Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Eureka! 210 Audax

I decided pretty late to give this audax (Latin for 'bold' btw) a go, and I was mightily rewarded; it was a really good day. Some of the fears in my last post were realised, and some of the survival strategies not followed as closely as they should have been, but I made it round - 136 miles in 7 hrs 57 mins of cycling, and 800 metres of climbing.

Route first - basically a big anti-clockwise circuit of Cheshire, taking in Manchester airport, along the north of the county to the Wirral, the unattractive west side of Chester, into Wales down to Bangor on Dee, then back via the castles of Beeston and Peckforton, to the middle of Cheshire, Jodrell Bank and so on, and back to Cheadle. The true genius of this ride, however, is that where others choose the hills and build the route around getting from one to the other, this ride (and indeed many audaxes) puts quiet country lanes at the top of the 'must do' list, meaning we did a circuit of Cheshire on a busy sunny Sunday, and saw almost no traffic. As I say, genius. Hours of planning goes into these routes.

Best laugh of the day was when we were all still riding as a group (60 of us; no more entries were allowed as that strains the soup rations at the end!), and the traditional cyclists' cry of "car back" went up, to signify a motorist wanting to get past. It turned out not to be a car but a Boeing 737 taking off from Manchester airport, naturally leading to one wag at the back revising the cry to "plane back". I know, hysterical in the re-telling isn't it?

Anyway, as I always seem to I got in a fast group early on and had to do the "shall I stay with these and wheel suck at a pace slightly faster than I'm comfortable with, or drop back and plough my own furrow?" calculation. Reader, I chose to stay with the fast group you won't be surprised to learn. We stopped at 112 km, which we covered at average of just under 20 mph. I was shattered, even after chocolate and coke - I guess 5 weeks off the bike takes its toll.

So I was faced with no choice but to bimble my way round the second half of the ride, which turned out to be a very good move. I had a lovely chat with Peter from Rochdale who'd ridden to, and was riding back from the event. That was going to be 175 miles in the day for him, and a club from near Sheffield were going to up that total further by also riding to and from HQ at Cheadle. Proper, proper bike riders, and yes, there was a fair smattering of female riders amongst the 60.

The last hour or so was in the dark, and whilst my lights lit up the road ahead beautifully, I discovered the need for a headtorch to be able to read route instructions on future winter / night time events.

Finally, we knew in advance that when we got back to HQ the usual village hall wouldn't be available because of a booking cock-up. Instead, one of the organisers had a lorry-based horsebox out of which he was serving tea, coffee, soup and rolls, so at 530 on a dark winter Sunday afternoon there was the slightly odd experience of sitting on plastic garden chairs eating chunky vegetable soup served from a horsebox in an urban car park talking about cycling and its place in the modern capitalist society. You don't get that on a dirty sportive.

And really finally, the 'controllers', as those who organise audaxes are known, were going to be in that car park until 10 pm if necessary waiting for the stragglers to come on. That's true dedication, and for that big thanks are owed.

Looking forward to next month's Winter Solstice 200 now.....

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