I should start by explaining why I ventured out on this trip in the first place… In late June 2016, whilst playing Basketball in a Sydney competition, I suffered an injury that snapped my right knee ACL. Once a ligament in your body breaks, you either have it surgically fixed or it just won’t ever recover. With ACL injuries, some people can live their whole lives without surgery by staying clear of risky activities (sports that require knee rotation), whilst others practice sports that require that extra anchor point in your knee. I decided to have the ACL surgery done and planned for it to happen in Portugal (my home country) in early September. Foreseeing the long time away from the saddle this surgery would force me, I decided to connect Spain’s capital city, Madrid, to Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, by bike in a farewell for a while kind of ride. I would ride only on paved roads, staying in road side motels or any other type of cheap accomodation available. This allowed me to carry a lot less gear, keeping the bike light and fast.
I planned to do this ride in 3 days, partially because I wanted to do long days on the saddle and see if this type of riding appeals to me (thinking ahead to the possibility of enrolling on the Indian Pacific Wheel Race held in Australia) and also because I had things to do back home, see the family, friends and enjoy a few days of holidays, summer and sun before the surgery takes place.
I would fly out of Sydney on Friday, August 25th. Land in Madrid on Sunday, 27th late night, use Monday as a jet lag recovery day, riding around Madrid sightseeing. The ride would start on Tuesday from West Madrid with an average of 220kms a day to travel if I were to meet my 3 day objective to complete this ride.
I choose my Polygon Helios A8X carbon road bike for this trip. The lightweight build, fast aggressive geometry, fast aero wheels, Shimano Di2 drivetrain and the extra comfort of a carbon frame made it an easy choice for me. I only carried the 2 standard water bottles on the frame and apart from small ergonomic changes, the bike is as stock as it gets. Keeping the bike light was paramount and with that in mind I had only my Apidura saddle bag, Apidura frame bag and the Apidura top tube pack extended.
(Photo of the bike)
Apidura Saddle Pack (Regular)
Tools - 2x tubes, spare derailleur hanger, spare brake cable, patch kit, tyre levers and hand pump, multi-tool,
From all my web searches, riding from Madrid to Lisbon is not a popular thing to do. There is a mountain bike race held every year that does something similar albeit being an off-road endeavour. The most recent I could find was dated from 2005 and the rider did take his time to reach Lisbon. Using that as a benchmark, I had to draw most of the track by hand and check road, towns, mountains and services along the way. According to my research, the longest stretch I would have between towns would be around 40kms max (or 2 hours riding in hilly terrain [worst case scenario always]). With an abundance of water and food supplies along the way, I was comfortable in carrying less on the bike.
The first day would be arguably the hardest day with 220kms to do and well over 2000 vertical meters to ascend. The second day would see me cycling deeper into Spanish remote and arid cities with a little less climbing and the third day would be a true TT day with 400 vertical meters of ascent over 200kms.
Below you can see the track I created along with the Elevation profile.
You can download the track by pressing the button below.
It’s true disaster strikes when you least expect it and I did not expect such a cockup from my side such early on in this ride…
Perhaps it was the long layover in Shanghai’s airport that threw me off or something but I was dead sure the plane would land on Sunday night in Madrid, as such, I had already booked Airbnb accommodation for Sunday night and another one for Monday night in the outskirts of Madrid.
Disaster struck when I was about to jump in a taxi with my bike and noticed that my phone was saying Saturday instead of Sunday. I had arrive to Madrid one day early and at 10PM at night, had no place to stay. After a few hours I managed to book another room and make my way there via Taxi.
Despite being knackered from the flight and long layover, jetlag was keeping me from sleep. Texting dad late at night regarding dreadful weather conditions for the few next days, my options were very limited. In one hand, I could jump on a plane or train and make my way to Portugal avoiding monsoon type rain or, blindingly trusting weather forecast models and predictions, start the ride on Sunday morning and with some luck escape the rain predicted for Monday and fight to stay ahead of the storm chasing me from behind. Decided to sleep on it and make a call once up.
2 hours of sleep later, decided to put the bike together and hit the road.