It’s 6:22am and I’m sitting in the quiet lobby of the Sana Malhoa hotel in Lisbon drinking the world’s tiniest coffee (I believe it’s called an espresso here) and trying to get a few words out on my report before the gang wakes up. It’s hard to get too excited about writing this report now, because I’m feeling kind of woozy from travelling for the best part of 24 hours and still sort of in a state of disbelief that I’m actually here and this race is only a couple of days away and it’s finally going to happen.
There has been so much to get ready and so much to plan that when the time finally arrives it’s sort of a shock to the system. Not a bad shock exactly, but a shock none the less.
In an hour or so breakfast will begin and there will be a minor stampede of riders to feed, to catch up and to be on point for the start of the party. Today is a long, relaxing day, one which last time round in 2015 was a great chance to see the city for the first time with friends from BC. We enjoyed a memorable dinner at a very famous seafood restaurant whose name I’ve forgotten with a whole gang of riders, including several from the Carmichael training group.
The trip this time was as painless and comfortable as could be expected, given that I’m a relative cheapskate in the travel stakes. I upgraded a little to Premium Economy, which on British Airways is totally worth it, given that it included all my extra bags, gave me a significantly bigger seat than the tiny one in economy on their 787’s and most important of all allowed a few hours extra sleep.
I met my dad at Heathrow for a breakfast catch-up and we enjoy a few hours there, working our way through a “magnifico” breakfast where the server insists on calling Bacon Pancetta for some reason, but is nice enough and keeps us fueled with coffee and almost fresh orange juice. I try and bargain for one of their delightful little coffee cups, getting a smile from the barista when my bid hits twenty quid.
Heathrow is of course a great airport to watch planes from and we get lucky with an Emirates A380 aborted landed in front of our very eyes, which you don’t see every day. Calculated fuel cost of a go-around? 12,000 pounds? Blame it on the Air Canada 777 slow to leave the end of the runway. When the A380 comes back for the 2nd landing it’s amazing to see how quickly it covers the length of the runway. This plane does not brake quickly.
I also learn you can ride on the Heathrow Express for free between T5 and T3 which is a very cheap and very short joyride and much faster than the airside bus which I usually end up using to transit between the two terminals.
For the second leg of my journey, it’s a bus ride over the Andes. A zoo just getting on the Lisbon flight. It’s like being with a different airline, even though I’m still with BA. The plane is jammed full, and we all have two bags, so I have to check my wheelie and pray it makes it with my computer and electronics. Modern travel stress is never about the actual chances of arrival, only the small odds that you’ll lose something which requires power to make it work.
I sleep pretty much from wheels up to wheels down and it’s a pleasantly bumpy ride most of the way down. We land and it’s somewhat cool and breezy in Lisbon when we deplane to the tarmac. After being humiliated on the passport scanning machine when the camera breaks it’s a relief that my bike box is only 10 minutes behind me after arriving at the baggage hall. All my gear has made it in good shape, so there’s no escaping the ride now. Will have to come up with something more ingenious to avoid the race.
I often have this anti-feeling before a big event. A silent self-sabotage moment, when I think about all the possibilities open to me, all the places I could go now instead of plunging headlong into the planned adventure. I guess it’s the lure of the open road and the promise of the unknown. Straight ahead lies 8 days of endurance racing with all its highs and lows. In any other direction lies something much less arduous. You can see the attraction too right?
My friend from the race organization is there, and with three other riders I meet from SA/London we head to the hotel, dropping our bikes in the organization truck en route. Will be assembling them tomorrow afternoon in Chaves at the start of the race. Personally I’d be much more comfortable being there today to do that but it’s not an option without independent arrangements, so I’ll suffer this little stress.
The hotel here in Lisbon is very nice and everyone is accommodating. The buffet last night was delicious and only slightly overpriced. From Turkey stuffed with nuts to Red Mullet to cheesecakes and watermelon for desert all washed down with Sagres beer it’s a good feed. I hit everything twice.
My room’s window is thrown open when I get upstairs, I shower and hit the bed and sleep deeply until 5am the next morning, woken only by the sounds of freight aircraft taking off directly over my head.
It’s my kind of nice way to relax.