Caked in mud and grime from the rural Portuguese roads, the riders from the new Cervélo Test Team arrive back at their hotel after a gruelling five and a half hour ride.

Carlos Sastre arrives first, still wearing his CSC winter jacket incidentally, approximately an hour before the rest of the group.

Clearly fatigued from an intensive week of training, the Tour de France winner leaves his bike with the mechanics and returns to his room. Apparently numerous punctures on his long training ride proved enough for him to curtail the length of his training today.

Despite being in the Southern Algarve in Portugal, the weather has been mixed, with torrential rain for the duration of yesterday, although it is still significantly warmer than most European countries at this time of year.

This kind of weather, with sporadic bouts of rain, also proves a chore for the mechanics who spend more than half an hour thoroughly cleaning and polishing Sastre’s Cervélo S3.

The women’s team arrives soon after, with the exception of Emma Pooley who was not out on the ride today.

Caked in a thin coating of mud, the women arrive and soon have their bikes swept away by the mechanics with recovery products thrust into their hands by the squad’s numerous soigneurs.

Being based in Switzerland has obviously rubbed off on the team; everybody has a clear role in what is already a highly organised and professional outfit.

I can hear laughing and joking behind me and the rest of the men’s team arrives, again, caked in mud.

“One hundred and eighty (kilometres)!” booms Heinrich Haussler in a Bullseye voice, taunting members of the women’s team. “Two hundred!”, came the timely riposte from one of the women.

The riders return to their rooms after what has clearly been an exhausting ride.

After refuelling, they return to the hotel bar and it is clear there is already a genuine camaraderie developing between the riders. The men mix with the women, sharing jokes and wise cracks.

Heinrich Haussler soon takes to the darts board; he’s obviously played before. A potential challenger for one of Cycle Sport’s challenges…

Sastre mingles with the team staff, many of whom have joined the Spaniard from his former CSC team, and is laughing and smiling; already a popular character on the squad.

Cycling Weekly will be following the team on one of its training rides tomorrow, with the official team launch to come on Sunday.