If you are looking for new multi-sport destinations to discover then consider taking a trip to The Algarve, the sunny south coast of Portugal. The beautiful coastline is dotted with sandy beaches and the Monchique mountains provide a multitude of cycling opportunities. Whilst late July and August can be hot, the coast is blessed with cool Atlantic breezes most of the time and there is always a local cafe around the corner.
Starting from the coastal town of Portimão there is the 35km climb to Foia at the very top, providing spectacular views of the coast and a steady climb through small local villages and the sleepy town of Monchique. It is an honest climb of approx. 1,000 meters, but well worth the view on a clear day. It is also possible to cycle the hill and cross to the West coast of Portugal and return via Sagres, the most Western point in Europe. Alternatively, cycle East and return to the coast via the historic town of Silves.
This summer I discovered a most welcome addition to the Algarve cycling scene. VeloChique, a cycling-themed café has opened in the picturesque town of Monchique catering for passing cyclists as well as the local residents and tourists. Set up by local expatriate entrepreneurs who identified the opportunity to provide a different experience to the local cafes and cater for the growing cycling scene in the Algarve. The menu is extensive offering a mixture of local favorites alongside healthy options such as Avo and eggs and a selection of smoothies. VeloChique hosts a twice-weekly social cycle ride for local residents and tourists passing through- check out their Strava page Velochique CC. The road surfaces in Portugal are not always great and in some places, they are not much better than a donkey track. On the upside, the drivers are respectful of the multitude of cyclists on the roads. The Monchique possesses some wonderful quiet roads that wind both up and across the mountain and there is always the opportunity to drop into a local restaurant and sample a Chicken Piri Piri, or black pork before the return journey. There are some days though that whichever direction you choose, north, south, east or west, downhill or uphill it just always seems like headwind!!
If you are looking for a triathlon holiday then the Algarve has some excellent training opportunities. The sea provides some stunning locations for a few kilometers in crystal clear waters of 19-20 degrees. Early mornings are best for a calmer sea and less boat traffic. You will need a full wet suit most of the time, especially if pushing the hour mark for the swims but make this part of your daily schedule and you won’t be disappointed. Post swim, drop into a local Café for a Galao and a Torrada while warming up in the morning sun. Very likely at 9 am in the morning when you are having your milky coffee with buttered toast you will spot some local men discussing the village news and enjoying their first-morning beer.
As far as running opportunities are concerned…there are endless small roads and tracks to run over rolling hills and for the more adventurous some spectacular cliff trails.
Portugal is host to several triathlon races notably Ironman Cascais and Cascais 70.3 which normally take place in October and Challenge Lisboa which is scheduled for May. Portugal is also a proud presenter of BikingMan the ultra-cycling event. Getting there: direct flights from Dubai to Lisbon and connecting flight or train to Faro.
By David Hunt