Wow, what a busy trip in Portugal for the Santa Cruz Syndicate this has been! Landing in Porto, Portugal last week and having 20 pieces of baggage (large baggage at that), all arriving with us started the trip well. With Ricky Bobby and the brand new Peaty Syndicate van waiting curbside for us, we stuffed the van full and hustled down to Lousa to meet up with Cedric Gracia and his new Brigade rig. The mechanics and Santa Cruz engineers, Joe Graney and Josh Kissner went right to work to get the new Santa Cruz Carbon V-10s ready to test.  Jon Cancellier from SRAM/RockShox was also there to keep things top notch in his department.Next day the first shuttle up the rocky, dusty road nearly ended the test before it started as the rental van threw a transmission belt during the ascent abuse. The boys got the van running again, African and found an alternate road up to the top of the track. Many thanks go out to Lousa’s Montanha Clube members who prepared the downhill track for our “surprise” visit and who also found the transmission belt when it came off the next day!  Big grins all around as Steve, Greg and Josh took to their new steeds.  Gary Perkin and Steve Jones joined in to document the action and report and you can check out their work here:

Rob Roskopp surprised the boys with a race session challenge for Thursday and the focus was on, best time of 2 runs and the slowest man down would have to wear a dress to dinner.  Steve smashed out a winning time of 2:46.78 and Greg, Josh and CG were all on the same second, 2:49.84, 2:49.03 and 2:49.57 respectively, with Greg having to man up (or down??) and wear the designer dress.  Lots of laughs were had at dinner and Greg found a new respect for what us ladies have to go through.  Can’t even begin to describe CG’s antics and tribute to Michael Jackson.

Friday we made the drive down to Lisbon with clouds rolling in.  It didn’t look promising, and the morning of the Lisbon downtown race the rain started just as the first practice run was about to commence.  The marble cobbles are slippery enough when dry, and when wet were like ice.  At times the rain was heavy, and after three practice runs a meeting was called to access the situation to race or not.  The decision was made to race and the qualification began.

Greg and Josh qualified in the top five, and Steve slipped off the first wood ramp losing time, and still qualified.  The race was on, and the live broadcast on Eurosport captured the thrills and spills for millions to see.  Unfortunately for the Syndicate the spills of Steve and Josh further dampened the day.  Luckily they were not seriously hurt, but it was said that Steve’s time was four seconds ahead when he hit the cobbles on his backside.  Greg took a quick and cautious run, which was good enough for a third place podium spot.  Portuguese racer Paulo Domingues was the winner and the Syndicate toasted him with ice cold beers opened by Greg and Steve on a spinning rear wheel.  Special thanks go out to Fernando and Inacio for their diligence to pull the race off under such conditions and for their attention to us at the event!

Trying to fly out of Lisbon on Sunday was touch and go with effects from the volcano impacting flights in Portugal and Italy.  Luckily Steve and Josh got out of town just in time as Frankfurt airport shut down. Greg, Rob, Lepa and I were stranded in Lisbon for another day and rebooked our flights for an alternate airport.  We enjoyed the Mother’s Day brunch at the hotel and finally got out the next day to Italy.

Crossing fingers that our flights out of Milan tomorrow actually depart to get us to Maribor for the first World Cup of the season and that the ash cloud stays away from the UK to get Josh and Steve in on time!

Thanks go out to the amazing hospitality at Quintal de Além do Ribeiro, the most charming hotel in Lousa.  From the home cooked meals to the personal attention from Felipe, many thanks!
Lisbon Downtown top 5:
1st     Paulo Domingues 1:46.122
2nd    Filip Polc (MS Evil Racing) – 1:46. 172
3rd     Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) – 1:46.780
4th     Michael Hannah (GT Bicycles) – 1:49.070
5th     Emanuel Pombo (Liberty Specialized) – 1:50.393

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