Day 3 of the Legal & General Real Assets pedElle 2017 begins with breakfast eight floors up, overlooking Leiria’s hilltop castle in the early morning sunshine. Despite tired legs, many are marvelling at their cycling achievements on pedElle so far: the longest distance they’ve ever cycled, the most metres they’ve ever climbed. Most are looking forward to the day ahead: having come further physically and emotionally than they ever thought possible, the end is now, almost unbelievably, in sight.
However Portugal still hasn’t finished with the women of pedElle and the day is shaping up to be a hot one. The cyclists head out of Leiria for a 30km run to the Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros where the climb of the stage awaits. It rolls onwards and upwards for 5km, every now and then throwing in a short, sharp gradient to test everyone’s legs. However the views from the top make it all worthwhile, with the national park, in all its arid beauty, laid out below us. From the top there’s a sweeping descent to the morning coffee stop, where excellent coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart) are consumed with relish.
The second stage of the day is, by comparison, much shorter and less steep than the first, but it it does not feel any easier as the temperature is now around 30 degrees. After a couple of short climbs, the stage settles into rolling climbs and descents through more arid terrain, with incredible views on either side. However the heat is now really starting to take its toll on the riders and lunch at Cartaxo is a welcome break from the blazing sun.
Any lingering thoughts for anyone at home that cycling in Portugal is a jolly holiday should by now be firmly dispelled. The third and final stage of the day is long – at 74km – and relentless in the blazing sun and 32 degree heat. It features an incredibly tough climb, where in places the gradient reaches 14%, and in the heat it is a truly brutal experience. At the top everyone does their best to cool down and take on more food and water before heading down the descent. The huge wide open vista down over the Tejo estuary nature reserve shows the riders where they are heading, but the final 35km into Lisbon is a tough run and seems to go on forever through multiple roundabouts, industrial districts and the urban sprawl of outer Lisbon.
But finally – after 500km and 7,800m of climbing – the end is in sight as the peloton rolls its way into busy Saturday evening Lisbon. Joy, jubilation, tears, laughter and relief are all experienced in equal measures as riders celebrate their achievements on the sea front with a glass of bubbly courtesy of Helix.
Dinner that evening is a chance to reflect and to thank those involved. Now in its fifth year, pedElle has gone from strength to strength since it was founded by Jennifer Ross of Tibbalds and Claire Treanor of Treanor Consulting, bringing more and more women in property into cycling. It has also, over the years, raised incredible amounts for Coram. This year’s total currently stands at £34,000 and Amy from Coram takes a moment to tell the riders how the money raised will be used to help vulnerable children find permanent new loving homes through Coram’s adoption programme.
Last year became known as ‘the snowy one.’ It is quite likely that this will one will become known as ‘the hot one.’ It has, as Jennifer Ross points out, been “the hardest pedElle ever,” but without a doubt every rider has pushed themselves further than they ever thought possible and everyone should be proud of what they have achieved.