The racing calendar is awash with new stage races this year. Marathon and multi day racing continues to show healthy growth. Pretorian Bike Race is a new event from an established organiser and the event offered a 3 day adventure in a part of Portugal waiting to be explored. About 1hr30 north east of Porto airport the event offers easy access and good amenities with high quality hotels, well stocked shops, tasty restaurants and quaint little cafes for a post-race hot chocolate and cake.
Essential refuelling after the last stage. The race has amenities.
Numbers boards waiting for collection.
Day 1 dawned with a chilly morning and the chance of snow, the weather in Europe is still not finished with winter. Ahead lay an 11km action packed timetrial. From the start ramp the course went into a roller coaster ride first taking on the narrow winding cobbled streets of Vila Pouca de Aguiar before popping out onto the cyclepath towards Pedras Selgadas. This was the fast route to the trails and riders weren't hanging around, fastest gear, all out power. Pull the handbrake, sharp left turn and you were on the trails heading into the hills. It had been raining a lot in the morning and there was some water on the ground but mud was minimal, these trails were made for mountain biking. Climb getting steeper, can hear people cheering, must be near the top, push the pace up again. OK, breath and prepare, here comes the descent, mostly wide tracks perfect for overtaking but crazy fast. Avoid the ruts and you were quickly down off the hills into the streets of Pedras Selgadas. The legs are screaming but job done, over the finish line.
Snow in Portugal!!???!!?
Overnight the weather turned for the worse with a huge drop of snow making the marathon course due to be used on day 2 inaccessible. It simply wasn't safe to be racing. It was announced we'd be repeating the timetrial from the previous day instead but later in the day so a few of the Brit's went for a little road ride to check out the snow. What a great place to ride, we spent the next few hours snapping pictures and taking in the views. The roads and scenery were simply amazing, it felt like we were seeing the real Portugal as we rode through tiny sleepy villages. We rode on the road around the area that day’s stage was meant to have taken place, the roads had been cleared but the trails were buried under a thick layer of powdery snow. I’m already excited to ride this spectacular stage next year.
Stage 1 Prologue. Photo James Mitchell Photography.
Day 3 was a short marathon day and with most of the snow gone we rode a modified stage which lost 10km of trails from the original route which were at high altitude. Even if the trails were clear it was freezing out there with lots of water on course. The race started up the main climb of the day, immediate suffering suffering suffering. I didn't have the best start but by the top was latched onto the back of a group in about 10th to 15th position with another group of 5 just ahead. Once over the top of the big climb I could recover and was feeling positive even after taking a little swim in a muddy puddle! Moving on up through the group, catching more riders ahead, feeling good. Then no course markings, someone had removed an arrow on a corner. 50 50, do we go left or right. Left down the hill, wrong decision, about 30 people grouped together including race lead Tiago Ferriera whilst we consulted Garmin's. With the weather modified course we hadn’t been following the original GPX sent out so it wasn't clear where we'd all gone wrong.
Sorting out my Kalas race kit and some extra waterproofs. Photo James Mitchell Photography.
We backtracked but the race was ruined. Gutted because we had a race on today, I was moving up into the top 10 before the course arrows disappeared. Gutted for the organisation who got some bad luck with the snowy weather on day 2 and then course sabotage on day 3. This event is run by a reputable organiser with big future plans. They have delivered year after year at Meda 100 which is part of the UCI World Marathon Series and I'm sure the Pretorian Race will be a huge success in the future.
What a place to ride. Photo James Mitchell Photography.
The unstoppable Tiago Ferriera of DMT Racing Team proved once again why he’s former World Champion and current European Champion. Tiago won both stage 1 and 2 in style to take the overall classification. We can’t wait for a showdown later in the season between the kings of marathon racing, Tiago and Alban Lakata. In second place was Mario Costa of the Brújula Bike Racing Team and close behind in third was Jose Dias (DMT Racing Team). In the women’s race Naima Deisner of DMT Racing Team took victory ahead of British rider Kerry Macphee and Jonana Monteiro of the Brújula Bike Racing Team.
Heading home. Thanks for the adventure Portugal.