The end of stage of day one is a logistical nightmare. We are in very rural Portugal close to the Spanish border in the largest village for 50km but it’s still quite small. There is no single hotel to house all the athletes so the organization uses multiple hotels with shuttle buses as needed to and from the finish line. Combine that with riders coming in approximately 1 hour or more later than expected, motorcycles getting stuck in the mud and a vehicle breakdown preventing staff from getting to the finish line and it’s no wonder the race staff are under extreme stress.
17:30 – Currently I am sitting at the finish line watching the first riders come in. The first massage was supposed to begin approximately 60 minutes ago but the riders are much slower than expected because of the wet conditions. Originally, I had agreed to work for 2 hours per day. I will work later tonight to help out as much as possible.
It will be a late night for everyone, especially the mechanics. The bikes are coming in covered in mud and almost unrecognizable.
In other years at this race, the front runners usually get off the bikes looking like they could ride another 50km. Not this year, most of them look haggard.
17:50 – Tom rolls into the finish line in approximately 31st place. Everything is absolutely coated in gritty mud. He is tired but good. 9 hours on the bike.
21:00 – My last massage of the night is finished, riders are still coming in in the dark.
The morning after…
Tom and I awoke to a beautiful view of the Douro and surrounding hills.
Given all of the challenges of the day, the race organization did an excellent job managing the situation. The mechanics were up most of the night dealing with all the problems that come with riding your bike through gritty mud for 8 plus hours. The formal massage team finished at approximately midnight.
Today should not be as wet and cold. But the ground is still soaked and flooded in places. It’s going to be another long day for both staff and racers. The mood at the start line for today’s stage is much lighter having made it through the most stressful day. The spirit of the race will really start to shine through over the next few days.