It was supposed to be a fine day this morning but we woke to a light drizzle. As we ate breakfast everyone hoped that by the time we were ready to leave the sun would have made an appearance. No such luck! At 9:30 as we were ready to roll the light drizzle became a little heavier so everyone was wearing waterproofs which, fortunately, had dried overnight. The first stop was scheduled in 24 kilometres and I was hoping to get rid of my jacket by then. In fact the drizzle lasted only long enough to thoroughly wet the road which meant that the backs of our shorts, our socks and our shoes got wet again. However our first stop was about 200m down the road when Bruce realised Maree's back tyre was flat. She stopped while Bruce when on to let Jose know. Riccardo stopped to fix the flat while the others waited down the road. An additional complication came when the rim tape came out with the tube and Ricardo had to gently replace it. We couldn't find any hole in the tube so either it is a very slow leak or one of the US team let the tyre down in an attempt to slow Maree down. It is great to have such good roadside support.
The first part of the route went through some increasingly industrial landscapes with many more buildings than on previous days. The towns were more frequent as well. At the first stop we grabbed some food and got rid of our waterproofs. The US contingent then started asking questions about Fatima and Jose started answering them instead of resuming the ride. After what seemed like ages Maree and I decided to head off using my Garmin to follow the route. On the way we picked up Todd who had also left early.
Jose had warned us that there was a big climb, just as steep as the one to Marvao. Soon enough we reached the base of the climb so Maree cranked up the electrics and off she went. Todd and I stayed together for a bit but he is a much slower climber than I and eventually I got far ahead of him. Meanwhile Maree was pulling away strongly and I soon lost sight of her around a bend. The next time I saw her, Maree was just going around a bend at the end of a long straight. Out of curiosity I noted the time it took me to reach the same point - three minutes. As this was just over halfway up the hill I reckon that by the time she reached the top Maree was five minutes ahead. This proved to be a problem because the route took a right turn just before the top of the climb. When I realised this I sped up as much as I could and hoped that Maree had not continued to descend the other side. As it happened she had only gone about 500 metres beyond the turn off and was waiting for me. We retraced our route and waited for the rest to turn up which took about 15 minutes. Of course, it's not a race ....
A few more ups and downs led us to Fatima where we took a brief look at the enormous square in which celebrations take place before riding to our restaurant for lunch. Almost everyone opted for soup and a few of us requested a toasted sandwich. The waiter tried to dissuade us by saying that it would take a long time because they had to heat up the toaster, but I and some other persisted. The soups came quite quickly and we had all finished before the first tosta mistas began to appear, they were worth waiting for. After lunch we took a short ride to a Grott which turned out to be limestone caves. I was a bit offhand about visiting but it turned out that these were very well presented with some interesting features and complete columns. The lighting effects were particularly well done as were their water features. After the guided tour and talk we were invited in to the souvenir shop to try a nice sweet wine, included in the entry price. Todd couldn't resist and had to buy a bottle which Jose gallantly offered to carry back to the hotel in his back pack. What more could you ask of your ride leader?
The rest of the trip went quite quickly as there was a long, long descent from Fatima and then some gentle undulations to a very new **** hotel. We are here for two nights so we will be able to get some serious washing done. Unfortunately tomorrow is Monday and the local musea are all closed however the gigantic monastery should be open for a visit. Dinner was another buffet and I resisted temptation somewhat by only having one main course and dessert. Some of the others had soup, a plate of salad and another of hot food as well as dessert.