Monday, 28 February 2011

Newport 200 Audax

We interrupt this description of the events I've chosen to make charidee events this year to bring news of yesterday's exertions - the Newport 200 Audax.

What's an Audax to start with?  I'll keep it simple - it's a timed bike ride over a set course, which you have to navigate yourself with the aid of a route sheet, proving through the collection of stamps at 'controls', receipts from shops/petrol stations, and information gleaned from places like church noticeboard that you actually completed the route.  It's very French in origin, hence the distances are always quoted in km (the 200 in the title refers to the 200km distance [201 actually] of yesterday's event).  It has a reputation for being the province of men with beards, sandals and steel-framed bikes, but in the ones I've done recently, there have been plenty of club and independent participants who have been without any form of facial hair, but with plenty of carbon, both in the soles of their expensive cycling shoes and the frames of their even more expensive frames and forks.

So, yesterday.  I took a sensible precaution in looking at both the weather forecast and the rainfall satellite picture before I left home at 7 am, and so realised it was going to be a wet morning.  Then when it did actually rain (and rain hard) I was less sensible in that I decided not to get the raincoat out of my pocket because the group I was in was going so well and I didn't want to get left behind.  Even when we hit a few hills and I pulled away from them (I mention this purely as a statement of fact), opening up quite a big gap I still didn't stop, because the stupidly competitive bit of me kicked in, and I didn't want to be caught.  End result - I got pretty damp and fairly cold.

Anyway, back to the beginning.  The ride started at Cheadle Village Hall, just inside the M60, and took a meandering route through the lanes of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire to Newport near Telford, then back through a different set of meandering lanes.  We saw Goostrey, Woore, Audlem, Wrenbury, Middlewich and Mobberley along the way for anyone who's interested in such things.  125 miles in total.  The things that made it distinctive for me:

- riding for a while with a pair of chaps from County Durham on a tandem, one of whom was blind.  The communication and teamwork needed for that - and which I witnessed - was something else
- no daft drivers or driving!  Normally on a ride of 100+ miles you get some idiots who overtake too close, cut you up, or worst of all from my point of view, holler obscenities out of an open window (yes, that really does happen quite a lot).  But yesterday - nothing.  And in fact quite a few very courteous drivers, some even pulling over on single track roads to let me through.  A rare treat
- the wind: it wasn't at its worst yesterday, but there was one hour period on the flat into a head wind where I averaged only about 12 mph.  I was also on my own at that point, which made things doubly dispiriting
- mechanicals: no pu**t***s thank God (real cyclists never name that phenomenon in full; it's the same principle as actors always referring to that play by Shakespeare as "The Scottish Play"), but a bottle cage managed to shear off its mountings, the rattly roads managed to dislodge part of my rear light, making it unuseable, and all the road silt made the chain and cogs very squeaky for the last 40 miles.

I returned to Cheadle after 7 hrs 48 mins of cycling (125 miles; I'm too ashamed to give you the average mph, you can work it out for yourself, but in mitigation it was very wet and windy m'lud), aching, damp, unable to see out of my right eye, but happy.  A tomato soup made me even happier.  The eye thing - quite often when I exercise over a sustained period my vision goes cloudy, like you imagine someone with cataracts would suffer from.  My optician reckons it's nothing to worry about, but .....(10 minutes later, just been Googling)....if it happens again soon, think I might get checked out. 

After I'd driven the short distance home, the happiness levels shot up further with a hot bath, Bovril in the bath (well not in the bath, me drinking a mug of it in the bath), a roast dinner and a chocolate eclair.  Life doesn't get any better.  And on that bombshell...

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