The first G!RO blog…we have been putting together a selection of amazing contributors from all walks of life for our G!RO blogs, and are very excited to see what comes from them. I did however feel it fitting to kick the G!RO blog off myself; Leading from the front so to speak. Well, here we go…I hope you enjoy.
With the opening of G!RO just around the corner, my wife and I decided to take a quick break down to the warmth and rest of Portugal…There was however one requisite to the holiday…My bike was making the journey with us. A decision I have not regretted in the slightest. Feeling so inspired by the riding out here, I felt it necessary to share the experiences with you.
With some close friends of ours based just outside of Cascais, we decided to spend a couple days with them, staying away from the typical tourist traps, substituted for genuine local culture and Portuguese life. Our wonderful hosts spent the first day showing us around Cascais and the surrounding areas. Whereas most would be happy to absorb the views and enjoy the picturesque setting, I was very much using the impromptu tour to plan out and plot the next morning’s ride.
Whilst the Mrs. lay sleeping in our hotel I set off quite early on my trusty steed. The route took me out of Carcavelos, along the Ave. Marginal that hugs the Atlantic coastline through Cascais and then heads north towards Guincho. Of all the morning rides I have done, I'm not sure you can beat a ride that eases you in along a beautiful coastline hosting sandy beaches and the crashing waves of the Atlantic. It was almost hypnotic. At Guincho I reached a nice, steady climb that wraps around the hills coming straight out of the Atlantic. As you get higher and higher the views become more and more striking…at few points on the climb are you not in view of the ocean and the valleys surrounding. Stunning. Surrey Hills have some work to do to match this feeling. At the summit of the climb, I turned left down the fast, windy roads that lead to Europe’s most western point – Cabo Da Roca. The pacey descent was rewarded with some breathtaking views of the vastness of the Atlantic. I must admit I did enjoy the odd looks from the hoards of tourists flocking to see the views that the end of Europe had to offer. I felt very much the serious cyclist taking in the sites on 2 wheels and flouro-lycra! Perhaps. Time to turn around and head back…Up the steep switchbacks of the Estrada Do Cabo Da Roca, and back down into Guicho, and onto Cascais.
Whilst it may have not have been the most challenging ride I have done, it was memorable for the sheer coastal beauty of the uttermost Western point of Europe. If you get the chance to take a bike out to Portugal, I recommend it highly!
Leaving Cascais we decided to spend a night in the Algarve mountain town of Monchique. I had no idea what awaited us when we arrived.
Having been to Portugal many times, I had only seen the holiday destinations where there seems to be more Brits than locals sadly. Monchique was an absolute revelation. The drive there took us through 50 or so miles on unspoiled mountain roads and valleys, with staggering views that I did not know Portugal had to offer. We kept having to stop the car to take pictures of these stunning vistas. The ride for the following morning was planned without having to look at a map!
With GoPro and energy gels in hand, at 7am I set off from our hotel…There was not a flat costal road to warm up and ease in to the ride… It was a challenging 10km climb through the town of Monchique and out to the hills beyond. What a wake up call! Reaching the summit, you are presented with views that take your breath away….miles and miles of green mountain tops, laced with the morning mist, accentuated with the morning sun. I don’t think any drug can beat the feeling of riding down the windy roads that hug the terrain, with the Monchique mountains as your backdrop. Each corner opened out to another view; each view showed you another part of this ever magical descent.
Finally I reached the valley below. As I entered a sleepy little village - that I’m sure had a population close to 50 - I again was presented with some funny looks from the stereotypical locals sitting out on their porches enjoying their daily morning coffee. Still buzzing from that 20km descent, it was time to promptly turn around to tackle the 20km return climb, leaving the locals to gaze at something else.
Of all the aspects of cycling, climbing is what I enjoy most. The feeling of achievement coupled with the physical exertion upon reaching the summit of a climb is something few things can parallel in my view. I have not had many opportunities to tackle lengthy climbs like the one that loomed ahead, but I was genuinely excited at what the next 45 minutes would bring.
I won’t bore you with the details of each corner…but half way into the climb something very striking dawned on me – I had not seen a single car! It’s true. I had been presented with this beautiful morning ride as a gift that I could enjoy all on my own: no cars; no trucks; nobody else. Just me, my bike, and the beauty and sounds of the Monchique mountains. In fact by the time I reached the town of Monchique I had counted 3 cars. That’s one car an hour. If only Surrey would bless us with such a gift.
It’s a very rare thing to be left speechless by something. But that ride around Monchique on that morning left me truly speechless. I felt absolutely spoilt. Each Kilometer was special. Each corner was one I won’t forget. Each view will be a memory I wont let go of. Riding through the serenity of those mountains, all set to the backdrop of views that few places can match, I was reminded of why I ride my bike. The physical exertion you put into such a ride is replaced with the euphoria of riding at peace through such a tranquil setting. The truth is on that bike on that day, there was nowhere else I would rather have been. That’s why I ride. Thank you Monchique. I will return.
I’m looking forward to what the next few days of riding will uncover down here if the last few days are anything to go by. Portugal is a beautiful country with beautiful people and beautiful riding. It may not have the cycling prestige of the alps or the dolomites - nor the alpine terrain - but you are very much spoilt as far as scenery, empty roads and peace. The bike will be making the journey again.
Co-owner, G!RO Cycles