The good news is that the team managed to stick together with Robina and Christine both pushing the envelope in terms of there previous off-road experience.
The route was just shy of 50 kms long with around 900m of climb, the hardest day so far. Riding time was around 4.30 mins.
There was an interesting mix of road and off-road cycling with roads totally empty. Although there were some short off-road climbs, the big pass, just after Alvaiázera, was completed entirely on asphalt. Consequently although there was some pushing it didn't amount to much.
The first part of the first leg, a narrow rock strewn stretch of single track above a river wasn't the perfect start and confidence in my navigation took a hit. Things got better when the route widened into a gravelly track before emerging onto a road.
The next leg followed the road from hilltop village to hilltop village with the route clearly designed to make sure everyone got a share of the Camino action. We were now following a route which had little in common with my GPS but the signs were excellent. Apart from occasional stretches of cobbles the surface was fast and comfortable.
Leaving the road just north of Ceras the Camino split into two. The anticipated option climbed a near vertical wall of loose soil and gravel, which the information board said could be challenging (to walkers) while the longer alternative took us through a nicely scented eucalyptus forest to Areias. We chose the Areias option, most of which was off-road until we finally emerged into some sustained asphalt at the junction with the main E110.
From the E110 we headed north along an empty road to Cortica where, instead of doing the obvious thing and continuing to Alvaiázera, it turned right and followed a tiny road, usually cobbled with walls either side, through a series of half empty small villages.
We stopped at Alvaiázera for an excellent lunch (9€ each) before tackling the day's big climb which thankfully followed a road. Over the pass and anticipating an easy run down to Ansiao there was again a sting in the tail with the route vering off into a combination of steep and treacherous gravel tracks. The only compensation was that the route headed predominantly downhill.
Ansiao is a staging post for pilgrims but doesn't appear to have much going for it apart from that. We're staying in the municipal auberge, brand new and comfortable. My only complaint was that, after a very hot day, the shower had only one temperature, very hot.
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