Friday 6th April 2018
Can you imagine calling your office a nice tucked away retreat in Portugal? Think this man is living the dream! We had the pleasure to chat to Gary Blesson, a seasoned cyclist and triathlete who has taken the time to share his advice for those looking to get into sport and his lowdown on a couple of Portugese climbs. He is also the man behind the blog at Lexham Insurance who have kindly donated a £100 voucher to the rider of the day in our next version of The One series so read on, be inspired and sign up to the challenge which is 13 hills of the Chilterns...
Hi Gary, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. You seem to be the Alan Sugar of the cycling world (minus his Pinarello!). You’re behind Lexham Insurance’s cycling blog, the Delucci Retreat in Portugal, an ambassador for Vaaru cycles, a duathlete, a triathlete…do you get time to sleep?!
Well, I’m not quite the Alan Sugar, I haven’t quite got his riches, but I do have a few Pinarellos! I love writing for Lexham Insurance as it gives me the incentive to look into up and coming products, keep on top of what’s going on in the world of cycling. I’ve been writing for them for over three years now and really enjoy working with the team and have some exciting projects ahead. Vaaru Cycles are based in Chichester in the UK. I love the bikes and the whole unique image about them. The fact that they’re titanium and also with their amazing custom spray jobs make them a cut above the rest. I have done over 12,000km on my Octane 6.4 and it’s still going strong and I’ve just added a Vaaru to my hire bikes at Delucci. I have a great relationship with James Beresford, owner and designer of Vaaru Cycles.
I also have some exciting projects ahead. Through James I also am the ambassador for AbsoluteBlack who manufacture the oval chain rings which I have on all my hire bikes and my own personal bikes. I also have the great privilege of being on the committee for Great Ormond Street Hospital on a project based at the Lee Valley Velodrome which, after a year of planning with the committee, made its first appearance at Lee Valley in November 2017 to raise funds for GOSH with personalities such as Chris Hoy, Vicky Pendleton and Gordon Ramsay, all making this amazing event possible, which consisted of teams of four in a velodrome pursuit scenario. I also took part in the event with James from Vaaru Cycles and two other friends to raise money for GOSH and donated a stay at Delucci and entry to Lisbon Granfondo as part of the auction to raise money. This event will be happening again this year.
Not only do I work for UK event organisers, I work closely with Granfondo Premium here in Portugal with my good friend Antonio Queiroz, bringing customers to the event from the UK and participating myself and helping to promote these great events in Portugal, which also involves an event which is a ride across Portugal where I ride with participants to assist when needed.
Your Delucci Retreat is based in Miranda do Corvo in Portugal. What made you set up shop there compared to the usual training hot spots such as Gran Canaria etc.?
Well, to be honest, Portugal didn’t really enter my mind as the only thing I really knew about Portugal was the Algarve which in its own right is a nice place but not what I was looking for as I wanted something more unique and non-commercial. The usual haunts like Majorca, France, Italy, there’s just too many companies already there doing training camps and bike tours. A friend just suggested ‘why don’t you try central Portugal?’ which I knew nothing about, so I headed off to Porto for a long weekend and then drove down to the area of Coimbra to the lovely town of Miranda do Corvo with Susie, my business partner, where I know it sounds corny but looking through the eyes of a cyclist the beautiful mountain terrain and quiet roads was just perfect and still is to this day as it doesn’t have a massive tourist invasion so the roads are still quiet in the summer. Within a week we bought an old farmhouse and with a lot of hard work it became Delucci Retreat, 800m up a mountain and in the centre of a forest with everything you need on your doorstep and only 5 minutes away from the town of Miranda do Corvo.
Are there any killer climbs in the area or a favourite of yours you can’t keep away from?
Climbs. Where do you start? Well, firstly our classic climb, which is one of the routes to the house (and the most talked about) is MFO, with a distance of 2.5km and an average gradient of 12% and a maximum of 17%, it is not one for the fainthearted, but at some point everyone has a go and we hold a hill climb time trial up the climb if our customers are keen. Another climb near the house but higher up, which is just under 4km with an average gradient of nearly 9% and a maximum of over 20%, is one of the hardest climbs in Portugal. There are just so many amazing climbs from long steady sweeping climbs to more gruelling and testing climbs. One of the most amazing range of mountains not far from here where I take my customers is the mountain region of Serra da Estrela with 2000m of climbing to the top, one of the most unique mountain ranges you’ll ever encounter. With a four-man chair lift at the top for skiing it’s one of Portugal’s little known destinations so a great incentive and challenge for visitors when they come to Delucci. With a sleepover at the top after completing the ride from Delucci to Serra da Estrela, then we head back to Delucci the next day. With a round trip of 234km it’s a must in your cycling challenge tick box.
Looking ahead, do you have any plans to tackle any more duathlons or triathlons this year?
Well, already this year I have taken part in my first duathlon (sprint distance) back in March, riding for a Portuguese team, the Black Bulls Condeixa, a few kilometres away from where I live. My plans for future events are Olympic distance duathlons here in Portugal and triathlons consisting of Olympic and long course and also I will be doing at least 3-4 Granfondos. I love racing and have been doing them now for over 25 years. Here’s to another 25!
Best piece of starting advice you can give to someone looking to get into duathlon/triathlon?
The best advice I can give really is don’t put too much pressure on yourself for the first event. Just go through the motions and the physical experience and enjoy it, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t do well because it’s all about learning and progressing and experience. My first one I ever did I came last, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to win many races throughout my career and still do, so train well, practice transition from each discipline and also practice good nutrition. With duathlon it’s key to practice running before riding and run off the bike and, of course, with triathlon ride after your swim and run off your bike. So, simulation of the event you are doing is very important for your body to adapt and to pick up less injuries.
Final question we promise, we have our very own The One v4.0 coming up (as part of our hill series). If you had to design your ultimate challenge ride anywhere in the world, what would it be?
Well, I’ve had a taste of it a few years ago, back in 2014, when a dear friend of mine, “Chello”, was diagnosed with myeloma and I wanted to do something for him to raise some money for his designated charity. My cycling buddy, Dave Shepherd, who has a wealth of experience in the world of cycling, took up the challenge with me and we rightly named it the “Chello Challenge”. We rode from Miranda do Corvo to London unassisted with basic aluminium bikes with paniers on the back consisting of 22 kilos in weight. Taking on the Pyrenees, a non-stop ride which we completed in 14 days and raised over £6,000 for Maidstone Hospital Renal Unit where Chello had his kidney transplant. I’m pleased to say that Chello is still alive and kicking and in remission. So, I supposed I’d love to do something like that but more extreme. I love Europe and would love to cycle the length of Europe taking on all the amazing mountains and terrain which Europe beholds, but to be honest the choice is limitless and who knows what the future holds and what challenges arise. I’ll always be keen!
Thanks again for your time and we wish you all the best with Lexham Insurance and the Delucci Retreat.