the Long Distance Cyclists’ Association www.audax.uk.net
Number 113 Summer 2011
Paul Stewart on the Horsehoe Pass, Offaâ€™s Dyke 600. Photo by Steve Poulton
HEADING editorial IN HERE
Summer 2011 The results of AUK’s member survey, conducted by Danial Webb, are published on page 52 and have supplied plenty of information to be analysed over the coming months. One question intrigued me: When cycling, I feel 1. Bored. 2. Stressed. Ten per cent of the replies were bored, and nine per cent stressed and it makes me wonder why those cyclists bothered to get on their bikes. ■ Normally at this time of year, I’ve a rough idea of how many Auks are going to Paris for PBP, but with entries now handled on-line direct to ACP rather than through our Correspondant Peter Marshall, the numbers are not available. However, I wish you all every success and hope there will not be a repeat of 2007’s weather. I will be out on the course for four days taking photographs, accompanied by Mark Green. Look out for my ‘AUK photo’ sign and spare a minute or two to stop and say hello.
Matching names to photos is a big problem, so please make sure your frame number is visible, preferably on the front of the bike, eg barbag or handlebars. Maybe when you see my sign, you could briefly raise an arm so I know it’s an Auk approaching! ■ This year's National 24-hour, held in East Sussex over a rolling course, had 96 entries, 28 of which were AUK members. Some performances to note were PBP aspirant John Warnock finishing second to cycling legend Andy Wilkinson with 517 miles, beating his total from last year by five miles, George Berwick completing his 51st 24-hour with 300 miles and 77-yearold Horry Hemsley completing 275 miles. Steve Abraham arrived on the line with five seconds of the countdown remaining! Well done to all our riders, some of whom were riding completely unsupported, keeping the tradition of selfreliance alive.
Keep your wheels turning.
Contents Correspondence.................................................................... 2 Organisers’ news................................................................... 3 LEL News....................................................................................... 4 Official news.............................................................................. 5 The Dunkery Dash............................................................... 6 Kennett Valley 200............................................................... 7 Conquering the Beast from the East................... 8 The Plains Ride – My first 400.................................... 12 A different birthday party............................................14 If PBP seems a long way …..........................................16 PBP – the great adventure............................................20 In search of the Three-in-One....................................22 Didling to Burbage..............................................................26 Venice to England via Prague....................................29 Deepdale and Fleet Moss..............................................30 Offa’s Dyke 600.......................................................................34 Reviews: Carradice tools and DVD film............. 35 Three Coasts 600...................................................................36 Safe in Georgi’s hands......................................................38 Jurassic roller coaster.......................................................45 On the anatomy of audacity Part 2...................... 46 The last Elenith...................................................................... 49 Review: Hincapie Metric bib shorts...................... 51 AUK 2011 rider survey....................................................... 52 A lucky 400................................................................................. 55 The Merry Monk....................................................................58 Front cover: Phil Jurczyk, George Berwick and David McLaren ride the Snow Roads 300. Photo by David Martin Next edition of Arrivée is in November. Please send your copy to Maggie (address on right) by 19th September
PLEASE MENTION ARRIVEE WHEN REPLYING TO OUR ADVERTISERS
Arrivée Summer 2011
Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom – the long distance cyclists’ association which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in the UK. AUK membership is open to any cyclist, regardless of club or other affiliation, who is imbued with the spirit of long-distance cycling. Full details in the AUK Handbook. HOW TO CONTACT US Membership Enquiries: Mike Wigley (AUK Membership Secretary), Higher Grange Farm, Millcroft Lane, Delph OL3 5UX. Email: mike.wigley@Audax.uk.net Membership Application Form: www.aukweb.net/memform.phb or Ian Hobbs (New Members), 26 Naseby Road, Belper DE56 0ER. Email: ian.hobbs@Audax.uk.net Membership fees: Renewal: £14 or £56 for five years (price of four). New or lapsed members £19 (inc. £5 enrolment fee) or £61 for five years (price of four). Household member: £5 or £20 for five years (price of four). No enrolment fee for new household members. Life member’s Arrivée £9. ARRIVEE Current Arrivée copies, where available, are £3 (UK), £4 (EEC), £5 (non-EEC). Contact Mike Wigley (address above). Mudguard stickers four for £1. AUK cloth badges £2 (includes UK post. EEC add £1. Non-EEC add £2. Contact Mike Wigley (above). Contributions – articles, info, cartoons, photos, all welcome. Please read the contributors’ advice in the Handbook. TO ADVERTISE Advertising Manager: Tim Wainwright, 4a Brambledown Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 0BL. E-mail: email@example.com Rates per issue: Full page A4 £268. Half-page landscape or portrait £134. Quarter-page £67. One-sixth page £45. One-twelfth page £23. Payment in advance. Businesses must be recommended by a member. We rely on good faith and Arrivée cannot be held responsible for advertisers’ misrepresentations or failure to supply goods or services. Members’ private sales, wants and events ads: free. PUBLICATIONS MANAGERS February Editor: Sheila Simpson, 33 Hawk Green Road, Marple SK6 7HR Tel: 0161 449 9309 Fax: 0709 237 4245 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org May and August Editor: Tim Wainwright, 4a Brambledown Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 0BL. Tel: 020 8657 8179 E-mail: email@example.com November Editor: Maggie Lewis, 31 Headland Drive, Crosspool, Sheffield S10 5FX. Tel: 0114 266 6730 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Produced by AUK: editing, typesetting, layout, design by Tim Wainwright. Printed and distributed: Headley Brothers Ltd, Ashford, Kent TN24 8HH. Distribution data from AUK membership team. Views expressed in Arrivée are not necessarily those of the Club. Audax UK Long Distance Cyclists’ Association (Company Limited by Guarantee). Reg. Office: 10 Campion Rise, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9PU. To subscribe to the AUK e-mailing discussion list, send an e-mail to: email@example.com Copyright © 2011 Arrivée. Our WWW site: www.audax.uk.net AUK clothing can be purchased directly on-line at: www.impsport.com and click on Audax UK in the left hand panel.
correspondence A mild dose of influenza
I read the article – ‘PBP, endurance and the endocrine system’ by Rob Dalitz (Arrivée 112 2011: 54–55) with great interest. It set my mind to thinking why the day after a gruelling Audax event, I often feel a little like I have a mild dose of influenza. I alluded to this phenomenon in an article on the Dorset Coast 200km (Ten and one-quarter Dorset Coasts, Arrivee Summer 2009). In that article I invoked various vague immunological processes to account for my symptoms. The truth is probably much more complicated. Rob Dalitz chiefly mentions adrenaline, and incidentally the alternative term is epinephrine rather than ephedrine – the latter is a synthetic drug used to treat hypotension (low blood pressure). Adrenaline is part of the autonomic nervous system and represents just one of many ‘stress hormones’. Although the literature on the hormonal response to long cycling events appears to be limited, there is perhaps a model which has some similarities, and which has been studied extensively: the stress response to trauma and major surgery. At first glance an operation might not seem like a long distance cycling event. But consider for one moment two important similarities: first, both impose major physical (eg muscle damage) and mental demands (eg sleep disorder); and second, both are pursuits to be avoided if at all possible.
There is quite a body of literature on the stress response to surgery and I would recommend the interested reader to 2000 article (Desborough JP, British Journal of Anaesthesia 2000; 85: 109 – 17). Simply Google ‘The Stress Response to Surgery.’ Desborough covers many of the hormonal systems involved including a list of the principle hormones involved and the major responses: the sympathoadrenal response (which includes adrenaline as part of the catecholamine group of hormones), the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, the metabolic consequences (including the role of glucose and fluids) and finally activation of the stress response. This last section includes discussion of a number of responses which may partially resemble ‘a dose of influenza’ – which brings me back to my symptoms after the ‘Dorset Coast’. As a side issue, the reader may recognise some of the hormones in relation to ‘doping’ in the sport of professional cycling. So, if you are suffering the day after a particularly awful randonnée you might take some comfort from the thought that you could get more or less the same feeling following major surgery!
(The author is an Associate Professor of Paediatric Anaesthesia, and an AUK, working at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA)
Honorary AUK Recorder Interested applicants should contact Neville Holgate <firstname.lastname@example.org> Job description: The Recorder receives AUK event result sheets from the Validation Secretary and uploads them onto the AUK web site. Results of BRM rides are forwarded to the ACP BRM official for Homologation and the Homologated events are returned to the Recorder for upload to our web site. The Recorder administers the end of season awards claims, which involves checking claims and distributing awards to claimants, and also liaises with AUK committee, and deals with general queries from members. Records of various awards are kept and Handbook editors are updated as necessary. Internet access and keyboard skills are required, experience with Word, Excel and email or similar programs is an advantage.
Wanted – new organiser Dave Pountney is retiring from organising the Elenith and Kidderminster Killer but would be more than happy to pass on all his organising info to anyone who is willing to take either on. Contact Dave at <email@example.com>
Taking photos for Arrivée A limited number of grants are available to members for pre-approved travel to specified events, for the purpose of providing photographs to be published with an Arrivée article. Payment on publication. Please apply to the AUK Board.
Photo: Peter Stott
Photo: Tim Wainwright
Left: Charlotte Barnes and Jim Crew putting in some effort on the London Nocturne penny farthing race. Right: Lee Hargreaves wearing the new Audax England jersey on the Winton 200.
Arrivée Summer 2011
organisers’ HEADING INnews HERE
Organisers’ Newsletter 2012
By the time you read this, no doubt you’ll be starting to think about the coming year. So here’s a couple of things to think about, particularly for organisers of longer events. BRM or not BRM. If you’ve run your event as a PBP qualifier in 2011 be sure to check whether you want it to remain BRM in 2012. AUK still needs BRM events in non-PBP years to give riders the opportunity to qualify for ACP awards, and to qualify for the increasing numbers of 1200km+ events. But you need to take into account the increased validation fees, and remember BRM events must be submitted by 24th September. Check your dates. This year has seen a number of clashes between events, which doesn’t help either event in attracting a decent field. So please, check the dates of other nearby events and avoid clashes. Remember that longer events draw riders from further away, clashes needn’t always be on the same weekend either. The Events Team will be taking a much greater interest in scheduling of 300km+ events in future and may not publish your event if it causes a clash with another event. And remember, you need to pay the £7 event registration fee before your event will be published as announced in the spring Arrivée.
The topic of route integrity and minimum distances has been doing the rounds of the Board and Events Team (yet) again during the last six months or so. The approach of the last few years has produced an ‘Audax by Numbers’ approach, and a ‘Computer says No’ decision-making process to the acceptance or rejection of routes. By the time you read this the Organiser’s Guide should be fully updated but a summary of the outcome of our discussions is below: ● Controls must be placed to ensure the distance ridden is of the standard distance being validated by Audax UK (eg 200, 300km, etc) preventing any material shortcuts. ● For all new (and significantly modified) routes you will need to provide your Events Co-ordinator with your actual route, with control locations clearly identified. The preferred way to do this is with either a URL link to your route plotted on an online route planning service (eg Google maps, BikeHike, etc) or as a GPX file. ● Standards will be relaxed for Brevet Populaire events, with a greater margin allowed. In some cases this may mean that an event needs fewer
Arrivée Summer 2011
AAA News information controls than it does now. As you renew your events for 2012 your Events Co-ordinator will advise if this is the case so your event can be adjusted accordingly.
Validation, validation, validation
The online Start/Finish List generator has now been around for several years, and is currently used by approximately 70 per cent of all organisers to submit their results to Audax UK; which greatly eases and speeds up the work of the Validation team. For the 30 per cent or so of you not yet using it, from November 1st, 2011 the online Start/Finish List will be the only way in which you can submit your results. The Validation team will no longer accept results by any other means. Since its creation the facility has been significantly updated and now includes the ability to upload your results lists with only a few clicks, so it really is easy to use. Full instructions can be found in the Organisers Guide but if you’ve not used it before and want some advice on using it, or on converting your existing spreadsheets or databases then either the Events Team or the Validation Secretaries will be pleased to help.
The results of Danial Webb’s survey in the last Arrivée are now in, and have been pored over and analysed. You can read Danial’s findings elsewhere in this issue, where you’l find some clear results from the survey which will be of interest to organisers on how you can attract more entrants to your event.
Baffled by GPS? – an offer of help
Baffled by GPS, GPX Routes and Tracks? If you’d like to be able to provide riders with GPS data for your event but find yourself lacking time, technology or round tuits to do so; then Alex Greenbank has kindly offered to help out organisers in need. Based on your routesheet (paper or electronic format), Alex can provide you with any or all of an outline map, GPX tracklog, or elevation profile for your event which you can then publish on your event calendar page. If you’re interested, contact Alex Greenbank at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post at 17c Chartfield Avenue, Putney, London SW15 6DX.
Dave Pountney is retiring from organising the Elenith after 26 years. We haven’t yet found a new organiser, so if anyone’s interested please get in touch with either myself or Dave (trikietowers@ madasafish.com) John Hamilton
DIY by GPS with AAA points
Please note it can take several weeks for results to be added to the website, longer in the holiday season. Results usually appear without the AAA points, which are then added.
AAA Event Changes
Four Rivers and a Wedding 200 29 Apr 2011: 3,150m climbing, 3.25 AAA points (climbing reassessed). Three Rivers and a Wedding 170 29 Apr 2011: 2,200m total climb, 1,800m AAA climb, 1.75 AAA points (climbing reassessed). Brimham Rocks 200 24 Jul 2011: 2,160m total climb, 1,500m AAA climb, 1.5 AAA points (climbing reassessed). The Dean 300km 26 Mar 2011 and Deans 300 perm: 4,000m climbing, 4 AAA points (climbing reassessed). More in the pipeline. For the latest details of AAA event changes, please look on the AAA website at at www. AudaxAltitudeAward.org.uk. OnwAAArds and UpwAAArds.
The AAA Man
Mercian tandem. 22x21 Double gents. Double diamond. Cinelli bars/stems. TA crossover drive. Rolls. Ruby red. Classic 1985. £550 o.n.o. Marin mountain bike, medium. £550 ono. Trek T1 track bike, 56cm. £550 ono. Carrera gryphon city bike,18 speeds, disc brakes. £550 ono. Pete 01633 273586. email@example.com
The Fixed and Furious 374k Capt: Rob Bullyment, Chris Tracy, Mark Fairweather, Richard Thomas, Matt Tapping. Dick Turpin Rides Again 405k Capt: Tom Deakins, Deniece Davidson, Andy Heyting, Jonathon Dixon. The Ladies’ Team 403k Capt: Arabella Maude, Els Vermeulen, Emma Dixon. Kentish Men 370k Capt: Mike Plumstead, Tom Jackson, Graham Ward, Garry King. Les Lapin du Route 412k Capt: Jim Hopper, Jim Crew, Mark Gray, Martin Wimpenny. Cardiff Byeways 400k Capt: Judith Swallow, Richie Tout, Dave Lewis. Follow those Tandems 510k Capt: Bob Johnson, Aiden Hedley, Andy Clarkson, Ian Hellawell. Fixed Force Four 419k Capt: Martin Newstead, Dean Clementson, Andy Wills, Steve Bryce. John Radford
overseas and London riders. It will not appeal to everyone. For this reason, it will be entirely voluntary, will not form part of the ride distance, and completion will not result any award.
he LEL team have had a busy few months, booking controls, meeting with controllers, working on the website and keeping track of the various riders who have been testing the route. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
We continue to chip away at the controls. A couple more have been booked, and others are moving along slowly. Here is an updated summary of where we’re at with each control: Control
Sue Gatehouse and Keith Harrison
Great Dunmow (S only)
Agreed by email
Agreed in principle Lynn Hedley
Agreed by email
Agreed by email kitchen booked
Eskdalemuir (S only)
Agreed in principle
Following a couple of pleas on YACF, we know have controllers for Eskdalemuir and Great Dunmow. Many thanks to Denise and Tim Hughes, and Tom Deakins, for volunteering. The controllers met in York in April, to talk through the 2009 event, and to start planning for 2013. This proved to be a very useful meeting. The controllers agreed on the basic facilities each control would offer, and discussed issues such as managing support vehicles, registration at controls, sleeping arrangements and managing money.
Traquair (S only) Booked
The team has decided that all support vehicles must be registered with LEL, and that registration will cost, although no price has yet been set. Riders will need to specify which vehicle is supporting them. This will permit dedicated parking at controls, and use of control facilities for supporters. Support vehicles found stopped on the route (other than to collect a packed rider) will result in all riders being supporting that vehicle to be disqualified. Riders found to be receiving support from an unregistered vehicle on the route will be disqualified.
Denise and Tim Hughes
John Hamilton has received a few enquiries about the LEL DIY, and a few riders have already ridden parts of the route, submitting substantial and useful feedback to John. Don Black, John, Sheila and I have been discussing how we might format
Now that we’ve broken the back of booking the controls, we’re focusing on addressing some of the issues arising from the bookings. One of these is to find out to what extent volunteers in kitchens will need food handling training. Some venues will only need to see evidence of training, rather than certificated training. This saves a great deal of cash by not putting hundreds of volunteers through a certified training course.
and distribute the routesheet. The final decision on the format will rest with John. There will be a standard routesheet, sent as a PDF by email to all entrants. There will also be an editable version, to allow riders to reformat to suit. We will also issue gpx tracklogs. Finally, John will produce a suggested route for support vehicles. Thanks to a headsup from Rod Dalitz, we’ve been experimenting with waterproof papers. Initial results are very promising, with one variety, hydrocopy, looking very much the ticket. Although we don’t intend to send printed routesheets out, we may sell copies printed on hydrocopy.
The web team are making steady progress in getting the pages of the new website up. They have decided to switch to a different content management system for the site, which has delayed progress, but will hopefully make work easier going forward. Gabriele Patzner has translated the web copy into German. Ivo Miesen continues to work on getting other translations for us.
Inevitable volunteer request
We still need a controller to look after our control at Moffat. We will only use this control heading north, so it will only be open for a couple of days. Moffat is set in beautiful countryside, and the control, Moffat Academy, is a fine building with great facilities. Moffat is probably one of the nicest controls we’ll be using, so I’m surprised nobody has put their name forward yet. If you fancy a holiday in Scotland, and a few days being part of the action of LEL (without having to actually ride it!) then please get in touch.
Gary MacGowan, head of road events for Transport for London, is responsible for the Olympics road cycling events, and managed the Tour de France prologue in London. Gary also rode LEL2009. He has volunteered to arrange a central London depart fictif for us, for which we are very grateful. The plan is for riders to meet at a landmark at 6/7am on the morning of the event, be photographed and interviewed by the media, then cycle with a private escort (our NEG-qualified moto crews) via assorted London landmarks to the start proper in Loughton. This is most likely to appeal to
Photo: Tim Wainwright
Central London start
Rod Dyer climbing Yad Moss, LEL 2009
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADINGofficial IN HERE
Just a Minute Back to Birmingham to keep the world of Audax on route. Despite the Midlands Mesh attracting only a few committed supporters, Simon Ward has put a good deal of work into it and will be continuing to be its organiser as part of the DIY team. John Hamilton has been settling into his new responsibilities amidst a number of personnel changes and most vacancies have been filled though there is currently (sadly) no organiser for the Elenith. The new organiser form is being revamped, the grades reviewed and he wants to transfer the whole process on-line. This will extend to on-line payments for 2012 registration and beyond. Danial has been busy on the Publicity side, resulting in a good spread in the July issue of Cycling Active on Audax generally and a couple of events in detail. Peter Marshall has received fewer than expected enquiries about PBP. ACP is apparently juggling quotas in response to demand and he is confident that everyone with a valid entry will get a place on the event. Membership numbers have increased to just under 4,600 and an increase is also reported in numbers of brevet cards produced. Rides validated, too are up though not as high as 2007 levels. Medals and badges for specific distances and AAA points will no longer normally be available to purchase at the finish of an event (though some
organisers may continue to stock them) but will instead be handled centrally in the same way as other insignia. Finish sheets must, in future, be submitted online which will allow provisional results to appear far more quickly on the results page, though these will naturally be subject to later validation. LEL 2013 progress continues with more controls booked. A campsite near to the start is being block booked to keep everyone together and add to the occasion. It also has the benefit of a secure luggage facility. An optional ride from Central London may be arranged (similar to the PBP Prologue) before the start of the main event, but is only a possibility at this stage. Support vehicles may be used for named riders. They will have their own separate route and may not stop on the riders’ route for understandable reasons. They must be registered and paid for before the start. Eighteen submissions for a possible new logo were considered and discussed at length. One design emerged ahead of the others but it was felt that it needed further development. If an improved image is approved it will be used alongside the traditional bird logo for different emphasis. (The CTC employs two logos similarly.) Looking forward, to November, even if it is now midsummer, sadly Nev Holgate will relinquish his post at the next AGM, so an advertisement for a successor should appear elsewhere in this issue. Ian Hennessey will also
Silly Suffolk 150km and 200km events Sunday 23rd October
Start 0800/0900 Blundeston village hall, near Lowestoft, Suffolk Fee £5.00 No hills to speak of, but try something different in a unique peaceful corner of the UK. Some of the quietest lanes in the UK, sleepy villages, attractive market towns of Eye and Framlingham (with its castle) and restored windmill at Saxted Green. Both routes include Dunwich and its forest and the Suffolk Sandlings Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 200 includes Orford (also with a castle) and Tunstall forest. There’s even a ‘bit of culture’. Orford has its World War 2 intrigues, Dunwich its interesting history as the medieval capital of East Anglia – six churches under the sea and it’s claimed that when the sea is rough you can hear the bells. The HQ village, Blundeston, is where Charles Dickens based his novel, David Copperfield. Entries on standard AUK entry form to: John Thompson, 136 Dell Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 9NT. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel. 01502 581481/07854 650246
Arrivée Summer 2011
‘Eighteen submissions for a possible new logo were considered and discussed at length.’
be appealing for nominations from members for those four awards under the responsibility of the membership. I, too, should like to remind everyone to submit motions for discussion at the AGM by the end of September at the latest. Late submissions will be held over until the following AGM. Also, the usual plea at this time of year: the current season ends on October 31st, giving us just three weeks to get it all together for the Prize Presentation after the Dinner on Saturday November 26th. So, in view of the tight time schedule, everyone will be grateful if orgs will send in their results as soon as possible. Equally, riders should submit their brevet cards for completed Permanent rides without delay. Please also submit points claims for rides completed on fixed (to me) or even more niche machines, such as tandems, trikes and recumbents (to Nev). Failure to send these punctually may result in the award being presented to an incorrect rider. This request will also be repeated at the end of the season on the forum for those happier with that medium, but this is the last adequate print opportunity for the digital refuseniks. In the meantime, have an enjoyable and safe summer with best wishes to all on PBP: may the reality be better than the expectation. As ever, full Minutes will be available from me on receipt of a sae or on the website in due course.
Three brand-new events A new Audax event in West Cheshire on Sunday September 18th visiting leafy lanes and stunning mountain scenery Three brand new rides all start from Old Ma’s Coffee Shop near Tattenhall – approximately 10k SE of Chester. Plenty of free car parking available for those who need it. The 206k Pistyll Packing Momma heads out to Chirk and then visits Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall which, at 240ft, is one of the wonders of North Wales. The route then continues through wonderful scenery to Lake Vyrnwy and Bala before returning to Cheshire via The Shelf and Hope Mountain. The 134k Momma’s Mountain Views follows the same route as the 200 to Chirk before heading over to Llangollen past Chirk Castle. Next comes The Panorama before an ascent of the Old Horseshoe Pass to Ponderosa café on the summit. From here the ride joins Pistyll Packing Momma above The Shelf near Llanarmon-yn-lal and shares the same finish. The 50k Momma’s Leafy Lanes gives a pleasant, undulating ride through the local lanes. Designed as an introduction to Audax riding and/or a scenic and not too demanding excursion into the countryside. We have the roads and the scenery for a cracking event. Why not come and join us? Further information as to the event and how to enter available in the calendar.
The Dunkery Dash Gordon Jones
crossroads continuing onward and upwards ascending Elworthy Hill, a monstrous climb which appears never to end. The rewards at the top are views of the Quantock hills and valleys leading down to the Bristol Channel itself in the distance. The next few miles you seem to cycle along the ridge of the hills passing a Point-to-Point meeting taking place and eventually passing the refurbished Raleghs Cross Inn. From here you gain speed as you slowly descend to Wheddon Cross where after you head over the crossroads and begin the ascent to Dunkery Beacon. Halfway up the road bends to the right and you finally get a break from the cold headwind, which had been buffeting everyone on the way out. The one and only control point on the whole audax is reached at the top of the highest point of the Exmoor Hills and there you are met by the mobile horsebox acting as a mobile canteen. A very welcome site for tired riders. A team of Peter and his wife Sue plus Jean served up the various drinks and cakes whilst Tony checked the brevet cards. At this point I must mention one other unsung hero. That is what I call the Marshall in the field. Alan, our motorbike marshall who made sure all riders were OK along the route. As I mentioned previously the journey back followed the same route and most of the ride was manageable.
‘Obviously the bike had second thoughts and a blowout to the back tyre was the conclusion.’
There was an amazing bonus as we cycled parallel to the old West Somerset Railway when alongside puffing away came a King class steam locomotive painted green and pulling along a set of Pullman-like coaches. The engineer gave us a couple of toots and we all waved back. A fantastic sight to behold and a memory I shall forever cherish. Approaching Bishop Lydeard we prepared ourselves for Cothelstone Hill. Obviously the bike had second thoughts and a blow out to the back tyre was the conclusion. I did not recover from this set back and Cothelstone Hill remains to be conquered. Mind you I did defeat it on foot. From the top of Cothelstone Hill you sweep down to the crossroads and ‘The Pines’ café to climb the final hill to Fyne Court and then descend the last few miles along the red carpet back to North Petherton and a welcome bowl of soup cooked by Jack the chef, followed by cake and coffee. Just reward for a hard day in the saddle. This was an extremely well organised event and the route passed by some very interesting tourist sites as well as some outstanding views across the Bristol channel. Fast times can be achieved on this audax, hence the ‘Dash’ but beware those hills are as unforgiving as many I’ve come across in the past. Thanks to Bridgwater CC and all concerned and I hope to be back next year to conquer Cothelstone Hill. N
Auks at the National 24-hour, East Sussex
George Berwick on the countdown. Ian Hennessey checks the bike, Damon Peacock is filming and Arthur Vince (arms folded) awaits his turn.
Photo: Tim Wainwright
eaving exit 24 on the M5 join the A38 south to arrive at the lovely small town of North Petherton. The starting venue for the Dunkery Dash, the town’s community centre, is easily found due to its close proximity to the towns medieval St Mary’s church with its 109ft tower built in 1580 towering over the landscape. By the time I arrived at the community centre, parking space was at a premium but with at least three stewards in control it wasn’t long before my car was accommodated. Obviously a big field of cyclists were expected and organisation was top of the Agenda. Keith Tudball and his team Martin and Ian issued the brevet cards whilst another team comprising Jack and Jenny plus Jean served the coffee, teas, biscuits and toast. The large field of cyclists were sent on their way, marshalled expertly across the A38 to disappear through the back roads of North Petherton to start the long climb to Fyne Court. It’s like riding a never ending red carpet as the country roads are covered with a layer of loamy red soil. Passing Fyne Court, a National Trust site originally owned by the famous early pioneer in electricity Andrew Crosse, you descend to a cross roads and a distinguished café ‘The Pines’ at the lower slopes of the Quantock Hills. From here you head towards Bishops Lydeard climbing the slopes of the Quantocks. The climbing is not too difficult here but as you descend to Bishop Lydeard you are aware of an extremely taxing climb to be confronted on the return journey, namely Cothelstone Hill. Obviously you may have gathered that this is an out and back course hence what you gain on the outward leg you lose on the return and vice versa. After surviving the tremendous descent to enter the pretty village of Bishops Lydeard you turn right and briefly join the A358 before turning off towards Raleghs Cross and Wheddon Cross. Immediately you cycle under a railway bridge belonging to the West Somerset Railway. A railway society where steam is king. They run services from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead, using mainly steam locomotives. Following a few miles of undulating terrain you descend to the B3188
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADING randonnee IN HERE
Kennet Valley 200
All photos by the author
good turnout – perhaps 150 – for Kennet Valley ride. A funny old day: damp then wet for about 70k. Cloudy then sunny in the middle section before it clouded over again and heavy showers scudded past. The A-group left immediately and, after the briefest of pauses to decide whether I wanted a day’s grovelling, I chased after them. After my 200k solo permanent the weekend before, and lots of charging about town last week, I knew my legs had some power. Eased off when I got to John Barkman’s back wheel, then loitered about towards the back of the bunch as the pace yo-yo’d between 28 and 38kph on the flat for reasons best known to [censored]. A strong westerly wind blew all day, and made
Arrivée Summer 2011
the outward 50k leg to Tutti Pole café in Hungerford kinda rugged at times, but it was fun to be at the sharp end again. John Barkman had a puncture about 15k out, so I decided on a teacake and coffee to let him catch up. John and Pat Lomas dispensed good cheer as they stamped cards in the Tutti Pole to an assortment of drowned rats which bedraggled in. Good excuse to let the flaky pacemakers go, and an opportunity for some discreet massage under the table! John and I left together and needed to ride hard to get warmed up again. Was surprised to see over my shoulder that he had disappeared again – ‘Cripes not another puncture,’ I thought. ‘He’ll be well chuffed!’ My GPS battery went flat a few kilometres down the road, but rather than stopping to change batteries
Below left: John and Pat Lomas, controllers in Hungerford. Below right: Approaching Bedwyn.
I chased after the riders I could see 200m in front. Grabbed that bunch, had a rest, then went to the front with Phil Nelson and legged it again to get to the turn at the Bratton control ahead of the crowd. We giggled as Phil shouted ‘clear’ as we sped across a junction 20m in front of a bus – only a London-based rider would see that as a clear road! Left with John again after he’d lubed his chain and we zipped along using a lot less energy with the tailwind and my squeaky chain for company. It clouded over again and we got dumped on a couple of times, but only the edge of showers, rain falling more heavily elsewhere. Almost dry by Hungerford on the return, except for my feet which were getting regular spray from the standing water on the roads. Faded a bit on the lumpier roads across the Berkshire downs, but managed to hang on to John’s wheel; though it helped when he unshipped his fixed chain on a descent. We made it back before 17.00, and encouragingly my average speed was 2mph quicker than any other ride I’ve done this year – all that trundling around Hertfordshire in January and February paid off. Having had my feet inside overshoes all day I got an unwelcome swelling on my right shin (pressed, it bruises white like an uncooked sausage) but two days with legs up has drained the lymph fluid from it. Ho hum – one step forward, one step back! But the 200k PBP qualifier is in the bag. Dean 300, followed by Severn Across 400; and Bryan Chapman Memorial next up. N
Chris Beynon and Graham Ward on Salisbury Plain.
Beast from the East
Photos: Tim Wainwright
his was a wonderfully organised event with great and varied food, served al fresco in a parking area at the top of Streatley Hill and outside the RAF museum near Andover. The team could not have been more accommodating. I sense that Mark Brooking likes the idea of the Beast going into the audax annals an ‘epic’ ride, but if this year’s renewal doesn’t quite qualify (unlike the last one in 2007), he can be proud of having created a rather special atmosphere for this ride. At the start in Waltham Abbey it was a little overcast and gloomy with no real evidence of the forecast strong headwind. Over 40 riders departed from the church hall at 6pm, Mel Kirkland was spotted just arriving as we headed off towards Goffs Oak and Cuffley. A couple of us nipped off the front through the leafy lanes of Hertfordshire and made our way via St. Albans to the more exposed stretch of road from to Redbourn. Delightful Gaddesdon Lane took us up and out of the gravitational pull of London. I teamed up briefly with
Rich from Rayleigh as we tackled the climb out of Berkhamstead before being caught by Chris Beynon’s group just outside Chesham, on the road to Prince’s Risborough. I’ve only ever seen Chris at the start of events, as he’s normally near the front of the field, and I’m normally towards the back! Lightheaded at the realisation that things were going well, we promptly went off course and added a few kms to the tally. Mr. Brooking’s mischievous side was highlighted in this routesheet, as there were no distances to turns, RABs, T’s, etc. On the way to Princes Risborough the wind tried its hardest to blow us back to Waltham Abbey, but the lure of Tesco, our first control, was just too strong. Here I changed a slowly deflating tube, and headed off into the wind and over the hills with an intrepid Russian chap. After a particularly pot-holed stretch to Chinnor, we caught (almost) Martin’s team on the very stiff climb (16 per cent) from Kingston Blount and had a nice friendly ride with others to Tracey’s food stop at the top of the even steeper and longer Streatley Hill. Here,
Above: Mark Brooking with ‘The Beast’.
the Russian chap [Bron Plaskowski] was a star. He responded to Mark Green and Tim’s appearance with their cameras by spurting up the incline, all the time roaring like a wounded lion. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the hill, the Thames at Goring looks mighty pretty especially after the exposed lanes and fields around Ipsden which were
Right: Get the kettle on! Tracy Horsman and his brass stove. Below: The kedgeree.
Arrivée Summer 2011
Arrivée Summer 2011
which formed a peleton of about 20 riders on the road to Taunton. Steve Abraham gave us all a lesson in style and technique as he blazed a steady trail complete with twin Ortlieb panniers. Nobody dared to pass him, I think that we were all either trying to guess what on earth his panniers contained, or we were aware that this was a masterclass, and we were his pupils. The notorious Bermuda Triangle of lanes en route to the service station were made simple by Chris’s excellent navigation and we all arrived safely at that 300km destination. Alas, after the control and on the dreaded Angersleigh Hill, I was soon dropped and spent a lonely half hour plodding on in the darkness, passing Mr. A, wired into his iPod, until coming upon Martin who had very kindly waited for me. He guided me into Yeovil where I inexplicably followed another rider who I thought was Martin, but was in fact someone else, and I briefly lost my way near the control. These things happen after 20 hours of exposure to fresh air. Here we were treated kindly and patiently by Marks’s team. The judo mats were comfortable. The food and drink was available in copious amounts. But most of all there was an underlying feeling of optimism that we’d done the hard part, and that the brutal, rolling A30 and beyond would be tamed by a helpful tailwind. And so it proved. Leaving with Joolz and Graham, muttering something like, ‘We’ll take it easy’, I didn’t fall for this for one nanosecond. Graham and his definition of ‘taking it easy’ contradicts what is in my dictionary. They bombed up every climb of which there are plenty. Eventually I was left to grovel up the ‘forgotten’ hill to Shaftesbury roundabout. I say ‘forgotten’ because no one ever seems to mention it when talking about this ride. It steals up on you, and just seems to go on and on forever. My speed on this one never exceeded four miles per hour. Salisbury was traversed swiftly, reacquaintance was made with Jeremy as we joined the Andover Silk Route. Tracey and Diane’s marvellous tent on the airfield was the next stop. Four years ago this was like a field hospital due to the fierce weather conditions. This time, however, there was more of a picnic atmosphere. Oh, dear reader, how well we were cared for. Fried eggs, humous, bacon rolls, dal, noodles by the kilo, bananas, juice, coffee and more. Mark Brooking even sported his PJs for our amusement. What a spread. But we had to leave. I kindly turned down the flying twosome’s invitation to work me over on the next stretch, but after leaving 15 minutes after them, arrived at Dinton Pastures (520kms) on their coat-tails.
Bron Plaskowski on Streatley Hill.
‘Bron Plaskowski was a star … spurting up the incline, all the time roaring like a wounded lion.’ Bruce Taylor on Salisbury Plain.
After a huge plate of beans on toast, I was allowed back into the three-man posse, but the dastardly duo made me ride 40kms on the front to prove my worth. There followed another very pleasant section to the Deep Mill Diner, with navigational and latterly, climbing skills, much in demand. Those lanes up to Penn can put doubt into one’s mind. Some gratuitous inclines followed one after the other, Chalk Lane, Ley Hill, Bovingdon Hill, Tom’s Lane, but by now we were home and dry. To be honest, apart from the usual aches and pains, it was a benign last 170kms. At one point, outside Colney Heath, Steve Abraham did a superduper power turn on the front at around 35kms per hour which had us all wishing we had brought panniers for a 600. (Not!!) The end came via roads familiar to me, and despite the fact that the purple building as per routesheet had been painted … errrr, a sort of building colour,
Photo: Mark Green
an indicator of what we could expect regarding our impending journey into the headwind. A nice little group said farewell to cool, shady Streatley and au revoir to Tracey and Diane’s masterly field kitchen. Newbury came and went, and the grupetto of eight split into two halves. Graham Ward, Joolz and the plucky Russian were in the front quartet and try as we might, the remaining four just couldn’t bridge the gap into the wind. A brief halt in Hungerford for a group pee stop (told you it was a friendly ride!) and we cracked on towards Warminster. Salisbury Plains is a bleak and beautiful landscape, much used by the Ministry of Defence. We fought (I know!) our path through the drizzle, murk and severe headwind. It was very tough going indeed. Graham and Joolz did massive turns on the front and eventually I dropped off the back. We regrouped with more riders en route to Larkhill Camp and Chitterne, and once again endured an arduous road to Warminster. Included in our peloton was a fellow named Jeremy. He was uniquely attired and riding an old-fashioned bicycle. I guess that the seatpost could not be moved as it appeared to be rusted into the frame, and the rear wheel had a mesmerising shimmy. It was equipped with ‘suicide break levers’ … which didn’t work! (ultra suicide). Furthermore, it received Mark Brooking’s blessing over all that ‘plastic rubbish’. I felt ashamed to be riding a titanium bike in this man’s presence. Later on, at Yeovil, Jeremy remarked to me with frank understatement that bicycle technology and accessories had come on apace since he purchased his Apollo. (Must be the ‘Audax quote of the year’.) He needs to sort the brakes out for his own and others’ safety, but Jeremy finished, despite suffering a nasty brakerelated fall in Waltham Cross. He has my unfailing admiration. Back to Warminster, and a plug for Moreton’s café. The proprietor stayed open especially for us, cheered us all up with his jocular banter, and fed us with delicious omelettes, etc. Martin mentioned packing, but I think he was referring to his summer hols, and no more was heard on that subject. Suitably fortified, our slowly bonding group headed off westwards. It was becoming a most sociable ride, enhanced by the beautiful and tranquil lanes on the way to Bruton. We picked up a few riders on the way and the pacesetting to Somerton was shared by many riders, although one or two were reluctant to take a turn.. At this point after a longish comfort stop, we were joined by another half a dozen riders including Steve Abraham, Peter Turnbull and the chap with Victoria logo shorts
Photo: Mark Green
beast from the east – photos by mark green and we went off course, we soon got back on track. Young Jeremy’s brakes failed and he had a nasty off in Waltham Cross, but it could have been much worse. In the hall once again, we couldn’t want for food and good-humoured kindness from the indefatigable team. A special event, with some great camaraderie. N
This page: Jonathan Gray Jackie Popland Gordon Dewar Mike Ellison Pip Magnus (author) Jeremy Deakin Tom Down Patrick Field
Opposite page: Top row: 1. Martin Malins 3. Andrew Cornwell Middle row: 1. Duncan Murray. 2. Nick Jackson Bottom row: 1. Diane Horsman preparing breakfasts.
All photos by Mark Green
Arrivée Summer 2011
beast from the east – photos by mark green
Arrivée Summer 2011
The Plains ride – my first 400km Ashley Buck
ey everybody, just thought I’d let you know all about what I did last weekend. It was a long ride so it’s a long report. Sorry! My third of four qualifying rides for the Paris-Brest-Paris later this summer was a 400km ride from Stockport, heading south-west-ish. Bike of choice was again my treasured fixie, kitted out for the first time with a full set of lights and a saddlebag complete with provisions and clothing for a 24-hour ride – hadn’t realised how much weight this would add and wondered if I needed to change gear. However, I don’t have any other sprockets so this wasn’t really an option. This was a big bold step in a new direction for me as the ride started 13:30 on Saturday, and it meant I would be riding until breakfast time on Sunday morning – the first time I’ll have ridden through the night. Although not overawed, I was definitely curious about how I’d take to riding that far and through the night, so was very much looking forward to it! Setting off into sunny blue skies, I remembered just how much I like riding my bike (lots) and was chatting and grinning and generally having a fab time. This good mood lasted for ages and even the downpour a few minutes before the second control at 130km did nothing to dent it. The ride was described as mostly flat, and the hill that made the organiser include mostly in the tagline was a long drag, just before control two, so was very happy for some dinner in a decent pub. Happy with my steady start and nearly one-third of the way through, it was time to put the lights and leggings on as it was starting to get dark. A quick stint to McDonalds for the next stop, where a coffee seemed a good idea as a caffeine boost before riding into the late and pitch black night sky, soon leaving street lights behind. This turned out to be exciting, scary and bizarre. Navigation was the first difficulty with riding at night which included not being able to see my directions, road signs, junctions (I went straight over a crossroads before I knew they were there at one point), and I had to generally ride slower when coming to turn-offs to make sure I got the right one. It can be hard enough to watch for a small turning with a sign covered by bushes in the daylight, let alone at night time! Secondly, not knowing what is beyond the little pool
of light just in front of your bike made for slow going. You don’t know when you’re about to hit a hill, be it up or down. Then there’s pothole dodging, which is a nightmare on small roads, but lots of fun on A roads where you end up cycling down the middle of the road. Adjusted to riding in the dark slowed me up quite a bit, and it took a while to get going again. A feature of long distance is that you have ups and downs in how you feel. Sometimes getting through the next 5km can seem impossible, yet you can sometimes feel like you could cycle forever. It’s dead weird when you have a massive high at 2:30 in the night. I was flying along a deserted A road, in the centre of the road at the fastest speed I’d maintained all day. And that was just plain spooky – it felt like the world had been deserted. The thing that had caused this bright moment in my ride was knowing I was within an hour of gammon, egg and chips at a 24-hour truckers’ café. I couldn’t wait. I wanted that gammon, egg and chips so much. I overtook quite a few guys to get my gammon, egg and chips before them. I had broken the ride down into chunks, and gammon egg and chips was the next chunk. After that there was only 170km to go, in two stints. The gammon egg and chips would get me through the next 65km, before a final pitstop before home. The ride would be broken. Hollies 24-hour truckers café was shut. So there I am, at 3:30am in the morning having arrived at the place that had kept me going for over an hour on just the thought of food. And it was shut. My ‘meal’ of a banana, slither of flapjack, two wine gums and a glucose tablet only served to piss me off further. I wanted gammon, egg and chips. Getting back on my bike, with a massive 170km to go, I plodded on. And I know how to plod! The next stop was 65km away, and I wanted food. And I started to suffer. The quads had been aching for hours (blame the Three Peaks one week before), but now they started to cause a heck of a lot of pain. Then the hamstring was screaming, and it was still pitch black. This was hard. I’d cycled a long way, and there was still a long way to go. I was tired and started yawning, feeling very sleepy. 4am Sunday morning was a dark, painful place for me. But I kept pedalling, because that is what you have to do, and that is what it is all about. The birds were waking up, which
Ashley Buck on his fixie.
‘My shoulders hurt, all my leg muscles hurt, my hands were red raw from the vibration through the handlebars. My neck hurt. Everything hurt.’
helped and it was getting lighter. Dawn was on it’s way. That was my next marker. Keep pedalling till dawn. Dawn came, and turning off the lights was a pleasure. Only an hour until the next control now. God only knows how much further after then. Get to the services, sit down and have a break. I fancy a bagel. Or two. Focusing on the bagels, I was counting down the time in sets of 10 minutes. I couldn’t cope with distance anymore, I was simply playing games in my mind trying to get to the services. I cheered out loud when I got to within 10 minutes of the services. I needed a break from the pain of pedalling. Wish I had a freewheel (I apologised to my bike for thinking that, then kissed it. Then giggled for apparently having gone mad). But it took some precious time up. Arriving at the services, I think the trade description act needed visiting, this was a petrol station. But I was too tired to really care. I dismounted (collapsed) off the bike onto the floor and laid on my back for a minute or two before buying breakfast – a crappy sandwich and no bagel. Talk about déja vu. Eating breakfast, I was dreading getting back on the bike as everything was in pain. My shoulders hurt, all my leg muscles hurt, my hands were red raw from the vibration through the handlebars. My neck hurt. Everything hurt. And I had 65km to go. Queue texts from the support crew just having their breakfast. That helped. That helped a lot. I got back on my bike and pedalled. It didn’t hurt anymore. I was enjoying it again. I hadn’t enjoyed riding my bike in the traditional sense of the term for the last 70km. My pace picked up. Only 68km to go, I’ll be eating my second breakfast in no time. I was flying! I’ll show how quickly 68km can be covered. Exactly 30km later, it hit me like a brick wall. I was shattered and all the pain came back. Bugger. Oh well,
Arrivée Summer 2011
randonnee I’ve been here before and knew what to do. Break it down into chunks. Short, painful chunks. Better than long painful chunks, I guess. And at 390km into the ride with only a very small chunk left, I joined the route of a local triathlon. And two bikers sped past me. Having spent the last 21 hours of my life cycling, I let them go. But only for a moment. I realised I was wearing a WTC top, and they probably thought they’d overtaken me. I wasn’t having that. So I gritted my teeth, snarled a lot and sprinted for my life. 2km later and I’d caught them. I was 390km into a ride, and on fixed. They were 5km into a 20km triathlon bike race. And I was cycling quicker. That made me laugh manically. I didn’t care about the pain after then. The last 8km were an absolute joy. I’d had a really fab time. Getting back to the finish, I thought I’d head off for some food. But not before I sit down and send a few texts. I woke up an hour later. And despite all the pain, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about riding a long way. This was a proper long distance ride. And I loved it. I kept thinking, if I’m in this state after 400km, which is only one-third of the PBP, then how on
earth will I do it. But I think it’s exactly the same as the ride I just did. There will be points when you have ridden a long way, are totally shattered and unable to ride on and still with a long way to ride. But that was no different to parts of the ride I’ve just done. Just the distances will be longer. Still, any amount of time can be broken down into 10 minute chunks.
‘Comfort is King – I’ve ordered new bar tape and gel pads to reduce the vibrations.’
Guess if I get desperate, I could split it into five minute chunks. The key things I’ve learnt that I need to ponder on before the next big ‘un are: ● Comfort is King – I’ve ordered new bar tape and gel pads to reduce the vibrations. ● Time spent faffing is time not riding. I’ll be making a few tweaks to my set-up to reduce faffing – headlight for easier nightime navigation, handlebar mounted routemap holder, second water bottle cage on the bike, amongst others. ● Eat whenever possible. I believe the last 170km would have been easier if I’d had a good feed at 3:30am. But I couldn’t. I should have eaten better when given the chance. ● And finally, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, audaxing is an amazing experience. My life is definitely better off for having ridden 400km through the night. It is a bizarre and amazing experience to see owls and bats when riding a bike. And anybody can do it. A few seasons ago I hadn’t ridden more than 30 miles on a bike. This weekend, I rode 250 miles. And next month, I ride 600km. N
THE CYCLE SPECIALISTS
MADGETTS ✶ SALES – SERVICING – REPAIRS ✶ Superb choice of Clothing and Accessories Large range of cycles on display Excellent Wheel Building Service and Workshop
8 Shelfhanger Road, Diss, Norfolk
01379 650419 www.madgettscycles.com
Arrivée Summer 2011
A different birthday party Dave Minter
sub-schoolboy French with the hope of shaking his hand at the finish. Waved off by Poulidor and by UAF President Bruno Danielzik in front of the Hotel Reveil Matin (where the very first Tour de France started in 1903) just after midday Friday, the 80-strong peloton drifted south. The motos guided us along a fairly complicated but surprisingly traffic-free route for the first hour or so before we hit the open road and the group settled into the brevet. A gentle tail-crosswind made the flat smooth D-roads even more enjoyable; quite a change after our previous brevet. The weekend before, Judith and I had finished the Texas Rando Stampede 1200. Texans are known for doing everything ‘in a big way’ with outsized pickup trucks, longhorn cattle and ‘ten-gallon’ hats. I guess 1,000km of strong headwinds was just another part of riding in Texas! We hoped that we’d be able to ride through the night with the UAF peloton without falling asleep. Luckily Charles was happy to chat with me all hours of the day and night about almost anything, even about Audax, randonnées, PBP, Poulidor and the Tour de France. UAF organisers aim to limit most stages to 50km with 15 minutes rest stops, interspersed with 1.5 hour meal stops. In La Ferte-Saint-Aubin, 150km down the road, we enjoyed a good French dinner in ‘La Sauvagine’, with wine of course. Our table, with most of the foreigners and only a couple of Frenchmen, had to give best to nearby tables though. Our few glasses of vin rouge couldn’t match their empty bottles.
All photos by the author
magine being invited to somebody’s birthday. Imagine that particular somebody was a national icon. Now imagine that you and dozens of friends rode 400km to Limoge for his birthday party with a brass band, four course meals to sustain you and five motorcycle marshals easing the bunch through any inconveniences like stop signs and traffic lights. That was what it was like to ride the Raymond Poulidor UAF 400 in May. For younger readers, Raymond Poulidor was a top-class French professional in the 60s and 70s. Winner of legendary races like Milan-San Remo, Gran Prix des Nations and Vuelta a España he was fated to compete against five-time winners Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx in the Tour de France. Despite 12 TdF finishes (third five times and second three times), his autobiography was titled Glory without a Yellow Jersey. The rivalry between Poulidor, a farmer’s son with an attacking approach to racing, and the stylish but calculating Norman, Anquetil, divided France; the underdog by far the most popular. Judith Swallow and I signed on in Montgeron and collected our frame numbers, loaded our bags into ‘the Luggage’ sagwagon and got our bikes checked. The ride organiser introduced the four captaine de la route (peloton leaders), the five motorcycle marshals and the supporting volunteer crew. There were several folk familiar to us from last year’s Centenaire du Tourmalet UAF 1000 brevet, including the Dutchman Marinus, but amongst many new French faces was Charles, an Irishman living in Luxembourg. Charles had only started riding further than 100km a few months before. Aiming to qualify for PBP Randonneur with brevets in Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg, this event had caught his eye. He’d been a little confused by the varying meanings of Audax in mainland Europe compared to Australia and Britain and hadn’t realised that this Audax was quite different to the randonnees he’d ridden in the past couple of months. The birthday boy arrived at the start and was very relaxed with the riders wanting a handshake or a photo. I am a fan, having learnt of Poulidor’s epic battles from veteran racers in my youth and from a friend’s stash of old cycling magazines but spared him my
‘The birthday boy arrived at the start and was very relaxed with the riders wanting a handshake or a photo.’
Raymond Poulidor centre stage.
In reflective gear and back on the road, the group steadily rolled into the night two-by-two. After a couple of shorter stages, a brass horn band greeted us in ‘Valencais’ just before 1am, banishing any need for sleep for a while. I think the instruments were ‘post horns’, something like a French horn without any valves. A couple of hours later and we enjoyed a meal (and some rest) at ‘Auberge de Claise’. Judith and I had entered the ‘dead zone’, that horrible time between 2am and dawn when the body wants nothing more than to collapse into sleep. Judith generally is better at coping with sleep deprivation than I am but neither of us had completely caught up with the sleep lost in Texas. Most UAF 400s include a sleep stop but our schedule had us on our bikes again a little after 04:30. Chatting passes the miles pleasantly and French coffee always helps but, on that predawn morning, only the group’s smooth riding pulled us through to daylight. A couple of short stages later, we had a 45 minute stop at ‘La souterraigne’ for breakfast and, in my case, an Orinoco Womble-inspired ‘forty winks’. We’d entered the big, green, rolling hills of Limousin after 300km of flat roads. The schedule had not been too taxing to that point, thanks to benign weather, careful routing and steady leadership, but we still had to maintain the 22.5km/h average for the final 100km. The organisers amazingly selected a fairly benign route for this part of France, but the narrow, twisty roads meant the group had to stop occasionally to allow traffic caught behind to clear. The hills introduced some more difficulty. Uphills had to be taken at a steady pace so that weaker riders weren’t dropped too far behind. To enable the riders who had been unable to keep the pace of the ascent to get back to the group with minimum effort, a controlled descent was deployed. For somebody as fond of fast descending as myself, it was the hardest part of the event. We pulled into the finish with the five ladies plus the only recumbent on the ride arrayed at the front to greet Poulidor and the mayor of Limoge. After some snacks, drinks, speeches and photos, we trundled off en masse to our hotels, included in our entries. Lunch involved some toasting to our shared success and an afternoon nap became quite a good idea. We managed to pack just one bike
Arrivée Summer 2011
Photos: Tim Wainwright
into its little S&S bag before the coach arrived to take us to Poulidor’s birthday dinner. A short walk along Avenue Raymond Poulidor with a few hundred folk, some riders who’d ridden that morning’s short cyclosportif and some local dignitaries in their finery, and we saw Poulidor amiably chatting with the throng and posing in front of the statue erected to mark his 75th birthday. After some conversation, Champagne and hors d’oeuvres (the bikies took full advantage), the 300 or so guests were seated for a typically French civic dinner. The entertainment included a local band with a newly-penned tune ‘Poulidor!’ and genial interviews with Poulidor, several of his former teammates and contemporaries and Andre Dufraisse, a five-time World Cyclocross Champion in the 50s. After four or five courses (it’s
Paul Whitehead National 24-Hour
Arrivée Summer 2011
very easy to lose count after a couple of drinks), each of the riders received their certificates from Poulidor, along with warm congratulations and the muchcoveted handshake. Around midnight, the riders retired to bed while the party raged on. A second night without sleep would have been a bit optimistic. Postscript: Next morning, I finally packed my bike and our bags were the last into the coach for our trip back to Paris. A lift from a fellow rider to the local station, the RER and a slightly later Eurostar than planned took us back under the Channel. No worries! Despite the hills and the temperature warming towards the end, Judith’s GPS showed that our riding average varied by less than 0.2km/h between the fastest and slowest stages; impressive consistency from the peloton leaders. Every UAF organiser’s aim is ‘start together and finish together’ and every starter had finished. A great brevet with everything that I’d hoped for. N
Robert Royston National 24-Hour
Qualifying for pbp
If PBP seems a long way,
Consider the journey necessar Paul Howard
part from some general rumblings deep in my sub-conscious, my first real awareness of Paris-BrestParis surfaced in 2003. I was riding the Tour de France at the time – wait for it – on the day of the race, trying to complete each stage before being caught by Lance and pals. As a result, I thought I was pretty tough. Then, as always happens when you get carried away with your own selfimportance, I discovered somebody else doing something much tougher. A wiry South African called Louis was not only doing the same as me, he was also riding between the stages as well; I had my Dad to drive me from one stage finish to the next stage start. What’s more, Louis wasn’t taking advantage of idiosyncratic rural French hotels (baths too small to fit in, anyone?) – he was sleeping rough in fields and barns. And all for the sake of preparing himself for a mysterious event called Paris-Brest-Paris. Even though I didn’t really know what it was, I was hooked (you either are or you aren’t, I guess). Four years later and, judging by the tales of those who experienced the rain, I had the good fortune to be tied up with too many little children (four under five at that point) to have considered embarking on the PBP adventure. Indeed, it still seemed sufficiently
daunting for me to have probably found another reason not to participate had the demands of fatherhood not provided a ready-made excuse. Perhaps with this in mind, and with PBP sitting seductively on the horizon of my sub-conscious, in 2009 I embraced the Audax philosophy of long distance, self-supported riding – some might say took it to extremes – by riding a mountain bike along the crest of the Rockies from Banff in Canada to the Mexico border. In doing so, I at last confronted my long-ignored fears of bike maintenance (and bears, but that’s a different story). I also established that I could string together consecutive long days on a bike, up to 16 or 17 hours in the saddle. As a result, by the beginning of 2011 PBP had turned from distant prospect into irresistible challenge. Four more years of child-induced sleepless nights and the subsequent increased tolerance of sleep deprivation helped bolster my resolve. So it was that on April 17th I found myself leaving home at 5am to embark on the first of my PBP qualifiers, the 200km Witham Westerly starting from that cycling hotbed of Woodham Mortimer near Chelmsford. This came as something of a shock, in two ways in particular. The first was my own fault. Having been away for all of February and the
Musee Bobet sign (in St Meen le Grand in Brittany – on the PBP route).
‘A wiry South African called Louis was not only doing the same as me, he was also riding between the stages as well – sleeping rough in fields and barns.’
Training in Brittany (Philippe LeMen and Thierry Cerinato).
early part of March, my preparation was – inevitably – found wanting. The mind was willing but the body was only partially able. Nor was it all a question of not having the legs. I also didn’t have a bike computer or – for considerable sections of the ride – the foggiest idea of where I was going. And I had to ride my ‘cross bike as I’d only lately remembered that my road bike was ‘hors service’ due to a cracked frame. The second, much more pleasant surprise, was that the countryside was delightful. Having mercilessly mocked a university friend who insisted the Essex of his youth had a been a rural idyll, I spent large chunks of the ride feeling ashamedly repentant: ‘Yorkshireman in Essex is lovely shock’.
Hanging on to wheels
After successfully hanging on to several wheels to complete the ride in a shade under ten hours, the lessons were clear. PBP in general, and the qualification rides in particular, could not be contemplated if I didn’t manage to devote myself more diligently to everything involved, from training rides to logistics. No more short cuts. Of course, a couple of hours into the New Forest Goes West 300km qualifier and I’d have given anything for a short cut to the finish. As if starting at 3.30am after only a couple of hours’ sleep wasn’t enough (welcome to the world of Audax, I hear you cry), the beginning of the ride was like a catalogue of all the things that could possibly go wrong: I’d lost touch with the main group within sight of the start due to an un-inflated rear tyre; it was dark and raining; my new lights had run out of batteries already and I hadn’t had the foresight to pack spares; I fell off, not badly, but enough to make my shoulder ache, though thankfully without damaging my excellent Altura Attack waterproof jacket that had already seen off the worst the Rockies could throw at it. Then I had a puncture. Perhaps inevitably, the rest of the ride was a distinct improvement. Blessed with a cycle computer and road tyres on my ’cross wheels I made reasonable progress, at first on my own and then latterly with Gary, Dave, Graham and Tom. The joys – yes, that’s right, joys –
Arrivée Summer 2011
qualifying for pbp
ary just to get to the start… of covering such a large swathe of the country under your own steam, indeed of exploring new places (hello, Cheddar Gorge) largely offset the aching muscles and still pervasive sense of having bitten off rather more than I could chew. Next up was the self-professed DIY 400km qualifier from Didcot to Wales (Wales!) and back, otherwise known as Oxon to Knighton or the Faffers 400. If successful, this would be the longest I had ever ridden on a bike in one go. It might have been a good idea, therefore, to make sure the advances in preparation seen for my 300km ride had been continued. Not a bit of it. A nice new Wilier Izoard road bike was a step in the right direction; my inability to fit it with a bike computer or a bar bag – or even to remember a water bottle, resulting in a last-minute dash to the newsagents to buy something, anything, that fitted into the bottle cage – was not. At least I had decent batteries and a set of spares this time. I also had legs that seemed to have benefited from my previous efforts, which was just as well given the strong headwind on the stint into Hay On Wye. Then came a conversation I will long remember. George (ancien of four PBPs): ‘I propose to ride a slightly longer route to Knighton …’ cue growing looks of incredulity on the faces on other riders… ‘that avoids the major hills on the route sheet. Last time I rode this event it saved me 20 minutes, maybe half an hour.’ Paul (PBP novice): ‘Is that allowed? If
Arrivée Summer 2011
so it seems like a very good idea.’ George: ‘Oh yes, it’s not a short cut, so it’s quite within the spirit of Audax.’ A brief pause. George: ‘Of course, PBP isn’t flat itself, so hills can be a good thing.’ Phil (another PBP novice): ‘Fair point, but I think I don’t need to practice climbing in the middle of a 400km qualifier. There’s a time and a place for that, and it’s not now and it’s not here.’ George: ‘Follow me then.’ And we did, reducing the number of climbs into Knighton from three to one, which was quite enough. After that, my first full night of cycling passed off without major incident and by dawn we were through Stow on the Wold and within striking distance of the finish. Tea and biscuits provided by a long-suffering marshal in a lay-by at Chipping Norton – in slightly different circumstances to the beans on toast served by the ladies in thigh boots to customers in twin sets and pearls in Chipping Camden some 18 hours before – saw us home in less than 23 hours, universally deemed acceptable given the extra length of the ride (more than 430km in reality).
Loss for words
Three down, one to go: all that remained between me and the ‘prize’ of PBP qualification was the minor issue of riding 600km in 40 hours. I say prize – to me, and to you no doubt, it is. Yet to others it scarcely seems something you might want to win. On the eve of
We rode all the way to Wales?
Left: Me and Thierry Cerinato in front of PBP jerseys in the Bobet museum, St Meen le Grand. Right: Training in Brittany.
the West Kent SR Series Invicta 600 I was asked by one of my brothers-inlaw, who has a long history of wilfully misunderstanding how anyone might want to ride a bike at all, let alone cover such a distance, why I was doing it. Wise to the pointlessness of trying to explain myself in any meaningful way, I replied that it was so that I could ride twice as far at another event later in the year. For once, he was at a loss for words. Which was just as well, as it meant I managed to avoid being drawn into prolonged conversation about the merits of long distance riding. Even better, it meant I could arrive at the start in Sevenoaks Weald prepared. Well, as prepared as someone like me can ever be. I’d have to think very carefully before believing anyone who says they’re ever fully ready for riding such a long way. Incredibly, at least I’m sure that’s how my brother-in-law would see it, two dozen other riders were there at the start as well. Equally remarkably, a good group of us managed to stay together for much of the first 400km. Somehow managing to avoid succumbing to the collective amnesia that so often sees groups forget to navigate, we wended our merry way across most of southeastern England, through Cranleigh and Overton, almost to Salisbury, before returning to the event HQ via Petersfield and Pycombe near Brighton. The weather was dry and the wind generally favourable. It was, I though, a piece of cake, this 600km lark. Better still, when the route headed within a
qualifying for pbp
couple of miles of home on the leg from Pycombe to Sevenoaks, I was greeted with fresh cake – homemade malt loaf, just out of the oven. A couple of hours’ sleep later, and I was hotfooting it through the dawn to the event HQ to try and hook up once again with yesterday’s peloton. My pursuit succeeded, and at 7am, with the sun now shining brightly, I set out on the final 200+km with Daryol and Si, plus Dave and Graham from the 300km ride. Then disaster nearly struck. Just before Sittingbourne, my left knee started to complain. On the steep climb before the control the complaint became serious. I hoped soup and a roll, plus half an hour respite (and some ibuprofen) would do the trick, but five minutes after we started again the complaining resumed. To compound things, I then succumbed to the inevitable temptation to hang on to the back wheels of my generous colleagues who gallantly made light of the fact they were now towing me around. Only after two hours of growing discomfort did the penny drop that riding at my own pace and rhythm – pedalling a bit, coasting a bit – was a lot more comfortable (or at least a lot less uncomfortable). The elastic finally
snapped – to the rest of the group, not in my knee, though that also felt imminent – and I was left to my own devices. I cut a rather glum figure on the last leg from near Folkestone to the HQ, but at least I managed to keep going. Fortunately, the beneficial effect of the earlier group riding had seen my average speed keep reasonably high, and I had enough time in hand to dawdle my way home in a shade over 38 hours. The rain that came in the last couple of hours was almost a welcome distraction. And that’s it. Possibly for the first time in my life, I was now officially qualified for my next undertaking. Of course, a few gremlins remain, not least of which is my knee. I’m also going to swap my bar bag for a seat
Top left: Brittany. Top right: Me and the van ready to go. Left: Nursing my sore knee post the 600km qualifier.
post-mounted rack bag. And then there’s getting there and back again. I hadn’t been bold enough to book things in
Bottom left: Gary Dickinson and Thomas Stevens on the Lymington 300. Bottom right: Another (very friendly) garage on the Lymington 300.
advance lest my qualifying efforts fell short. But now I can safely say ‘ParisBrest-Paris here we come’ (anybody wanting to share a lift in a vaguely reliable VW camper, drop me a line). Thank you to all the organisers for putting on the events that make participation in PBP possible (and that are delightful rides and considerable challenges in themselves). Thanks also to all my fellow travellers, who have added immeasurably to the experience. I’m looking forward to seeing some of them on the roads of Brittany in August. I wonder if Louis will be there? N
Arrivée Summer 2011
auks at the national 24-hour and potter for tea Peter Ruffhead National 24-Hour
Alan Parkinson National 24-Hour
Findlay Watt, Potter for Tea
Andrew Weighill National 24-Hour
Richard Barnes and Andrew Wright, Potter for Tea
Bryan Williams, Andy Sutton, Gavin Yates, Graeme Robertson, Potter for Tea
Potter for Tea photos: David Martin
National 24-Hour photos: Tim Wainwright
Steve Abraham National 24-Hour
Arrivée Summer 2011
PBP – The Great Adventure! Richard Thomas recalls his experiences
article, I looked back at my 2007 route card and calculated that, for the 90-hour group, the minimum speed between controls is not constant, being 16.25km/ hr to Villaines (222km), 15.09km/hr for the stage to Fougeres and then around 13km/hr to Brest, which was a surprise to me as I thought it was a constant speed out and a different one back. The overall average speed to Brest being 14.2km/hr, the return 13.1km/hr. Remember also that the ride is 1227km long. It is a good idea to try and develop liaisons throughout this year to find some riding companions for the event. Bear in mind that sleep and tiredness patterns may cause your chosen group to split, which is OK as you may well meet up again later. Don’t necessarily be tempted to wait with someone if they want to stop and you do not, as the clock is always ticking. Obviously you have to judge whether you wish to stay with them but be aware that you may feel like a stop or riding more slowly later on. It is a good idea to regard the group as a ‘loose collective’. You will very likely feel ‘down’ at times during the ride. Do not give up, as you will (should) recover. I always try and ride night stages with someone else otherwise it can get very lonely! Remember that all the time you have your Brevet card with you then you are still on the ride. PBP Officials have the power to stop you going on if they feel you would be at risk, whether through an injury or extreme tiredness. They are able to make allowances, so if you arrive at a control out of time they may give you dispensation to get back within time by two controls from there. You could always try the trick suggested by Dave Lewis, of rubbing your hands along the oily chain and saying ‘J’ai un probleme mechanique!’ They will look upon your fate sympathetically, check your bike and send you on your way.
n the words of Jack Eason, ‘It’s only a bike ride!’ Well, yes in a way, but it is much more than that. If you are a ‘neophyte’ (first timer) then it is right to treat the ride with respect. Even if you have done it before, each time will be a different experience due to a multitude of factors. There is a lot of information available (AUK Handbook’s PBP History and advice in ‘Preparation for a Randonnée’ and Simon Doughty’s book The Long Distance Cyclists’ Handbook are examples) and talking with riders who have done the ride will at least give you a few do’s and don’ts. Everyone is different and it is unwise to follow someone else’s game plan to the letter. You may well have already committed to the ride by doing ‘preregistration rides’ last year. There are challenges, such as the undulating nature of the route (10,000m of climbing), which will seem a lot harder on the way back. That is why it is good practice to do some hilly qualifiers, particularly the 400km and 600km when you may have to climb when tired due to fatigue or lack of rest. If you opt for the 90-hour time then ACP allow less time to get to Brest than to get back (2007 was 43:45 down and 46:45 to get back), so don’t waste time on the way out, aim for 40 hours or less. If you can do a 600km in 38 hours then it is a reasonable target. In preparing this Richard riding Man of Kent 200
Photo: Lise Taylor-Vebel
Did I do anything wrong last time?
Having done the ride three times, the first time (1999) went fine and I finished in 76hrs 24mins, well within the Vedettes time of 80 hours even though I went with the 90-hour group (to be safe re time limits). The second time (2003) I just got under the 80-hour time (79hrs 36 mins) by skimping on sleep on the last night (just 45 minutes!). However, I still reckoned the ride was trouble free. So came 2007, and I felt confident! However, things went wrong virtually from the start with the
rain (which started before the start!) Don’t go off too fast from the start: I went off too fast with my colleagues (Chris Tracey, Paul Outhwaite, Martin Malins) and soon began to suffer. I should have known this but it is so tempting, hence don’t go off too quickly as it is easy to get carried away in the euphoria of the event. By pushing myself early on in the ride I got more tired than some of my riding companions. I should have ‘sat in’ more and just made sure I was not going slower than my group as a whole. By going off the front I just wasted energy that I should have saved for later. Because of this, by the third night I began to get very tired and into ‘sleep deficit’ (a fit of the dozies!) and this slowed me down, both before some sleep and then again afterwards. This made the final stages from Villaines very difficult and I lost a lot of time, finishing in just over 87 hours! Eat properly and regularly: I did not eat properly at Villaines (220km) and bonked before the next control at Fougeres and found eating ‘unappetising’ at the control. You realise you should eat but can’t, a recipe for disaster! Hence, do not be distracted by the feeding habits of others, stick to your plan, do your own thing. Arrive in Brest with some time in hand: I reached Brest in 39hrs 32mins and returned in 47:34, which was longer than the time allowed for the return but I had enough time in hand from the ride down, hence the importance of getting to Brest with time to spare. If you are on the limit there, then getting back could be a challenge. I know the weather was awful in 2007 and that probably accounted for the slow return leg. But who is to say what it will be like this year, let’s hope for a relatively dry ride. It will probably rain somewhere along the route, being Brittany!
I have always managed to sleep at controls and only once slept out in the open, a short nap on the pavement in 2003. In 2007 we found a café, with mattresses in an adjoining room, although not an official control. This time the organisers hope to have more places to sleep. I have always got to Loudeac for my first sleep of four hours, then got back to Loudeac (2007) or Tinteniac (1999 and 2003) for the second sleep of four hours. I think the weather in 2007 caused me to stop at Loudeac! and for longer (six hours) on the return leg. In 1999 I got through to the finish with no more sleep, in 2003 had 45 minutes at the penultimate control but in 2007 had to sleep before Mortagne in a café (as above) and got to Mortagne in the early hours (about 4:30am)
Eating at controls and on the road
I always plan to eat at controls. I have had to stop mid-stage (once in 1999 and once in 2003) and many times (mainly for coffee) in 2007, due to the rain. I always eat more on the way back as I get into more and more calorie deficit. In 1999 I got down to Fougeres before stopping, eating out of my back pocket until then! I ‘bounced’ both Mortagne and Villaines. This can be a risky strategy as you can either run out of food or bonk or both!
Clothing and waterproofs
I carry all my own clothing, etc, and do the ride unassisted. I use Assos shorts and a Terry’s Liberator saddle plus Assos cream (carried along with Sudocrem). Despite being on the slight side, I do not get saddle sore. I carry one spare pair of shorts, a spare pair of socks, arm and leg warmers, ‘autumn weight’ gloves, winter hat, gilet, survival blanket, reflective belt (now to be a vest
Arrivée Summer 2011
paris-brest-paris HEADING preparation IN HERE under new rules) and waterproof top (lightweight Altura), all of which go in a rack bag that has an extendable top. It is useful to carry some aspirin/paracetamol and perhaps some ‘pro plus’ caffeine tablets (but be wary of their overuse!) as well as Deep Heat or Ibuprofen gel for aches and muscular pain. I carry a musette for any extra stuff that won’t go in the bag, strapped to the top of the bag (not worn!). I take a pair of overshoes. I do not take any extra jerseys or an extra vest. Most modern clothes will dry out quickly. I might be a little ‘not nice to be near’ at the end of the ride! During the day I wear an airtex type vest, short-sleeved top and track top (if a bit chilly!) in my club colours, a pair of gel track mitts, shorts (as above), Coolmax socks and Sidi rigid soled ‘road’ shoes with Boots gel inserts. I have size 11 (47) feet and need a wide platform pedal (Shimano Ultegra road). Because of failing eye sight (!) I use Optilabs bifocal Reactalight glasses. I wear a Giro Atmos (now Ionos) helmet (plenty of vents!).
I have always gone with the 90-hour group as I would not like to do a ride in under 90 hours but be outside of my chosen time (as could happen in the 80-hour or 84-hour groups). I always go with the last group away so as to avoid the rush and tumble of the earlier 90-hour groups where accidents could happen. I then try and ride through the groups! However, the change of start times for this year will put a different and better dynamic into the ride, starting earlier and with some riding in the light before darkness on the first night. I think it will be an improvement.
Tools and spares carried
Riding unassisted means that I carry three spare inner tubes, patches and glue, plus a piece of outer cover with the bead cut off so it would fit inside a split tyre, and could be glued into place, plus three tyre levers. I also carry a roll of plastic tape (has many uses), a few cable ties (can even fix a cassette with lost drive!), a couple of old toe straps (some people remember toe clips and straps!), a set of allen keys enough to fit all bolts and a screwdriver (all in a folding tool). I carry a larger Allen key for the cranks (on square axle), they can come loose. A small torch is useful, plus a pen, tissues (in case you get caught short!), soap, small towel, flannel, toothpaste and brush (the type from an airline bag). I take some food, but not a lot (lack of space). The bag takes a lot of careful packing to get it all in!
Would you take a camera?
Absolutely, a digital stills camera, you can capture so much. I also use it to time stages, see below re schedule.
Touring/audax bike or stripped down bike?
I use an Audax bike, made to measure by a well known South London frame builder. It is a compact, lugless Nivacrom steel frame so is as light as possible without going exotic! Mudguards are really essential especially if the weather is wet as they keep so much spray, etc, off you as rider. The bike is built for comfort rather than speed but is responsive and balanced. I use a triple chainset (52/42/30) with a 10 speed 15 to 28 (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 28) cassette. It weighs quite a lot with all that gear on board but I need it all. Remember, carry everything you need and nothing that you don’t (need).
I use Continental 4 Seasons folding 25mm, which are virtually puncture proof, lightweight (220gm) and comfortable. They are on Mavic Open Pro 36 spoke wheels, which can be easily repaired, respoked etc. Nothing fancy. Use new tyres and tubes, don’t skimp and risk part-used tyres which is false economy.
Did you ride to a schedule?
I always ride to a schedule on rides of over 400km. I use a riding speed of 20km/hr, hence on PBP it means riding for approx. 61.5hrs (1227km) and having over 28 hours ‘resting’. This works
Arrivée Summer 2011
well for me, and the final average riding speed is usually just over 20km/hr. I am always surprised how much slower I ride at night! The ‘resting’ is split into one hour (average) at each ‘daytime’ control and four hours extra at each ‘sleep’ control. For the 14 controls (including Mortagne on the way out) on PBP it means using 14 hours plus three sleep controls using an extra 12 hours, hence adding all this up it gives an 87-hour ride. This leaves three hours’ leeway for secret controls, roadside stops to savour the local hospitality, etc, and anything else. C’est du gateau, n’est ce pas! I have also used this on LEL in 2009 and HBKH in 2010. Note that on PBP in 2007 I had an 80-hour schedule which went out the window early on courtesy of the weather. The 80 hours was based on fewer stops but the same riding speed of 20km/hr. The camera is used to take a photo when I leave each control, as the arrival time is recorded on the route card/brevet card. This enables time spent at controls to be calculated. ‘In stage’ time stopped is not recorded but can be calculated from all other data, as I also record riding time, average riding speed and stage distance when I arrive at each control. At the end of the ride I then compare the schedule with the actual ride data. The advantage of a schedule is that you don’t panic, as even if you fall behind you still have that yardstick to help with the calculations required to adjust the ride.
I use a Schmidt dynohub, linked to their Edelux LED front light (better than all my previous dynamo lighting systems), plus two Cateye battery front lights (for illumination of the computer and route sheet) and four battery-powered rear lights, two on the carrier legs, one on the carrier rack top and one on the seat tube. I use three rear lights at any one time, the fourth is a back up.
I don’t use GPS or HRM. I rely on the paper route sheet and I know my limits on performance. My age is the biggest limit and my heart rate maximum on a turbo is around 155bpm so I ride well within it so that I can talk and ride (see also Lucy McTaggart’s advice in the Winter 2011 edition of Arrivée, all of which is absolutely relevant).
Was I fit enough on the day?
I have always hoped that I am fit enough on the day. I have always tried to ‘keep it going’ after the qualifiers end in late May/ early June. In the past I have only done 200km rides from then on to build up speed for the early stages of PBP but this year I am breaking with tradition and also doing a 500km DIY (with Rob Bullyment) at the end of July to replicate the first day
of PBP. In 1999, 2003 and 2007 I rode to Paris beforehand (Friday and Saturday) and in 2003 and 2007 also rode back (Saturday and Sunday) with my riding group (Rob Bullyment, Chris Tracey, Mark Heffer and various others). I put a pair of panniers on to carry all my clothes, etc, and leave them in Paris, just using a rack bag for the event. Rob, Chris and I will do the same this year. We feel it relaxes us before the ride and is good recovery afterwards. To demonstrate this, in 2007 I rode across the Pyrenees (on Gerry Goldsmith’s CTC tour, 28 cols, 18,000m of climbing) nine days after PBP. Although I started doing Audax rides in 1983, I did not do my first SR until 1991 (I was racing in those days). Then work got in the way and I did not do another SR series until 1999. However, since 1999 I have been riding Audax events consistently and have completed a SR series every year. This year is my thirteenth consecutive and fourteenth overall. I have also done a programme of longer rides, being PBP (1999), PBP (2003), Raid Alpine (2004), BMB (2005), the New Forest 1000km (2006), PBP (2007), LEL (2009), HBKH (2010) plus three Easter Arrows (2004, 2007 and 2010) as well as a RTTY plus plenty of grimpeur events. This year I will be building up gradually. By mid-February I already have done four 100km rides, including a grimpeur, I have two 200s in March, then a 300km and Easter Arrow on consecutive weekends in April, stepping up the intensity in May with two 400s and a 600km on consecutive weekends, then the Dieppe Raid weekend and the National 24hr Champs in June, plus a 200km at the end of June and the 500km DIY at the end of July. I will then ride to Paris for the big one! I manage to ride over 10,000km each year even with around eight weeks a year with no riding (for various reasons). As everyone knows, as the years go by ‘adequate’ fitness is more difficult to maintain. I have noticed this over the past couple of years. Hence the number of riders over a ‘certain age’ participating in long distance events is quite small (12 SR riders over 65 in 2010). To date I have been fortunate in never failing to finish an Audax ride, having started them in 1983! I came very near to it in HBKH in 2010, as mentioned in my article in Arrivée 111. Needless to say I have not started some events that I have entered, usually due to illness or forecast of extreme inclement weather. So, I hope the above advice will encourage you to enter PBP, it is a fantastic event and like no other. With the right attitude of mind, which contributes the most to a successful ride, you can do it. Plan it in your mind, be confident, prepare well before the event and you will succeed. N
In search of the Three-in-One … Damon Peacock
I wrote the accompanying three articles with a view to trying to integrate them into a single entity. But a bit like a grand unified theory of physics, it can’t be done. What unites these musings is preparedness and how it does or doesn’t provide peace of mind. I’m predisposed to keep changing the way I do things, not so much to perfect them, but because I get bored easily. I also realise that it can be counter-productive to change for change’s sake. So I’ll add something new onto the established way of doing things to keep the interest level up, hence the filming. I also believe that fretting and faffing expand to fill the time available. It’s better to have another thing to fret about and faff
with than to fiddle with the bike until it rebels and lets you down in the middle of a ride. Those of you new to PBP will find that it consumes your available fretting, faffing and fiddling bandwidth. My bandwidth is now up to the level where I shall be co-ordinating a support vehicle and an accompanying motorcycle cameraman and filming a speculative film with a view to selling some DVDs to cover the costs. I’ll let you know how I get on. Meanwhile if you are new to PBP, bear in mind that anyone who has done it before is playing a version of this game, so don’t let them clutter your head up with more than you need to know.
PBP again and again
‘The suffering in his face has a biblical quality.’
Photo: Damon Peacock
can sympathise with the feeling that PBP is overdone in the pages of Arrivée. Most readers will never do the event and it smacks of elitism to have the extreme end of our pastime forced down our throats. The concentration on the event is justified because lots of relative newcomers are focused on doing PBP and it’s important to cater for them. Most of the riders will do PBP once, as a single project, and they want to get it right, so they will devour information from any source, and there are a lot of sources available, because one of the features of long distance cycling is that people like to write about it. The journey carries the kernel of the story within itself and we get a personal view of that journey. All Audax stories consist of people pushing pedals at varying rates, usually they get round, sometimes they don’t. The arena for these narratives varies from self-devised routes validated by GPS tracks to highly organised and supported events with thousands of participants. At one extreme Audax is a battle with the self. It seems abnormal to seek to extend a commonplace activity, cycling, to such extremes. People can accept marathon running because it takes place within a comprehensible time frame and geographical constraints, a 200km Audax falls into the outer limits of that frame of acceptance, it takes place within a day, and it might occupy the space in the imagination encompassed by a family day out in the car. Impressive, but not beyond understanding. Beyond 300km and we are in the territory of that which passes all understanding. The simplest form of motivation for Audax is weight control, the sedentary modern lifestyle doesn’t suit the physiology of many of us. Our metabolism slows down, our bodies think it’s a perpetual winter and we put on flab. We search for a way of signalling to our bodies that summer is here gets out of hand, we happen on Audax and we find ourselves on a treadmill almost without end. Another obvious route in is through a sort of athletic evolution, riders try successively longer events, find that they are suited to endurance, and end up in a field with a small number of competitors where an iron will is at a premium and the idea of what they are doing is as important as what is happening. PBP exists because Bordeaux-Paris captured the imagination of the French public, and newspapers wished to harness that power, there seems to be a correlation between the length of event and the worth of the participants, it’s probably to do with the idea of redemption through suffering. I’ve got a lot of experience of what endurance cycling looks like from the inside and the outside. I’ve ridden PBP and LEL three times each, finished four 24-hour time trials, filmed two
John Warnock after 512 miles on the 2010 Mersey Roads 24. editions of PBP and LEL, while participating and have supported and filmed a number of Mersey Roads 24s. I’ve also recorded some of the Semaine Fédérale, a French cycletouring festival. In making those films I’ve also edited footage taken by others at control and at the roadside. Riding PBP for the first time is a very intense experience, you come away with a series of fleeting impressions because you are absorbed in your own story and there is little to recognise, as so much is new. This is especially true of those in pursuit of a fast time, much of the event is spent looking at the backs of other riders in the fast groups, or concentrating on average speeds, heart rate and even power output. This group has lot in common visually with the Mersey Roads 24 hour time trial. They are often supported and the interaction between riders and supporters is familiar from that event. It’s in this group that we see the signs of suffering which attract so may photographers to cycle sport. One of the favourite images I took was of John Warnock after he’d ridden 512 miles in the Mersey Roads 24-Hour. The suffering in his face has a biblical quality.
Arrivée Summer 2011
That’s what the culmination of 24 hours of concentrated suffering looks like, tempered by the satisfaction that it all went right. A lot of the suffering that you see further down the field in PBP happens because things go wrong. That suffering is usually a combination of sleep deprivation, contact point and position problems. This translates into people at controls walking around like extras in a zombie movie, shots of knee bandages, ankle bandages, lots of shifting in the saddle and various improvised splints for collapsed necks. That’s what the foreground looks like anyway, the background bears a strong resemblance to the Semaine Fédérale. There are two ways to go if you decide to do PBP again. You can try to go faster, or you can take your time and look around. I had an opportunity to slow down in 2003 when I rode with my partner Heather after her DNF in 1999. I was there to chivvy her along and shield her into headwinds, but most of the time I hovered in the vicinity as she rode her own ride. I occupied myself with filming and photography, so I took a lot of pictures of bicycles decked with flowers, roadside stalls with kids giving out water
and biscuits, and bars serving beer at the controls. When you see it for the first time it seems unique to PBP, but in 2008 I went to the week-long cycling event organised by the French Cycle-Touring Federation, the Semaine Fédérale. The FFCT also provides the support for the PBP, so a lot of the formula is the same: 2,000+ volunteers, schools as controls or welcome points, wide availability of beer, cider and wine and stalls selling sandwiches, sausages and frîtes. There was the same warm welcome from the locals and the feeling was of a PBP shorn of pain. However, wearing a PBP shirt did get a degree of respect from people who knew what it meant. So what is PBP like? That question can’t be answered until you have done it, so much depends on where you’ve come from and what you want to get out of it. I know what it looks like more than most, but you’ll probably not see the same as me, the story you write will not be the same as mine, but it’s probable that you will write a story and it might appear in the pages of Arrivée. So all those who don’t like such tales had better brace themselves, because there will be a lot of them. N
Photo: Tim Wainwright
John Warnock completed 517 miles in this year’s National 24-hour.
A lovely pair of rides
n PBP year you have to take pot luck with what the qualifying rides are going to be like. They take place earlier, so the weather is unpredictable, and there is a limited time frame, which limits the choice. This is my fourth PBP qualifying season and all the previous ones have had two things in common, the 400km Ower the Edge in the Scottish Borders and the Daylight 600 from Dalmeny. Neither were being run in 2011, so I’d have to find replacements. I’d not had a favourite 300 over the years, but had tended to look around for somewhere new. In 2003 and 2007 I’d used the 300 to trial some new piece of video equipment, I’m keen to make a rod for my own back, so I’m not content to limit the technical problems to simply riding the bike. My latest toy is an interchangeable lens Sony NEX 5 that can take HD video. The 16mm lens is useful for interviewing people while riding along, although for safety this requires very quiet roads with good sightlines. It also has a zoom lens which is useful at controls and other stops, but it makes the camera difficult to handle. It’s not weatherproof, so I’d not be able to use it in the rain. The ideal 300 to trial this camera would have stops where I could try out
Arrivée Summer 2011
the zoom lens, quiet roads to use the 16mm and would be scenic enough to justify the effort. We settled on the ‘Mull It Over’ ride. We would sign on at Oban, but start at Craignure after a ferry journey, a 75 km tour of Mull would be followed by another ferry ride, then a ride through superb scenery to another possible ferry journey, the daylight would run out at about the time we hit the main road back to Oban. This route had the advantage that I’d used several of the key points as locations for filming in the past, all I would need would be good weather and some cyclists as a suitable subject. I’d recently bought a new bike from Hewitt’s, I say new, it had previously been used in a test by Cycling Plus. I’d decided to get a complete package so I could forget about the bike and concentrate on the filming, I just put a rack on it, and some fairly vestigial lights. We drove up to Oban on April 8th, prepared for anything really, it could still snow at that time of year, as it turned out the weather was sublime, wall to wall sunshine, extensive views, not too warm or too cold, and not too much headwind. I found a tandem to ride with and film and I got all I wanted, apart from some pictures of Sandra and Victoria Wylie at the control
‘If you know what the weather is like in Northern Scotland you would say I’d used up all my luck on the Mull It Over.’
at Glenfinnan. I edited the footage, put a voiceover on it and put it on Youtube, I sent a link to Randon, the US site and got a good response; it’s nice when you can show off some of Scotland at its best, I even got views of the film from Japan and Taiwan. If you know what the weather is like in Northern Scotland you would say I’d used up all my luck on the Mull It Over. But we planned to ride a 400k from Portmahomack on the east coast, north of Inverness round to Durness, across part of the north coast and back to Portmahomack, all at the end of April/ beginning of May. Again, I was familiar with the route and where to get good pictures. The roads are very quiet, and a lot of the same people would be doing the ride. The weather seemed to be stuck in a high pressure pattern, so we could expect it to be clear, cool at night and with a wind from the east if at all. I’m a fan of the Norwegian weather site yr.no, and we pored over it prior to the event, hoping and praying for the right conditions. The new bike was performing well, but I wanted to change the saddle height slightly and while tightening the bolt up, I snapped it. The replacement bolt was slightly the wrong type; this meant that it
randonnee the Mull It Over. She made it to the Crask control with minutes to spare, just as we headed towards Lairg. Tobias and I got back with almost two hours in hand, it was acknowledged to have been a difficult 400 because of the headwind. I’d not found that too bad, as I’d ridden that bit within my capabilities to pace Heather. I calculated that Heather and Steve would probably arrive just before the cut off time for PBP qualification, so with ten minutes to go I stationed myself to film
their arrival: they got in with four minutes to spare to much applause. I got so much good footage of views that would normally be shrouded in cloud that I ended up making a seven-minute film, which is a lot longer than I would normally do. You can see both the films on Youtube, just search for ‘Mull It Over’ and ‘Portmahomack 400’. We were very lucky with the weather, so don’t expect to see what we saw if you go there. N
Right column: Al Sutton on the front, Portmahomack 400. Fishnish Lochaline Ferry – Leon Thompson on the Mull It Over 300. Mark Shannon at Oban on the Mull it Over 300. Steve Chatterley and Heather Swift at the finish of the Portmahomack 400.
Left column: Dave Wells at Resipond Beach on the Portmahomack 400. Rod Dalitz at Resipond Beach.
All photos by the author
didn’t clamp tightly enough. When I came to do the ride the seatpost kept slowly falling into the seat tube. I fiddled with it quite a bit, finally oiling the thread on the advice of Al Sutton, which helped. I managed to get the pictures of a group with the mountains Ben Stack and Arkle in the background, but I was further back in the field than I’d planned. I rode close to Rod Dalitz on the western part of the route and controlled at a shop in Durness to save time and be sure of subjects to film at key points between there and Tongue. The east wind was quite strong, making the section from Durness to Tongue a trial. At Tongue I had a longer break to make up for my previous short stops. As I was leaving, my partner Heather turned up. She isn’t riding PBP, but she did want to get round the 400. I decided to stay with her for the section into the wind to the Strathy control. At Strathy, Heather was in a bad way, with a bad back; she urged me to leave her in case I jeopardised my qualification. I went on with a rider named Tobias who I’d met briefly on the Mull It Over. I knew he was from Bavaria, that this was his first 400 and that was it. I know Germans to be a very direct people, so at least I’d know how he was feeling about the ride. That proved to be the case, and I learned a little of his opinions on a number of other issues. Long rides, with their sleep deprivation, are quite disinhibiting, they should use them instead of job interviews. Meanwhile, Heather had pressed on with Steve, a rider she finished with on
Arrivée Summer 2011
Paris Syndrome I
was listening to the radio recently and I caught a reference to something known as ‘Paris Syndrome’ so I looked it up on Wikipedia. This is the relevant bit.
Paris Syndrome is characterised by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealisation, depersonalisation, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, etc. In fact, the observed clinical picture is quite variable, but it has the characteristic of occurring during trips which confront travellers with things they have not previously experienced and had not anticipated. Principal to the diagnosis is that the experienced symptoms did not exist before the trip and disappear following a return to the sufferer’s familiar surroundings. This differs from a ‘pathological voyage’, in which psychiatric disorders are pre-existing.
The authors of the journal cite the following matters as factors that combine to induce the phenomenon: Language barrier – few Japanese speak French and vice versa. This is believed to be the principal cause and is thought to engender the remainder. Apart from the obvious differences between French and Japanese, many everyday phrases and idioms are shorn of meaning and substance when translated, adding to the confusion of some who have not previously encountered such. Cultural difference – the large difference between not only the languages but the manner. The French communicate on an informal level in comparison to the rigidly formal Japanese culture, which proves too great a difficulty for some Japanese visitors. It is thought that it is the rapid and frequent fluctuations in mood, tense and attitude, especially in the delivery of humour, which cause the most difficulty. Idealised image of Paris – it is also speculated as manifesting from an individual’s inability to reconcile a disparity between the Japanese popular image and the reality of Paris. Exhaustion – finally, it is thought that the over-booking of one’s time and energy, whether on a business trip or on holiday, in attempting to cram too much into every moment of a stay in Paris, along with the effects of jet lag, all contribute to the psychological destabilisation of some visitors. I don’t want to be over-dramatic, but I’ve seen most of those symptoms on PBP, either personally or in video footage I’ve edited, not exclusively in Japanese participants either. The first time I did PBP there wasn’t a lot of information available. There were a few articles in Arrivée and some guidance in the handbook. I also got some advice from people riding the qualifiers. That guidance on the road was the most valuable part, because I could form a judgement of how applicable it was to me from the performance of riding companions and their general demeanour. The more like me they were in their approach to riding, the more attention I would pay to them. This approach was a bit complicated by my partner Heather Swift doing PBP as well. I was physically capable of getting round PBP without too much bother, I just had to wonder what might happen after 600km, which was the new bit. Heather was more on the edge of what was possible and she was more anxious about the project. In the end she abandoned on the second night, partly
Arrivée Summer 2011
‘The first time I did PBP there wasn’t a lot of information available. There were a few articles in Arrivée and some guidance in the handbook.’
Exhaustion – Martin Tillin ready for a kip at Glasson control, Three Coasts 600.
All photos by the author
because she had no way of realising that 25km had been added due to a diversion. That diversion was an obvious example of expectation not meeting reality, but there wasn’t much expectation, because there wasn’t much information. In 2003 we returned to PBP to finish Heather’s business with the event. We were armed with our experience from 1999 and we had done 3 600s, one starting at 10pm. I shadowed Heather, so I was available to smooth out any problems and ride into the wind for her. Heather got around without much problem and I got knocked off by a scooter and finished in 92 hours, but with a time allowance so I was credited with 90 hours. I’d filmed 2003 and by 2007 Youtube had hit the internet. We’d experimented with a short video of London-EdinburghLondon 2005 prior to Youtube, but video hosting opened up a new way of showing people what PBP was like. In one of my films I’d noted that they were a distorted reality, as it was difficult to film in the rain. 2007 was the first PBP I’d done with access to broadband internet. I had no real need of advice on how to do the ride, I was in a new territory where I was more concerned with filming the event while doing it. It was interesting to see the elaborate preparations and deep sense of anticipation on internet forums. I wondered if it would be helpful or unhelpful to have that level of detailed planning if those plans started to unravel. The actual event was very wet, and I had some mechnical problems which delayed me. That put me among those who were in trouble, mainly because they were too cold, or didn’t like the wind. I didn’t see much of the controls, but I edited a lot of footage afterwards taken by Heather, and of interviews with riders after the event. Looking back at that video I can see quite a few ‘Paris Syndrome’ symptoms, which makes me wonder if that sense of being psychologically overwhelmed can be staved off by detailed preparation. If everything goes right it can work, but when slippage starts does it generate more anxiety in the anxious. I’m not sure that I can get a real handle on this problem because I’m inherently laid back, but I’ve done PBP in concert with Heather, who tends towards meticulous preparation, which is about the only thing that winds me up. In 2007 I only got a few compliments for the films on Youtube. This time I’m expecting that people will have seen much more about PBP, and have interacted much more on the web. I’ll be fascinated to see how it feeds back in terms of DNFs. More people will start PBP than ever before, they will be better informed and better prepared than ever before. Will more finish then ever before? N
Didling to Burbage John Tranter
‘On each leg I had companionship from other riders which made the km’s tick easily away even on the climbs, although I did fall off the back of the Brighton Excelsior peleton on the last big climb of the day.’
Café el Supremo – Dave sends out a welcome.
Photo by Lise Taylor-Vebel
n April I completed the Tour de Didling, a meandering BP touching some of the more beautiful and indeed opulent parts of Sussex and Surrey. The lanes were festooned with ladies smock, bluebells were just coming out and the first arrival of chiffchaffs were bashing out their territorial claims. The ride was the chocolate box of Audax events. The welcome at Midhurst included tea and biscuits before setting off for three loops centred on a control near Didling, where Dave Hudson and his tireless volunteers provided ongoing refreshment ranging from toasties through to cold rice pudding and peaches. I had to remind myself that even though this wasn’t a race I still had a time limit and socialising at the wayside restaurant was a distraction rather than the main event. I felt something of a fraud as we were joined from time to time by other riders from a 300k that Dave was running in tandem from Hailsham. (The logistics to run two events concurrently, with 3am the time for the first start must be mind numbing.) The riders on the 300k looked somewhat more grizzled than those of us on the 100k and they seemed to have a rather distant look in their eyes. The weather that day had started a little on the cool side, but by the third loop I was in sunglasses and shorts. On each leg I had companionship from other riders which made the km’s tick easily away even on the climbs, although I did fall off the back of the Brighton Excelsior peleton on the last big climb of the day. I joined another fellow traveller for a chat for the rest of that stage. I had only completed one event prior, the Worthing Winter Warmer. Back in February the lanes were much bleaker and all the riders were well wrapped up. A few months before signing up for this first audax my better half had indulged me
with a Roberts bike to celebrate a certain milestone in my life. In my youth, the thought of a bespoke frame was a total pipe dream, and so when I went to Chas Roberts to be fitted up I felt like a little boy in a sweet shop. It was a great experience and I settled on a Compact Audax frame with a simple set up of wide range gears and indexed bar end shifters. Compared to the price of top end carbon machines, the craftsmanship of a bespoke steel bike represents real value for money, though clearly I’m just trying to assuage my guilt at such indulgence. Over the winter this beautiful piece of engineering poetry stood largely dormant, away from any corrosive salt, whilst I looked to increase my fitness on my early 80s Dawes Galaxy. It was the Galaxy I took on the Winter Warmer, with the roads still salted and wet. I had recently overhauled her and now she sported 700c wheels with robust 32mm tyres, non-indexed bar end shifters and the wonders of modern technology – a triple chainset with a seven-speed freewheel, virtually unheard of when the bike was first built. On the Winter Warmer I was very relieved to have the new gearing which gave a low of 23 inches to crunch into as I tackled Blackdown. This ride also taught me a valuable lesson. Nearing the end at around 80-85k I was turning right across the A29 on a slight incline. I decided to change down a gear or two during the manoeuvre – silly boy. The chain flipped between the wheel and freewheel, jamming solid. I had just been congratulating myself on the reliability of my re-engineering. Ho-hum. Having got underway after something of a wrestle with the chain, I was surprised how much the enforced stop upset the rhythm of the ride, far more than I had expected. It was perhaps a reflection of tiredness but a lesson learned on how a small mechanical can affect one’s morale. It took a few kms to roll by before my confidence returned and I felt more relaxed. The church hall in Dial Post, the start and finish of the Winter Warmer was a very welcome sight as I propped my bike against the fence and went to hand in my first brevet card. Only then did it rain, the clouds having been kind during the day. I was really tired, and struggled to eat the soup kindly cooked by the assiduous support team. The Winter Warmer took me around five and a half hours, and I had barely
stopped at the two controls having been worried about getting around in time. A month or so later and the Tour de Didling would take slightly longer, though only due to loitering rather long at the Café el Supremo. With no mechanicals and a very comfortable ride, I was on a real high finishing the Tour de Didling. Without a second thought I sent off an entry for the 200k Midhurst-Burbage starting three weeks later. With the entry safely in the post I thought I ought to find out where Burbage was. I almost fainted, I hadn’t realised I’d need a passport. Burbage was miles away and the sort of distance on a map I’d only ever have contemplated driving before. Had I drunk too much tea at the control at Didling and bamboozled my brain? There is a big psychological difference between a three-loop 100k and 200k there and back course. A kind note from Dave accompanied the route sheet. He explained that this was an ideal event to move up to 200k, though it would be wise to park the car at Petersfield (the finish) and cycle to the start at Midhurst, 16km away. At this stage I was thinking that the only wise thing to do was register a DNS and spend the day in the queues at Homebase, tidying up the garden, paying the bills or anything that didn’t involve the need for industrial quantities of Sudocrem. I read the instructions further. Dave was also running a 400k that day. What is the man made of? (Never mind those doing the longer ride.) I was now in something of a mild panic. Yes, I was confidently cycling 100k and my semi-routine 85k Saturday ride included a number of challenging hills, so my fitness was improving. And the advice from fellow travellers on the two rides I had completed so far was that a 200k would be more about the state of one’s mind than gaining more fitness. However, my current mild panic did not seem to me to represent a good mental approach, so the weekend following the Tour de Didling saw me cycling a 145km round route from Horsham to Petersfield and back as a way of building my confidence. The first leg of this run to Petersfield was uneventful. I stopped at a petrol station for water and chocolate before finding a more picturesque spot for lunch just below the South Downs. Whilst munching my sandwiches and admiring my bike I noticed that my pump was missing from its peg on the rear seat stay.
Arrivée Summer 2011
Hailsham 400. Top: Paul Martin.
All photos by Lise Taylor-Vebel
I must learn to use a checklist. Looking around I saw the sun glinting off little shards of flint in the dust on the lanes. I tried to maintain a state of Zen-like calm, but was very relived to leave the byways and return to more major roads with fewer sharps and less chance of a visit from the fairy. I had been experimenting with Dioralyte as a way of maintaining electrolytes without the accompanying stickiness of glucose based sports drinks. As an experiment it worked, to an extent. I certainly felt fresher and was able to eat more as I rode. However, although the concentration of salts was far from being seawater I didn’t find it
Arrivée Summer 2011
thirst quenching and was relieved to find a shop open in Pulborough where I was able to dilute my concoction. At this stage I had started to develop a painful left knee. The knee had given me some discomfort a few months before as I settled into riding with cleats, but this was different. The pain was on the outside of the knee and seemed to be connected with the top of my hip/ lower back. I pedalled on and the pain got worse. I stopped at Lavington and adjusted my cleats to the rear of the shoe. This brought some, though not total relief, and I cycled on expecting my knees to protest in some other way. In the event nothing further developed and I pedalled on. The stop seemed to have relaxed some musculature in my back and the pain retreated to a background discomfort. The remainder of the trip went well. Nearing the end I even had enough energy to do someone a good turn. A woman was trying to retrieve her dog which had run off into a field and was now hiding in a hedge by the road refusing to come out. I assured the lady that dogs always chased cyclists and I would therefore be able to catch the errant hound without further ado. She looked at me as though I was mad thus revealing that whilst she might have problems with dog control, she was nonetheless a woman of great insight. Undeterred, I pedalled gently up the road. The dog trotted out from the hedge. I stopped and took it by the collar, returning it to the now bemused owner. If only the rest of life was so simple. The weekend before the main event I spent doing a hilly 80k (thus enjoying the roads emptied of traffic by the royal wedding), and a Dad’s pub and ride to the seaside; the occasional pint of beer being far more enjoyable than electrolytes. I had invested in Nuun tablets which seemed to be a step up on Dioralyte and come in very transportable tablet form. Very expensive though for what they are. After that my favourite website became www.metoffice.gov.uk. I watch the forecasts with growing trepidation. By midweek it was clear that the ride would be taking place in the middle of a typhoon. By the end of the week the forecast was rain in the morning and evening. Not good. My confidence from the Tour de Didling had been built on the demonstrable fact that all Audax events run in dry weather. I cleaned, fettled, fettled and cleaned my bike. Route maps, GPS and route sheet were prepared; spares and gizmos packed and unpacked into the seat pack. I must have checked the pump was in place a million times. On the day I rose at 5am. It had rained heavily overnight but seemed dry for the moment. Somehow it seemed to be one of those mornings when everything took a little longer than usual, and I left
a rather later than planned at 6am. The plan was to reach Petersfield before 7am and thus make the start with ease at 8.15. As I shut the door behind me I could see the golden glow of dawn to the east, but from the west came an ominous rumble of thunder. The heavens opened as I drove down the A272 and I thought of those already on the road from Hailsham doing the 400k. Arriving in Petersfield I parked, put on my wet weather gear which at least ensured that the rain immediately stopped. Indeed the rain held off all the way to the start. My wet weather jacket is labelled ‘breathable’. After a few kms I realised this meant just the little vents under the armpits. In fact, it was a portable sauna and I arrived slightly steamed, though not completely cooked. Dave Hudson’s welcome was as ever fantastic. I had arrived moments before the 8.15 start and so after a comfort break and divestment of excess clothing I left some minutes behind the field. I cycled off to the tune of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ blasting from an elderly woman’s Fiat. I think that might qualify for an ASBO in Midhurst. The first section was relatively short and I started to relax. I was on my own but enjoyed just getting into a rhythm. Traffic was light especially off the A roads and despite a smattering of droplets the weather held back its worse. The route sheet advised to be careful of the descent down into Duncton. I know the road relatively well by car, but was still surprised by the hard left hand bend at the bottom; thankfully I had moderated my speed as instructed. Just before the control at Lavington I realised I had cycled past the info control at the top of Duncton Hill. Clearly my mental state was somewhat adrift. At this stage I was not going to retrace the route and threw myself on the mercy of El Supremo. Thankfully he took pity on me and I was able to get a stamp in the card. I had my GPS log if all else had failed, but the oversight showed that my focus was not where it should be. I helped myself to a cup of tea and some cake and topped up my water bottle. There were a fair number of riders at the control, many from the 400k whose need for food was much more than mine. The stop also allowed a moment to enjoy a nose at other people’s bikes. Audaxers clearly don’t go for conformity, each rider has a refreshingly different set up. Except in one small respect. Let me explain. Imagine a group of Audaxers being at the launch of that famous Boardman bike. After a moment or two to inspect the radical new machine, one turns to another and says ‘It just needs a couple of cable ties and it would be perfect’. Back on the bike and off down the Wealden lanes to Petersfield. There was one section which undulated so
randonnee much that a fixed gear approach would have probably been an easier option. The rear derailleur was going in and out like a fiddler’s elbow in an effort to keep something of a steady cadence. Finally there was a nice sweep into Petersfield where there was no control. I only mention that there was no control because for a moment I though there should have been. Weird. Lack of focus, again. The ride headed towards the hill at the village of Steep (yes, really). Dave had warned us that this was a bit like Switzerland. A jack rabbit of a roadie sped disdainfuly past me on a zephyr of carbon whilst I ground ever upward. From the top of the climb, the route thereon to Alresford seemed flat in comparison with many a mile of straight road. A BMW who pulled out in front of me was honked at by the red van following. Solidarity with red van man! Alresford turned out to be a pretty little town suffering from an overdose of cyclists who were monopolising the Tesco Express. A helpful rider kept an eye on my bike as I nipped in for water, a croissant and that ever so precious receipt. Only 50k to go to the turn at Burbage, so no need to overdo the food. ‘Only’ 50k? The advice seemed to be right, 200k is a mind thing. Not long after leaving the Tesco control, my knee started giving me pain again. Not far to Burbage, I’ll sort it out there. Nope, knee won’t make it so off the bike and adjust cleats again. It made little difference. I wondered if I could complete the rest of the ride on one leg. Soon, I found that if I came up from riding on the drops to the top of the handlebars a shooting pain went from my lower back to my knee. So I stuck to the top of the bars and also lent slightly over to my left side which seemed to help matters. Needless to say, I don’t remember much of the countryside and just watched the kms tick down on the GPS. It was a relief to see the control at Burbage, only 83k to go. I downed a mug of tea and had a refill in double quick time before Dave served up the best beans on toast I have ever tasted. And oh! That cold rice pudding and peaches. Was I hungry? I could have eaten my way through the whole output from a series of Masterchef given half a chance. As it was, Dave’s feast more than met my needs. The knee suggested I took a leisurely break so it was over half an hour later before I turned homewards. I felt good cycling to the control at Whitchurch but a few km short I noticed my rear tyre was becoming soft. Pump up and get to Whitchurch or repair now? It was a nice afternoon; I was in no rush so I set up my repair shop by the road side. A small piece of flint had done its worst but the change of inner was made with little effort. Arriving in Whitchurch, I used a wipe from my first aid kit to clean
enveloping the countryside. I was looking forward to the descent into Petersfield. May you get what you wish for? Having wound my way up through Steep earlier in the day, I had mentally logged a fun and fast end to the ride. In the dark and wet it was an entirely different proposition. The last time I had experienced such a thrill was aged around seven when I would take great delight in pulling hard on the front brake of my Triang bike thus sending myself hurtling over the handlebars. (And you thought you gave your parents problems.) A little older and wiser, I gingerly tiptoed around the bends, touching the brakes very very warily on the straighter sections. And there was the arrivée, an Esso station; warm lights of the shop reflected on the damp forecourt, audaxers from the 400k with their far away look tanking up on caffeine. It was a scene from an Edward Hopper painting. Receipt for a Twix and all was done. Travelling home along the A272, with the bike now in the car, I passed a couple of groups of riders, heads down, hi viz jackets and bright lights battling into the wet to their finish at Hailsham with many kms still to cover. Chapeau. Not for me a longer ride. No. Never. Not yet anyway. N
my hands of tyre dirt before rummaging through the sandwiches and pork pies at the Tesco control. Thereafter the pain subsided, possibly because I had relaxed a bit. I started to really enjoy the ride. Dave had given us a pretty flat route back and as the afternoon waned into evening suicidal partridges played chicken across the roads. Into the gloaming and the air became denser and somehow in the thicker air the smells of the countryside became more intense. A strong smell of engine oil betrayed a line of resting steam engines under a bridge near Ropley. The odometer was getting close to 200km, with 25km to go to the finish. I promised myself a celebratory stop and toasted this lifetime milestone with a slurp of electrolyte whilst chomping my last cereal bar. I thought better of christening my back wheel to mark the moment in the manner of a Russian cosmonaut going to the launch pad. Instead I opted to water the hedge. Glory be! Had I been drinking bromine? Surely with that colour I ought to be in a coma? Thankfully, removing my yellow tinted glasses instantly restored the colour balance and my health. Just as well I hadn’t put in red tinted lenses, I might have passed out. The skies continued to darken and spots of rain started to fall. The waterproofs were donned and the lights lit. Into the gloaming with Roxanne playing in my head. By now I was pretty sure that I was the Lanterne Rouge though was very content pedalling along with the rain falling steadily and darkness
Auks at the National 24-Hour. Left: Peter Baker and Martin Badham. Right: Bruce Dunbar. Bottom: Paul Whitehead awaits his start. Right: Colin Bezant.
Arrivée Summer 2011
touring in europe
Venice to England via Prague
finding and poor sense of direction. Might have to get a better map of Germany for next time – I only had a 1-1,000,000. Fuelled on schnitzel in Germany and seafood up here. Nerves were getting frayed a bit towards the end, as the pannier rack bolts kept coming loose and falling out on Belgian fietspads. N
A wet and windy Wednesday night in Quorn, Austria. Two cars pull up, a bicycle frame changes hands. It’s Rob Gray handing over his Mercian to have a sock-bashed dropout straightened. How did that happen: read Rob Gray’s emails from the trip …
rrived in Prague after 14 days and exactly 1400km, by a route which included the Gavia and Stelvio and a fair bit of getting lost. Yesterday I lost about 50km somewhere, a biplane was doing aerobatics near Budewiejce and I could hear it for three hours. Still, got to see quite a bit of rural Czech Republic, not quite as off-road as Dunkirk–Nice, but not far off. After Venice, where the cycling is pretty impossible and also illegal so the locals told me, Prague is the most cycling unfriendly city I’ve visited. The traffic is heavy, both on the road and on the pavement with tourists. There are tram lines to avoid and huge cobblestones with inconvenient 23mm gaps. Very few cyclists, the messengers ride full suspension mountain bikes with fat knobblies and don’t look pleased about
Arrivée Summer 2011
‘Nearly had the tour scuppered by a sock in Austria.’
Schnitzel and chips.
it. Other than that, Prague is lovely and well worth a visit, just leave the bike at the hotel. Stayed in Prague for two or three nights, as I had to service my bike for the next leg of my trip west and home. Found the most beautiful place in the city, a recently opened hostel in which I had my own room with two beds, complete with tree growing out the foot of the bed, yes you read that right. It was run by Bulgarians and right in the city centre for 15 euros a room per night. Nearly had the tour scuppered by a sock in Austria. A sock I was drying on the pannier fell and went through the rear mech just as I was climbing; the sudden stop bent the gear hanger. I was rescued by two lovely ladies who got me to a bike mechanic able to straighten the frame out. My rescuers were great, they spent the whole afternoon solving my predicament and also fed and watered me. They even gave me two pairs of fresh socks, as the one that went through the mech wasn’t wearable – a bit oily. Headed back by way of Brugge, Venice of the north – not been there before; then ferry from Hoek Van Holland to Harwich. I busked the route day by day, heading towards Frankfurt, directly west through Bamberg. Bamberg was a nice old walled town with many churches and as I was passing at noon they were all chiming at once. The rauchbier is just like smoked German sausage in beer form. I stopped off at quite a few of the small independent brauerei in the area, fabulous beer; even started a little beer mat collection on the way. Prague to Brugge took 10 days and 1,258km but that was with my route
Deepdale and Fleet Moss
All photos by the author
This is a hilly permanent of 120k, offered by Steve Snook, starting from Settle in Ribblesdale. It was my first attempt at a TPT (train–perm–train). I bought the tickets the day before. Next morning I rode up to Smithy Bridge station to be greeted with the announcements about delays caused by over-running engineering works. My heart sank. I’d got up really early to do this. In the event, the train, or a train, at any rate, came at the appointed time and I made the connection at Leeds for Settle. I hoped to start the ride at 10 o’clock. This would allow me eight hours to get back in time for a convenient return train.
ettle station is a wonderfully atmospheric place. Lovingly maintained, it’s such a far cry from the lay-bys and car-parks from which many audaxes start, that I was tempted to forget about the ride and spend a leisurely afternoon lazing in the April sun, gazing at the scenery and watching the occasional train go by. But there’s no bar at the station and the sun was climbing and the fells beckoned. From an ATM in the market-place, I was soon gliding past Giggleswick School, where the beautiful cricket
ground, prepared for the coming season, brought the privileged Nick Clegg’s comments on privilege to mind. The first chevrons of the day (and there were many) were achieved on the way out towards Eldroth and Clapham. My exhilaration was heightened by the silver and gold of blackthorn and gorse and by the intense bird-song. Especially noticeable was the returning willowwarbler, whose soft, descending song is like a hesitant chaffinch; not that there is such a thing. One even landed near me in the verge. Crossing the A65 trunk road to Newby, I gained the Old Road at Newby Cote and followed the glorious undulating route through Ingleton to Thornton in Lonsdale. There is an impressive viaduct in Thornton, which used to carry the railway from Clapham to Kirkby Lonsdale. Beyond the village is the lovely church, where I turned right at the sign for Dent. This is the gateway to Kingsdale and the start of a wonderful climb beneath a long limestone scar, gleaming in the sun. At Kingsdale Head, the road is gated but this gives opportunities to take in the views. Just after Kingsdale Head, there is a sharp little climb by a wood, for the surmounting of which I was rewarded with glimpses of violets from the roadside. There followed a twisty, headlong
Denthead viaduct, Dentdale.
descent into Deepdale. I wouldn’t fancy this in the wet. At one of the gates I felt my front rim and it was scorching. I could hear the sound of the braking change as the wheels got hotter. I was glad to be doing this on a quiet day for traffic: all the way along this section the road carries the scars of grounded sumps and exhausts from people driving to fast for the conditions. And so into white-washed Dent with its cobbled streets. These are not cobbled in the usual sense but seem to be paved with stones set on end. After an excellent meal at the Meadowgate Café, which included a hot sticky-toffee pudding and ice-cream, it was back over the cobbles and out into Dentdale, which, with its river, hedgerows and trees just coming into leaf, is a gem of the north. From Cowgill I climbed to the justlyfamed Denthead viaduct, which carries the Settle-Carlisle line. I’d never been here before and I think I prefer this viaduct to Ribblehead. Denthead peeps tantalisingly at you through the trees on the approach. It has fewer arches but its setting, which includes an old drove-trail bridge framed in one arch, is artistic perfection, in comparison with which Ribblehead is Victorian engineers’ power-dressing (however impressive and necessary!).
Arrivée Summer 2011
permanent Two or three chevrons later, I was at the left turn onto the main road to Newby Head and making for Hawes, which never seemed to arrive. I passed the ‘blasted heath’ where a whole plantation has been felled, leaving a splintered landscape reminiscent of a Paul Nash war painting. Eventually I rolled into Hawes, which was decked in bunting. How they knew I was coming is a mystery. For what it is worth, Hawes advertises itself as the highest market-town in England, so this seems an appropriate point to confess that I have been keeping something from you, though it’s evident enough from the title, if you are a northern cyclist. There are eleven chevrons on this route. By the time you get to Hawes, you have done eight of them and should be feeling sanguine about the remaining three; except that they are the signifiers of the climb of Fleet Moss. The first arrow is near the bottom, just beyond the Wensleydale Creamery and the rope-works at Gayle. It acts as a sighter for the other two, which represent the 1-in-4 near the top. It’s a long, long climb, made worse (more interesting?) by the fact that you can see all the way up the climb above Sleddale. I’ve been audaxing a couple of years and have climbed Fleet Moss twice before: once, successfully, from the south (soft – only a couple of 1-in-6’s) and once up the north face, which I abandoned within a hundred metres of the summit, thanks to a lack of crampons and a surfeit of dinner. So this was unfinished business and I had prepared. I had eaten earlier, had a bigger cog (30/30), and the benefit of having read Francis Cooke’s excellent monograph on the subject. Thus I knew that just when you think you’ve done it, you haven’t. There was a headwind but it was slight by northern reckoning. My plan was to conserve energy by pedalling
as lightly as I could without actually falling off, with one gear spare for the last assault. But in the end it’s not about energy-conservation but strength and bloody-mindedness. I made it, but I don’t know if I could again, at least, not on that bike, which comes in at over 33lbs with rack and bag. But I confess to mild satisfaction. The trick now was not to get carried away, because the first part of the descent is twisty and gravel-strewn. It’s probably not as majestic as the swoop into Slaidburn from Cross O’Greet but it takes in some evocative sights, such as the chapel at Oughtershaw and the village of Hubberholme alongside the infant River Wharfe. At Buckden, I joined the main road south to Kettlewell and then the branch road to Grassington, which passes through pleasant woodland on its way to the village. I stopped at the Spar to buy milk and lemonade, some of which I drank whilst gazing at the unprotected stone steps up the side of a shop opposite, the kind of detail that makes remote villages so interesting. Now I was into the last section across the moor to Settle, via Linton, Hetton, Winterburn and Airton. This leg is as beautiful as the rest, with the sole exception of the stone-works at Threapland and even that was leavened by the mysterious view of the man-made escarpment caused by quarrying, as it gradually approaches through the haze and the roadside trees. Some pretty interesting rolling-stock at the quarry, too. Crossing the mineral line from the quarry a little later, I noticed a Chain Reaction sticker on a level-crossing gate. Some joker’s info. contol, perhaps! Crossing the Aire (at Airton), I still had some climbing to do and this was rewarded (though, verily, climbing is its own reward) by the broad sweep of heathland above Settle with, in the near-distance, the rugged outlines of
Above: Winterburn. Below: Settle station.
‘My plan was to conserve energy by pedalling as lightly as I could without actually falling off, with one gear spare for the last assault.’
Arrivée Summer 2011
Sugar-Loaf Hill and Settle Scar. On the steep, twisting descent past the waterfall of Scalebar Force, I came across a group of cyclists fixing a tube. They assured me that all was well, still smiling at having accomplished the ascent from Settle. By then, I was glad to be gravity-assisted, although the last few hundred yards or so of cobbles into the town reminded me that I need new shorts. I had promised myself a pint when I got back to Settle if I got there in time. I had about 20 minutes in hand but decided I would not be relaxed enough to enjoy it without worrying about missing the train. So I did another ATM control and rolled up to the station. I noticed that the station congratulates itself on being 500 feet or so above sealevel. So it was going to be up-hill all the way to Rochdale! Quarter of an hour later, Northern Rail was whisking me homeward. There was already one bike on the train and I wondered what would have happened if the remaining bike space had already been occupied. The other cyclist, who had come up from Huddersfield had been doing a 30-mile ride out of a book (which I also have) and, on hearing that I had done about 75 miles, he said ‘You must be good!’, so I guess I was looking pretty old by then! What a day out! No dull sections at all, great weather and good connections. Try to make the opportunity to do this event. I’m sure it is destined to become a classic. Thanks, Steve! N
hailsham 400 â€“ photos by lise taylor-vebel
Chris Tracey and Mark Fairweather
Tony Green on R.
Rob McIvor and Caroline Neall
hop garden audaxes â€“ photos by lise taylor-vebel Mike Plumstead and Tom Jackson
Richard Berry and Garry King
Offa’s Dyke 600 – a ride of two unequal halves
The Offa’s Dyke 600 traces roads as close to the Offa’s Dyke as is practical to link Chepstow in the south and Prestatyn on the north coast. Expertly organised by John Hamilton, with overnight sleep facilities, from Upton Magna, near Shrewesbury, the route conveniently becomes 370km + 235km. Rated as 7.75AAA and very laney and covering two iconic passes, I had elected this challenge as my final PBP qualifying ride. But the penalty was a 40hr 15kph time limit for BRM standard, rather than 14.3kph BR relaxed standard, more suited to a hilly event.
Day 1 Highlight – The Gospel Pass
he atmosphere on Saturday was relaxed but I did not want to venjoy the Controls for too long, so after Hay I was virtually riding alone. I rode to Hay with others, including Steve Rogers and John Ellis, who are Perm customers; nice to put faces to names. Hay was building up to another big day at the Book Festival; we were building up to an equally big climb of the Gospel Pass. ‘Maverick’ packed in Hay. The GP proved the dream it always is in good weather and I found amicable folk to record completion of 12x GP in 12 ths. By Llanthony, I was cramping, so the Half Moon was a must for saltenhanced crisps; whilst there I broke into conversation with a senior couple riding LEJoG in three weeks. It was flat(tish) after Llanthony to Raglan and then the beast to Devauden (it is a descent on my West and Wales 500 perm!). The air cooled and rain was an accompaniment over the climb. But the Boat in Chepstow was a great find for refreshment (bit too relaxing with the rugby on the TV). And then it was familiar roads up the River Wye to Monmouth and Dorstone in the Golden Valley for a (claimed to be) 25 per cent Dorstone Hill to Bredwardine and on to the café control in Eardisley. Before I left, Peter Sharp turned up. Now it was more hills through Kington and Presteigne before a biggy to Knighton, conveniently passing an Offa’s Dyke Path notice. And then the Newtown road, a regular (in reverse), so known, on the BCM600. Once dark, I grabbed a 20 minute nap, woken by the swish
of pedals. I shadowed Peter S over the climb to Dorfer and arrived in Newtown just ahead, as he had tracked into the daylight McDonalds control, rather than the 24hr BP garage. (That recumbent must have been on the Cambrian 600.) I pushed on alone after loading the bottle with Red Bull. As I approached a red dazzle, I apologised for not making a two-up, as I was being mesmerised. Another 15 minute nap, this time in a bus shelter to avoid the light rain, was ended by more riders, whom I followed to base, arriving rather later than expected. But first leg over, a decent meal and bed laid out in the campervan. With an unsettled rain in the air, I set the alarm for 6am to give two hours’ sleep.
Day 2 Highlight – The Horseshoe Pass
The rain was quite heavy and I was not keen to embark into it. But time was becoming critical with the Upton Magna Control closing at 6:36. And then disaster at 284km with a flat rear. No problems with three spare tubes, but where are the levers? Twenty minutes later I was back at base with my rear wheel and a tube. John H fixed it in a jiffy (removing glass shard) and with only 30 minutes lost (and with levers and another tube in my pocket) I was chasing through Shrewsbury. Matt Pelling came alongside and we TT’d to near Four Crosses to pick up time. I went ahead and next I came across Paul Stewart, fixing to the Info Control turn. Did we really need that extra climb before Oswestry? (Remember the AAAs). I had forgotten the aura of the Horseshoe Pass, for, as you approach, you just see a line of vehicles high up ahead traversing from left to right; then you realise the name as you take a long left bend that ‘horseshoes’ to the spot you noticed earlier. Then at 1,367ft, you can enjoy the buzz, as the motor bikers congregate after roaring the pass. Peter Sharp was already there and Paul Stewart, whom I encountered on the pass, turned up minutes later. From there to Prestatyn, the sharp climbs and poor roads did not support a fast descent to the coast, so arriving at Control closing time was hardly a celebration, with the Horseshoe Pass coming again on the return leg and that involved a climb from sea level to 1,367ft. The return was just as lumpy as the out leg with some high coastal views
All photos by the author
The Gospel Pass.
‘No problems with three spare tubes, but where are the levers?’
over the holiday parks and the Wirral before turning inland. The lanes feature endured: Quote ‘yes, it is a road!’. The Ponderosa came quicker but had closed. A big advantage was the now clear roads to Llangollen and a descent to dream of as a reward. My ATM read 18.40, spot on closing time! The Spar provided some essential recovery food and also TRs for Peter and Paul, who arrived shortly after. The run back to Shrewsbury was more relaxed, though losing 15 minutes to feeding kept the pressure on. For the final 56km, I had the luxury of seeing the time in hand creep up as the kms reduced. Result! That was a hard way to complete my 17th SR and qualify for PBP but the Gospel Pass also completed 12 in 12 months consecutive climbs in AUK 200+ (11x Gospel Pass 200s) events and the OD600 event completed 8xRRTY Consecutive. Memorable. N
The Horseshoe Pass. From<>To: Northern Section Upton Magna<>Ponderosa (Horseshoe Pass)
Ht Gain Max 2,763m Speed
Arrivée Summer 2011
New tools from Carradice Carradice is a well-respected name in British-made cycle accessories and they’ve recently added some quality tools to their product list. There are three multitools with laser-etched side arms made from bamboo, giving a smooth and hardwearing finish. The tools are made from chromium-vanadium alloy steel and are sturdy, smooth and well-finished. I consider a chain-splitter an essential part of my toolkit and they have rescued me from being stranded miles from help on various occasions over the years, generally in very hilly terrain. The splitter on the 11-in-1 appears to be strong and in use, it breaks and joins the chain well. All the allen keys bolts on a modern bike are covered with the 10-in-1 and 11-in-1 tools and apart from removing a cassette, you could strip a bike down with one of these. The 6mm hex, suitable for most pedals, takes the supplied 8mm socket on the end to remove or tighten a crankset – very useful once again if a crank works loose miles from nowhere. All three multitools have a flathead and crosshead screwdriver and two of them have a T25 star-headed tool for disc brake rotors.
Completing the line-up are a set of retro steel chromeplated tyre levers etched with the Carradice name. I haven’t used these on my alloy rims, but if you have very tight fitting tyres which can break plastic levers, these metal ones have a very slim, slightly curved end to fit under the bead and with care, should remove the tyre without damaging the rim. See Carradice at www.carradice.co.uk Tim Wainwright Right: Chrome-plated tyre levers. Weight: 88g. £6.
Left: 11-in-1 multitool with chain splitter with 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm hexes. 198g. £16. Right: The 11-in-1 folds neatly.
Left: 10-in-1 multitool with 8mm crank hex. Weight: 154g. £12. Right: 8-in-1 multitool with hex, flathead and crosshead drivers. Weight: 124g. £6.
Film: Any Given Sunday The Deeside Loop and cycling Audax UK
This is a 45-minute DVD made by two film-makers, AUK member Alan Ferrier and Graham Johnston, with the intention of promoting Audax riding in the UK. After a brief introduction on the origins of audax in Italy and the formation of ACP and AUK in Britain, the film gets into its stride, capturing the Deeside Loop 200k in 2010 from Forfar in Scotland, taking in Strathcaro, Ballater and Glenshee. Bucketing down with rain for the first few hours, about ten or so riders manage to stay together riding as a co-ordinated group, making good progress over the first 1,000ft climb in thick mist to Strathcaro control. Eventually the weather improves, the sun is out, riders are looking happy and the background music changes to a funky
Arrivée Summer 2011
soundtrack as the riders make their way along quiet roads and spectacular scenery to Ballater. Interspersed with the riding are brief interviews with four well known Auks, George ‘McNasty’ Berwick, Steve Carroll, Lucy McTaggart and Alex Pattison who relate what they enjoy about audaxing. I can’t name the featured riders, apart from Martin Foley (who was on the front cover of Arrivée summer 109), who is driving the bunch along. As the credits run, the film has some evocative, grainy, black and white filming as the riders speed through the rain. I enjoyed watching this film, it encompasses the cameraderie one gets in audaxing – and it makes you want to get out on your bike! It would make a nice gift for any Auk, and gives a good introduction to audaxing for cyclists new to the sport. Available online at canmorevideo.co.uk, £15 inc. P&P, or from Hallaig 111, Dundee Road, Forfar, Angus DD8 1JD. Tim Wainwright
Three Coasts 600
Photo by Damon Peacock
I came to use some of my own advice on the Three Coasts 600. I’ve been paring down my support systems to try to connect with my own perceptions of the ride, I don’t have a GPS, or a trip computer and my laminator broke down the night before. I did take a route sheet, cut into sections and placed in a document pouch. I lost that half way round, so I completed the ride with the brevet card, a map, knowledge of the area, some imagination and a lot of wheel-sucking.
eather’s gran was once asked about a coach trip to the Lakes with the Dewsbury Happiness Club. She thought for a bit and said there’d been some water and some swans, but the best part was that she hadn’t had to open her purse all day. I know that I’ve got a Central Lancashire mind, but I may also have a West Yorkshire soul, because I am impressed by value, and on the Three Coasts 600 we certainly got our full quota. The all-in price of £10 seemed to be stretching it a bit for a possible three nights in Mytholmroyd Community
Main photo: Martin Tallin in the poppy fields at Skipton on Swale.
‘My abiding impression was of a very large number of poppies in the fields.’
Centre, two dinners, three breakfasts, snacks for the journey and two stops serving food for the later riders at closed controls, but it all worked out. I can only put it down to ‘Tyke Power’ or possibly a secret training college in Cleckheaton, twinned with one in Kirkaldy. The amazing value spread to Castleford Bus Station and the Boathouse Café in Bridlington, rarely has my wallet seen so little damage. What of the ride itself you ask? It had been forecast to be wet but still on Saturday and a better day on Sunday – it wasn’t. Saturday was dry but overcast until about 10pm, with a fairly brisk westerly. This was not good for all the lightweight climbers who tend to get blown about, but I don’t mind so much, because it’s a more sociable ride for me when others realise the benefit of sheltering behind my ample bulk. I rode out to Bridlington from Castleford with Julian Dyson. I had an incentive to seek company as my laminator had packed up, so my route sheet arrangements were pretty poor. My abiding impression was of a very large number of poppies in the fields. This inspired a series of disjointed observations on remembrance and Help
for Heroes, this was deepened by my visit to the impressive war memorial at Sledmere. I stopped there while I waited for Julian, who was relieving himself close to the sign for Beverly and Wetwang. I mused on the details of the sculpture and on whether Beverly Wetwang would be a worse name for a boy or a girl. After my lunch of homemade steak pie, chips, peas and gravy for £3.25 in the Boathouse Café we left to face the headwind. We encountered a big group on the first climb over the Wolds: they all shot off as I adopted a tempo approach. Soon the climb slackened, the wind took its toll and I passed them, taking a very neatly dressed Auk with me. He was experienced and we were soon working together, catching Ian who was on his first 600. Ian was very keen, and shot off on his turn on the front, which is only natural; once we’d taught him to peel off and drop back we formed a good team on our way to Malton. He did tire a bit, largely because he hadn’t developed the iron stomach required for the big distances. We all came back together at Castleford, where we had the archetypal late night service station experience;
Arrivée Summer 2011
randonnee Right: Author Damon Peacock (with his new Hewitt) at Bridlington on the Three Coasts 600.
Left: 1. Ian Watson. 2. Julian Dyson. 3. James Colley. Three photos by Martin Tillin
Below: Bob Butler and Suzy. Bob was a helper on this year’s Three Coasts 600 and in 2003 completed PBP and LEL in 2001.
it was raining by then and I needed to stick with a group for navigation. Two of us dropped off on the hills and we went a bit wrong near Leeds. I also relied on Keith and Ann Benton to keep me on the straight and narrow back to Mytholmroyd. After some food, two hours’ sleep, and breakfast, I set off with a small group in the rain and wind. I went the wrong way in Todmorden, and was on my own until Preston. I also didn’t have a route sheet and navigated by a combination of memory, the card details, a map and imagination. At Preston, well Fulwood actually, it’s my birthplace, so I’m fussy. I rejoined the others, but set off again alone. I was confident of finding my way to Blackpool, but when Tim came past again we joined forces. I’d told him that cycling was a popular activity in Lancashire, and that we’d see lots of people out. This had been true even in
Arrivée Summer 2011
the early morning rain, probably because they’d seen the forecast for a nice day from 10am. At Blackpool we noted the name of the hotel behind the cenotaph, which is an obelisk. Leaving Blackpool we encountered another rider, who wanted to know where Asterix or Obelix were. I assumed these were forum names initially, but I twigged and directed him to the promenade, which was closed for improvement works. The route to Glasson Dock takes in some well known time trial roads, where I’ve ridden 50s, 100s, and 12s. We went on the tiny lanes instead, until Pilling and Cockerham marshes, a sort of windblasted steppe, where that wind was behind us. I met up with my friend Dave at Glasson, we are going to film PBP together and he wanted to sort out some colour-balance issues on the five cameras. I hope the other riders weren’t
‘It was a demanding ride because of the wind, there was about eight hours of rain to contend with as well.’
too alarmed by his attention with a Canon 7D. Tim seemed quite taken with Glasson Dock, which is an historic canal basin and wet dock, we were there at high tide when there is a lot of colourful activity. My dad used to sail dinghies at Glasson so, I’d seen everything hundreds of times, but through new eyes it looked very pretty, the Lantern o’er Lune café was very nice, but 40 per cent more expensive than Brid. Good food though and still good value. I’d ridden much of the route between Glasson and Whalley on a 100 the Sunday before, so I invented my own, less hilly route; most people beat me there though. There was a helper and a van there, dispensing food and water, as the café was closed. The same was true of Hollingworth Lake, reached after much tempo climbing and welcome descending. This was followed by a very ‘tempo’ ride up Blackstone Edge and welcome descent of almost five miles to Mytholmroyd and more excellent catering. It was a demanding ride because of the wind, there was about eight hours of rain to contend with as well, but a lot of rides since early May have had those conditions. By the end of Sunday there was a blue sky. I enjoyed the ride for the company as much as anything, and the inspiring sight of Keith and Ann Benton completing their 600 qualifier. The Press in York was impressed that they rode a similar distance in four days, I wonder what they’d think about 40 hours. http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/ news/8445945.York_OAPs_in_362_mile_ charity_cycle_challenge_across_Europe/
Safe in Georgi’s hands... Sliven–Varna–Sofia–Sliven, 1200 kilometres through Bulgaria No sleep Monday night; there were just too many little things to get ready to keep within the strict baggage allowance (32kg)! Not many people around London Bridge station at 03:00 – perhaps that’s why the train departed on time. A slow-runner down to East Croydon and then on at normal speed to Gatwick. EasyJet now allow you to check in on-line even if you are checking in hold luggage – good thing too, as the separate ‘drop bag’ queue was half the length of the normal queue. Within an hour, bag and bike box were checked in and I was back in the main terminal, which now feels more like a shopping mall than an aviation transport interchange. I visited one of the many food concessions for some sandwiches for the flight and a coffee for now. The flight was nearly full, but left on time at 05:55.
Tuesday 29 June
rriving on time in Sofia at 11:00, I was met at the arrivals area by local SVS participant Spas Hristov, who kindly arranged a lift to the main bus terminal for the transfer to Sliven. Lazar (the SVS organiser) had also arranged a minibus for the Italian riders arriving later at the airport. The next Doris bus to Sliven didn’t leave until 14:30, so I had just over two hours to kill, tethered to a bike box, medium sized bag and small rucksack. This might have caused a slight problem if I needed to use the loo, but the cleaning attendant was happy to keep watch. It wasn’t feeling like summer at all – 15-17°, cloudy and when I went up one floor to the observation deck and outside, it started to rain – and I mean really rain! It bounced off the plastic canopy roof and within minutes there were several centimetres of water all over the parking area! Oh oh! We got a double feature on the 4½-hour bus journey, American films with Bulgarian subtitles, which I drifted into and out of, to make up for my preparation all-nighter. On arrival in Sliven, I gave up on the promised hotel shuttle and got a taxi, which was incredibly cheap by London standards – 3 Lev 58 Stotinki or just under two quid for a 6km ride! Arrived at the Chateau Alpia, in
the foothills of the Balkan Mountains with panoramic views of Sliven to be greeted by the Italians, who arrived an hour before me, despite their flight landing three hours after mine at Sofia. Next time I choose that option! After dropping off my stuff I went to the bar/ restaurant, where I was surprised to see Holger Röthig – Holger had just returned from a RAAM solo attempt, where Lazar was part of the support team. He had obviously convinced him to return and ride SVS again! Impressive! Respect! The typical preparation for a mega ultra endurance ride followed: Meet a lot of old friends at the start venue, have some beers and a big meal, plan bag drop strategy over some more beers; then a local raki aperitif, followed by a few more beers and bed well after midnight… It had been a long day to say the least! In London I had pre-packed for three bag drops, and we decided to space the two main drops evenly: at Popovo (429 km) and Dolna Banya (861 km), with a final back up (to ditch excess kit on the run in) at Kalopher (1,092 km).
Wednesday 30 June
I slept until around 11:00, and then went straight down to the cellar to assemble the bike. This usually takes only about 30 minutes, but fitting mudguards and new rubber ergo-lever hoods made it just over an hour. I had a new set of wheels built onto my existing hubs by Harry Rowland, but had totally forgotten about the front wheel magnet! Damn! Will have to ride into town and visit the small bike shop instead of eating lunch. It’s a really tiny shop, with basic stuff – and err, no wheel magnets, but I did find a new computer with a compatible magnet. Part in hand, sprinted back up to the hotel, some 150 metres above Sliven (this would be fun at the finish!). At 16:00 registration opened, followed by a detailed briefing by Lazar. I had already printed my routesheet double sided two A5 pages on each A4 page as a back-up in case my GPS failed. Lazar went through all of the controls in detail, showing maps and photos of what they looked like. I was familiar with all but two, which were different to last year. The best GPS maps of Bulgaria are not by Garmin, but www.BGRouting.com – much better detail, and very reasonable at 70 Lev for the whole country. At 18:00 we were ushered into the
All photos by Felix Hertlein
dining-room for the pasta party – I was really starved and feeling super hungry. There was a plate of Bulgarian cakes at each table and a bottle of spring water. A basic bowl of well-done spaghetti arrived, with a small bowl to the side of tomato pasta sauce. I scoffed it all down, and the cakes were divine!
‘Meet a lot of old friends at the start venue, have some beers and a big meal, plan bag drop strategy over some more beers.’
19:30 Start line
We assembled in front of the hotel for the grand depart at 20:00. We all shook hands and wished each other the best of luck on the ride. Then, just when Holger turned on his 705 GPS (with external power attached), somehow all of his tracks were gone – totally missing! This had happened previously on one occasion at the start of MGM 1200 the previous year, when removing the external power had solved the problem – but this time they were truly missing! We raced back to the luggage room, fired up my laptop and re-loaded the tracks and control waypoints inside five minutes, then rushed off after Lazar, who was also late – it has got to be tough organising a 1200 and riding it as well – chapeau!!
20:15 start line (again!)
We descended quickly into town and met the group at the municipal park, but missed the group photo (what a shame); but were just in time to set off in the group towards Sunny Beach on the Black Sea coast to the east.
Stage 1: Sunny Beach (Neasbar), 128km; 538m climbing
Traffic was surprisingly light for a main road, and the surface was near perfect. We rode in two groups; Holger and me at the front of the first, with Mincho, Luigi
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADING overseas IN HERE John on his Ti audax bike – with torrential rain on route, he was glad he kept his mudguards on.
and Ferdinand averaging 38kph into a headwind. The first big climb to 265m approaching the outskirts of Bourgas gave panoramic views of the city at night, and the rising of the moon on the horizon with a strange orange glow is really something to see. This was followed by a fast and furious descent into Sunny Beach and a short built-up section to reach the control at 23:55. Hotel Nobel was a strange place, a rather swish looking four-star hotel with Mercs and BMWs parked outside the main entrance. They seemed surprised to see us, but quickly made us welcome and offered us large leather club chairs in a spacious reception area. Pitchers of squash, one-sided sandwiches of ham, cheese and sweet Bulgarian pastries appeared, and I managed to eat four sandwiches and a handful of pastries – still hungry from the daytime fast! Ferdinand and Karl (Austrian and German), left almost immediately, and we later spotted them receiving assistance from a support vehicle along the roadside between the controls.
Stage 2a: Varna ‘secret’, 92km 1,270m
Some serious hills on the next stage to the ‘secret’ control in Varna, including a 446m climb out of Neasbar. Four of us now rode together – me, Holger, Mincho and Luigi on a blue racing bike with four-spoke carbon rims. This made a strange ‘whoosh-whoosh’ sound when pedalling and had a very aggressive sounding freewheel. After a while on the climb Luigi started to drop back, but with plenty more climbs to come everyone had to find a pace to suit them without overdoing it (and exploding later). I was now starting to feel the effects of too little rest or sleep before the event – the dreaded ‘dozies’. Just after the top of a climb we found a garage with the ubiquitous ‘Kaphe’ machine vending at 1 Lev 50 Stotinki. We each had a
Arrivée Summer 2011
coffee and a coke, and Holger offered me a caffeine tablet, which I gratefully swallowed! Mincho was faffing, buying some nuts and other pocket food and said ‘No, I’m going to ride easy’, despite our encouragement and invitation to ride together. So now, it was just me and Holger riding together. The full effects of riding a RAAM solo attempt were starting to show on Holger. This meant I would stay on the front and set the pace. I didn’t mind as this meant I could set the pace and riding with Holger was great to keep some banter and conversation going throughout the night. As we neared Varna, the road technically changes into a motorway for 10km – but there was a wide shoulder and absolutely no traffic. Just before the bridge we exited down a spaghetti-like series of feeder-roads. All of a sudden someone whistled to us from the bushes on the side of the road. Oops, almost flew past the ‘secret’ controllers for Varna. They had just arrived, and were setting up a basic control – just water and ‘waffle’ biscuits. Damn, I really fancied a coffee and had been looking forward to it! Another caffeine tablet from Holger to the rescue. I don’t normally advocate taking caffeine tablets – but they certainly took the edge off this night section after another really long day.
Stage 2b: Isperih, 139km 1,430m
With dawn still a few hours off it was still completely dark as we left Varna. We had been looking forward to a tailwind as we turned west, but annoyingly the wind shifted direction against us. Towards the end of the minor road along the harbour, passing various industrial and rail goods yards, we changed direction from west to north-westerly – damn again, right into that pesky headwind and now we had a constant drag up something like 6-7 per cent. These were long stages, and not to be taken lightly. It was therefore important to break them up with at
‘It’s basically either up or down and the road surface gets progressively more broken and potholed.’
least one stop en route. We planned this about half way, and aimed for Devnya to stop at a garage for a coffee. Arriving in daylight we spotted an old garage, which looked closed. It was quite basic, but had a ‘Kaphe’ machine, so had that and a full-fat Coke along with two energy bars I had with me. I later really regretted the Coke, and had to stop for an anti-acid stomach tablet, which calmed things down. Less than 100m further along, there was a band new garage with full food cafe – s**t, I could have really gone for some solid food! One to remember for next time! On the run in to Isperih the road becomes really challenging; it’s basically either up or down and the road surface gets progressively more broken and potholed. Bulgaria has an unfair reputation for poor road surfaces. Yes, there are potholes. Yes, the road surfaces can be diabolical. But at least you can see the deformations and holes – the one thing that they don’t do is tar and chipstone the road surfaces. I find UK roads almost as challenging to ride on – just in a different sort of way. Just as riders from the continent need to adjust to UK road surfaces, there is a learning curve in Bulgaria; and reliable and powerful lights are essential if you intend on riding at night. By now it was starting to get hot and already into the upper twenties before 10:00am. The morning haze had cleared and it was going to be a proper ‘scorcher’. I was habitually doing ‘double shifts’ at the beginning of a big climb, until my chain decided to suck itself around the chainstay and into the front mech, bending the cage (first mechanical). As I could not shift into the big ring, we made a quick emergency roadside adjustment. Holger’s rear hub had developed some play in the bearings, and the front was starting to do the same thing. We would sort this properly at Isperih control and carry on to make the most efficient use of time. Having been to the Hostel Dimitrovets in Isperih three times previously on SVS and spent a lot of time looking for it last year, I made damn sure I checked the exact location from last year’s tracklog and marked a control waypoint. It’s really worth the extra time before an event researching the control locations and tying these up with GPX tracks provided by the organisers – this helped save a lot of time looking for controls on this and other foreign and UK events. Hostel Dimitrovets is a basic sort of place – a modern communist era building perhaps from the late 50s/early 60s, in a fairly dilapidated state. The controllers are really welcoming, and it is the home of a local MTB cycling club, which has a clubroom in the basement. We were given proper food – Lasi (yogurt drink/soup with cucumber) to start, then
overseas so had one each before showering and changing. It had been so hot and the indications were that this weather would continue, and … big mistake number two: Knee warmers - ‘surely don’t need ‘em’; its bl***y hot outside – ditto Goretex helmet cover and neoprene toe covers!
Stage 4: Dryanovo, 101km 1,010m
a cooked chicken leg and cake to finish – all with plenty of coffee to perk us up. We grabbed some tools, and went upstairs to sort the bikes out – Holger adjusted his hubs, but my front mech took a little more time than I would have liked. Part of the problem was using a standard front mech on a compact Campag compact chainset – it just didn’t fit well and clashed with the crank arm. A bit of judicious bending with some pliers until I saw a crack on the outside cage! – OK, that’s enough bending for now, that would have to do. This had taken way too long, though Ferdinand and Karl had not caught us yet, so all was well.
Stage 3: Popovo, 69km 640m
I was totally covered with sweat after the stage from Varna, but with our first bag drop and shower/kit change in Popovo only 69k away I decided to forego washing and applying sun protection, in the hope that three hours’ exposure wouldn’t make too much difference. This was a big mistake – my arms and legs took on too much sun and were looking pretty cooked by the end of the day! The road to Popovo was uneventful and it felt like a proper summer day, in the mid-thirties, but still with that pesky headwind! Several big climbs along the way made the 69km leg feel longer than advertised (but don’t they always after an all-nighter?) and even the flat and straight roads on the run in to Popovo seemed to go on for an age. We arrived at the Motel Enraged Lion; another converted communist era building that appeared to have been some kind of dormitory – now completely renovated into basic but modern accommodation. The third floor still had a large hammer and sickle painted on the wall from times past. We were welcomed immediately by the controllers, and also present was the Austrian support car, awaiting Ferdinand and Karl. We were ushered up to the first floor and shown rooms with showers and towels that we could use. There was a mess facility set up, with all the food laid out – Lasi, BBQ chicken breast and salad. Oh, and lots of bottles of beer! We had both been looking forward to that,
‘It had been so hot and the indications were that this weather would continue.’
All fed, showered and changed, we departed for the next control located in the mountains near the Dryanovski Monastery. The road is fairly minor and the surfaces were OK on this stage, following a series of valleys and rivers, with one really big climb and then a descent down to the main road E772, which the route follows for 29km. We passed the Austrian support car on the side of the road, having set up camp (to await their riders). The E772 road was quite busy, with a relentless flow of traffic, and was one long ascent. The gradient slowly got steeper as the km’s ticked over to the pass at Sheremetya, then a fast descent to Veliko Turnovo and an easy-to-miss turn circling right and back under the main road (bridge viaduct) to start the next big climb to Dryanovo. Fortunately the traffic was a lot lighter once off the E772 and the surface quite agreeable, but the road really did seem to go on for a long time. We were now on what was day-two of last year’s ride and I did not feel anywhere near as fresh as a year ago. Through the town of Dryanovo and a little further, then finally the turning for the monastery and the Chalet Bacho Kiro, which we found without any problems [last year I spent ages looking for it!]. After control stamping, which took a little time, we went into the dining-room and waited for our food – Salad Shropska (tomatoes, cucumbers and grated cheese) and then a traditional baked meat dish with a kind of egg/ breaded surface on top plus potato and mince meat inside – sort of like shepherd’s pie. We stayed for just under an hour and were keen to get to Ribaritsa for our revised sleep stop.
Stage 5: Troyan, 78km 800m
A few km’s down the road, we saw Ferdinand riding towards the control, but with one foot on top of his shoe – hotfoot I guess? Soon after, we saw Karl trailing after him and reckoned they were about 45min behind us. Hmmm, better get a move on. A short climb back up to the main road and easy descent to Dryanovo preceded a hard left onto a minor road through the mountains to Troyan over the next series of ridges and valleys. The surface was variable here, but no worse than riding on West Country single track lanes. The scenery was beautiful but as dusk fell it became overcast and
threatened rain. We followed a valley road, winding and twisting around in the dark, and then without warning it kicked up and took us over a huge hill with an ascent that lasted for ages! A fast descent to the outskirts of Troyan, and left turn before the town, to the control at Bungalows Mirevsko a few km’s down a very minor lane near the river. We were tired, having been on the bike now for over 24 hours (arriving 21:14), but knew the stage to Ribaritsa was a short one. My wheel goes ‘Boom-ditty-boomditty-boom…’ [‘Oh, goodness gracious me…’]
Stage 6: Ribaritsa, 54km 880m
Departing in light rain at 21:53, the road gently followed the river valley, then started to ascend the Shipkovo Pass (1,224m) after which it would be down hill all the way into Ribaritsa. It was difficult to keep the pace moving, as the gradient steadily increased and the surfaces were wet. Just after midnight about halfway up the climb, on a hairpin bend, from out of nowhere, there was a metal drainage grating 40cm across and the width of the entire road. It had longitudinal bars, spaced exactly the width of a 25mm tyre! Being super tired I reacted without thinking, attempting a bunny hop as I yelled to warn Holger (not focusing on the rear wheel). The front wheel went over OK, but the rear wheel landed square on the edge, making an unnatural metal-on-metal ‘KANG’ sound, which resonated through the frame. Close examination showed a blown tube and a nice dent on the inside of the rim. First thought: Is this the end of the ride for me?!! Chances of finding a replacement Campag 10spd compatible wheel in rural Bulgaria (at close to midnight): probably zero! Second thought: Change tyre, true rim as best as one can, ‘stay calm and carry on’. There was no visible damage to the tyre, but the rim was finished, though would hopefully get me through the ride. Essentially the impact had made it eggshaped, which induced an interesting sort of vertical bumpity-bump-bump when riding, but there was a frequency at which this seemed to cancel out (above 30kph). Now I was totally awake, angry, and determined to make up time and finish on this wheel. We carried on, as the gradient really kicked up to something like 10-12 per cent – and not in just one place, but for the remainder of the climb! Holger was fading back and I eased off now and again to keep him in sight. At the top on went windproofs for the long, fast and dark descent to Ribaritsa. Lights on full and only sporadic potholes here and there, but to hit one at speed would mean the end of the ride. My knees got painful from the cold wind on the descent – how I wished I had my knee
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADING overseas IN HERE warmers! For the tiny amount of space they take up it was a totally silly mistake and poor judgement to leave them behind. Arriving 01:24 at the restaurant Edelweiss in Ribaritsa, Irina and Vanya had organised food, plus blankets to wrap around us (the restaurant was closed). When ready we were shown into the house next door for a shower or sleep. I went for a shower while Holger went for maximum sleep. The hot water on my body after 29 hours in the saddle felt like nirvana! Our initial plan was to sleep 1½ hours, but I was convinced we needed two hours, so we took the latter option knowing it would soon be light. When we awoke around 04:30 we found out that Ferdinand and Karl had ‘leapfrogged’ us as we slept… Oh well, it’s not a race you know, one does have to keep a perspective on these things.
Stage 7: Monastery St Teodor, 67km 680m
04:45 Mounting in early daylight for the next stage felt awkward and rather uncomfortable at first. From Ribaritsa it’s a fast ride down the river valley to Teteven and onwards towards Glozhene; it’s easily possible to maintain 40-45kph on the road. Then the climbing picks up again, first over a few ridges and down a valley to Dzhurovo, up a big climb to Laga (447m) where it started to rain, then a fast descent and oops – overshot the left turning to the monastery by 150m! A quick backtrack to the turning and 2km uphill to the St Teodor Monastery, where Irina, Vanya and Kotsi were waiting with our next breakfast at 07:40. We parked our bikes against the residence of the priest under the roof eaves and were ushered onto the front porch to eat. As we sat, the rain turned into a major downpour! Good timing, but not at all encouraging. It was still warm, around 15 degrees, but it was pretty clear the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, though we tried not to think too much about that as we ate our lasi with cucumber, followed by a traditional Bulgarian pastry with cheese [banitsa], grilled chicken and fresh coffee.
Stage 8: Dolna Banya, 132km 1,540m
Departing 08:11, we quickly descended to the small town of Pravec and onwards to the larger town of Botevgrad. The route took us directly through the city centre and included a small amount through a pedestrianised area, but not busy at mid-morning on Friday. A ‘B’-type road along a river valley, slowly climbed close to the E79 motorway, towering above on an impressive viaduct across the valley. From here, the route got tricky, as the road forks into three directions, and the road surface rapidly deteriorated. Since last year, the ‘straight on’
Arrivée Summer 2011
we needed had been blocked by (bulldozed?) earth, too difficult to cross – perhaps the bridge over the river had collapsed? – GPS suggested backtracking a little, and soon we found a way around on an adjacent road that connected to the track on the GPS. This old road – perhaps the original highway before the construction of the motorway – had not been maintained in a long time, and overgrown vegetation had reduced it to a single track road in places. The climb up to Prohod Vitinja got progressively steeper towards the top at 970m. Along the way were gypsy settlements of charcoal burners, living in tents and a few old disused concrete structures – quite surreal and like a walk back in time to somewhere else. By now the wind was on our back and it was feeling pretty hot. This climb never really reveals itself and has a lot of false summits – it’s pretty straightforward, until the last switchbacks where the gradient really kicks up to 12 per cent plus for the last 2km. Last year, an angry dog greeted me at the top and tried to chase me; this year, no dogs, just a horse roaming loose, whose front legs had been shackled together, eliminating the animal’s ability to run away too far. There was a settlement at the top of the climb, and from here the road surface improves dramatically, allowing for a fast descent down to Gorno Kamarci and then a flat run to join the main E871 road, which we would follow for 22km to the turning to Elin Pelin. This long main road bash, had a lot of traffic on it and was not particularly pleasant, but there are no other alternatives to connect the route together at this point. We decided to break up this long stage with a stop at a garage near Elin Pelin after the turn off the main highway just after 11:00. I was hoping we would find a large, modern garage with mini café, but had to settle for a basic petrol/ LP gas station. As we sat on the kerb, drinking coke and eating waffle cakes, the sky to the south looked very dark and there was even a flash of lightning off in the distance somewhere. This was the furthest west the route would take us, very near the outskirts of Sofia.
‘The monsoon arrives …’
Food was plentiful throughout the event.
centimetres! By the time we reached Novi han, the roads were completely flooded; even the storm drains in the town could not handle the water. One car had decided to plough through a flooded section at speed, and stalled its engine in the middle (that’ll teach him, I thought!) – the driver’s expression was priceless … We turned left onto old highway No. 8 parallel to the E80 motorway, and started to gently climb along the valley to Vakarel at 795m. It was a long climb, but at least the rain eased down a bit, though still there was a lot of rainwater streaming down the road. From Vakarel, the road rapidly deteriorated and this is probably the worst section of road on the entire route, although you are well warned of it (even with road signs). It’s only 16km to Ihtiman, but with all the rain it was like trying to navigate through a lake! Not only were there potholes, but repair works had started but not yet been completed. Entire sections of road excavated in rectangular sections, were left unfilled and unpaved, and completely filled with water now looked like a swimming lane! This made for slow going and was really tricky to navigate without dismounting sometimes. I was really thankful it was light; it would have been near impossible to navigate a safe passage in darkness and in the rain. Once past Ihtiman, the road surface improved dramatically, and the run into Konstenets was pretty straightforward on rolling terrain, then a fast downhill section along a river valley (past last year’s control at Momin prohod). The road west from Konstenets to Dolna Banya was narrow and busy, with an annoying constant 5-6 per cent gradient uphill into a light headwind! It got slightly steeper as we approached the town, and felt like it would never end! Once through the town centre, we saw the turning for the ‘Ela Guesthouse’ and expected this to be 1-2km away; however, this long and straight Roman-type road, ascended at a totally disagreeable gradient, cruelly getting steeper the further you went on (and again into the wind). There was only one
The monsoon arrives …
Fed and rested after 30min, we set off heading south now, but just on the outskirts of Elin Pelin it started to spit. I had a feeling this was going to turn serious in a short space of time, so we stopped. No sooner had we donned our rain capes when the heavens opened with a full-on downpour. And no ordinary downpour, it was huge! The sky was nearly black; we had lightning flashes around and claps of thunder soon afterwards. At first, there was a little standing rainwater on the roads, but within minutes this changed to 7-8
overseas slight bend in the 4km road – how could a mere 4km feel so difficult? As we approached the stop, we saw Ferdinand and Karl setting off ahead of us – no worries, we thought – they’ll soon tire and have to rest at some point (as would we!). The Ela Guesthouse was a gem of a control and was run by a British/Bulgarian couple. Arriving 15:00, we were warmly greeted and introduced to a group of Brits staying there, who had no clue as to the scale of the ride we were doing. The usual questions and astonishment that we were riding ‘without a support car’ and only a few tubes for spares [‘What! you have no spare wheels sir…!!’] – But we won’t go into that. Our food orders were taken, and then we were shown to some plush and sumptuous rooms for a shower and change of clothes for the remaining ~360km to the finish. I felt like a new man after showering and getting out of those damp and salty bibshorts. The wonders of a fresh change of kit! How I wished I had packed that spare set of knee warmers in this bag drop – big mistake, but the long lasting memory would mean I would probably never do it again. As we ate outside on a table under a large umbrella it started to rain again, but we simply did not care, and we each drank a bottle of Bulgarian beer. A Shopska salad, then a fantastic tunapasta for me, and spaghetti bolognese for Holger. Fruit salad with ice cream, followed by a selection of chocolates. It was tempting to throw in the towel and stay here – I could easily imagine an extended stay, a proper sleep and drinking a lot of beer here. But, we had less than 400km to go to the finish, and psychologically, once past the next control in the mountains at Batak, it would feel like it was downhill all the way to the finish (if only!). Anyway, there was an incentive to keep the pressure on Karl and Ferdinand, so after just under an hour, we set off again.
Stage 9: Batak, 85km 1,200m
Departing 16:10, a nice gradual downhill gradient all the way back to Kostenets and then a right turning along the main highway No.8 following the river valley to Belovo. The road wasn’t too busy and had a generous shoulder, so passing traffic was not a problem. At Belovo the road flattens out then starts to climb through the villages of Semchinovo, Simeonovets and Varvara. The road surface was quite good outside the villages, but deteriorated inside (perhaps the village was responsible for the upkeep). This lovely bit of road cuts a few km’s off the main road (at the expense of a little more climbing). In Vavara, we turned right on the main highway No.84, which gently climbed through a very scenic gorge of rocks and
Rough road surfaces and rough weather.
‘It had gone dark now, and the climb seemed it would never reveal the summit, constantly turning and twisting through the forest.’
forest along the Chepinska River, with an active narrow-gauge railway alongside the road. The road twists and turns as it climbs, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was little traffic, compared to last year’s climb earlier in the afternoon. I set into a comfortable climbing pace of around 14-17kph, Holger in tow most of the way. There is one level crossing which is a bit tricky, as it crosses the road at an acute diagonal, though was easy to navigate without traffic. A short while after, the road leaves the valley and starts climbing the side of the mountain, now a gentler gradient with several switchbacks. Towards what felt like the top, we reached the left turning for Rakitovo and continued 19km across a mountain plain. The route took us straight through the centre, and after zig-zagging around, we exited town and started the second proper climb to Batak. It had gone dark now, and the climb seemed it would never reveal the summit, constantly turning and twisting through the forest. Holger would drift back now and again, but I always stayed within sighting distance of his lights and eventually we reached the summit at 1,156m, feeling pretty shattered. A brief stop to zip up and prepare for the fast descent to Tsigov chark and the rolling road along the Batak Lake (reservoir) below. The control is at an old traditional Bulgarian mountain house (now a ‘tourist house’) and is tricky to find, especially in the dark. Having spent a lot of time last year looking for it, I had marked it as a waypoint from last year’s tracklog, and it was nice to know exactly where to go! Even so, we missed the turning left up the final steep little hill to the house – the small roads have not been mapped here on the GPS maps. We were greeted by three controllers, two of whom spoke fluent English and were from Plovdiv, to the east and down the mountain. We had apparently only missed Ferdiand and Karl by 15-20 minutes, so decided we would stick to our plan of a quick stop for food, and then carry on the 146km to Kalopher for a proper sleep. It was around 23:30, and the decision to carry on would be a mistake that we would soon regret. In my mind, I think now of 2009 when I had arrived at Batak in the late afternoon, well in the light and after some five hours of sleep at Popovo and five hours’ sleep at St Teodor during the ride (as opposed to only two hours in total this year at Ribaritsa). Then I felt fresh and completed the following stage in well under six hours, riding into a beautiful dusk and sunset on the plains below.
Finally got some knee warmers
The weather had not been kind to us this year and it was now feeling rather cold! My knees had really suffered on
the long descent down to Tsigov chark, and I knew the descent off Batak would be even colder! I looked around – the controllers were really accommodating and keen to talk and find out more about us. We drank a few glasses of beer, and had some sandwiches, finished with some chocolates. I finally posed the question ‘do you have any spare binliners?’ I got a confused look, but then pointed to my knees and they knew why I wanted them! It seemed ludicrous, but I needed to limit the pain on the way down, so made DIY kneewarmers by wrapping toilet tissue around the knees, wrapped over with plastic bin-liners and held into place with some medical tape courtesy of Holger! They made a little noise when I moved, but seemed to work fine and would serve their purpose. I knew it would be warmer down below, so would strip them off once down the mountain. The controllers much enjoyed this, and one even photographed my homemade garments. These guys had been great, and the hospitality had really been appreciated. We filled out bottles from the spring outside of the house then set off after spending just under 45 minutes at the control.
Stage 10: Kalopher, 146km 1,060m
The road quickly started to descend along a gorge with many hairpin bends; it was pitch black darkness, so lights were on full power! Tiredness soon crept in and got worse as we descended. It was impossible to maintain any sort of speed, even with our powerful lights the road surface seemed unpredictable, requiring full consciousness and wits about you to navigate. We knew from experience and from the routesheet there was a 24-hour garage at 34km in Pazardzhik, but even downhill most of the way, that felt like a long way off. About half way to Pazardzhik we stopped at a garage in Peshtera, and had a coffee – sadly Holger had no more caffeine tablets. It helped to make the stop, but we still felt tired and wished in hindsight we had slept for an hour at Batak – too late now boyo, you’re on the road, so you’re gonna have to just get on with it! In Radilovo we hit a very long section of cobbles – far longer than was comfortable to ride. Although pretty unwelcome at the time, it helped to awaken us from our semi-conscious descent! We were near Pazardzhik now, and feeling pretty desperate for another stop. Eventually the 24-hour Shell station surfaced, and we rolled in, bleary-eyed and feeling totally finished. Hindsight is great – if only! But our only sleep option now was the forecourt of a garage. Holger tried the grass, but it was totally saturated with dew, so he collapsed on the concrete. I wasn’t keen on sleeping here as the night attendants seemed a little too curious as to why two blokes on
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADING overseas IN HERE cycles should turn up in the middle of the night and decide to collapse on the forecourt. Half awake, I could hear them approaching us, sniggering and giggling as if to play some sort of Youtube-worthy prank on us. I didn’t have much patience and made movements, so they backed off – but it meant I couldn’t drift off into a deep sleep. After 10 minutes or so I tried to wake Holger, who asked for 20 minutes more. This was getting desperate, I thought – what to do? I laid back, not really drifting off and always getting a whiff of petrol, and counted five songs being played on the forecourt speakers – Hmmmm, that ought to be about 20 minutes. Time to wake Holger, and make a move! Holger was soon drifting behind and I really had to slow down to keep him in sight. Finally, as we approached the crossing over the E80 motorway, he told me to go on – he was totally exhausted and had to find somewhere to sleep. The only problem was that it was pitch dark and I didn’t remember too many towns or villages on this stage from last year, and I was not about to abandon my riding partner on the road in the middle of nowhere. Zooming in and out on the GPS map I saw we passed through Chernogorovo, about 3-4km up the road and suggested we stop there. That seemed to spur Holger on. During the time it took to get there I was thinking about what to do – should I stay and rest and continue later as a two-man team; or carry on alone and we finish separately? It was a less than ideal situation, but on reaching the village, it was clear Holger really did have to stop and just sleep. He found a bench outside someone’s home and we parted amicably … ‘just the way it is’. A hundred metres further on I came across a park with a small gabled enclosure with table and benches – I went back for Holger and dropped him off at this more ‘secluded’ sleep spot; at least he would be less likely to be disturbed there … (or so I thought). So now I was on my own, cycling into the hills and into the darkness. It must have been around 02:30 – it had taken longer than I wanted to get here, and at best I would reach Kalopher well after daylight. I continued on, spurred by the possibility of a sub-65-hour ride and second overall. There were four level crossings on this leg, each of which I had to dismount to cross; they were simply too rough to ride over and all covered in dew, making them massively slippery. In the village of Smilets the road descended then climbed up a steep hill – in the distance I could see three dogs waiting to chase me – but I hammered up the hill and out-ran them and they backed off when they saw my water bottle pointed at them. Not long after Dyulevo it all started to fall apart for me: the smooth road
Arrivée Summer 2011
surface, pitch black night and me wanting to make up lost time meant I was now also in danger of falling asleep on the bike. Each time I slipped into unconsciousness I would drift into the centre of the road – thankfully no cars were on the road – this was dangerous! No point in reflecting on sleeping in Batak now – you’ve done it, you’ve got to get on with it and deal with it now! ‘Self slapping’ only helped a little though… Singing (anything) seemed to help, and there was no one around to listen (thankfully), which got me to the next village at Krastevich. I felt awake riding through this place, and despite the opportunity to sleep in a bus shelter, decided to carry on to the next town; of course as I left, the sleepiness returned.
Reaching Krasnovo I felt desperate, so when I passed a bus shelter I stopped and parked the bike and sat on the bench. I soon sensed people starting to move around, and knew that I would not be able to sleep without being disturbed [not in a malicious way, people are just curious and/or genuinely concerned you’re OK – when actually, you just want to be left alone!]. This just wasn’t going to work, so I left and carried on to the next village of Starosel – by now it was almost dawn and there was too much activity in every village for an undisturbed sleep (anywhere, be it bus stop, monument, park, etc)… Just outside the village, I found the gate to a field of cows. The grass was saturated with dew and there were lots of bugs, but by now I didn’t care – I was really in a bad way and needed to lie down. Helmet off, and out with my Gortex cape for use as a pillow on the grass. Only the sound of the mosquito near my ears really bothered me and I slept for nearly 35 minutes, through the transition from darkness to dawn and into daylight. I felt rejuvenated – and nobody around to disturb me. When even the cows started to move around, it seemed like a good time to get a move on. Having lost my riding partner on the penultimate stage, and fallen to bits myself afterwards – I half expected to see Holger passing me anytime soon. Thighs and legs now had a generous assortment of bites, as I remounted in the light and carried on towards Hisar. Within a short time those bl***y dozies started attacking again. I simply could not keep going without risk of awakening horizontal along the road on a crashed bike! The next village of Staro Zhelezare looked almost abandoned, with little life going on – perfect! I found a disused bus shelter that had not seen service for years – even the two metal bars forming the seat were covered in rust. No worries, it felt like a five-star hotel to me [OK,
John with some of the randonneurs.
‘The grass was saturated with dew and there were lots of bugs, but by now I didn’t care – I was really in a bad way and needed to lie down.’
not quite!]! No one bothered me as I lay horizontally for another half hour, until chicks living in the roof started tweeting incessantly above me, as mama bird returned with the breakfast. OK, time to get a move on, and make up some time in time for my own breakfast at Kalopher. The really annoying thing about the road to Hisar is that it heads out almost due west, then turns north in a long dogleg, while maintaining a long slow ascent – just the sort you feel with over 1,000km in your legs. There was still no traffic on the road and within an hour I was in Hisar. I had hoped to find a large garage with hot food and coffee but nothing… So, carry on and munch on some energy bars in the back pocket! Passed through the town of Mihiltsi and then turned briefly on the No. 64 north to Banja and the slow gradient to the next main road No.6 to Kalopher, a gradual climb which got progressively steeper and had eight switchbacks on the 614m ascent to Kalopher. Having set off from Batak around 00:15, I arrived at Kalopher around 08:40 – nearly 2½ hours longer than planned. An hour’s sleep at Batak would have surely helped things a lot. I easily found ‘Hotel & Tavern Kalopher’ in the centre of this mountain town after a short cobbled descent from the main road. Clearly they had no idea what time I would be arriving, but Irina and the restaurant owner were there diligently waiting – I don’t think they closed at all the previous night. ‘Where is Holger?’, I was asked and over the next 20 minutes, I tried to recount the epic nature of the previous night and our parting at Chernogorovo. Within seconds of arriving and sitting down, I was presented with a large draught beer, a salad Shopska, a beautiful plate of chicken and pork stew plus a huge plate of bread (for all the sauce) – this was proper food and went down very well! I was almost stuffed, but made some room when told ‘dessert’ was on its way – Bulgarian yogurt with strawberry sauce (rich and creamy). I was then shown to a room in the hotel next door, again complete with towels and toiletries (and a very tempting bed). Even though it’s a comparatively short distance to the finish from here, to have a hot shower after a night sleeping rough on the road, and a clean change of kit really helped me feel like a new person. I had originally planned on sleeping for an hour or so here, but felt a lot fresher after the shower and change of kit, so decided to push on for the finish. Ferdinand and Karl had been through a few hours earlier, and stayed for less that 10minutes – as they had alternative arrangements for food and sleeping between controls (and you might argue this is just a ‘different’ way of ‘assisted’ riding through the luxury of a roaming support vehicle). The torrential rain over the last day
overseas helped save my skin from the sun, and the sunburn on my legs and arms from the stage to Popovo had almost gone. As it looked liked the weather would be sunny and hot for the run into Sliven, I generously anointed myself with the excellent P20 sunscreen, made my way back down to the restaurant, filled my bottles from the spring in the courtyard and made my exit around 10.
Final: Sliven, 126km 390m
It was getting warm, much like London was when I left for Bulgaria – sunny and in the 30s. The road out of Kalopher is cobbled for a while, but became smooth tarmac where it joins the main E773 road to Kazanlak and Sliven. Last year, this road was being resurfaced, but had now been completed – it was smooth as glass all the way to Sliven. Not much traffic early in the morning and even the daytime traffic wasn’t too bad. At first, I had a following wind, which was very welcome – ‘payback’ time, I thought. This quickly changed on meeting the main road. This very unwelcome headwind got progressively stronger as the day went on. It may have been grossly unfair, but that’s the way it goes sometimes on a circuit – how many times have you ridden the Bryan Chapman 600 and got the same headwind in both directions. With such new road surfaces, I wasn’t complaining. It was pretty easy and straightforward to Kazanlak at 38km, but while this felt like a milestone, it was barely one-third of the distance to the finish. I took the exit through the city centre (the shortest route) but wondered if it would have been faster to stay on the E773 to bypass the city, despite the extra distance. I soon started to get a bit bored; the driving on this highway was becoming a bit aggressive (more akin to an autobahn) and I suppose those with fast cars were tempted to ‘open them up’ on this ‘smooth as glass road’. I missed the alternative route to Sliven on the more minor road via Nikoleavo, Gurkovo, Tvardica and Sivacevo – firstly, that broke up what was a main road bash to the finish; secondly, despite a small additional amount of climbing, it introduced picturesque villages along the way with little traffic; thirdly (and most importantly) it sent you as near to the centre of Sliven as possible (as opposed to the main road, which dumps you some 2+km outside the city). As I was led-on by the GPX track on the map I carried on, believing this would be the shortest route possible. Then the climbing started – pretty big plateaus to get onto and over. Probably the same hills as on the minor road option, but they felt a little bit more human in scale than the hills on the straight and long main road. Some of these were just soul-destroying – a 10-15km straight in
view, with a slight descent then a huge ascent up to the next plateau; then a big descent, followed by another big climb and then a descent and the seemingly never-ending ascent to the turning to Sliven! Once on the main N-S road into Sliven you have another 3-4km to the city centre, and a further 5-6km, all uphill to the finish at the Chateau Alpia. The final run into Sliven city centre was hot, though the return route kept to the south of the city centre to avoid the worst of the traffic. The run through town was pretty straightforward, but my feet were in excruciating pain on the final climbs up to to the finish at Chateau Alpia. I had been met on the road by the official control car with a warm welcome – lots of photos and they even refilled my bottles. What service! I could only imagine how much easier this ride would have been with a support car; however, part of the attraction for me has always been the difficulty and overcoming the challenges of riding unsupported, and the requirement and ability to remain ‘self-reliant’ no matter what the circumstances. This is really what gave me the adrenalin rush – especially when I damaged that rear wheel.
‘…but my feet were in excruciating pain on the final climbs up to to the finish at Chateau Alpia.’
Having pressed hard up the last climb, I could barely breathe, and had trouble dismounting the bike as I finished on the cobbles! It was 15:30 (and I had finished in exactly 67 hours) I bent down to take my shoes off, and started with the right shoe – so much pain now! I was congratulated by Ferdinand and then Karl, who had finished some four hours before; and exchanged commiserations with the two Italians (who had DNFd).
I took up Georgi’s offer of a massage before getting my room, as I might just fall straight asleep! I got a full body massage, head to toe lasting about an hour, for 25 euro – what a bargain! In London, that would be easily three times the price! I fell asleep on the table, and awoke some time later – I grabbed another beer from reception, took the room key and headed upstairs for a shower and change into normal clothes! That felt really nice, as did a shave after three days. I kipped for a while then headed back downstairs to reception, afraid that if I slept too much in the afternoon I would awake in the middle of the night. About 18:45 Holger arrived in good spirits. I met him in the hotel lobby and we had a few beers together and recollected our experiences. Turned out he didn’t get much sleep in the village before curious onlookers arrived and he had had to move on.
Left: On finishing, John is presented with a laurel wreath. Right: Former heavyweight boxing champ Georgi sweeps John off his feet.
Holger and I had a great dinner together that evening, joined by Luigi and Roberto (both unfortunately had crashed and not finished on the second leg – but were in very good spirits!) The scenes were a bit like American Werewolf in London, but I really admired their positive perspective on the situation. We ate a lot, drank a bit, then quickly retired to our rooms for some well earned sleep … it had been a great ride and a great experience. Because of the weather, perhaps the most difficult of the four times I have ridden the event (the first two clockwise, the latter two anticlockwise). SVS is I’d say, possibly the hardest 1,200km event in Europe, but comes highly recommended! N
I was presented with a laurel wreath, a cold beer and a sandwich. When the masseur Georgi picked me up in his arms and we did a photo for Irina – I knew I was in good hands. He’s incredibly strong, being a former heavy-weight boxing champion. As things calmed down and I relaxed,
Arrivée Summer 2011
HEADING grimpeur IN HERE
Jurassic Roller Coaster East Devon Grimpeur
All photos by Andy Stovell
he organisers, Cycle Sport Dynamo, described this as ‘not an Audax for the faint hearted’. However, 69 riders decided to turn up for the maiden running of the Jurassic Roller Coaster. The route followed the Jurassic coast east from Exmouth to Branscombe before turning inland doing an anticlockwise loop back to Exmouth skirting the Blackdown Hills. The route included five big climbs(20 per cent plus gradient) in the first 53k covering over 1,250m of climbing. The riders set off on a bright dry morning from the Harbour View café on Exmouth’s mile-long sandy seafront heading east towards Budleigh Salterton. After a quick climb the riders were quickly back at sea level as they passed along Budleigh’s pebble beach seafront before heading off through Otterton to the first climb of the day – the much feared Peak Hill. The climb of Peak Hill from Otterton starts gradually with several false flats before a sharp right turn with the road ramping up to over 20 per cent for the last 200m. Once scaled, the riders had magnificent views out to sea and over East Devon before the 20 per cent descent under a heavy canopy of trees to Sidmouth’s picturesque Georgian seafront. The bravest riders on this descent could hit speeds of 75kph. No sooner had they passed along the seafront and over the River Sid did they start the second climb of the day, the 170m climb of Salcombe Hill up to the Norman Lockyer Observatory. The gradient here kicks up to 20 per cent from the very start and doesn’t relent until you crest the summit. A short, flat section allowed the riders to catch their breath before a short descent and climb in and out of Salcombe Regis. After this the route rolled past Sidmouth’s Donkey Sanctuary and started the long descent
Arrivée Summer 2011
back to sea level at the first control at the Sea Shanty café on Branscombe’s pebble beach. The riders here were able to enjoy a friendly stop, sitting out on the benches enjoying the views out to sea and of the towering Jurassic cliffs. Once back on their bikes the riders started the third big climb of the day, straight off the beach up 150m to Hangmans Stone, crossing the A3052 before a rapid descent to a thankfully dry ford. Some riders were caught out by the steep rise in the gradient after the ford and were left struggling up the next hill in too high a gear. Another rise and descent to Southleigh took the riders to the fourth climb of the day gaining another 170m up Southleigh Hill, a long drag of a hill with several steep sections. A flat 10k section towards Honiton gave the riders some respite, but after descending down through Honiton and heading off towards Awliscombe, a right turn took the riders up the final big climb of the day, Egland Hill, a 2k climb on a damp, twisting road climbing another 180m. The climb started steeply, the heavy canopy of trees ensured that the road surface was greasy and several riders struggled for grip. As you climbed this hill you never quite saw how long it was as with each sharp turn in the road revealing yet more steep tarmac to the next sharp turn. It was on this climb that riders reported being chased up the road by a club-swinging Fred Flintstone. A well stocked surprise feed station awaited the riders at the top of this climb. Most commented that this was the best positioned feed station they had ever visited and relished the selection of cakes on offer. Even dinosaur-themed music was played to keep the riders entertained. They later concluded they had probably hallucinated seeing Fred due to the effort of the climb. After this stop a long flat section followed, taking
Above: Martin Fullard on Peak Hill . Above right: Budleigh Salterton.
Below: Passing through the village of Branscombe. Bottom: Chased up Egland Hill by Fred Flintstone.
the riders past Dunkeswell Air Park before descending into Hemyock and the Culm Valley. A long rolling section took the riders to the final café stop of the day at Cold Harbour Mill in Uffculme. Leaving the café the riders headed south for the final 40k run back to Exmouth through the picturesque rolling East Devon countryside passing through the delightful villages of Kentisbeare, Talaton, Whimple, Aylesbeare and Woodbury before a final descent to sea level and a well earned ride along Exmouth’s seafront to the Harbour View café. N
On the anatomy of audacity Part two. Continued from Arrivée112 Ulfson Arvidsson Pain and certainty
Bewildering though it may seem, many long distance cyclists appear to willingly move towards the very phenomenon which in the affluent and supposedly developed ‘first’ world most people seek to avoid. Pain, this protest made by the body, is something which commands our attention like few other things in life and there is almost nothing like it that underscores quite as severely one’s sense of being alone in the world. In his book A Philosophy of Pain (2009) Vetlesen describes how pain sets us out, how it is a differentiator that if intense enough can throw us from being cultural bodies all the way back to where we are organisms devoid of self, culture and language (a state described by philosophy as ‘pure immanence’.)12 Making a link to my aforesaid notion of ‘subdermic seclusion’ we may think that to be in pain is to have absolute certainty; pain is mine, it makes my body unambiguously mine because pain cannot be taken away from me. I cannot hand to you my pain as if it were a spoonful of cod liver oil in order to let you have a taste of it, or relieve me of it altogether. The degree of pain that I imagine many of us have at some point experienced on really long rides increases immanence; it deepens our sense of being in ourselves. Moreover, the physical pain that we experience is clearly localised, that is; we can usually point quite accurately to where it is and more often than not we have a clear sense of what may be causing the pain. Contrary to this physical experience, psychic pain tends to seep into every recess of our inner worlds. Like drops of India ink released into a jug of water psychic pain comes to gradually suffuse our entire being with its leaden tint and therefore offers no spot to which we can point as being especially involved in the pain. Heartache, as we all know, is total and so is depression proper when it rolls in. And maybe this is what is so beguiling about controlled physical pain; it gives a sense of focus. Thinking about these matters brings to mind an episodically very creative but also severely distraught patient who once confessed to drinking excessive amounts of hard liquor, not so much to get intoxicated in order to bear the dearth of meaning in his life, but to generate pounding hangovers that would offer him a longed for sense of internal focus and an obvious kernel to his being when any enduring sense of self was absent. Canadian born Tour de France rider Michael Barry, in his collaborative book Le Métier (2010), writes in the book’s final paragraph: ‘Over the hundreds of thousands of kilometres I’ve ridden, I’ve slowly come to realise why my desire developed and became an obsession. Without it, I struggle – I am anxious, unfocused and tense.’13 Underscoring this is scholar C. Fred Alford (2002: 45) who in exploring the thought of well known British paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, states that ‘The greatest burden of being is always having to hold myself together.… Dedicated to the reactions of others, I can never just be.’.
Going on being and flow
‘Going on being’14 is Winnicott’s term for the infants experience of continuing aliveness within the holding environment provided by a parent sufficiently attuned to the infant’s internal reality. Of course, this is a best case scenario where
‘Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.’
the infant can trust mother’s reliable physical presence and mental capaciousness to find himself through her continuous recognition of his changing internal states. Somewhere here we find the experience of ‘Going on being’, a state in which the infant is not charged with reacting to something beyond its capability, such as the moods of a parent, say, or an excessively drawn out absence of a feeding breast. When, however, things are not as favourable then the infant’s flowing sense of aliveness is traded in for an anxious and vigilant use of mind in order to avoid being over-stimulated. Such a sacrifice made by the infant is a dire one; In Winnicott´s words the baby´s ‘own creative capacity begins to atrophy’.15 This is the moment that Alford was alluding to, when the infant becomes saddled with the often lifelong burden of holding itself together. Once the dread of this rupture has been experienced we will seek to return to the state of uninterrupted aliveness from which overwhelming impingements wrested us. We conduct this search in different ways and through different means. What we are looking for is the return to full immersion in unobstructed flow. In an interview with Wired magazine, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the father of ‘flow theory’, described flow as ‘being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.’16 When I read this quote I get an almost visceral sense of natural and graceful fluidity. Most probably we have all had such epistemologically private moments, when intrinsic motivation has pulled us towards the edge of our personal ability and we have had a heightened sensorial awareness of our physical bodies and the world around us; our heart rates in synchronicity with cadence and breathing patterns, the distinct whirr of Italian freehubs on a long descent, the heady scent enveloping us when hammering out a solid pace on country roads winding through fields of rapeseed, or the first recognition of that raw potato peel damp that rises with the approach of nightfall. This; to reach the outmost edge of one’s ability in something one does for the pure love of it, is what every person seeks, even if ultimately experienced only ever so fleetingly. It is of course also tied up with play and sex; these brief experiences of unforced culmination and climax, of the temporary suspension of our common incapacity for enjoying the pleasures of the senses, the momentary fading of one’s ego and lessening of vigilant self regard. Little wonder that we are so devoted to racking up the miles.
The French word ‘randonnée’17 loosely translates to ‘long journey’ or ‘ramble’. The term ‘ramble’, much like the ‘bonk’ known to endurance athletes, is a verb that offers multiple semantic possibilities; to walk, roam, to go on, to stray and digress. Freud’s basic analytical rule, ‘free association’, a rule which entails reporting without reservation whatever comes to mind, encourages a form of ramble into ones inner world. Free association produces speech that naturally gravitates to where we no longer know where we are going; it is speech that is not predominantly governed by secondary process18 thinking and therefore it roams freely, often straying rather brilliantly into unknown psychic territories. We all know this; how our interiority spills over in slips of the tongue. Even when we don’t commit obvious slips we tend to say more than we intend to because language inevitably speaks us more than we speak it in its relentless effort to reach the deepest point of our inner worlds. Contrary to the narcissistic fantasies of, say, captains Nemo and Ahab, Freud proclaimed that conscious man was ‘no longer master in its own house’,19 the ego no longer sole master on board. Rather he suggested that we bob, some rather more languidly than others, on the surface of an infinite unconscious ocean. What psychoanalysis can do is authorise us to submerge to great depths, towards the existentially abyssal
Arrivée Summer 2011
article even, without for that matter leaving us to fear for our lives. What I want to make a case for here is that long distance cycling originates from an impulse similar in nature to the one cultivated in psychoanalytic psychotherapy; the will to know oneself. Moreover, both pursuits seem to me to spring from a belief in the understanding of difficult situations through familiarity, of revisiting that which defies and tests us. I propose that owing to its intensity and extended duration – sprinting disciplines were, to my mind, always haunted by the whiff of atavism, an escape-the-sabre-tooth-tiger urgency not especially conducive to deep self exploration – Audax cycling invites a subversion of earlier readings of self, it invites us to get away from our familiar selves in order to happen upon ourselves in a new light. And, is it not the case that those who are seen to lead full and deep lives are often also the ones who are prepared to recurrently pull themselves out of their tendencies and tear down restrictive conceptions of self? To do so means choosing to momentarily relinquish the buoyancy afforded by the imaginary coherence of our egos, thrown like tarps about our subjects, and to sink into the deep, there to drift and be transformed by what is beyond the manipulation of conscious control. To move like this, inwardly, is to actively comport oneself in an exploratory way towards ones being, that is, one becomes that being for whom its being is a question. What we are working our way into here is of course a tough ask, prone as we humans are to distil static essences out of fluid processes; a tendency that has allowed man, ever surging towards omnipotence, to seize his subject as an object that can be prodded, probed and measured and made to give up its secrets under the controlled pressures of a reductionist interrogation. The main thrust of the enlightenment hinged on such rational, positivist scientism and it has continued to stamp its presence on many branches of inquiry ever since. A visual equivalent to this inclination towards methodically breaking matter into its constituent parts is provided by Edward Muybridge’s photographs of a horse galloping. Captured by a bank of the most technically advanced cameras of the age against a controlled and uniform backdrop, his photographs taught us that a horse can indeed fly…. On a somewhat greater scale we can witness this tension between flux and fixity played out for instance in the tug between progressive liberal politics and fascist ideas of a nation state. It comes maybe as no surprise in our age of globalisation and the attendant increase in the permeability of boundaries that we are witnessing the emergence of regressive and extreme political parties in countries all over Europe; when boundaries begin to flex and give the fretful always rally towards retrenchment and contraction as a kind of paroxysmal affirmation of identity. If in our minds eye we zoom out even more then this oscillation on the level of the individual can be seen to recapitulate an entropic universe which, we assume, collapses over the same period of time it takes to expand into nothingness. The result of the collapse will be an infinitely dense singularity which will explode into existence as it has and will, over and over forever. In a moment I shall have reason to revisit this idea of contraction and explosive expansion when trying to bring to light how the thought of German philosopher Martin Heidegger may link up with our experience of bicycling.
Landscape, being and ekstasis
Mountains, Ruskin observed, ‘are to the rest of the body of the earth, what violent muscular action is to the body of man. The muscles and tendons of its anatomy are, in the mountain, brought out with force and convulsive energy, full of expression, passion, and strength.’ Come July many of us with an interest in cycling usually try to watch on the television a few, if not all, stages of the Tour de France. My favourite week of that race has always been the one during which the peloton has to negotiate the big cols, legendary mountain passes like
Arrivée Summer 2011
‘Come July many of us with an interest in cycling usually try to watch on the television a few, if not all, stages of the Tour de France.’
the Ventoux, Tourmalet, Croix de Fer, Galibier and Madeleine to mention a few. It is here, against the backdrop of these settings, that we witness the emergence of the unique cyclist to whom the landscape gives birth. However, the environment, be it ever so verdant foothill woodland or the barren and near-lunar landscape around the peak of the mighty Ventoux, is always subordinate to the main argument; the vigorous claim to life and triumph made by the consummate ‘grimpeur’. There have been many such characters throughout the history of the tour; from Pottier and Bottecchia during the early years of the 20th century, through outstanding riders like Bahamontes and Van Impe, to modern day climbers such as Armstrong, Schleck and Contador. For me, what these riders have all managed to encapsulate so vividly is the protracted and often painful materialisation of man out of silent nature. Again, Marlow on the couch: ‘If we were umbilically connected you would not be there and neither would I. Understanding hinges on an irremovable distance.’ The distance that he places between us is an internal recognition that ‘within man a Da-sein20 a ‘being-there’ has opened up a clearing [Ger. Lichtung] to which the things and creatures which to themselves are hidden can appear.’21 Nature does not have this ‘there’. In Heidegger’s notion of ‘Earth’ as impenetrable and self-sufficient nature rests no such clearing. Man’s lack of being is opposed by nature’s mysterious existing-in-itself, by organisms sunk deep into the cloudy liquid of their world. Tourists’ thrilled awe produced during a safari trip is perhaps about this, man getting close to unrestrained creatures that coincide completely within themselves, creatures that suffer no gap between what they are and what they do. If we come a bit closer to home we all know that when we take it out of the shed we don’t have to wait for the bicycle to decide that it is a bicycle but for man, however, it’s a very different story. Man is condemned to be free; ‘existence precedes essence’ as Jean-Paul Sartre would have it. Unlike a thing that is determined, a thing that has an essence, we each have to deal with the question of our being, our identity, our very existence. We know that we exist22 for the reason that we do not coincide internally; we are all beside ourselves, not in the everyday sense of being beside ourselves with any particular feeling, just irrevocably beside ourselves as ontological beings. Man is an ecstatic creature. By this I mean that we are produced by ecstatic thought and remain haunted by an ineffable ground. In trademark oracular form the French maverick psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1966: 183) put it like this: ’We think where we are not, therefore we are where we do not think.’ This can be deemed an ontological parallax; the gap or difference between our senseless being there and our horizon of meaning. Carel (2006: 88) asserts that ‘The Future is the Being projected by the For-itself, because the For-itself is perpetually apprehending itself as unachieved in relation to it. Dasein is never united with the “there”, the world or its possibilities and is therefore always projecting towards it.’ Lacan (1966: 277) maintains that the subject’s lack of being, the wantto-be, is ‘the heart of the analytic experience’ and ‘the very field in which the neurotic’s passion is deployed.’ Alaska, I understand, is the destination of choice for those who attempt to make actual this yearning, if not for a convergence of horizons (would this not equal psychosis; when the split between nature and culture has not been accomplished?) then at least to attempt to reduce the parallax by travelling into the wild and to live off the land while being of the land. What they seek to do is tweak the dial of what Lacan called ‘jouissance’23 in order to gain access to more being. It is a doomed project. Once we have entered language there is no return. Our awareness of this ontological parallax, inviting as it does a resurgence of the dichotomous relationship between being and knowing, does, however, come at a price; namely anxiety. Heidegger asserted that in anxiety, Dasein is not threatened by a particular thing, rather ‘Being-in-the-world itself is that in the face of which anxiety is anxious’,24 what threatens is
article nowhere and nothing. In anxiety, then, our familiarity with the world around us withdraws and our sense of being at home in the particular thrust and drag of obvious everydayness in which we have come to understand ourselves breaks down. I think now of Henry David Thoreau who wrote in his well known book Walden: Or, Life in the Woods (1853), which chronicles the two years he lived in a small cabin on the shores of a pond in Massachusetts: ‘Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realise where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.’25 Touch any ocean (or pond for that matter) and you are instantly connected to its farthest shores. Anxiety, then, can be seen as an individuation of Dasein, when it realises that it is not at home in the world, when it collapses out of the everyday and pulls towards its own unique dense singularity. Sartre holds that such anxiety is part and parcel of the human condition and that failure to acknowledge this is down to what he calls ‘bad faith’. To act in bad faith, according to Sartre, is to try to behave like an ‘object’ or ‘thing’ (being-in-itself ), as a question already answered. In doing this a person (being-for-itself ) pretends they have a fixed or determined nature. His well-known illustration involves a Parisian waiter whose exaggerated gestures signal to Sartre’s particular eye that the waiter behaves like an android whose essence it is to be a waiter. Again, existence precedes essence and not, as our poor waiter seems convinced, the other way round. I believe there are more themes to explore here; rootedness versus mobility, solitude in relation to the question of others, autonomy and self reliance against heteronomy, etc. I would, however, like to draw to a close simply by quoting Alphonso Lingis (1998), who says that ‘[existence] understood etymologically, is not so much a state or a stance as a movement, which is by conceiving a divergence from itself or a potentiality of itself and casting itself into that divergence with all that it is.’ N
12 Immanence, derived from the Latin in manere – ‘to remain within’. The French word ‘immanence’ means to be fully present with oneself, to be closed upon oneself. 13 Barry, M. and McMillan, C. (2010) Le Métier. London: Rouleur Ltd p.165. 14 Winnicott, D. W. (1958) Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis. 2002. p.303. 15 Winnicott, D. W. (1971) Playing and Reality. London: Brunner Routledge. 2001. p.112. 16 Geirland, J. (1996) Go With the Flow. Wired magazine. September, Issue 4.09. 17 The word ‘randonneur’ originates from the French for a male long-distance cyclist. In French a female long-distance cyclist is a ‘randonneuse’. 18 Secondary Process Thinking is the conscious mental activity and logical thinking controlled by the ego and influenced by environmental demands. 19 Freud, S. (1917) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 16. London: Vintage. 2001. p.285. 20 ‘Dasein’ is Heidegger’s term for human being. It is derived from the German da-sein, which literally means being-there. Dasein is that being which is capable of ontology, that is, capable of questioning its own way of being. 21 Safranski. R. (1999) Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p.199. 22 ‘It is worth drawing attention here to the etymology of ekstasis and existence – both deriving…the 1st in Greek, the 2nd in Latin from a combination of the prefix ‘out’ or ‘from’ with the verb to ‘stand’. A conjectural link is provided by the Greek verb ‘existeni’ meaning to put out of place, to change, to alter.’ Caws, p.(1979) Sartre. The Arguments of the Philosophers. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p.87.
23 ‘Lacan described as ‘real jouissance’ such unmediated satisfaction as is sought by the animal who pounces on its prey out of hunger or follows the rhythm of its mating instinct. But however far back one goes in the life of a human being, one cannot find any trace of access to that real jouissance. Language has transformed us into beings subject to a logic that is other than biological or natural logic.’ Cantin, L. (2002) ‘The Trauma of Language’, in Hughes, R. and Malone, K. R. (eds.) After Lacan. Albany: SUNY Press. p.35. 24 Heidegger, M., (1927). Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2008. p.232. 25 Thoreau, H. D. (1853) Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Mineola: Dover Publications Inc. 2002. Ch. 8.
Alford, F.C. (2002) Levinas, the Frankfurt School and Psychoanalysis. London: Continuum. Bachelard, G. (1958) The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press Books. 1994. Barenboim, D. & Said, E. (ed.) Guzelimian A. (2003) Parallels and Paradoxes. London: Bloomsbury. Barry, M. and McMillan, C. (2010) Le Métier. London: Rouleur Limited. Barthes, R. (1957) Mythologies. London: Vintage. 2000. Bion, W.R. (1962) Learning from Experience. London: Karnac Books Ltd. 1984. Cantin, L. (2002) ‘The Trauma of Language’, in Hughes, R. and Malone, K. R. (eds.) After Lacan. Albany: SUNY Press. Carel, H. (2006) Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi. Caws, p.(1979) Sartre. The Arguments of the Philosophers. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Cleavely, E. (1993) ‘Relationships: interaction, defences and transformation’, in Ruszczynsky, S. (ed.). Psychotherapy with Couples. Theory and Practice at The Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies. London: Karnac. Deleuze, G. (1968) Difference and Repetition. London: Continuum. 1994. Derrida. J. and Ferraris. M. (2001) A Taste For The Secret. Cambridge: Polity Press. Freud, S. (1917) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 16. London: Vintage. 2001. Freud, S. (1920) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol: 18. London: Vintage. 2001. Gadamer. H. G. (1989) Truth and Method. London: Continuum. Geirland, J. (1996) Go With The Flow. Wired magazine, September, Issue 4.09. Heidegger, M. (1927) Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2008. Lacan, J. (1966) Ecrits; a selection. London: Routledge Classics. 2001. Lingis, A. (1998) The Imperative. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Noel-Smith, K. (2002) ‘Time and Space as Necessary Forms of Thought’, in Free Associations Vol 9 Part 3 (no. 51): 394-442. Safranski. R. (1999) Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sartre, J. P. (1943) Being and Nothingness. London: Routledge. 2000. Thoreau, H. D. (1853) Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Mineola: Dover Publications Inc. 2002. Vetlesen, A. J. (2004) A Philosophy of Pain. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. 2009. Winnicott, D. W. (1958) Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis. 2002. Winnicott, D. W. (1971) Playing and Reality. London: Brunner Routledge. 200. Wylie, J. (2007) Landscape. London: Routledge.
Arrivée Summer 2011
The last Elenith T
he day started in Wolverley with a warm, beautiful sunrise very early on Saturday morning. We were still in legwarmers and jackets, but these would be discarded for shorts by the first control. Starting in the first group of 20 consisting of riders who wanted to do a good time, my club-mate Gerald and I stuck with them until the first control at Shodbon Airport where we’d averaged just over 30kph for the first 55km. After getting stamped and continuing, the entire ride had split into small groups of 2–5 riders. Gerald and I pushed on until the second control at Bullith Wells. We were now over the Welsh border and into the mountains, and my body was already feeling drained from the effects of the fast start. Worse still, I was constipated and a little after the second control I told Gerald to push on without me as I disappeared into a small roadside B&B in search of a bathroom. Emerging back on the road, my mission to relieve myself unsuccessful, I nevertheless continued on into the Ifron Valley alone. The incredible scenery of the valley made me forget my discomfort as I ascended steadily towards the bottom of the feared Devil’s Staircase climb. Stopping at the control for some
Arrivée Summer 2011
All photos by Steve Poulton
orange squash and another bottles refill, I once again saw Gerald – he’d apparently not taken the turn immediately after we split and found himself riding an extra 8km! Wanting to keep warmed up, he had his card stamped and pressed on up the Devil. I didn’t see him again. I managed to climb the first 100m of the first ramp, but the gradient was insane – 25 per cent all the way to the top, the road twisted through the forest like some crazy Dali-esque dream. Even pushing the bike was hard, my cleats slipping, calves burning. Those that pedalled up the climb were maybe riding 1kph faster than the walkers… The decent dropped scarily down the other side, my new brake pads being put to the test as I struggled to slow down quick enough for the brutally sharp bends with deadly run-offs. The next climb was almost as tough and saw me pedalling to the halfway point before stopping for a rest. This is where I met Ed from Essex (‘they call me Steady Eddy, mate’), who I rode with for the next stretch. We found our pace to be similar and we got on OK. The decent into Tregaron was the most fun I’ve had on a bicycle in a while – twisting and technical enough to make it challenging, but being able to see far enough ahead in many places to let go of
‘ I managed to climb the first 100m of the first ramp, but the gradient was insane – 25 per cent all the way to the top.’
the brakes and pick up speed very quickly. It was hot by now and Steady Eddy was suffering in the heat. My tolerance was better as I’d spent December and half of January in South Africa in 40° heat, so I was enjoying the sun. The control in Tregaron with 147km covered was leisurely as Ed caught up with a club-mate of his – I was happy to lounge about drinking cups of tea and feasting on rice pudding. Once on the road again my legs were feeling strong, but there were two issues that had developed – my bowels were feeling rock-hard and I was in quite a lot of discomfort – I hoped that by the next control my body would naturally want to relieve itself… The other problem was something a bit more worrying – a fairly noisy pinging sound was emitting from my front hub and there was a sickening grating feeling being transmitted through the handlebars. I tried to ignore it and put it down to ‘old-bike’ sounds. The riders I was with, however, kept commenting on the sound and reminded me that it could be serious. Another fast decent took us deep into a valley floor totally surrounded in high mountains – what goes down must go up and up we went – a hellishly steady 10-12 per cent for around 2km, the sun cutting through the thick forest around us. Then
randonnee we made a right turn onto the road to Ffair-Rhos, which ramped up to a legbreaking 15 per cent. With over 160km in the legs now, everything was aching – my back and knees took a brutal workout to churn a small 34 x 26 gear up the road at 6-8kph. Stopping at a few points along the road, Ed and I leap-frogged many riders over and over, with the two of us opting for a stop-start strategy, whereas the ‘seasoned’ audaxers ground their way slowly without stopping. Somehow this leap-frogging group all emerged at the summit together. The climbing and fast descending continued relentlessly towards the Elan Valley as both Ed and I started complaining to each other as to how finished we were. My front wheel noise had increased in volume and in sensation, but we had just entered one of the most remote regions in the country, with no more towns or mobile phone signals for another 30km. The valley opened up – desolate and vast – a tunnel of bleak rock and dead-black valley walls, a scar on the landscape from abandoned 100-year old lead-mines. The road hugged the right hand side of the valley into a strong headwind and as all signs of vegetation disappeared so my body withered. The vacuum shelter of Ed moved up the road until all I felt was wind, my mind crying out to try and reign him back, but the legs would not respond. The sound of my front hub might have echoed across the valley, but the constant wind drowned out any evidence of my struggle. As I crawled up to the summit of valley, I was almost in tears when I saw Ed waiting for me at the top – it was the end of pain and looked forward to the descent … but as the summit approached, the rocks parted to reveal the continuation of the valley, disappearing into the haze of the late afternoon sun. I took the opportunity of a break at the false summit and after eating a banana and a gel, we joked with some of our resident leapfrogging audaxers who passed us again. The Elan Valley continued, and though I felt good on the small decent, the road once again kicked up steadily at about 10 per cent for another 3km. A hamstring suddenly screamed out in revolt, bringing me to a stop and me collapsing on the roadside, flexing my leg in desperation to stop the cramping. A leap-frogger crawled by slowly inquiring if I was all right. ‘Cramp,’ I muttered. I received a slight knowing raise of the head from him as if he remembered what that felt like years ago. I climbed back on and slowly ascended, the leap-frogger, a marker to be caught, and catch I did. We chatted for a bit and pulled over near the summit for an assessment of the situation. A nagging voice had crept into my head – the one spouting maths and asking why all the time. 190km covered, 110km to
go. 3,000m climbed, 1,700m to go. Front wheel about to die, and a taxi could be called at the next control. No one would bat an eyelid if I had to pack now, and 99 per cent of audaxers would say there was no shame in packing … and it’s here that the mentalness of cyclists really does come into it’s own. It seemed that everything in my life had led to this point – this new level, this decision, which could be the final one. No, I decided, on that barren escarpment, until I either passed out, crashed or just simply died, I would continue. I climbed back on my bike, all my muscles seeming to cramp as one, every part wincing in agony – even sitting and free-wheeling briefly across the summit was painful. Plunging downhill, my legs pumping the pedals as best I could into the nasty wind, I soon dropped the leapfrogger I met at the top and made my way into the Rhyader town control alone. Checking my route-map for the location of the café control, I almost missed a hidden bike shop on the left of the small town’s high street. Slamming on brakes I turned back and was surprised to see it open. The owner of the shop was at the door and I immediately asked him if he could fix my front hub. As luck would have it he could and he spent the next 20 minutes modifying a set of Shimano bearing cups to fit my Campagnolo hub (lots of use of a vice and hammering ensued). When he showed me the state of the offending cups, I knew I was very lucky not to have had something really bad happen, and a new feeling of determination swept over me. I paid and thanked the friendly owner, continuing to the control where, after a cup of tea and an egg and bacon sandwich, my stomach, much to my joy, told me I needed to find a toilet quickly. Five minutes later and possible a few pounds lighter, I walked out of the café control feeling sore, but confident and ready for the next leg of 105km. After riding alone for 30 minutes along a flat section, I started passing riders. I did experience a bout of cramp, but it quickly passed as I climbed the first of the last three hills of the ride. The really hard climbing was over and a steady rolling section of around 20km saw me gradually picking up the pace until I started feeling strangely good. My body tingled with pleasure as my mind reeled with thoughts of the day, the sense of accomplishment and determination to finish the ride. The sun was setting and before I reached the last control at 254km it was pitch dark. At the café control I met a rider I’d teamed up with at my first audax and our chatter lightened the mood. Several audaxers were crammed around small tables as we ate and drank in preparation for the final 1. Ystwth Valley: Julian Williams, Edwin Hargreaves (trike). 2. Devil’s Staircase. 3 & 4. Shobdon Airfield .
Arrivée Summer 2011
Arrivée Summer 2011
Long term test of
Hincapie Metric Bib shorts Andy Blance
I ride between eight and ten thousand miles most years, much of it whilst cycle camping. I get through lots of pairs of shorts! I have a strategy to rotate my shorts; a new pair get saved for Audax rides, later on they get used for leisure riding, after this they go cycle touring and eventually, when I’ve finished a pair off, by using them for mountain biking, I buy a new pair. George Hincapie was Lance Armstrong’s lieutenant for very many years, and has recently started his own company, producing some premium quality cycle clothing. I have worn Assos bib shorts in size L for many years and I have always been happy with the fit. Before that I wore Castelli bib shorts in size L and they always fitted me perfectly. The size L Hincapie shorts were way too big for me and, after a couple of long rides, I found that I needed size M. I purchased the correct size shorts late in the summer of 2010 and I rode some long-distance rides in them. I found them to be the most comfortable shorts that I’d ever worn. The Anatomical Hincapie Pro chamois with Elastic Interface Technology (the insert) never made its presence felt. The shorts have nice long legs with a good snug fit. Hincapie say that these top of the range shorts have Resistex Carbon panels, which reduce lactic acid to improve power and reduce fatigue. I can’t say that I noticed any extra power, or being less fatigued (!) but the powerful lycra certainly was an excellent fit. The gel leg grippers with elastic leg openings were especially effective. In January 2011, Fiona and I went on a 10-week tour of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia and, as I was testing these shorts, I broke with my tradition and took my best shorts along ... I also took a pair of Assos Proline and a pair
of Assos Sportline shorts with me too. Patagonia is tough on kit, the wind blows the fine granite and volcanic dust into everything and we often have to sit down on very abrasive surfaces. The longest stages between laundry facilities were 10 days. On these occasions, the Hincapie shorts were worn for four days of consecutive cycling … don’t try this at home! All in all they had a hard time! The abrasionresistant panel inserts in the saddle wear areas show little sign of this rough treatment and the Hincapie shorts were always my first choice … whenever all the shorts were clean. Hincapie say that the shorts are built on the tradition of conquering the cobbles of the north and the climbs of the south – whatever – they are certainly tough shorts, the build quality is superb. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to add stitches to my Assos shorts. I have had no need to repair any stitching on the Hincapie shorts. Hincapie also say that their superopaque main body fabric ensures no show through. This is reassuring to know, Fiona and I have certainly seen some horrible sights when meeting other cyclists on our travels! I highly recommend the Hincapie Metric bib shorts, they are comfortable, hard wearing, exceptionally well made and well finished. Even at an astonishingly high rrp of £119.95, I consider that they are exceptional value for money, for hard-riding cyclists. I will certainly buy another pair. If you decide to act on my recommendation, just make certain that you get the correct size!
Photo: Pat Hurt
2-3 hour stretch in the dark that included a final sting in the tail of two particularly nasty hills. Full beam lights cut a path up the main road to the first hill and I again found myself riding alone, slowly catching red blinking lights ahead. The gradient was telling when front beams rocked from side to side, searching out the summit. I caught and leap frogged one rider in particular, and kept having to stop for a number of reasons – a natural break, cramps and finally because my GPS battery life ended and I had to stop to decipher where I was and when the next turn was. Eventually a fast rider came by me and I latched on for a couple of minutes. He freewheeled for a bit to indicate he would like some help into the wind, so I assisted, and I ended up having my best ride of the day – a second wind of energy that I now believe came from 400g of ibuprofen I ingested at the previous control – I couldn’t feel the pain and therefore thought I was doing well. Hallucinations started creeping into my night vision, a combination of painkillers and exhaustion intertwined to form small forest children peaking out in the shadows, and trees reaching out to grab me. I pressed on, trying to ignore these visions as I dragged the rider until we caught a threesome, making us a fivesome and before we knew it, we were tuning into the finish at the Wolverley village hall. It was approaching midnight and I was feeling a mile high – audaxers were eating dinner at long tables and the conversations were loud. Smiles and laughter were common. There were a few heads in hands and some bundled in sleeping bags oblivious to the noise and bright strip-lights. We ate and chatted and laughed until 2am before I decided to become a sleeping bundle on the floor too. I basin-washed and changed into fresh clothing, prepared my sleeping mat and bag and found a dark area on the village hall stage behind the dusty curtains. I put some ear plugs in and immersed myself into the void, my mind playing back the day in feelings of pain, desperation and pure ecstasy. I fell into oblivion. I woke in the morning to find my right knee in a lot of pain – I must have over-strained it on the painkillers. Hobbling around the village hall with other audaxers was funny – everyone was wincing as they walked. I ate breakfast and had a conversation with a few who tried to convince me to do PBP. If I could do the Elenith, I could do PBP. It’s an amusing concept, but I can’t get my head around riding for 1,200km in three days – it seems a step too far for me right now. I’m happy just to say I’ve done the Elenith and despite the pain and suffering I’ll be back again next year… maybe because of it. N
Right: Brian Jago on the Heart of England 300.
AUK 2011 rider survey
uring May 2011, we carried out a survey of our members and other people interested in audaxing. Anyone could complete the survey, either online via Audax UK’s website, or using a copy printed in the Spring edition of Arrivée. The survey sought to find out a bit more about our members, such as their age, how long they’d been cycling for, and their longest audax distance. It also asked people about what makes them more likely to choose an audax event, as well as their thoughts about audaxes in general. Following the recent major overhaul of the website, the survey quizzed people about their experience of it. Finally, the survey sought to find out more about why people cycle, and how they feel when cycling.
About our riders
Unsurprisingly, the typical survey respondent was a middle-aged male. Thirty-three per cent of respondents were aged 45-54, with the overwhelming majority being aged 35-64. Ninety-two per cent of respondents were male. Ninety-nine per cent of those surveyed still cycle. Those that don’t are usually off their bikes due to poor health. How old are you? No.
Are you male or female? Male Female
Past riding experience
Most of our respondents ride audaxes at least sometimes, with the majority regularly riding them. After audaxes, they are most likely to commute regularly. Our respondents also like touring, club runs, challenge rides and sportives, with nearly half enjoying sportives and challenge rides at least sometimes.
Most of the people replying are still active members, in that they’ve ridden at least once in the last year. The majority of respondents have ridden in the last month, though this perhaps reflects the time of the year that the survey took place. This means that the people taking part in this survey are more likely to be active members that Audax UK’s members in general, only half of whom ride an audax in a typical year. When did you last ride an audax event? No.
In the last week
In the last month
In the last year
Longer than a year ago
Longer than two years ago
Longer than five years ago
Interestingly, over a quarter of respondents have ridden at least a 1000km event or perm, and nearly 40% have ridden a 600km event or perm. Given the relatively low number of riders who complete either distance in a typical year, this suggests that for many audax riders a Super-Randonneur or long event is either a one-off goal, or something completed only occasionally.
Which of these audax distances have you ridden?
What sort of cycling do/did you do? (percentage) Regularly
Regularly & Sometimes
1000km or longer
We received about 710 responses to the survey. Of these, about 190 were by post and 520 online. As we continue to receive a trickle of surveys, for this analysis we have used the 685 responses we’d received by June 8th. The survey wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of help from many people. Particular thanks to Mike Wigley, John Hamilton and Sheila Simpson for helping to draft the survey. Thanks also to Pete Coates and Tim Wainwright for organising the online and paper surveys respectively. Finally, many thanks to Dean Clementson, Jonathan Duckworth, Els Vermeulen, Ray Joiner and (especially) Tony Hull for helping to key in the paper surveys.
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax
Arrivée Summer 2011
auk survey What do riders look for when entering an event?
The following things make me more likely to enter an audax event
The overwhelming majority of respondents like to enter audax events online. Almost twice as many people replying prefer to enter online than by post. If you organise an event, you may be missing out on entries if you do not offer online entry. If you’re unsure about how to set up online entry, speak to you events team rep. How do you prefer to enter audax events?
The event’s reputation
Being able to cycle to the start
Overnight accommodation at the start
Being able to take the train to the start
Online via auk
A gpx tracklog
A large event
A small event
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax When they register their events with Audax UK, organisers can set a deadline for entries. The default is two weeks, and Audax UK advises riders to enter a least a fortnight before the event. We were interested to see when riders actually wanted to enter an event. As we expected, people preferred to enter shorter events nearer the day than longer events, which take a bit more planning. Although only 8% of people considering a longer ride liked to enter on the day, almost a quarter liked to enter shorter rides a week or sooner before the event. If you organise events, particularly shorter events, being able to accept entries up to the day of the event could increase the number of people entering your ride. Accepting online entry and Paypal payments makes this a lot easier. When do you like to enter events? (tick all that apply) 200km and longer
There has been a lot of debate lately, in many cycling fora, about whether sportif events offer good value for money. An increasing number of riders are questioning the value of some events, asking searching questions about what their entry fee really buys them. Looking at the results of this survey, this isn’t a debate that people are likely to have about audax. 98% of those replying to the survey though that audax events were good value. Only 2% thought they were too expensive. However, only 16% thought audax events were too cheap, suggesting that riders like the basic nature and cheap entry fees that are typical to audax. 40% said that they would pay for more facilities on an event, however 23% said they would not. If you are going to offer more facilities on your event, it may be best to keep it to essentials such as food, or perhaps sleeping space the night before an event. Luxuries may not be to everyone’s taste. Percentage agree
Audax events are good value
I would pay more for more facilities on an audax event
Audax events are too cheap
Audax events are too expensive
Beginning of the season
Over the winter
A month before
Two weeks before
A week before or sooner On the day of the event
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax Apart from online entry, what else is likely to attract a rider to an event? The most likely thing, according to our respondents, is the event’s reputation. If you already run an established, popular event, then it’s likely that your hard work in previous years will ensure you a decent turnout in future years. If, however, you run a new event, or would like to make your event more popular, it seems there are a few things you can do to help. Over 60% of respondents said that being able to cycle to the start of an event would make them more likely to enter an event. Many larger events start near to or in urban areas, allowing many riders to cycle to the start and home afterwards. If that’s not feasible for your event, then placing the start near accomodation and a railway station could help. A third of respondents told us that either facility would make them more likely to enter an event.
Arrivée Summer 2011
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax
Riders’ thoughts about Audax UK events
Audax events have a clear identity to those replying to the survey. Nearly everyone who replied understood how they differ from other cycling events. In particular, respondents understood that audax events are not races. Around half of respondents thought it was important that audax events in the UK had the same rules as foreign events, and a similar number thought that audax events shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Despite the increasing presence of GPS units on riders’ handlebars, many respondents still prefer to use the paper routesheet. It could be that despite the growth in GPS technology, many people see paper routesheets as an integral part of the audax experience. If you’re organising an event, it could pay to take as much care as possible over the routesheet, as many riders clearly still rely on it. A significant minority would like to see more events in the Audax UK calendar. Only a tiny minority of people replying would like to see fewer. Unless Audax UK grows its membership, or the number of people riding events, then more events will mean smaller starting fields. And although only a small number of people replying thought that audax events tend to be too small, more respondents said they prefer large events to small events. Earlier in the survey, over 61% of people replying told us that they are more likely to enter an event if they can cycle to the start. However, only 16% told us that there are plenty of events they can cycle to easily. Only 13% were able to get to plenty of events by public transport. Most significantly, only a small majority said there were plenty of events they could drive to easily. Often, the most scenic events require a start in a
auk survey calendar
I understand how audax events differ from other cycling events
Audax events are welcoming to new riders
I prefer to use paper routesheets to navigate
There are plenty of events I can drive to easily
Audax UK events should not be taken too seriously
It is important that audax events have the same rules and standards as international audax events
The Audax UK calendar should have more events
I prefer to use my gps unit to navigate
I would like to see more signposted audax events
There are plenty of events I can cycle to easily
There are plenty of events I can get to easily using public transport
Audax events tend to be too small
Audax events are races
The Audax UK calendar should have fewer events
Audax events tend to be too large
Why do riders cycle?
Audax UK hasn’t carried out much advertising recently. Before we did any more, we thought it might be useful to look at what motivates people to ride their bikes, and how they feel when they are riding. Most of those replying told us they rode to keep fit. Many also ride for adventure, as well as to see the UK and the rest of the world. Many ride for relaxation, and it would appear that for most of you, it works. 59% of you said you felt stress-free when riding. A majority of respondents ride for relaxation, and it would appear that for many, it works. 59% of those replying said they felt stress-free when riding. Looking back to an earlier question 70% of respondents said that they thought audax events were welcoming to new riders. This friendliness and sociability on events is an asset to Audax UK and its members, and one that is being noticed by the cycling press that are taking an interest in what we do. Why do you cycle? (tick all that apply) No.
To keep fit
To see the country/world
To make/be with friends
To lose weight
*of those stating they had ever ridden an audax
Like I am in good company
What do riders think about our website?
Audax UK’s website had a major overhaul recently. We were interested to find out what people thought about the new website. The overwhelming majority of respondents thought that the new website was easy to use (93%) and clearly laid out (91%). The majority also thought that the front page had the information they needed to know (69%), and that it was easy to enter an event online (68%). Those replying were less emphatically positive about the design of the website. Percentage agree
The website is easy to use
The website is clearly laid out
The website front page tells me what I need to know
The website gives a good impression of Audax UK
It’s easy to enter an audax event online
The website graphic design looks professional
*of those stating they had used the new website
When I cycle, I feel (tick all that apply)
Phil Nelson gets a push-off on the National 24-Hour
Arrivée Summer 2011
Photo: Tim Wainwright
remote location. However that’s not always the case. The Elenith, for example, takes in much of mid-Wales, from a Midlands start. Most of the Peak Audax rides that are 200km or longer start from the outskirts of Manchester, before heading off into Wales and Cheshire. If you’re an organiser, making sure that your event start is easily accessible by car, by bike or by public transport could increase the number of riders that enter. An urban or suburban start may work better than you think.
HEADING randonnee IN HERE
A lucky 400 Steve Poulton
hanks go Matt Chambers for letting me do his PBP Qualifier 400 from home (as a route checker). As the route passes through Bishop’s Cleeve outbound and Tewkesbury homebound, my plot evolved, where I returned home in the dark after reaching Bishop’s Cleeve, to leave Cheltenham on the dawn. Planning to leave Tewkesbury around 2pm would see the plot work (?). So, after paying my credit bill and sorting an account problem, I eventually left Tewkesbury High Street at 14:47. I had played with my chainset and by Alderton my left crank had worked loose. I then remembered not tightening properly (oops). I was close to a (decent) garage and borrowed a 14mm socket. Fixed and I missed a heavy shower. When it loosened again near Stow, I thought about an abandon but not before asking at the PO of a (proper) garage. One mile in the Chipping (my route) direction, useful. This time the mechanic quickly cleaned up the crank square slot and tightened the crank. His enthusiasm was quickly appreciated, as this fit-looking slender guy just happened to mention he was doing a TT that night. So, no excuses? What was helping me to Didcot was a useful tailwind, which became head and cold after the turn. I was caught out when the dark came on roads, not too familiar; result of the later start? I was OK after Moreton-in-Marsh. As the night drew in, I needed a couple naps, so eventually arrived home, after leaving the route in Bishop’s Cleeve, just before 3am. Through the first 200km, I had been showered on frequently and had worn my Goretex throughout. By home I was cool within and glad for the opportunity to increase the layers. Oil the chain, rice meal, wash and bed. I set the alarm for 4.30, so barely 90 minutes in my own bed, before a Section Tewkesbury – Chipping Norton
breakfast and away in daylight. I picked up the route by Harrow Farm, into a nasty headwind, which was to continue to the turn at Knighton. I passed through How Caple before 8am, so did not go in for tea. The route from the Ross-Hereford road to Hay is also my Gospel Pass 200 Perm route. But from Hay, after super soup, Cliro Pitch just went up and up – into wind of course! My chainset problems continued; I had fitted an old TA Triple and changing to top occasionally derailed the chain – and it jammed on the boltheads. It happened first at home and I had packed a screwdriver to loosen it. I had done some calculations in Hay and reset my schedule. I had not reckoned on the severity of these hills and by Knighton realised I would need to TT the 95kms to Tewkesbury with an average of 22-23kph (backwind assisted?). Now, in Audax terms for me that is not easy and I was banking on more level riding. It did not help when the route to Presteigne just happened to start with reversing a glorious two-mile descent. However, the road to Leominster was fast and I swept past a tandem and negotiated the town with minimal delay. I was creeping to my target, as I constantly checked the kms to go and time in hand. In the past, I have often pushed it home to ensure a good time. This was a rare occasion, where I was pushing it just to finish in time and from 95km out. I do recall a BCM 600 on trike and a 1000km on trike where time was tight but not this tight. As I pushed on, there was no time for pleasantries. Damn, the chain is jammed again, break on the A44 to take off a top and have a banana; stop at McColl’s to buy drink, jumping road TRLs. And then, after Ledbury, my calculations allowed a smug smile as I climbed the last hill to Hollybush and the last eight miles on the flat(tish) to Tewkesbury. Twenty
‘I had not reckoned on the severity of these hills and by Knighton realised I would need to TT the 95kms to Tewkesbury.’
Below: Garmin gps stats
minutes in hand at the final bank ATM. How useful the later start and not taking extra sleep at home. (I later realised the allowed time was 27hr 0m, so that was tight by four minutes!) Several features provided the why to a close call. I added 14km by returning home. The 425km on the routesheet made 25km non-attributal and the 27h 15m (correction: 27hr) for a BRM 400km ride had to be met. The chainset mechanicals lost time, as did going off course by four kms. So, I lost time for 28 excess miles (43km or near three hours at min time!). And the headwind, virtually constant from Didcot to Knighton, must have cost time. So, put in perspective, quite a normal 400km. And my gps showed 4,800m of climbing. Finally, returning home from Tewkesbury, I discovered a crack in my rear rim (1990 vintage), so it was lucky I wasn’t grounded somewhere in Herefordshire. And something else to fix before the following week’s 600km. The following day, the winds were still strong and the Test Match in Cardiff was delayed due to rain; so I hope the main field coped. Self re-route to avoid Willersley Hill (+5km) Total event time: 26h56m (BRM Limit 27h). 4h14m to Control stops (2h 20m) and sleep (~2hr) Independent Observation: NB: Newent-Tewkesbury 199.4km 2,612m Qualifies for AAA? The event gained BRM as a PBP qualifier. Thus the extra kms were forfeited. Excluding the BRM (make BR), then the extra kms qualify for time allowance and with info Control in Bromyard (ATMs, shop), 2.5AAA could be gained for the Newent-Tewkesbury sections. N
Chipping Norton – Didcot
Didcot - Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden – Bishop’s Cleeve Bishop’s Cleeve – Harrow Farm
Inc 20m nap (Act via Chelt + 2h 17m)
Harrow Farm – Newent
15m nap Oridge St
Newent – Hay-on-Wye
Inc 10m nap
Hay-on-Wye – Knighton
Knighton - Tewkesbury
Arrivée Summer 2011
snow roads 300 â€“ photos by david martin Al Sutton
Euan Ritchie and Ronnie
snow roads 300 â€“ photos by david martin Mark Hagger
Neil Fraser and Robert McReady
Simon Grove and Martin Foley
The Merry Monk Geoff Sharpe
Wake, where you are certainly woken up as the road starts a steep climb up to join the A30 near Cricket St Thomas, the location of such TV series as To the Manor Born and Mr Blobby. In less than a mile the route takes you off the main road and drops down the other side of the hill where you find Forde Abbey, the venue of the first control and refreshments. The next section of about 40k is almost entirely on rural lanes passing through small villages, with a long downhill into Mosterton and after a slight climb it’s down again through Chedington where views over parts of the Somerset Levels open out in front of you, taking your attention away from following the rider in front and nearly missing the turn at the bottom of the hill. Sutton Bingham reservoir came into view as I cycled through Halstock and running south of Yeovil into Bradford Abbas. With 73k on the clock and approaching Sherborne some tricky junctions had to be negotiated, observing other riders coming out from the town while trying to find the lunch stop in the town centre; are they going the wrong way or am I? The Met Office in Exeter seemed to have got their forecasts correct today, no sign of rain and after some early morning
The Merry Monk Left: Andy Keast. Right: Ursula Gibbings, Derek Gibbings.
All photos by the author
ttracting over a hundred entries, with a first class route going through south Somerset and parts of north Dorset, with only two hills of note and the second one right at the end of the ride, this event has gained a reputation over the past few years as one of the audaxes to ride in the southwest. Last and not least, refreshments at the finish in High Ham are among the best I’ve encountered on events for several years. Derek and Ursula Gibbings, together with Gavin, Ann and myself came up from CTC Torbay while the Plymouth group were represented by Andy Keast, Rob Scobie and Neil Crowley, and Kirby James of CTC Exeter had persuaded about ten of his members to make the trip. Cycling out from the village hall at nine, 100 plus riders formed a long stream along the lane for the threemile roll down the hill into the outskirts of Langport to join a B road which takes you through several picturesque villages. Villages with names that roll off the tongue like Muchelney, Kingsbury Episcopi and Shepton Beauchamp. Leaving the B road to take to rural lanes through Kingstone and Dowlish
mists at the start the sun has been sweeping the clouds away and we’re all enjoying one of those days when you’re in the mood to be out cycling on your bike. We join the A30 to leave Sherborne, crossing back into Somerset and leaving the main road just after the border to take in the villages of Mudford and Limington before a ride around parts of Yeovilton Air Station, then joining the A372 into Ilminster. At about this point I was beginning to question the weather forecast. While it was still quite sunny I was encountering wet roads and I was now cycling into a stiff breeze. It wasn’t until I rode over a small climb that I spied some large, menacing rain clouds in the distance heading my way that I’m thinking, has the Met Office read all the script for today’s weather because I don’t remember anything about wet weather in the afternoon. With less than 10k to go to the finish the heavens opened and everything came down, rain, hail, the lot and with flooding roads to ride through to make matters worse. Along with most of the 100k and all th e 200k riders, I got a good soaking. Climbing up the last hill into High Ham I’m thinking if only I had spent a little less time in the controls at Forde Abbey and Sherborne I would have got back in the dry, but I’m sure we have all thought that at some time or another. Thanks to Mark and his team for one of the most enjoyable (except for the last little bit) events I’ve ridden this year and hope a few more will come out from Devon for next year’s Merry Monk Audax. N
Arrivée Summer 2011
Gary MacGowan on Streatley Hill, Beast from the East 600. Photo by Tim Wainwright
Scott Slater riding Beast from the East 600. Photo by Tim Wainwright
Rob Bullyment, Man of Kent 200. Photo: Lise Taylor-Vebel
Quarterly magazine produced by audax uk. The long distance cyclists' association.