Hood River resident Nelson Snyder rode 1,162 kilometers across Portugal last month in 48:15:44 to finish third in the annual Trans-Portugal endurance event. The nine-day mountain bike race spanned the eastern coast of Portugal, running from north to south in nine stages ranging from 99-165 kilometers each, on terrain ranging from village streets and gravel roads to forested single-track, cliff-side trails and historic cobblestone streets.
After battling for second and third place through all nine stages, Snyder’s cumulative time was just three minutes back from second-place finisher Marco Macedo of Portugal. The winner, Vitor Gamito, was about two and a half hours ahead of the two.
“Usually with this type of race they make you do it in pairs or teams, but this one didn’t,” said the 41-year old. “It was a good challenge for me to see what I could do on my own. It was interesting that after nine days of racing we finished so close together.”
On an unmarked course, riders were penalized if they needed support between stages and had only bike-mounted GPS units to find their way through open country and small villages along the course. At the end of each stage, they stayed in nice accommodations and were able to relax and refuel for the next stage.
For Snyder, participating in the event was both an appeal to his competitive personality and an adventure in exploring another country in a unique way.
“It was pretty cool to see what another country is like from that perspective,” he said. “I try to do something like this every year; last year I went to Guatemala, the year before South Africa. Compared to a tourist trip, I think something like this gives a much more real, genuine feel of what life is like in another country.”
A 1989 graduate of Hood River Valley High School, Snyder said he wasn’t much of an athlete in high school, but once he started riding, the sport became a passion.
“Other than work and my family, riding is pretty much what I do,” he said. “That’s my biggest challenge right now — balancing the three. I’m competitive and I like to travel, so trips like this have been a great way to do both. I also enjoy bringing my kids (4 and 5 years old) along when I can to help them see the world and broaden their minds to other ways of life.”
Snyder, who works in construction, says he tries to go on at least one trip a year and takes his family along every other year. Next up for him is a 160-mile adventure run across part of the Sahara Desert. He gave a special thanks to Cyclepath bike shop in Portland for sponsorship.