Together We Ride, Together We Thrive. Exploring Spain and Portugal on Cycling Tour

June, 2023
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Tastes of Tapas, Sizzling on Mountains, and Mediaeval Mystery

Duration: 15 days, 14 nights
Route: Madrid, SPAIN to Lisbon, PORTUGAL
Role and Company: Cycling Guide, Ride Holidays
Ride Data: 648kms 8030mtr 31hrs

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone has a story. Everyone comes from somewhere. Was brought up in a certain way. Came to this singular point in time through a meandering passage of urgings, choices and decisions. Or completely at the behest of the wind and whichever way it blew when. Leading them to be deposited at the marble steps of the Hotel Petit Palace Lealtad in Madrid at 12 noon on Wednesday the 14th June 2023.

I myself blew in two days prior, aboard a Qatar flight that dropped me in Doha for an hour or two, then plopped me into Madrid in a sleep-deprived fog following over 30 hours in transit in a really big flying tin can. For a day and a half I attempted willingly to overcome jetlag, re-set my body clock, and get ready to pedal as a Cycling Guide from Madrid to Lisbon in company with my fellow crew members and over 30 guests from NZ, Australia, Canada and the US.

Which I did so overcome the fatigue and restlessness whilst admiring my sea-born gods resembled in the nearby Neptune Fountain Statue, Apollo’s Fountain and the Mermaids surrounding the Great Pond of El Retiro, which could only possibly be out-glistened by the Crystal Palace, except it was closed.

High Noon

A sea of dark blue and pink greeted me at the steps of the little palace, when I arrived there a half hour to noon. Introductions to smiley guests were made, and quickly one of the Canadian guests, Jackie, despite being on holiday threw herself into helping move cases, bags, bikes and packpacks towards the street from the lounge area at reception. Sometimes via the elevator, most times via the stairs. Swiftly other arms, legs and bodies increased in number and activity, until the street was lined with the artefacts of the travelling peloton, and the vans lining the street haunted soon-to-be vacant carparking spaces. Little did I know, but those early signs and demonstrations of care and togetherness, of kinship, were to be an undeniable theme for the next 14 days. The truck arrived, and it was game on.

This here is the hub of the stories that will be spoken through words, photographs and short clips on this website, and shared in the photo gallery, on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I hope you enjoy the threads.  

  • Cultural Immersion 95% 95%
  • Valleys and Mountains 70% 70%
  • Sunshine and Hot Days 90% 90%
  • Wine Quality 85% 85%
  • Coffee Obsession Factor 100% 100%

Cycling is so much more than merely turning the pedals to take you places on two wheels. There’s a deep soulful joy that comes from the clean spirit of human power. Fed by the scents of sprawling European mountains, steeped in thousands of years of history, buildings still standing proudly a millennia on, and flavours that have been passed down from generation to generation. On tour your yearning for new flavours, coffee delivered by passionate local cafes, and the treat of a wine sourced in the nearby hills will be the glorious adventure you’ll remember.

Cycling Tour Spain and Portugal

Tour Photos

Leave the traffic jams behind and get stuck into regional European life in front of your very own eyes. It’s the joy of cycling into the areas you’ve dreamed of.

Tour Highlights

1. Just Ride

The absolutely most awesome thing about being on a cycling tour, is this one really wonderful thing.

But sometimes it gets lost. Actually, most often it takes a good three or four days to appear. All of the cycling tours I’ve joined as a Cycling Guide have revealed beautiful Guest’s stories behind how they came to be on the tour. What led to signing up for the tour? How long ago they decided to. What they’ve been doing since registering. And now that they’re here, what now?

The lost part emerges in those first few days. But that doesn’t make sense I hear you say. How can the lost piece get lost? And how do you recognise it’s lost, if it is already lost and no-one knows it ever existed? This is the beauty of the human condition.

The problem often is that the tour has become this monument. Something to train up for, to work towards, to save hard for, to bust your ass to get to. So you’re used to pushing towards the goal, the dream of being on this cycling tour that has been your sole motivation for months, maybe even years. And on tour, then it becomes this continuation of striving, driving and forcing those pedals over every kilometre and every mountain to squeeze the most out of it, under the cloud of this expectation that the tour experience absolutely, totally, and equivocally must be the best cycling experience ever. Push, push, push.

And then, it mysteriously appears. Or is it lost? The simplicity of it is incredible. Pedals get turned. Stroke by stroke. And all that crap falls away, and this lightness emerges. The realisation. Just ride.


2. We’re Together, But It’s Your Journey

If you’ve ever been in the middle of a road cycling peloton, or bunch, or cycling group, then you know that sensation of moving as a swarm of bees, buzzing shoulder to shoulder, freewheels ratcheting, voices bouncing, tyres swooshing, deep dish wheels humming, and chains whirring. You also know that you’re doing your bit to be part of it, whether that’s holding position, moving out and around up the outside of the bunch, or mindlessly drifting back and finding yourself at the back. 

As much as the bunch is moving together, everyone is having their private little journey inside it. Sometimes soft pedalling in the slipstream, other times pushing the pedals to hold position, and at others feathering the brakes or coasting to keep away from the horrid wheel in front of you. It’s life though. We’re all whirling around together, but no one else really knows truly the journey that’s going on inside of you.

And on tour it’s the same. We’re spinning over the cobbles and the bitumen together on an adventure, sharing in it’s wonderment, but at the same time, each of us is having an individual experience. And there’s no comparison. It doesn’t matter if someone is stronger, faster, lighter, speedier, looks like they’re doing it easier, or is happier or some other thing. Each of us comes from somewhere, has a history, and is evolving, but none is better, or worse than ours. Tour life helps to redefine this sense of personal journey, and to respect that we all are living a journey, together, and separately. And it’s to be celebrated!

3. To Get to the Top, You Got to Start from Base

When you reach the summit and look out over the sprawling lands below, from deep within, the rising satisfaction and the pure joy of accomplishment, it cracks this glowing genuine grin across every face that peers.

Climbing is discomfort, there’s no way around it. When you begin from the base and look up, or down to your GPS device and see the metres to ascend, the kilometres in front of you, and the hours that it might take, it can seem unachievable.  Insurmountable. It can become this ugly obstacle in your way, or a test that you can’t wait to tackle.  

I love riding the mountains. There’s no other way of getting to the top, other than just turning those pedals, one after the other. Maybe the gearing isn’t right, or it’s cold and windy, or hot and still, but none of it matters as you take off from the base and give yourself over to whatever is coming along the way. You know that there will be periods of discomfort, of steep bends, of muscling through strong low cadence strokes, of chest wanting to explode and legs screaming with lactic acid. And the part I relish most is finding the comfort in it all, coming back to the simple breath in and breath out, to get to the top. To then release, and smile. There’s nothing better!

Obidos Bakery Treats Figs and Cakes
Paul D'Andrea gives Graham White encouragement on a hot and steep climb on tour in Portugal and Spain
Authentic Portuguese Tart Porto Portugal Cycling Tour

The Real Thing

Prior to visiting the land of Portuguese Tarts proper, and having grown up in foodie-obsessed Melbourne, I really had mixed feelings about this special little puff pastry egg custard filled tart. Wherever and whenever I roamed in Australia everyone told me that Portuguese Tarts are the best, the must seek out, heavenly and delicious custard treats you could ever hope to eat and enjoy. I valiantly tried and tried, ate and ate, but never ever understood what all the fuss was about. I really didn’t much like them. There’s even an entire cafe dedicated to these morsels in Chapel St, Melbourne. Everywhere I tried, they were often too eggy in flavour, overly sickly sweet, or just claggy when compared to even the mass produced custard tarts delivered in their tin-foil skirts in bakeries and school tuck shops everywhere. 

However, I was struck. Struck by the Real Thing. Holy hell. When in Portugal, I have to tell you, do as the Portuguese Tarts do. That is, they Wow and delight you! 

Cortado and Pingado Coffee in Spain and Portugal

Cortado to Pingado

Coffee for me is so much more than that warm little shot of pick-me-up and zing that swirls around glasses and cups all day everyday across the Earth. It is ritual. Ritual in the kind of way that sets tribal instincts into motion, as if the day is governed and protected by the spirits and gods as soon as the ground coffee bean granules meet with the hot steamy water to create the elixir of life itself. It is beauty without words, just flavour and texture.

In France, a cafe noisette is the white angel that comes served in a tiny espresso cup, with a shot of espresso, topped up with milk. Similar to a miniature Melbourne-style latte, but with a little extra strength. I wouldn’t like to call it a piccolo latte, because it would be doing an injustice. Naming it a macchiato, a sin. Across the Pyrenees and towards the Atlantic Ocean, the Spanish serve this hot little favourite angelic shot as a Cortado. And in the west, over the border to Portugal, it’s a Pingado. In these places, and these names, on tour, it’s the ritual that sustains beauty amongst sometimes gruelling grey days.

Paul D'Andrea and Ian Huckstepp Spanish Cycling Tour

Pace Yourself

With some 30+ riders on tour and anywhere between one and three length ride options available each day, how the hell do you find the perfect pace? As a Cycling Guide, this is our secret sauce, perhaps sometimes even the kryptonite to a good day in the saddle and for the 14 days of cycling. Burn your bickies too early in the day, or too much in the first few days of excitement and it’s a recipe for suffering for the remainder of the day, and the tour. “Breathe, just breathe” echoes through my mind and often out of my lips as we cycle along together in the group as a gentle urge to find the rhythm, and the ideal pace.

One guest on tour who knows the grapple a search for the ideal pace can cause, is Ian Huckstepp from Wellington NZ, who in fact took on an “Everesting” challenge several years ago. Watching him on the climbs, his hunger for climbing and powering over the peaks became more evident day after day! Read more about his former Everesting adventures here and here.

Washing Cycling Kit in the Hotel Sink the Simple Life

Simple Life

Rise – Eat – Ride – Eat – Sleep – Repeat

The rhythm of life on cycling tour holidays is a steady serving of everything you love about simplicity. Escape the emails, the demands, the deadlines, the ping ping of phone alerts and the daily obligations of being a worker in the modern world. Relish the basics of life. When you’re on tour, every day is as simple as it gets. It’s pure joy wrapped up into an unfolding ribbon that lets you focus on the things that matter right there and then. Beginning your day with a healthy breakfast serving, prepared for you, not by you. Coffee that steams out of coffee machines, savoured in a cup that mysteriously gets washed after you’ve left it.

You clip into those pedals, and just ride. Your peloton pals are next to you, chatting, laughing, sweating. Half the time you probably don’t even care where you’re going, you just simply follow your guide along with all your mind space free to smell the sweet mountain air, sense the great open spaces with your eyes gazing freely and broadly, and from time to time, stopping to taste authentic European flavours in cafes, bars and restaurants that are all organised for you before you even know you need to pause.

And when you arrive at the hotel after being guided there by bike, or bussed there by van, there are your bags and hotel room key waiting for you to be collected before you enter the elevator. They’re the most simple days in the world, and it’s a joy to savour!


Meals Shared in Cuidad Rodrigo

Shared Meals & Triumphs

Tribes have been mastering the art of togetherness since the beginning of evolution. It’s how we create our circle, our family, our team, squad or group, through the most basic of behaviours, just by being around one another. Often it doesn’t even need to involve talking, as we are constantly communicating through our body language, gestures and movements. On cycling tour, at first there’s a learning process, getting to know each other by name, by sight and by little conversations that pepper the day in the hallway, seated on the bus, riding next to each other, or grabbing a drink or snack along the way. It’s this subtle sharing that infuses the adventure with understanding. As we share more, we understand each other better, and then this really cool thing begins to foster, everyone starts looking out for one another and being interested in their experience of the day.

In the evenings, the richness really emerges, with bread literally being broken side by side at the dinner table as stories from the day begin to be recounted. There’s laughter, energy, and big appetites brewing, and then the fun stuff comes out as the daily spoils highlights, and triumphs get told, and sometimes retold! Weariness kicks in hard too, as the three course meals begin to settle and the bodies and minds slow, preparing for an early start and a new chance to be triumphant over the climb, or to the first fresh baked pastries in the breakfast lounge.

Veijo Phillips rides Pinhao to Vila Real on tour in Spain and Portugal


Breathing. It’s so simple. But when do we really find a chance to breathe? Without mind pressures, without busy days that seem to disappear. The simple joy of being on tour, at the core, it gives us everything we need to reconnect with our breath, and ourselves. Whilst pedalling these rolling green hills, up and down tall mountains, along broad snaking rivers, and through mediaeval historic towns, we breathe. Sometimes lightly, other times heaving and huffing, but on tour and just riding, you find have a chance to find this new sense of the breath. To regulate your body and mind in new ways. 

Even though you’re riding every day, from place to place, seeing new sights, sounds and stimuli, and sharing time, meals and triumphs with your peloton pals, you notice your stress levels improving, and your fitness and well-being beginning to soar as high as the mountains into the sky. Yeah you get tired too, but with every breath, you begin to sense a better version of yourself. A Self that wants and wishes they did more of this, more often, more freely. It changes you. And leaves you with a desire to keep doing it. After the tour it’s easy to slip back into old habits, but for those that seek to sustain the holiday vibes, it’s all possible. One breath at a time. Learn more with me here

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