TransPortugal – Day 6, the day the bikes really started falling apart.

For the first time since the race began we had sun at the stage start. You could feel the energy of the group come up and the optimism surrounding promise of a rain-free short stage. There were smiles all around and people in short sleeve jerseys for the first time since the race began.

Tom worked for the hole shot again and pushed to stay with some stronger riders to hopefully get some help from them on this relatively flat and fast stage.

Meanwhile, I had been assigned the task to find some bike parts. Step 1, ask the race mechanics if they had what we needed. The mechanics that have been traveling with the race are exhausted. That morning, I saw them head back to their rooms to sleep at about 6:30 am! By my calculations, they are getting less than 4 hours of sleep per night. I caught Joao a little later and asked but as you all know, Tom has some pretty unique parts and pieces and Joao did not have what we needed. He did recommend a shop in a larger town nearby.

I found D’Bike thanks to my handy GPS loaned to me by TransPortugal, and I caught the shop owner just before he left for lunch. Portuguese lunch is sacred and about 2 hours long so I was extremely fortunate to catch him and that he was willing to help me out. He claimed to not speak English  (it is really common for Portuguese to apologize for their poor spoken English even though it’s way better than my Portuguese), but we muddled through. He had 3 of the 4 items we needed, but the last item was the hardest to find. So he went a step farther and began calling the other shops. They were all on lunch, so he pulled out his address book and started calling shop owners on their cell phones. He found someone who had a part that could work and arranged for me to meet him at his shop. He even gave me a discount on the items he did have.

I tried to get the address for shop 2 (Galacio bike) set up in my GPS, but it wasn’t recognizing the address. So back into D’Bike and Geral helped me again. Finally I get to shop 2. This shop was in a less prestigious neighborhood and was run by someone who obviously just loves bikes. It was jammed full of bikes for repair and had none of the planned retail/marketing feel that so many bike shops have today. When I showed up the shop owner was pumping up a kids tire. More mixed English, Spanish, French and Portugeuse, and I have what I need at a “TransPortugal” discount. Many more obrigadas as I left, and he promptly closed his shop and went back off to lunch.

Between the unending help everyone gets from the TransPortugal organization and now the amazing generosity of two complete strangers, my love of the Portugeuse people is stronger than ever. Seriously, come visit this Country, you will fall in love with the people.

So now I had to rush to get to Albernoa and having lost so much time in Evora and construction on the way, Tom actually beat me there. 18th on the stage, not quite 4 hours of racing and still 13th on GC.

Everyone was covered in mud again, the sun did not last. Tom was in one of the last groups to make it in before the downpour. Groups after him had to contend with sticky heavy mud that jammed their bikes up. I watched John Allison cross the finish line with only one pedal. He said he’d been going along on one leg for about 30 km.

Victor Prol and Pablo Rodriguez crossed the finish line with their bikes tied together by a windbreaker. One of these riders had broken his crank and his good friend helped pull him in so that he could finish the stage.

A photo of these two at the finish line is available on the Ciclonatur Facebook page.

Then there was Isaac Rodriguez Mango of Brazil who had a massive mechanical failure with 4 km to go. There is an interesting fact that most people don’t know about TransPortugal, the race is not technically a bike race, it is a non-motorized race that everybody seems to do on bikes. But you do not have to have a bike to complete a stage. Isaac chose to take advantage of this rule. He removed his shoes, cut off his number plate and grabbed his GPS  to run to the finish line  and cross with only minutes to spare.

You can see the video on the Ciclonatur Facebook page.

Tom spent quite a lot of time this evening working on his bike and trying to get everything to a state where he will be able to ride tomorrow, hopefully without much difficulty. At the end of today’s stage his brake pads were completely worn through and he had lost several teeth on his chain ring with many others that were near breaking.

The bike will never be the same.
The bike will never be the same.
Broken teeth with more about to break.
I've lost count of the number of brake pads Tomega has gone through in this race.
I’ve lost count of the number of brake pads Tomega has gone through in this race.

This is an extremely difficult Bike Race on a good year. This year it has been brutal with nearly half of the field not finishing all the stages. What’s interesting though is that in all of the years that I’ve been involved in this race, the comradery between riders this year between is stronger than ever. It seems that great adversity often brings out the best in people. Even in bike racing.