Starting in Bragança on the 1 May 2010 and ending in Sagres 9 days later, the Transportugal is undoubtedly one of the toughest mountain bike stage races around. This is a true ‘trans’ event as riders traverse the entire length of Portugal, North to South.
Averaging 125 kms a day and 2700m climbing a day (139km with 3800m climbing on day one) is no mean feat for anyone that has a normal day job, but doing it without feed stations or support and with only a GPS to guide one makes this event even more challenging.
In the last rider communication email, 9 days before the start, we were giving a very interesting bit of news – I quote: “Looking out the window you would imagine it is still January. Non-stop rain, temperatures that won’t go up and the wind blowing hard on the blossoming flowers – the only sign that Spring in upon us.
“We predict this will be the toughest Transportugal Garmin ever. Not only will the racers have to tackle the Serra da Estrela tracks on the 3rd stage, but also the badly eroded trails, muddy from the Winter rain and which will probably not dry completely until the race.’ Gone are my dreams of escaping to paradise!
Last year 38 riders (out of 68) completed every km of the course, so the drop out rate is extremely high – I don’t see why this year would be any different given that there is an additional 151km to ride and we are facing the aftermath of a wet winter. The majority of the field are local riders with a good showing from South Africa and Belgium. I am hoping that a late entry might double the number of British riders considering I am the only one currently listed.
The Transportugal Garmin has a slightly different approach to the ‘standard’ stage race. Firstly, it’s not a team event, which is unusual for long stage races. Secondly, the event is over 9 days, which is a couple of days longer then the usual 7 or 8 day stage race. Thirdly, riders stay in hotels each evening, so there is no camping at all, which must be the reason the participant field is kept to approximately 60. Finally, there is no support (feed stations or mechanics) provided en route – if support is needed for whatever reason then a time penalty will be awarded to the rider!
This all sounds like it could make for an amazing and very interesting race, or slog, depending on how fit, strong and mentally sound a rider is before, during and after each stage. Fortunately bike mechanics, who are going to have their hands full considering this years weather report, are provided as a service and there are masseurs available for riders that need their engines rejuvenated – so in theory each morning everything should be in one piece.
If at all possible i.e. if there is an Internet connection and/or I am still able to keep my eyes open, the intention is to send through a daily report with pictures to give you an insider’s view of the event from a riders, organisers and spectators perspective. At the very least I am sure it will give you something to laugh, cry or cringe about.
Riders are booked in to stay at the hotel in Bragança from the 29 April 2010. This gives us a full day before the race starts to register, tweak bikes, make friends and begin the daily routine. I will try and send through details of a few riders, their kit and some other interesting stuff.