Never before had I seen a climb like this one. After what Martin had told us, I was curious about the climb to Senhora da Graça. And when I, with the rare fortune of good, fast, free wifi, checked out the Strava segment on my iPhone, I knew I had to go hard and enjoy the views later on the way down.
Imagine an almost perfectly shaped cone, a mountain sticking out in an otherwise moderately hilly landscape. Its peak with the Senhora da Graça sanctuary, which lends this climb it’s name, is visible from afar.
For the first six kilometres the road climbs up the side of the mountain like any other climb, switchback after switchback. But then, and if you click on the Strava link above you see what I mean, the road just goes around and around the tip of the cone like a kid’s drawing of a mountain road. 360 degree views for those who have the energy to look up at that point because the gradient moves between 8 to 11 % at that part of the climb.
I stirred up Alberto to go as hard as possible by rattling down the key data: KOM time, average speed for KOM, distance, gradient; while we rode from Modim de Basto through vineyards and villages in the opposite direction to warm up before turning towards Sobreira and the start of the official chronometer segment.
And we both treated it like a time trial, a late season indicator whether our form had improved in any way during all these kilometres of cycling through Europe over the past six months.
To be upfront: it hadn’t for me, and I was really disappointed at the top! Maybe my goal and expectations had been too high? Since I knew that I’d be Queen Of (this) Mountain by the time I reached the little church because I was the only woman on this Strava segment, I had to make up my own goal and somehow put it in my head that I should be able to climb 8.2 km at an average gradient of 7.4 % in 35 minutes.
But the disappointment didn’t last long; no longer than the blood taste in my mouth and the cramping in my stomach. Yes, I had gone all out, as hard as I could, and had blown up on those last two kilometres of road that coiled around the top.
The little chapel is beautiful, and the views from the top were the best I had seen in Portugal. And we descended so slowly that I even spotted a little Saint, no taller than a cat, perched on top of a boulder.