If you are planning to run one trail race abroad next year, make it Trilhos des Abutres. Well organized event with a really good feel to it. Challenging alright (scrambling UP a waterfall, anyone?), but the scenery is beyond breathtaking. Absolute gem of a race. And if you are in the area (for the race or for training) you simply have to stay with Gary – I have and it was the best decision ever (Gary and Susie were very kind and extremely helpful – one couldn’t be better looked after before a race!). The area is fantastic for trail running (and cycling), so now I plan to come back for some proper training with Gary. Thanks a lot and hope to see you soon!
A Cycling Odyssey
7 months ago, I had not ridden a bike for a good 8 years. And then it was simply a case of heading around the block with the children. I was then chatting with a friend about setting a challenge for 2014 and riding the Etape was thrown into the mix. I thought that a ride around the French countryside sounded like a decent thing to do but then was told that the logistics of the Etape for 2014 made it too complex. La Marmotte was then mentioned and since 'places were filling fast', I duly applied without actually looking at what it was, was granted a place and thought nothing more of it for a week. Then I looked at the undertaking!!
As I type now, I have successfully completed La Marmotte, duly climbing Col de Glandon, Col de Telegraphe, Col de Galibier and finishing on Alpe d'Huez. And this would certainly not have been the
case had it not been for the help, guidance and support of Gary 'Flash' Blesson. I travelled over and spent 8 fantastic days with Flash and Susie in March having 1 to 1 tuition from Flash on bike
handling, climbing and descending techniques and nutrition. We cycled out each day into some of the most spectacular countryside with ludicrously quiet roads where Flash was able to build my
confidence to levels that I would have thought unreachable within a very short space of time. We'd then return in the evening to be fed like Kings by Susie.
Flash's input didn't stop there - my email inbox has had a steady stream of 'Flash calling' to check on my training back in the UK, giving advice and support and most of all genuine interest.
I cannot recommend highly enough the Delucci experience and shall remain eternally grateful to them for taking me on the cycling odyssey that I have been on ... I am now a full convert to the cycling world and am lining up new challenges for later this year and going into 2015. To quote Flash, 'it's the madness' !!
“This was my second trip in 6 months to Delucci Retreat and it was just as good as I remembered it – only the weather was a lot
hotter! Flash and Susie lay on a first-rate service that leaves you wanting for nothing on both the training and accommodation/ catering side of things. We had a great stay and I can’t recommend it
enough if you want to get in any sort of run, swim or bike, some training in the sun, mountains, lakes or even coached in a pool – it has everything that you don’t normally have at home”.
Martin and Sandra Blenkinsop (pictured with Chris Lillywhite at Hampton Court wearing the Delucci cycle kit)
"Yet again, Gary & Susie looked after our needs from the moment we cleared baggage reclaim to when Gary returned us to the airport nine
days later! Superb food in a great location; fantastic training routes which Gary selected based on our wishes; excellent facilities and food at Delucci Retreat, very good hire bikes looked after by
Gary, and next to no traffic on the roads. What else could you ask for? We had a brilliant time – nine days back-to-back training, a mid-week massage and a trip to the seaside. Not only
was the food good but even John proclaimed himself ‘full’ on several occasions. Last year we said “We’ll be back”, and we’re so glad we kept our word. Thanks guys – until the next
David, Andy, John and Mark
G S Stella (John guesting!)
"I hadn't been to a training camp before so wasn't quite sure what to expect, especially being tucked away in the quiet mountains of central Portugal, but after our week at Delucci Retreat I'm 100% sold on making this a regular fixture in the calendar.
One of the main things that made it for me was that Delucci Retreat offers a really personal all round training experience. I can imagine some training camps are a bit more commercial with not so much of the personal touch. Both Gary (Flash) and Susie couldn't do enough for us. They work well as individuals but are also cracking as a team. Flash provides guided/tailored rides and runs in stunning settings. A key feature is the lack of cars for cycling and the shear choice of routes. The swimming was great too. Going late February it was a bit to early in the season to make use of the local outdoor pool and lakes so we hit the local indoor pool and the impressive 50m Olympic Pool in nearby Coimbra. Flash ended up coming with us to every session, which I personally thought was a big plus.
Susie ensured we were well fueled up at all points of the day. Breakfast and dinner were all top draw, anti-bonk cake to keep you going during rides, tea and biscuits when you arrive home...and not forgetting the constantly filled bowl of sweets in the living room! The quality of food was fantastic.....as was the accommodation.....as were the bikes for hire.....as was the effort they put into to every aspect of our stay. Fab week."
Richard Parker, Kingfisher Triathletes
"Your central plan should be to cycle each day. If you like high mountains and lush green valleys, beautiful scenery bisected by quiet smooth roads this place is for you. This is an area with
breathtaking views and colours. Flash is an impressive guide because he's good up a hill and he has an vast array of routes to offer you. Bespoke length, duration severity. Running through eucalyptus
and pine forests is wonderful.
You are also very close to Coimbra, the old university city by the Mondego river. Its a beautiful city with labyrinthe medieval streets. I am certain it has a wide range of cultural attractions but we never found out since Flash is also a member of Associação Académica de Coimbra (AAC) his tri club. As a result we spend our time in the beautiful and serenly quiet 50m Olympic pool being coached by Miguel, a great coach and eight times national swim champion of Portugal. We were also able to swim in the local 25m pool at nearby Miranda do Corvo.
At the farm house Suzy cooks delicious food in generous amounts. Excellent breakfast and supper with wines. The rooms are immaculate and provided with power showers and DVD/ TV players. Local bars and restaurants all offer tasty food and good local wines although you may be a bit tired. Delucci-Go there -Do the madness."
Alastair Bell, Kingfisher Triathletes
"I could not fault the experience...... the riding was awesome, great roads, no traffic, excellent climbing with stunning and varied views. Flash was also an excellent guide and very attentive, esp when I blew up going up Vila Nova, I think I would still be there now if he hadn't stuck with me!!
The swimming facilities and coaching were also top notch, especially the 50m pool at Coimbra with Miguel's sessions.
Finally, the general hospitality was second to none, Susie and Flash are great hosts and could not do enough for you and the meals were fantastic, especially the Banoffee pie!! Except for installing a bike lift to avoid the punishment of MFO or Vila Nova at the end of a long ride, I cannot think of anything I would change...... I will definitely be back."
Matthew Hobbs, Kingfisher Triathletes
"Flash / Susie
Just wanted to write and say thanks for a fantastic five days at the Delucci Retreat. I had a wonderful time and look forward to coming back. Flash - the cycling routes you picked were awesome. The roads were superb, free from cars and the views spectacular. I only wish I could have stayed a few more days and not rush home for that rubbish cup final. Thanks also for your generosity with all the kit as I really appreciate it. It was fantastic to have such a good cycling guide and confidence knowing the bikes you supplied were so well looked after. Susie - I know Flash says he helps out sometimes with the cleaning but your hospitality was fantastic. All of the food was wonderful and you must have gone to so much effort with all the baking and everything else to make us feel so welcome. My room was luxurious and felt embarrassed paying the small amount we did. You couldn't do any more for a staying guest and I would much rather stay at the Delucci Retreat as opposed to any five star faceless hotel. Thank you both again. Having stayed twice at La Santa the Delucci Retreat knocks spots off it. Thanks again to you both".
Russell Jones, Triathlete (Kingfisher group)
"This was our 2nd visit to the Delucci Retreat, we were greeted with soft blue azure' skies and an ambient day time temperature of 25deg, fantastic for the 1st week of October. The
accommodation was as usual it's high gleaming self and every breakfast and evening meal a groaning banquet and the wine's not too bad either. As for the road riding, we hired 2 of Gary's
treader's (Carbon Specialized, very nice indeed) We were promised spectacular scenery and 20k climbs, we were not disappointed, smooth flowing roads, beautiful long descents and of course delightful
coffee! Each day was better and better(the delirium had set in) Great new routes, the climb to Penacova was a blast. They say "le Tour" makes you a giant of the road,, i say "MFO" makes
mincemeat out of you. Why wait a year to go again? go in the Spring instead."
Kasia and Alun
Chris Lillywhite says: "I couldn't believe it when I arrived at Delucci Retreat. The quiet roads and the high quality of the place just blew me away! The scenery and varied routes are spectacular. I wish this place was around when I was a pro as the climbs and descents are just what you need in order to reach a high standard. It's also great for people just starting out in triathlon as the descents are so safe you can learn and adapt very easily. Also I sampled some swimming and hired one of the new wetsuits available and did some open water swimming which is so superb I just couldn't get enough. I didn't have enough time on my visit to do everything but I did see the running terrain and it's out of this world. As for the accommodation, it's first class and Susie's cuisine was as good as it gets so I'm already planning my next trip - I definitely need to stay longer next time! Highly recommended."
"We visited Delucci Retreat this year for the first time and had 10 days of awesome riding, food and hospitality. The guided rides had lots of variety and made training easy, no maps or getting lost! The quiet roads meant we could appreciate the stunning views, especially the range of wind turbines on the top of the local climbs. Gary has the ability to ride and run with top cycling talent so can push you if you want, but equally knows when to drop back and encourage developing athletes. Suzie was Chef extraordinaire and cooked some great food, I can't wait for the cook book to be released. All in all, a very personal professional service with the ability to hire quality kit if you don't want to take your own. We'll definitely be back!"
"Hi Gary and Susie
HUGE thanks for such a great weekend - I had a great time and loved everything about the weekend, the fantastic bikes, amazing scenery, lovely food, lovely company with top cycling advice and amazing swim.....I don't know which part was best and I'll be very jealous of Charlotte when she's back with you guys this weekend. If you've got any good photos from the weekend that you could email me I'd be very grateful. Thanks once again for a treat of a weekend.
PS thanks for the concern you also showed me Gary when I was cold!"
"Thank you both so so much for a fantastic few days, I really do feel (once my seatbones recover!) that my cycling has come on in leaps and bounds even after just a couple of days, and I'm much less daunted by the bike section of the tri's now! We're all plotting and planning already for our next trip and cannot wait to be back out there. Susie, your food (especially the brownies and the soups!!) made the hard work and sweating and swearing all worth it! And you've both clearly put all your efforts into making a totally stunning place to stay - THANK YOU!!"
"Thank you both for an excellent time at Delucci. It completely exceeded my expectations, and I thoroughly enjoyed every day & night that we were
there. The cycling was the best that I have experienced in my limited time cycling, and I feel that I've progressed hugely in such a short space of time. I went out with Bren, Matt and my friend John
on Saturday and found that Ranmore & Box Hill were both a piece of p*** in comparison to the giant hills which we climbed in Portugal! On top of that, the whole Delucci experience was
amazing. Your hospitality was unrivaled and Susie's excellent cuisine was a delight to enjoy each day. The setting where you've set up camp is idilic, and I have already mentioned to Bren that we
need to plan our next trip out to see you with in the next couple of weeks. Thank you again all of your help, encouragement and expertise over the week. It was a real pleasure to join you, and
I look forward to the next trip."
"Thank you for making us feel truly welcome at the Delucci Retreat. We had a fantastic time with a week of mega training backed up by food to die for and a service level second to none. The
Retreat itself is a perfect base - workshop, showers, good rooms, all facilities and plenty of excellent homemade food based on local produce cooked perfectly by Susie, accompanied by local wine to
aid the digestion. Add to that the quietness of the area (ignoring the noise that we made!) and the superb views and you have a little bit of paradise from which to start and end each day. The
roads are superb for hard training, with almost zero traffic, plenty of BIG climbs and safe descents. Gary is an excellent guide who listened to what we wanted by way of rides and then delivered. As
a bonus he also kept us entertained all week, though he couldn't quite match Steve's awful string of jokes! The arrangement of the mid-week sports massage was an unexpected and very welcome
bonus. Thanks for everything and see you next time.... the Stella boys will be back!"
Mark, David, Steve & Honest John
Yes, a truly excellent week. Thank you very much Gary and Susie. The terrain was mountainous and demanding but Gary's inspiring leadership along with the smooth road surfaces made the climbs and descents very rideable. The coffee and cake (and Ham And Cheese toasties) stops kept me going during the rides and the quality food cooked by Susie satisfied my hunger afterwards, even if the wine did go down a bit too easily! The company was superb. Everyone's performance on the bike was very good and there was much entertaining banter and many memorable experiences which made for a very enjoyable holiday and training camp. All the facilities and the bikes were first class and I will definitely be recommending it to others. I've been looking at the photo's which are better then I first thought and they will provide many memories. Just let me know when you you are planning to return!
"Hi Gary & Susie,
I just want to thank you both very much for the fantastic time I had at Delucci's, Susie's cuisine is the best and the rides (cycling) were just out of this world, like the Goblins. No, It was really amazing, the climbs and the traffic free roads were brilliant as was the camaraderie I am already looking forward to the next trip, although I am not sure when it will be. Simon did mention October.So we shall see. Once again Thanks, you made an o*d man very Happy. Fondest Regards, Mick".
“Hi Gary and Susie, just a quick note to thank you for your hospitality over the last 4 days, had great biking, food and company! I wish you every success in the coming year, if you treat all your guests like you did us they will all return to the UK singing your praises- I know i'll be telling everyone at my local club. Good luck Gary for the upcoming duathlon, and keep up the excellent cuisine Susie. Once again thanks very much." Nick Rees
I visited Delucci Retreat for 9 days training at the beginning of August and the fantastic weather and the tough climbs really made it a great training week which was absolutely perfect for my
end of season targets. Since returning I've done new PB's for 10, 25 and 50 mile Time Trials - 21:03, 53:39 and 1:54:36 and I
also won 2 Time Trials over the Bank Holiday weekend. If you want your riding to improve at whatever level I can't recommend Delucci Retreat enough!! I
will definitely be returning next year and I'm looking forward to racing Gary up some big hills in the stunning Portuguese countryside. While you're there and if you're daft enough, see what time you
can do up the toughest hill in Portugal up to the house? You'll love it!!
I have just returned from spending a long weekend in the very capable hands of Gary and Susie at the Delucci Retreat. From being picked up at the airport on arrival to being
delivered on my way home I can't fault the way I was looked after. Even having seen the photographs on the website I was very pleasantly surprised to find the quality of the accommodation and
surroundings. My room was comfortable and importantly cool with a superb shower to revive under after a hard day's cycling, all more comfortable and homely than I would normally expect to find,
clearly no corners have been cut. Good food was in plentiful supply from an energy-loading breakfast through to a well-earned 3 course evening meal and glass of wine, with the additional bonus of
Susie's delicious home-made cake and flapjacks to take out on the road, and not forgetting some cold beers on hand for after the ride.
Out on the road there is something for everyone, from cruising along fast and scenic roads to long steep climbs and long winding descents to cool you down. Gary knows the area extremely well and can tailor the days out to suit your individual standards and requirements, offering expert tips and guidance along the way. My riding will certainly improve as a result of even this short visit. This is all supported by an excellent range of bikes and equipment available for those who don't want to take their own, all new and regularly serviced to ensure smooth running. What more could you ask for? I didn't get to running or mountain biking but the potential is clear to see via extensive wooded trails leading straight from the back of the house. Maybe next time...."
"As a club cyclist this is only the 2nd time I've been to a training camp (normally avoid them) but what a fantastic experience! Traffic free roads, safe hill climbs/descents and good food are all I wanted from our visit and Delucci Retreat didn't disappoint. The owners Gary and Susie provided a welcoming atmosphere and the room was spot on, very comfortable with ensuite bathroom. The rest of the house was open to us and the breakfasts/dinners were excellent. Gary is a very experienced cyclist/triathlete and has an excellent knowledge of the surrounding roads and area. Taking me over some of the best climbs in the region, I soon adjusted to the Roubaix cycle (hired from Delucci) and enjoyed the views. With plenty of village cafés enroute a coffee, pastry or beer was always an option before the next challenging climb. My wife doesn't cycle but with Suzie's guidance she took on some challenging walks and runs around the local hills and countryside. It wasn't all hard work though as we were lucky enough to be there when a local town Penela had it's annual fiesta - medieval castle, market, entertainment, meal and drinks (all for €15 p/p!) made for a unique experience. Looking forward to a return visit, maybe for the Tour of Portugal!"
Neal Marrin - Finsbury Park CC
"The Delucci Retreat is a unique training facility for both the beginner and pro-road cyclist. I am relatively new to road cycling, but with Gary's tuition and vast array of knowledge I have returned to the UK feeling far more confident and have learned so much. I enjoyed my week that much I will be booking another week ASAP.
The planned rides/routes were fantastic, the scenery is just amazing, plus the option to go for a run opens up even more opportunities to explore the vast countryside available on your doorstep. I will always remember the awesome descents on the road, and the trails on the mountain bike.
Susie did us proud with some excellent cooking and even provided homemade cake for our rides.
I can’t wait to go back......"
"If you like Hills, smooth traffic free roads, cheap coffee and cake and a post ride shower that'll take your skin off then visit the Delucci Retreat!
I've been on training camps all over europe and I can honestly say that the riding in Portugal and the accommodation and friendly atmosphere and food provided by Gary and Susie at Delucci is the best combination I have experienced, the hills and roads are superb for hard training with lots of 5 to 6k climbs that are hard enough to satisfy any roadie who wants to destroy themselves, but are also of a gradient that allows ordinary clubmen to potter around and admire the stunning scenery - I had no idea that Portugal offered this kind of riding, it's like Northern Italy, but without the traffic, and you don't get any better than that!! I'm already planning my next visit.
Sigma Sport Pro Cycle Shop RT
"Delucci race team's first official training camp was held from 20th-27th March and was a resounding success. Gary and Simon are both in intensive training for the Lisbon half ironman held later this month and have benefitted from over 300 hard training miles in the week. Darren is still carrying a running injury and will be concentrating on road races and time trials for the immediate future.
We flew into Porto with Ryan Air from Birmingham, a two hour flight which arrived in Porto 20 minutes early. Gary picked us up at the airport and an hour and 45 minutes picturesque drive arriving at Delucci Retreat at 9.30pm. Accommodation was fantastic, comfy spacious rooms, own bathroom with luxury shower, absolutely essential after biking every day.
Day 1 was a nice easy-into-it day with 52 miles of mountainous climbing interluded with a cafe stop for a ham and cheese baguette, custard tart and get-you-started-quick espresso. Cycling top-drawer, spectacular views, traffic free roads, climbs into the sky, scenery to die for and descents 8-10 miles long full on. Weather was beautiful and more like a British summer when we have one than a March day. Returning to the accommodation the easy route was a godsend on day 1. Food and company in the evening was first class and slept like a log.
Day 2 brought another hilly longer ride to Arganil, a beautiful old Portuguese town with a traditional old square and obligatory church. Lunch involved sunbathing on the cobbles and consisted of the now traditional roll, custard tart and espresso. Not sure if legs were getting used to riding the mountains or were slowly disintegrating.
Day 3 consisted of day 1’s ride backwards which was theoretically(!!!) easier (not!) a mere 52 miles of climbs upon climbs but road biking as it should be enjoyed by everybody, traffic free perfect tarmac roads with views to die for.
The easier ride of day 3 was to prepare us for day 4, the “epic” 81 miles of 8000 feet of climbing and 6 hours in the saddle. On a route of dramatically changing scenery through picturesque villages, beautiful pine forested twists and turns up onto the windmill covered moonscape that is the 3500ft peak of the ride. Lunch on day 4 consisted of a more hearty meal of bread, cheese and olives, followed by roast chicken, chips, rice and salad and the ultimate cheesecake to finish with the obligatory espresso rocket fuel. Having cycled 47 miles to the lunch break the team’s dilemma was whether to (1) phone for help and start drinking beer, (2) start drinking beer and book an overnight bed and breakfast and cycle home the next day or (3) suffer with massive indigestion, wind, dead legs and just general all-round pain and cycle home, which we inevitably did. All worth it for the downhill that just never seemed to end. NB - forgot to mention the hill from hell back to accommodation which was already written into legend. Everybody who comes to Delucci retreat must experience it for themselves at least once. A second time would only be for the insane!
Day 5 (Susie’s birthday) and if there was ever an excuse needed, not that there was, thankfully turned out to be a rest day which was just as well because that morning I was walking like John Wayne in a diaper. Legs feeling the pace of 240 miles in 4 days. Miranda do Corvo, the local town was a great combination of rustic old Portugal interlinked with modernisation. We strolled around the open market which takes place every Wednesday browsing and buying the odd knickknack, an enjoyable break from the bike which I never thought I’d see. The market was followed by a stunning three course lunch in a local cafe with a charismatic Brazilian (yes that’s Brazilian!) chef in the middle of Portugal. Food was Michelin standard but with prices not seen in the UK since the 60s. A litre of the local red wine went down a treat with the team. Afternoon was spent on the fantastic new Delucci Retreat courtyard sitting around tables enjoying some Sagres with good friends and catching some more of those beautiful Portuguese rays (proper rest day). That evening we caught the train into Coimbra, Portugal’s third largest city and former capital, with some of Susie’s and Gary’s Portuguese friends for an enjoyable evening of eating and drinking and swapping stories.
Day 6 was back into the saddle and out into the Portuguese sunshine which would reach 27 degrees on this day (in March). Didn’t let everybody back home know what the weather had been like as it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale at a mere 8 degrees in the UK (suckers!). The team banter was better than ever on day 6 with each of us pushing each other to one of the most enjoyable days of cycling so far creating that warm feeling of achievement once we returned to accommodation, showered and downed another Sagres in the courtyard. That evening after another delicious meal we watched an old movie on DVD before retiring and sleeping like a log again.
Day 7 was time to return home after a fabulous week, great training, fantastic food and company, will be returning very soon."