Distance : 172km
Elevation gain: 2975m
An earlier start this morning meant that riders did most of the preparation the night before: 8:30am was the official start time. Although today was a long day it had no major climbs or technical sections. The three small climbs it did have were on cobblestones, so they were rideable, and two were at kilometre three and seven – so just as we were leaving Castelo De Vide.
From the descent after the second climb the trails were very quick and the only thing slowing riders down were gates that needed to be opened and closed. If a rider was seen not closing a gate it was an ‘immediate’ disqualification offence!
Portugal has had a very wet winter and this has caused severe rutting on some of the jeep tracks that have been used by trucks or tractors, as the mud sets with very deep grooves in it. This caused all sorts of problems for even the most experienced riders. The leader and a few of the pack had falls – these were the kind of falls that happen all of a sudden so there is no time to prepare before hitting the ground. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.
At 125km in the final climb broke up the undulating course. This climb went straight up through the arches of a live-in castle at Evoramonte. This gave riders a 360 degree view of the surrounding land as we passed through the castle’s old streets. The next 48km was again fast and relatively easy to ride, although soft sand definitely knows how to take the wind out of the average speed.
I had another great ride today and dealt with the distance better than I anticipated (I have never ridden more than 160km). The leading pack decided early on that it wasn’t a ‘race’ day, which meant I got to mingle with some of them as we were making our way to Evora – the local riders and the Belgiums are really supportive and seemed quite happy to have someone tag on.
Tomorrow is definitely classified as the easiest day of the stage race – 107km with only 1296m climbing. Everyone is hoping that the late start (11am) and the lack of climbing will give their bodies time to recuperate as stage 8 is back to lots of distance, climbing and technical riding. Breakfast is calling – I think the hotel is still in shock after the amount of food we all consumed last night. I wonder what they have for us this morning!
1st: Greg Anderson (RSA) 7:44:50
2nd: Ricardo Melo (POR) 7:58:56
3rd: Milan Spolc (CZE) 8:03:42