In May Sigma Sports collaborated with Delucci Retreat and Skyroad Granfondo to offer one lucky winner the chance to enjoy a 4 night stay in Portugal and entry into this year's Skyroad Granfondo courtesy of Delucci Retreat, a purpose-designed cycling and triathlon training base situated in the mountains of Central Portugal.
The winner was Paul Cummings, a rider from Dorking Cycling Club in Surrey, who although had only been cycling for two years, was keen to head out and see what cycling in Portugal had to offer.
"Wow. What a few days. The Delucci Retreat is a real treat for cyclists looking to put in some hard miles to build strength and especially those looking for climbing practice (don’t go there if you just want to ride on flat land, as there is very little of that). Food and accommodation are first rate and Gary is a very knowledgeable guide, providing excellent tips to improve and finding roads with hardly a car on all day. A very welcoming visit allowed me to focus on riding and absolutely nothing else, as everything was looked after for me. Give it a try – you won’t regret it, though you might have doubts on some of the big hills when the sun is hot, the heart is pounding and the legs are screaming – I know I did.
To give you some idea of the riding, for a warm up on the day we arrived, we rode about 60km with 1200m of ascent and saw about 3 cars all ride. Biggest day was 120km with 2400m of ascent and finishing with a Cat 2 climb, which nearly finished me. Every day was 200m of climbing for every 10km rode, so plenty of elevation. Roads were good, better surfaced than Surrey, not hard I know, and remarkably car free, with some wonderful stops for coffee and cakes in little villages to take away the pain. Gary had excellent patience and would either ride with you or ride ahead and then wait at the top or any road junctions, depending on your preference. I like to suffer alone, so he left me to slog up hills solo. For the flatter sections I sat on either Niall’s or his wheel when we had the hammer down.
The Skyroad Granfondo Serra da Estrela takes in some of the greatest and most charismatic cycling scenery of Portugal. Serra da Estrela (it can be translated as - “Star Mountain”) is 1,993 metres high, with road access to the summit and is the biggest mountain in the country.
The Granfondo was more like a race than a UK sportive, with closed roads in the start town and up to the mountains. There were loads of spectators out cheering on the riders right through the town and up the through the suburbs. We soon burst out onto the mountains and what beautiful mountains they were. The climbs are unbelievable – you can’t do 20km climbs around Surrey, though you could try 10 climbs of Box Hill to get the same sort of feel. A memorable event, even if my race was closed at the last food station due to high winds and torrential rain meaning a lot of people dropped out and the timing kit couldn’t be set up for the mountain top finish. This was a shame as I was absolutely loving it, having listened to Gary and conserved my energy when all around me were blowing up on the hills. I always love it on the rare occasions that I overtake people on hills, not to mention the occasional chance to put the hammer down and blast past so many people on the flat. We even had the chance of riding on 500m of pave through one town, not an experience to enjoy, but definitely one every cyclist should have. Shame the only wet day was on race day, but that's the luck of the draw, even Portugal has the occasional rainy day.
So, massive thanks to Sigma Sports and the Delucci Retreat for enabling me to have such a fun yet tiring break."
Garry (Flash) of Delucci Retreat and fellow rider David Shepherd are about to do a epic charity ride from Portugal to the Specialized Concept Store in Kingston. The Concept Store have sponsored them by providing two Specialized Tricross bikes, which will be used to carry them and all the equipment they need for the ride.
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