Tim Lambrechts: The challenge of training for a 1800km bike ride

Tim Lambrechts

How do you train for a 1800km bike ride? This was a question I would have baulked at a few months ago, but now it's a reality. As I near the start of my journey back to the UK from Portugal, only time will tell if my regime has paid off.

I kick off every morning with a bowl of porridge for energy and then I go out at about 08:00 BST - to miss the worst of the heat - and cycle a route incorporating a lot of hills to build up my leg muscles and stamina. I ride for about four hours, by which time the sun is up and the going gets tougher.

I am up to 100km a day now - when I started I could only manage 40km and would arrive home exhausted.

I have been seriously training for about five months, nothing compared to the years of dedication shown by the competitors in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics who inspired me to take up this challenge, but hard work all the same.

The upside of my training is the dramatic scenery I pass through, usually with the mountains and forests as a backdrop, along with numerous small villages and hamlets, some of which have stone houses that look as if they are about to fall down, and others that are grand affairs. A consequence of my radiotherapy is that I now have no saliva glands, so I have a permanently dry mouth - an investment in a back-pack water bladder was definitely a wise one.

Most days my ride is uneventful but I have had a few near-misses lately. It seems that Portuguese drivers always have to be "in front" and they tend to tailgate while trying to pass, whether it's me or another vehicle.

Last week, I was riding along a main road and approaching a bend, when I saw a lorry coming towards me. The next thing I saw was a car overtaking the lorry on the bend on my side of the road. There was no way the driver could avoid hitting me as he was mid-way past the lorry, so I had no choice but to ride into a ditch at the side of the road. The driver didn't even seem to notice me! Luckily, both me and my bike escaped unscathed.

It's not only car drivers that cause me problems. There is one village where there is a dog that I'm convinced waits for me, rushes out of its garden and chases me down the road for 100 yards barking and running in front of me. It worried me at first but now I quite look forward to our daily play.

Several villagers have got used to seeing me cycle past and often wave hello. The Portuguese are very friendly people, though it took me a while to learn the 'up nod'. In the UK we tend to nod in a downwards direction to greet someone, but when I did this in Portugal I would get a blank stare in return. My wife, Elaine, noticed them greeting each other with the 'up nod' - and now I have a lot more waves and calls of good morning as I go along.

An English couple we know, Steve and Mandy, have opened a rock bar called Route 66 near to us in Portugal and have offered to give me a big send-off when I begin my challenge. I'm looking forward to it as it will make my challenge 'real' rather than me just quietly starting out from home.

I begin my challenge on 15 September, so my wife and I are busy loading up the motor home and preparing for the trip, along with our two young dogs Lily and Dunan.

Keep up to date with my journey via my Twitter account @tim_lambrechts