Our initial meeting point was by the monument on Avenida Dom Carlos I. We had a few minutes to receive our group ride instructions and safety advice before selecting a bicycle from the 30 available and donning the obligatory plastic splat-hat. What then ensued was a 'blender of cyclists' trying out their new steeds by riding round in circles on a side street - it looked like a bicycle-ballet but without choreography.
We then followed a beautiful smooth red cycle path along the coast for 3km until the turning for Rua Golfe where we started to climb gently away from the sea, through residential streets.
For a short section at 10% we quickly gained 30m and then continued to gently ride upwards for another 20m ascent, to the highest point on the route with a view north towards the serious hills of the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. In our group most riders were in jeans and a thermal sports top, so during this first climb some of my friends became a bit heated. Although the group started to split a little here, with the strongest surging ahead, it was nice that we kept stopping to regroup and nobody was left behind. Each stop was only for a moment because the rear of the peloton was never far from the front.
Graeme and Massimiliano with Ian and Yvonne right behind us. Photo taken by Bas.
The group was full of smiling happy riders. I was concerned that everyone was comfortable and safe, so I rode up and down the line a bit just asking. It was clear that on this hill one or two people were heating up a bit, but there wasn't any doubt that they were enjoying themselves. Within the group were several very experienced cyclists such as Yvonne and Ian.
We crested the highest point of the ride and began the fast descent of the Rua Areia with the high hills and rocky coast filling the horizon ahead. There was a significant headwind and it was clear that Luis and Herlander had intelligently brought us the hilly route into the wind to shelter us as much as possible, because we clearly had a tailwind for the return section.
We stopped for a rest opposite the bizarre looking Hotel Fortaleza Do Guincho perched dramatically on the cliff edge. The wind was blowing from the Atlantic into our faces and the steep sided cliffs looked hazardous - so of course we began scrambling around on them and taking photographs. I collected a lot more than I've selected for this journal entry and uploaded them for my friends to view.
My friend Bas, from the Netherlands - he was having no problem with the hills!
Once we'd posed for the group photo we returned to the red cycle path and headed south and east along the edge of the N247. The path was a struggle from time to time as sand dunes had attempted to retake the road, so occasionally we found riders taking the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic to get around the sand blocked path. I have noticed that groups behave with less general awareness than individuals. I doubt an individual cyclist would stay in the road on the wrong side for a long time, but somehow this didn't seem a problem while together. This MTB was doing a fine job and I was really comfortable.
We rode for the final 10km entirely on the cycle path, ever so slightly downhill with a howling tailwind. We could see the difficulty oncoming riders were experiencing and this made it all the more pleasurable that the early hills had given us a chance to complete the route as a circular ride and with the strongest of finishes. With 20km covered in 90 minutes at an average of 17kph we had really enjoyed a great afternoon cycling without killing ourselves while getting to see some wonderful places.
Our ride leaders - the most excellent Luis and Herlander
...and Luis' rather technically exciting and light Cannondale Scalpel with Lefty fork