turns out I was 4th for the stage, and Jose had only caught Kate in the last 500 metres.  She must have had some stage today.  Another Belgian Eric was third after a strong ride.  He was penalised 30 mins yesterday for missing 700 metres of recording on his Garmin.  Luis did not come in for quite some time and he does not look good.  Hobbling around.

Not sure where I am on GC just yet, but it could be close with myself and Luis.  

Tomorrow is the big day, 167km and it forecast to be even hotter.  Fingers and toes crossed all goes well.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


4th STAGE / 13 MAY
107 Kms
Climbing - 1739 m

Weather - max 34c, hot and very windy
Stage Place - officially 3rd, but really 2nd equal
Overall Place - 4th

Wow what a day, I knew what I had to do today,  stay with Luis on the first climb.  Mission acomplished which was helped by him making a small navigation error right at the top.  As usual I was 50 metres behind him.  After this we rode together till we caught Danny, Edgar and Edwardo (no idea how to spell this!!!)

The five of us worked together and fairly evenly shared the pace.  Was a big wind which helped us all to conserve energy.  Luis said he wasn't feeling 100% but hey we all have bad days.  I'm not quite sure where but on a Tarmac climb, Luis and I rode away from them.  We eased up to let them rejoin as it was too far to go on our own with a big wind.  I wasn't sure how much help Luis would be just on our own at it was too early.  The next climb a few kilometres away decided it.

A steep dirt track and at the top the three of them were no where to be seen.  We eased up a bit and got stuck behind a tractor with a load of logs for approx thirty seconds.   We yelled and screamed for ages waiting for a chance to pass.  Danny and co still hadn't arrived so it was time to push on.  

We caught various individuals all on there own in the next hour or so.  I put the hammer down with Luis in tow and pushed the pace on the climbs.  Luis helped in the wind and we made good time.  Luis and I knew we needed to catch Peter who gets a 20 min head start each day.  

In the distance was a very historic town of Monsanto.  Its beautiful.  The coolest thing is there's a steep rough roman track all the way to the top.  Love a challenge and aside from loosing traction at the bottem and having to walk 10 metres it was awesome.  I really pushed the pace up here and just enjoyed it.  We caught Peter walking with his bike and sailed straight past.

The decent was not so cool.  Round a corner and past Agnelo one of the TP photographers and I lost the front wheel.  Not so cool.  No real damage done but important not to crash if you want to finish !!!  This photo is seconds before I crashed.

We stopped for water at the bottem and pushed on.  We spied Kate in the distance on her bike.  Must have taken us a good 10km to get to her though.  We pushed on for the last fifteen kms and a few kms from the end agreed to cross together.  It's always a relief when you spot the village in the distance and know your nearly done.

Tomorrow will be another awesome day !!!

Monday, 12 May 2014


3rd STAGE / 12 MAY
108 Kms
Climbing - 3069 m

Weather - max 32c warm and windy
Stage Place - 4th
Overall Place - I think I moved up to 4th

Not a lot to say about today.  Once again a long lonely ride.

We started at 9am again and the first hill was about 5km from the start.  Jose lead us there all the way.  The climb starts with a 100 metre maybe 22% tester before easing off.  Jose powered ahead and I stayed fairly even with Luis until closer to the top.  Turned around and no one behind me so it was time to push on.

Lovely 4km technical down which consists of big rough roman slabs.  Passed Edgar down here somewhere and found out later he'd had a wee off.  Fortunately nothing damaged on bike or body.

On the first big climb of the day I caught Danny and he was climbing well.  Been telling Danny for a while he can climb but just has to believe it.  Passed them and they came back to me not log after on a big flat.  I wasn't going to stop for water at 35km but did anyway.  Bit of a disaster.  Open the camel bak but manged to let more water out than in.  Trundled off up the road with Danny in pursuit.  Thought they would come back to me so didn't push on too much but didn't see them again.

I came across Peter not long after this.  Tube in hand and his comment was bloody Schwalbe tyres.  I found out later he'd had six punctures to go with the two from yesterday.  I suspect his bike will have two new tyres tomorrow.  A bit unfair to only blame the tyres when the rider has a lot to do with it bit six is a lot!!!  I took over 30 mins out of him and passed him in GC.

On the 2nd big climb of the day I was already in 7th place.  Well that didn't last long...I was 4th by the top.  Even had time for a smile.

Stopped at the bottem of the climb for more water and probably took far to much.  Hate carrying to much extra crap.    That was it really.  On the third climb I was 7mins behind Luis at the bottem and arrived 8mins behind him at the finish.  Tomorrow will be another good day !!!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Trans Portugal, DAY2, FREIXO - GUARDA

2nd STAGE / 11 MAY
110 Kms
Climbing - 2134 m

Weather - 29c and sunny
Stage Place - 3rd
Overall Place - I think still 5th

Wow, what a day.

Started at 10am today with the other 17 riders in my bunch.  We rounded the corner from the start line straight to a small testing hill that's maybe 18% and there was only 4 of us left.  Not long after this Jose ( the leader) was gone with Luis in hot pursuit.  I let an Aussie do the chasing and we caught Luis before the next climb.

Luis pedalled away again in the climb but I stuck with Aaron the Aussie who was setting an ok pace.  We caught Luis at the top after he had turned the wrong way and it was down to the most technical part of the day.  Luis rode away from me on the tarmac road before we even got there.

Took the descent nice and easy and passed a load of riders.  That would include the leader Jose who was walking...that felt good !  Passed a walking Edgar and caught Danny on the short climb on the other side.  Which is more of a walk really except I was running...

We regrouped a bit and Jose steam rolled past.  We jumped onto the back of him and chased down Luis and just before the climb we were back together.

A climb in a valley which they call the oven was about 5km long.  It's typically a lot hotter than the surroundings but this year it wasn't so bad.  Aaron was climbing in front of me so I let him get on.   We rode together from here till the castle ruins.  This basically marks the top of the hardcore climbing.  I'd said I'd wait since he appeared to be strong on the flats and  I thought we could make some good time.

Splash and dash with a quick lube of the bike and me yelling at Aaron to get a move on.  He said he was ready so I left only not to see him.  I pushed on and he came back to me 5 km later.  We hit this simple track which was a bit rough and he was gone.

So I pushed on.  Basically lots of single riders, a few jumped on my tail but unless they are prepared to pace and draft me they are just baggage.  Got rid of most of them within 2-3km of meeting them today.

At about 85km a rider in the distance was spotted.  Turned out to be Luis going quite slowly.  He had crashed at 70km and was not in the best shape.  Blood dripping from his nose and just said he was not feeling the best.  I pushed on but Luis is too good for me to get rid of like the rest.  We came across the 3rd place GC just before the technical climb.  I went straight past and gave it some.  Pretty much lost him straight away.  We knew at this point there was only two riders in front.  It was a going to be a good day.

I managed to cross the line 3rd with Luis in tow.  Turns out the Belgain (3rd on GC) had 2 punctures.  I don't trust Some tyres and below picture will show why...all had the same brand fitted.

The bike was good but has a new headset on it overnight.  The old was shot to pieces.  All that in just 18months of owning the bike.

Seems like my training program and hard work over the last few months is starting to pay off.  Dinner and sleep calls and we are into the Portugese mountains tomorrow.