Author Topic: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal  (Read 3952 times)

L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« on: 24 January, 2017, 09:51:16 pm »
l’Antique 200km Brevet, Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal 20.01.17

Living in one of Europe’s remoter corners means, among other things, that Audax events are all a long way away.  Clubs in Salamanca (300km away from me), Yepes, Toledo (400km away) and Linares, Jaen (400km away) all offer events I could enter without leaving Spain, but my nearest events are put on by our neighbours over the frontier at Randonneurs Portugal.  So I paid my 10€ joining fee to become a member and my 10€ event fee for L’Antique 200, with start and finish in Vila Franca de Xira, about an hour north of Lisbon and a three hour drive right across Portugal from where I live on the Spanish side of the border.

We booked ourselves into a B&B without knowing that it was a popluar choice for other Audaxers, a fact that revealed itself at 6:15 the next morning when the dining room was filled with lycra-clad breakfasters, and Reception had bikes a plenty leaning on the furniture.  I’d left my bike in the van overnight.  At this stage I was yet to get to know any of my fellow participants, but the common fellowship over coffee and rolls assured me I was in good company.  Unfortunately, I’d hardly slept due to a mixture of nerves, a strange bed and a slightly cold room. But mostly nerves.  I know sleep depravation is part of the Audax scene, but I’d believed it usually comes during rather than before an event!

Approaching my first Audax, preparations hadn’t gone exactly to plan, having spent the previous weekend knocked out with a flu bug.  Although mostly recovered, the residual effect on my strength and stamina would be unknown until the ride itself.  I was also worried about whether my butt would cope with the hours in the saddle, my previous longest day on the Charge Spoon being about 120km, and whether I’d suffer from the tingling deadening in my left hand that has been a problem in the past.(I didn’t.)  However, my biggest concern was not getting lost. The event recognises that it is ‘de navigaçao dificil’ which needs little translation. L’Antique is so named because it eschews the newer roads for the old and infrequently travelled backroads. It lables itself as a ride back in time, and they encourage the use of older machinery as being in the spirit of the event. It wasn’t part of my plan but when Pedro Alves, event organiser, saw my mount, based on an early 1970’s Roberts light tourer, he photographed it and it now graces their Facebook page, garnering 56 likes by the end of the day and a second photo of it appeared there today.

Photo from Randonneurs Portugal Facebook page

So, up to the Complexo de Desporto for sign-in and briefing before the 08:00 depart. There were 47 starters, of whom half a dozen were down from Club Riazor in La Coruña, Galicia and sporting PBP gilets. They turned out to be a fast crew and were among the earliest back, I later learned.  The rest were from Randonneurs Portugal, all male bar one: Patrícia Rocha on a blingtastic black and pink carbon wonder.  Otherwise, the machinery was an eclectic mix from more carbon; a classic French Bador aluminium frame with its characteristic blue anodized tubes; and steel, old, like mine, and new, two Surly Disk Truckers. Most surprising was José Ferreira’s balloon tyred, B33 and rod braked old sit-up-and beg.  I was later to see just how strong a rider he is.  And those big fat tyres and sprung saddle were a boon on some of the farm tracks that caused me much suffering later.

We’re off. The pack swoop down the hill into town and turn north.  The folly of simply following the rider in front soon revealed itself as a group disappeared up the road, missing the first turn. I turned round in the next gateway, along with Patrícia and her riding partner, as we very quickly agreed that it was indeed that right and we needed to drop down under the railway. Mere seconds lost, but an important lesson learned.

Not knowing anyone else beforehand and keen to avoid going off too fast meant I soon found myself riding alone, mid-pack, with plenty ahead and others strung out behind.  Then we hit the first section of pavé. I hate pavé and was glad it wasn’t wet, when I hate it even more.  Past the railway station to the first unmanned control, where our proof of passage was to record the marked speed limit over the bridge.  I shared a pen with a curly haired rider.  At that point I wasn’t to know that we would go on to share almost all of the remaining kms.  I fell in behind him and his buddy when we hit the short section of main road, where I found our preferred road speed and cadence were pretty much equal.  Vitor was on a nice black Bianchi, whereas José was on one of the Surly Truckers.

Vitor and José

With the aim of not getting lost, I was trying something else new. I’d downloaded Ride with GPS on to my phone, and bought two 2600 mha battery boosters hoping that would give me enough power to last the day. In the end it proved woefully inadequate, and later in the day, as the daylight died, so did my phone, just when I might have needed it more. Fortunately, José had a little Garmin, plus of course our cue sheets to confirm his remembered track from last year. Even with all that on board we took a few wrong turns at some of the many junctions where signposts are nonexistent. I would never have got round without him.  We were often deep in unpopulated areas on rough farm tracks.  Even the GPS got confused when it believed we were on the new motorway above and informed us that we were off course, when in fact we were, correctly, on the farm track underneath.

The only major climb of the day was up to the 50km manned control at Santarem.  José said he’d see us at the control because hills are not his thing. Dropping down to my lowest gear, at 28.5” (38X36), I set about grinding it out but found it took just about forever to overhaul another participant who was walking up. Just as I crested the rise, José Ferreira on the sit-up-and-beg shot past me so I tried to catch his wheel to follow him in to the control at the café in the Portas do Sol park.  My brevet card was duly stamped with 11.00h arrival time.  Coffee and  doughnut later, we were back on the road. 

The view from Portas do Sol, Santarem

Exit from Santarem was a scary descent via a cobbled hairpin hill until we reached the “road closed” barriers, at which point we dismounted and carrried the bikes down a flight of steps. I’m not sure this was part of the official route but it led us to the level crossing and the way out of town.

After more pavé, particularly a long section through Golega. we reached the next control at Quinta da Cardiga.  This is a spooky ruined estate, originally a Templar foundation that went on to become a spectacular palace, but now lies abandoned and empty. From here to VN de Barquinha the route was on terra batida , hard-packed mud/sand, but I found it easier to ride than the pavé or the rutted and pot-holed agricultural tracks.

Quinta da Cardiga

100km and the lunch control came up at Constancia, where we stopped to rest and eat, and rolled back out after exactly 30 mins. Crossing the Tagus on a box girder bridge shared with the railway brought us out by the large and smelly cellulose mill, at which point we turned South, back down the eastern bank of the river to start heading towards home.

One of the busier roads

The last manned control at Alpiarça, genius to place the control in a cake shop, was reached after a lengthy section of very bumpy tracks, a couple of wrong turns, and the only contradictory route instruction of the day.  I’d spotted the error on the cue sheets when tracing the route on Ride with GPS, so although the screen said Left, we already knew it really meant to say, ‘No, the other Left...’ 

From Alpiarça, the daylight was fading fast.  José was on the ball to get us to turn off the highway onto our final long section of farm track, with possibly the worst surface of the day – although there are several candidates for that dubious award – made even more difficult by the encroaching darkness.  It’s hard to maintain a decent rhythm when you’re on edge against crashing into yet another pothole.  One last control under the A13 motorway viaduct, thence to Muge and the Rainha Amélia bridge back over the Tagus.  The old railway bridge was converted to road use in 2001 and has one lane for vehicles, controlled by traffic lights, a raised footpath on one side and a cycle path, just wide enough to ride, on the other. But the bridge at 840m long seemed interminable in the dark.

Box girder Rainha Amélia bridge passed under in the light but later crossed in the dark

This brought us back to the point of our second control that we'd passed through early in the day and thus from there to the finish we were retracing our outbound route.  Out in the fields it was really dark, and the cold, clear sky was full of stars. Temperatures were back down to 2-3º and hadn’t risen above 8º-10º all day.  My feet were cold, and although we still kept up our rolling average of 19,9kph, I knew I was getting towards my limits.  “This is fun, isn’t it!” a family mantra said out loud, was a useful encourager to keep on going.  Vitor’s rear light gave up the ghost, so I lent him my secondary mini-LED.

As 198km came up on my optimistic VDO I was just about cooked. It was 20.00h, so we had an hour and half left to get round.  However, José’s Garmin informed us that actually we had 20km still to do, as the final distance was 214km not the bare 200 I’d done my estimates on.  Very do-able, and we were still confident of getting in when, as unwelcome as ever, the P-fairy made a visit.  I rode the rim to the next well-lit roundabout where rapid surgery was performed, and the minimum possible time lost. However, after another 5 km or so, a familiar bump-bump-bump told me that whatever had caused the first loss was still there and performing its evil trick a second time. Time was closing in, so instead of a second tube change, which wouldn’t have lasted either, I opted for a quick pump. Except at this point my old faithful Scott telescopic pump also decided to play useless.  José handed me his mini-pump as I urged them to leave me so at least they’d be sure of finishing in time. But in the comradely spirit of Audax, they refused to drop me, and after a quick pump we put our heads down for the run in. I had to do one last pump with 3k to go, but essentially did the last 15km riding the rim.

On the final little climb up to the Leisure Centre arrivée we were joined by two others, and the five of us rolled in together, les lanternes rouge, with 10 minutes to spare before the 21.30 cut.  Job done.

(Back home the next day I repaired the two tubes and found the culprit, a fine shard of wire in the rear tyre that I could feel with my fingers but barely see. In the end I had to pull it out with tweezers. We’d never have found it at the roadside in the dark. In spite of those kms riding sans aire, the sidewalls of the Pasela don’t seem to be showing any damage. The original tube is now back in the tyre.)

Stuff I’ve learned: I really can do this, self-doubt be gone! Ride at 20kph, minimise control faffage and even with a minor set-back, you’ll get round.  Eat something every hour was good advice – thanks Hellymedic -, but choosing to fuel mostly on sugars (chocolate, cake, biscuits etc) left me with a diabetic’s type of raging thirst that night and the next day, and may have led to the nasty cramps I suffered during Saturday night. Need to work on my on-road diet for next time. Vitor seemed to have an unlimited supply of bananas.  Also, I drank less than 3litres during the day, and that’s probably not enough either.

Randonneurs Portugal have 10 events programmed for 2017, including a full SR series and are working up to their first 1200km event in September.  Their website is beautiful and the information for the 1200 is also available on there in English.  Overseas riders are welcomed.  The organization for l’Antique was very impressive. All being well I’ll be back with them for another 200 in March.


They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #1 on: 25 January, 2017, 09:02:41 am »
Excellent write-up, Phil! Sounds like a grand day out. Congrats on your first 200!

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #2 on: 25 January, 2017, 10:29:01 am »
Sounds like a grand day out.

It certainly was. And has confirmed my appetite for more of the same.
They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #3 on: 25 January, 2017, 11:19:23 pm »
Terrific writeup and pics, and well done your first 200. Sounds like a great day out. I'm glad it was well-organised; I'm signed up for their 1200k in September and really looking forward to it as I've long wanted to visit Portugal.

What sort of place was the lunch control? Is it generally easy to find fresh good-tasting ride-food in your typical Portuguese village/small town (I'm thinking fresh savoury or sweet pastries, cheesebread sort of thing)?

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #4 on: 26 January, 2017, 08:37:42 am »
The photo of Vitor and José is from the lunch control. It's a riverside bar/café/restaurant.  We sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed fresh vegetable soup, a bifana grilled pork in a roll, a beer (non-alcofrolic) and a coffee for about 4-5€.  That's fairly typical, and turns out to be the menu recommended on the Alem Tejo 1200 webpage. At a later control at the InterMarché supermarket coffee shop, I had another coffee meio de leite-literally a "half of milk" and my absolute favourite a pastel de nata the classic Portuguese custard tart, for 1,05€ all in. Water is usually offered free from a jug and glasses on the counter to help yourself.

Cafe bars and cake shops abound. Light meals and pastries are everywhere and food is cheap plus the sunshine is free. (Other weather may be available.) Coffee comes in a bewildering variety of forms, and if you ask just for 'um café, se faz favor', by default you will get a tiny black coffee, otherwise known as a bica.

I might get to see you at the 1200 - not as a rider but a control volunteer.
They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.


  • Whimsy Rider
Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #5 on: 26 January, 2017, 08:46:36 am »
When HK and I rode the 1000 a few years ago, we found food quite difficult to find outside of 'normal' hours along a chunk of the route. Others on the event felt the same. Tal found the same thing on their recent 1200.

Some hints on the route sheet or elsewhere might be useful for foreigners flying in for the 1200.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #6 on: 26 January, 2017, 08:57:34 am »
I will confess to zero experience of seeking food outlets through the middle of the night.

Everything that is anything in Portugal happens in a narrow strip between Lisbon and Porto. Everything else is an empty hinterland. The route of the 1200 covers a lot of empy space, given that the average population density of the EU is 180 people/km2 and in the Alentejo region it's 21. In the context of needing to top-up supplies in the dead of night and the middle of nowhere, I'm sure LWaB's cautionary tale is entirely justified and accurate.
They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #7 on: 26 January, 2017, 09:16:56 am »
Some hints on the route sheet or elsewhere might be useful for foreigners flying in for the 1200.

I'll try to pass this on to Pedro Alves so in-comers can be forewarned and forearmed by including something in the pre-event materials or the webpage or whatever.
They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #8 on: 26 January, 2017, 12:28:59 pm »
Good write up Phil. I've done quite a bit of riding in Portugal. It's a great spot with plenty of good quiet roads.
I've been keen to do one of their audaxes, but I normally head to the Algarve and there doesn't seem to be much going there.

I agree with what LWaB said about supplies. Never mind out of hours, in many of the villages in the interior it's hard to find anything aside from coffee and beer.

Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #9 on: 26 January, 2017, 04:33:04 pm »
The 1200 covers much of the same ground as the earlier 1000 and aware of the scarcity of out of hours food, Pedro has pointed out to me via FB that the organisers, well aware of the possible victualizing challenge, have included quite specific information on this in the PAT FAQ 'during' section:
They laughed when I said I was going to be a stand-up comedian. They're not laughing now.


  • Whimsy Rider
Re: L'Antique 200, 20.01.17 Portugal
« Reply #10 on: 26 January, 2017, 04:43:32 pm »
Our experience was that food was somewhat harder to find outside of lunch or dinner times than is suggested by that and smaller villages didn't seem to have anything. Perhaps the new route takes riders past more possibilities than when we rode. If I were to ride in Portugal again, I'd carry more food on the bike than previously.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...