Sitting in the middle of Macaronesia, about 520km off the African coast, lies the island of Madeira. Rising from the bottom of the Atlantic, the island reaches more than 1,800 metres at its highest point, and within a small area of 740 km2, you can find different climates, contrasts and breath-taking views.
STEEP STREETS AND VOLCANIC SHORELINES
– 80km +2,390m
We started in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, and it was a pleasant start… for 10 minutes. After that, we tasted what was, at the time, the steepest road I have ever ridden. It was unbelievable; we had to ride in zigzags using the entire street. And we weren’t even out of Funchal. We can say that it was a hard start.
After suffering a little bit more, we left the city and entered a less-populated area where we started to see the green colours of Madeira. We were headed to Ponta de Sao Lourenço, the easternmost point of the island.
Ponta de Sao Lourenço is a completely treeless landscape where oranges and browns are the main colors. We rode to the end where we could see sharp volcanic rocks.
We turned back and headed towards Porto da Cruz, riding up and through a steep 4km pass, until we reached Miradouro do Curtado and rode down to Santana where we stopped for the first night.
CLIMBING THROUGH THE CANOPY – 70km +2,930m
This was a big day on paper as we faced an hors catégorie climb of 12km, from sea level to over 1,000 meters. We started in Santana, and riding along the ER101, we passed through a rural area where houses sat in the middle of small fields. Up and down rolling hills, it was a nice warm-up for the day ahead.
We crossed the small towns of Sao Jorge, Boaventura and Ponta Delgada on a nice road near the coast—all curves, ups and downs, a couple of tunnels and a short, steep section until we made it to the town of Sao Vicente.
Even though we knew what was coming, it was tough. We had never ridden a climb like that; the steepness was unbelievable, but the scenery was unbeatable. It was like they built the road in the middle of the forest—so deep, so green and so full of life, you could hear a thousand birds.
After some suffering, we reached the top, and you could see both the north and the south coast of the island. You realize the steepness of the climb when you started with 25C° and sunny weather and when you reach the top, it’s all foggy and you feel the cold wind and 12C° temperatures.
It was time to go down. The hotel for that night was in Ponta do Sol (Ribeira Brava), so it was a 17km descent. It was nice to finish the day with a fun and fast downhill ride.
THREE SEASONS IN A DAY – 95km +1,840m
We started Day 3 with a transfer from the hotel (Ponta do Sol) to the Miradouro da Encumeada where we rode a short road with a couple of tunnels and curves with nice views of the valley.
The sun was shining when we started pedaling, but suddenly, fog covered the whole valley, and we had to put on our jackets. Even though we were only 16km from the sea, we were at 1,200 meters and the wind was really cold.
It was, again, a steep but pleasant climb. When we reached the top, the fog went away, and the landscape changed drastically. It was a big flat area full of windmills, and the road turned from switchbacks and slopes to straight and flat. Then, Andreu had a flat tyre and we changed it without any problems.
After the long straightaways, we started downhill to Porto Moniz: a 15km descent from 1,300 meters to the sea. At the start, it was nice—some relaxed downhill riding after all the long, steep climbs we had done the days before. But the descent got steeper, and the road was not very smooth. We could start to feel it in our hands and arms after some minutes as if we were riding a long trail, and again, we could feel the warmer temperatures as we went down.
A quick break in Porto Moniz and back on the bike to do a 2.7km, 500m climb. It was tough but with nice views of the coast and the cliffs. After that, the road softened and entered a deeper forested area as the sunset. More short ups and downs and we got caught by the night and fog again.
The hotel was still some kilometres away, and it started to rain a bit. Luckily, we were near the coast, and it was not cold. Finally, we made it to Calheta where we would spend the last night.
ONE FINAL FAREWELL -51km +1,350m
51km +1,350m The last day, after 297 kilometres, 8,530 metres of climbing and countless hours on the bike, we have to say we loved Madeira, and despite the hard climbs, it was worth it. To be honest, I don’t think you can see so many different types of scenery in so few kilometres anywhere else.
We recommend going, but we also recommend putting in some training hours beforehand, so you will enjoy the island even more, because it is really tough.
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