Eine Extrawurst verlangen  – please!

I need my concierge, need my massage – before I get out of bed. Somebody dry me when I get out of the shower and cream me up please. I am slumming it in luxury here guys! Sleep last night was ok, nothing amazing on my little cot. All the rooms in Portugal so far have been really decent size, but the beds are always so small. Can’t roll over without bumping into my roomie. He’s a great guy, but a bit hairy for my taste in morning love.

I feel the equivalent of jet lagged and hung over. It’s hard to focus on simple tasks. Small talk has become a Hilary Step in my voice box. Thankfully I am able to stomach the buffet this morning for the delicious bacon and eggs. Appetite back. So relieved.

It’s raining. Not a little. A lot. Cows float by on the overflow. We huddle in the hotel parking lot like fearful flies, scared to venture forth. It’s raining hard enough that we can barely see 100 feet. Or our own feet. The start line is several kms from the hotel, and by the time we’ve gone 100 meters are soaked to the skin. It’s still rush hour in Evora and people look at us like we’re insane, which is clearly an accurate assessment.

Arriving at the start we find the wave before us still hiding under a tarp farting and telling bad jokes giving the place the atmosphere of a student camping holiday.

This was a very bad stage for me last time. It’s hard not to think about it and worry a little as we get closer to check point 2. Where Louis’ smiling face is ever encouraging. Hard to access power, still feeling very weak and recovering from crash, dehydrated and bruised. Purple pain.

For me, like last time this proves to be the most mentally challenging stage. It’s windy, it’s wet on the ground, the trails are not inspiring and the clouds hang low enough to obscure the horizon. It’s very hard to find motivation.

The first hour is a hideous suffer fest. Glasses fog over quickly and get cradled for the most part, allowing mud and grit into my eyes. The second hour is the same without quite so much rain.

My legs are back a bit, but it’s a deep, deep well to them and my transmission shaft feels to be thin like dental floss. I start to lose awareness of where I am on the trail, and just simply pedal, mile after mile.

I have my “new” hydration that tastes vaguely medicinal, but it seems to be doing the job. I eat my toothpaste sized gels and spend as much saddle time slurping and chewing this morning as anything else.

Our fast friend Trevor from KTM has snapped his chain, and when he passes me has a long of imminent ninja assassination about him. We’re all fighting the wind again on the big open sections. Sucks to have to deal with mechanicals. Cold fingers and muddy conditions not good for trail side repairs.

Fortunately my tires hold up and there’s no repeat of 2015’s double puncture / double crash. Actually, my equipment has been pretty much bullet proof. I would still love to get rid of the small hydro pack, and the front feeding pouch on my handlebar is a bit rubbish. Otherwise no issues at all. Big thanks to the guys at Martin Swiss for setting up this bike so well.

Only stop today for water tap once and avoid all shops, cafes. The route is pretty flat and given my cryo-tube mentality, is over before I know it.

The finish line is quite remote again today. I like this hotel, and the isolation suits this race well. The hotel is soon strewn with laundry on the property line fence. The pool and bar quickly fill. I’m still feeling decidedly puffy faced and head for a relaxing massage with Metallica blasting in the background. Pretty good sensory overload. I dream of an IV. Or a vitamin D shot. Or Keith Richard’s doctor.

Dinner is fun, I try some local digestifs, a lot of local ice cream, and basically stuff my face repeatedly at another excellent buffet. We have an entertaining table, and there’s a lot of vulgarity letting off steam as per usual. At one point I am laughing so hard I almost choke on my food, which is clearly a sign of a very good time.

I’d love to say I hit the sack and slept deeply but the opposite happens – tossing and turning and not in the good way. Once again am tempted to take sleeping pill, but hold off hoping sleep will come, which of course it eventually does.