Seriuos cycling started today with an 85 km ride scheduled. After a great breakfast where I was able to request fried eggs instead of scrambled we left the Marble mansion and started on our first long ride. The road led uphill initially before settling into an undulating route. Most times when the road turned upwards Maree quickly became frustrated with the slow pace and would move to the front. Since my 'contract' with her required me to ride nearby I was forced to follow suit. As we started on the downhills we would inevitably be passed by the other riders who were more comfortable with descending. On the level the US riders were usually able to keep a steady pace and stay ahead of us. Our Australian friend, Colin, can be a nuisance as he loves to talk and always rides alongside someone else forming a sort of rolling block which means that we have to cross to the other side of the road to get past.
Rob, the younger bloke, disappeared into the distance and was only seen at the first van stop and at lunchtime. As he has a GPS with maps he is able to ride as he pleases which makes him much happier. The first van stop was after 33km and was located in a square of a sleepy village where there were no obvious shops. Cristina set up a table with snacks and fruit as well as extra water. Nearby there was a clean toilet block and, amazingly, a communal laundry area. This consisted of a number of washing troughs which were clearly used by the locals, some clothes hanging lines even a couple of cages with budgies. We could imagine the ladies of the village congregating there for washing and socialising.
A little way along our junior guide, Ricardo, suffered the first 'mechanical' of the ride by breaking a spoke in his rear wheel. By easing off his rear brake he was able to continue. Luckily there is a bike shop in Crato the nearest town to our hotel. At 60 km we rolled into another, slightly larger, village which had a bar open. Cristina had organised a table of drinks, cakes and other snacks for us. The bar also made ham and cheese rolls so we all chose one for lunch. The total cost was 5 euro per person which was probably a bit high but it must have been great business for the bar for that day. They also charged us 1 euro for an espresso coffee where the usual charge is only 0.65 euro.
By this stage Maree was still feeling fine with only a little soreness in her legs. My sit bones were hurting a bit due, most probably, to an unfamiliar seat. We had 25 or so kilometres to go as we continued past vast vineyards and olive groves. In places bare paddocks had been cultivated in preparation for new planting season and we saw a brand new vineyard and brand new olive grove with the plants still wearing their plastic wrappers. The only point of interest in this last section was the town of Alter de Chao which had a castle in the Main Street of the town rather than high above the town. During the final ascent to the Pousada (hotel) Maree was badly frustrated by the extremely slow pace of the riders in front so she upped the electric support and climbed steadily away - naturally I followed. We passed Bruce and Jose when they stopped for photos and continued uphill to our destination. We arrived a good 15 minutes before anyone else apart of Rob who had been riding alone.
The Pousada is built around the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Flor da Rosa which was first built here in the 14 th C probably as a fortified church/estate. After its abandonment in 1834 the monastery gradually fell into disrepair as its stones were taken away by the locals for their houses and gardens. In recent times it has been restored and work is still going on. In addition new wings were added to turn this into a Pousada or luxury hotel. Soon after arriving I sat by the pool, it was 27 degrees, and then on the spur of the moment I jumped in fully dressed in my cycling gear much to the amusement of the US riders. It was after I had washed my clothes and was taking them out to hang on an outside railing that I had you first accident. Thinking that I was going through an open doorway I walked straight into a glass door which fortunately proved to be stronger than I. I suspect that I will have a lump on my forehead by tomorrow. I guess if this was Australia I should sue the hotel for not clearly marking the window or perhaps I should just open my eyes. Although the day got a bit warm towards the end it was quite satisfying for Maree to have ridden the distance with only a little help from her electric friends. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and consisted of a nice lentil soup followed by octopus rice and a selection of desserts.