The first stretch in Europe for Caroline Soubayroux and David Ferguson

Picturing Caroline Soubayroux and David Ferguson stood with their bikes on the dramatic cliffs next to Sagres’ fortress overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is a heart-warming thought. In a matter of moments, they’d be back on their bikes and setting off once again – this time on European soil as they continue to make their way around the world.

The Ponta de Sagres is not just the southernmost promontory in Portugal’s Algarve region, it sits at Europe’s most south-westerly point, which makes its road – the N268 – the perfect departure point for a ride across Europe. In fact, these headlands of the Algarve must exert something of a magnetic pull on cyclists, as even Jerome Cousin chose the Cathedral of Faro as the exact spot where he would end his Portugal crossing on his Wilier 0 SLR.

“After riding almost 6,500 km along African roads, I can’t deny how pleased I am to be back on European tarmac,” explains Caroline, who has clearly felt a sense of relief since starting the European leg of the ride. “It’s genuinely such a pleasure to ride on decent surfaces, even on climbs, as long as it’s consistent and smooth. When you’re riding in Africa it was easy to forget at times that smooth roads like you get in Europe even exist. And the fact that the Schengen Agreement exists is great too – it removes the masses of bureaucracy needed to cross borders, like we had to deal with in South America and especially Africa.”

However, her sense of relief didn’t last long as the climate blowing in from the Atlantic was not going to make life easy for the already fatigued pair. From Sagres to Santiago de Compostela (a must-visit on a ride like this one) right across to Don Benito in the autonomous community of Extremadura in Spain, they faced almost incessant rain and a severe drop in temperatures that made them long for the Namibian heat once more.

By the time they reached the region of Castile–La Mancha at the center of the Iberian peninsula, the sun finally came out – and so did the smiles on the faces of Caroline and David.
However, it was only a brief let-up from the unpredictability of late winter weather, as the pair had to cross the Pyrenees, marking a return to the cooler climes to which these courageous riders were now fairly familiar with.

After this 21-day stretch across Europe, you’d have expected it to be easy to sum up the experience, but it’s been a whirlwind three weeks of weighing up the highs and lows: do better road surfaces outweigh the suffering caused by the bad weather? Hard to know, but with six months of bike riding and travel now in the books, the pair are taking a philosophic outlook – no looking back or making predictions, they’re taking each day as it comes.

“We encountered so much rain and suffered so much from the cold that we shortened the final day to sixty kilometres,” admits Caroline ruefully, “this meant we reached Angers by bike then took the train to Caen, where there was ferry taking us to London and onto a flight to Australia. Both David and I feel really guilty each time we cut anything short, but as we cycled the short distance from Caen to the port in Ouistreham, the weather was so unbelievably bad that both of us knew that it was one of the best decisions we’d taken during this incredible trip.”

THE BIKE OF THIS ARTICLE

OLIVE GREEN; GLOSSY

JENA OLIVE GREEN; GLOSSY

Jena is a carbon gravel bike, designed to give you more freedom of choice when you go out for a ride. Jena was designed to satisfy any of your needs, whether it is performance on dirt roads and single track, or adventure, exploration, and bikepacking.
Jena is a light, reactive, and easy-to-handle bike with racing-comfort geometries, and able to adapt to the multiple uses required of a gravel bike.

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