Lisbon South Scouting Trip
Last weekend I took a trip over to Lisbon in Portugal, to recce the area and facilities of the company who approached us to run training camps. Lisbon South is the brain child of Antonio Barbosa, a bike shop owner and keen cyclist, who didn’t see why athletes weren’t coming to Portugal as much as they do to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands for warm weather training. What he has done is put together a package that hopefully will suit athletes of all levels from novice to elite, individuals, groups and families.
Lisbon South is situated in Alcochete, a little village on the south of the River Tejo. When I arrived at the airport in Lisbon, rather than taking the 20 minute drive over the river to the hotel initially, we went and explored west of Lisbon, toward the beautiful Cascais, Guincho beach and Sintra. It is this side of town that Antonio has his bike shop with his business partner Joao, and as a Trek bike dealer gives him the opportunity to rent out top level Trek Madones – as well as offering lots of other support (spares, mechanic, sports nutrition, GPS etc). Unfortunately you can’t ride over from the base to this area – bikes aren’t allowed to be ridden across the Vasco de Gama bridge, but it can be arranged to transport bikes over to Sintra to ride around the region. What really struck me was that even in the car, at rush hour, once we were out of the city itself, the roads were almost empty bar cyclists!
While I was in Portugal I had the opportunity to swim, ride and run. One of the services that the Lisbon South package offers is guides for bike routes – and at speeds to suit! If you are an experienced, high end athlete, Joao will lead you a merry dance across the varied countryside – he has raced at Portuguese elite national championships on the road and mountain bike. Don’t let this put you off however; if you are just starting out or feeling more circumspect on a bike, Antonio knows the area well – and his good humour and knowledge will keep you interested on whatever rides you feel up to. If neither of these options are up your street, and you just want to explore, Antonio can furnish you with a GPS unit to help point you in the right direction and route maps for if you find yourself lost! Being out on the road was a pleasure having had some interesting experiences at home – the roads were 95% smooth, and where there were potholes there wasn’t the need to swing right in to the road to avoid them. Even the biggest roads were quiet by British standards and there was a real variety of terrain and views.
Running around Alcochete was good fun – predominantly flat with a few gradual climbs – but plenty to do both on road and off. Running along the river was lovely, especially early in the morning when no-one was around! Because this part of the river is the estuary, you can swim in the river here, it’s great for open water swimming. Alternatively there is a great 25m pool facility a short travel from the hotel for the more tri minded athletes. Finally for the athletes looking for a full training programme will be pleased to know that a 2 minute walk from the hotel is a gym with a full complement of equipment – machines, free weights, TRX/stability equipment – and a sauna/steam room! The gym also does sports massage for those coming out and doing hard training weeks and in need of a little assistance with recovery! Outside the gym is a 60m sprint track as well for athletes wanting to do some power work.
Alcochete is a picturesque little village with plenty of places to eat, drink or just chill out. Because it is quiet, its great for downtime between training sessions, though on the edge of town there are places to go out dancing if your training week is more about balance than all out work!
Having been out to Lisbon South, I’d happily go again as an athlete – no questions asked. The flight is short, the weather is fairly guaranteed, the area is lovely. Its a minor downside that not all the facilities are right on base – but given that its all pretty much within walking distance for gym or pool swim from the Hotel Alfoz, its certainly a competitive option to elsewhere on the continent.
The intention for us is that we can run camps for Lisbon South – for varying levels of cyclist or triathlete – and also run camps/training weeks under our own banner, hopefully encouraging some fun in our usual way with training but also giving the option to go and see the sights, get some culture!