Number 118 Autumn 2012
the Long Distance Cyclists’ Association STOP!
Don’t throw your Membership Renewal Form away.
Above: Group in the Garleton Hills on the Erit Lass, 9th September 2012 photo by Martin Foley
Front Cover: Schiehallion Sunrise, group on the Kinloch Rannoch - Pitlochry road photo by Joe Jord
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 E-mail: mike.wigley@Audax.uk.net Membership application form www.aukweb.net/memform.phb or Ian Hobbs (New Members), 26 Naseby Road, Belper DE56 OER E-mail: ian.hobbs@Audax.uk.net Membership fees: Renewal: £14 or £56 for 5 years (price of 4) New or lapsed members: £19 (inc £5 enrolment fee) or £61 for 5 years (price of 4) Household members: £5 or £20 for 5 years (price of 4) - no enrolment fee for new household members Life members: £6 for Arrivée Contributions: articles, info, cartoons, photos, all welcome. Please read the contributors’ advice in the Handbook Photography: 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 AK board. Extra current Arrivée copies, if available, are £3(UK), £4(EEC), £5(non-EEC) from Mike Wigley, see above.
hope that you find plenty of good reading matter - and food for thought, too - in this issue. Our countryside is fabulous, and your articles really brought this home to me. I’m now full of enthusiasm to get out and about even more. AUK’s annual dinner, reunion weekend and AGM will be based this year at The Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells from 16th to 18th November. The AGM agenda and some of the officials’ reports are included in the magazine (pages 2 - 9). Officials’ reports which are not included here will be available on the day. The AUK Regulations have been revised and reformatted in the hope that they are now both clearer and simpler, and the only proposal this year is to adopt these revisions.
Winter Editor: Sheila Simpson, 33 Hawk Green Road, Marple SK6 7HR Tel: 0161 449 9309 Fax: 0709 237 4245 E-mail: email@example.com Spring and Summer Editor: Tim Wainwright, 4a Brambledown Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 0BL Tel: 020 8657 8179 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Autumn Editor: Maggie Lewis, 31 Headland Drive, Crosspool, Sheffield S10 5FX. Tel: 0114 266 6730 E-mail: email@example.com Views expressed in Arrivée are not necessarily those of the Club. Our WWW site: www.audax.uk.net To subscribe to the AUK e-mailing discussion list, address an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Typesetting, Layout, Design and Scanning by Maggie Lewis Printed and distributed by Headley Brothers Ltd, The Invicta Press, Queens Road, Ashford, Kent TN24 8HH Copyright © 2012 Arrivée. Produced by AUK
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Image printing in the magazine requires a resolution of 300 dpi, so for large pictures (e.g. A4 cover shots) we really do need as many pixels as possible. If you want to see quality photographs please send them. Happy riding - and don’t forget to renew your membership! Maggie Please send all contributions for the next issue of Arrivée to Sheila by 15th December.
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Contents Official News
Even if it’s cost me a bottle
Membership and Renewals
News / Letters
Out and About
Riding the Cambrian 10A
Taking on the Mille Alba
Audax with Children
Otter Spotter Steve Medlock
A Slow 3 Year Rise.. Tim Harrison
Mileater 2011 Rob Hidderley
Audax UK Long Distance Cyclists’ Association (Company Limited by Guarantee) Reg. Office: 10 Campion Rise, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9PU
photographs. A lot of people post ride reports on blogs and online forums, but if you want to continue reading a varied and interesting magazine you need to send them here too.
Please continue to send us your articles and
Please contact the current editor Rates per issue, all in full colour: Full page A4 £268. Half page £134. Quarter page £67. Onesixth 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 are free
Don’t throw your Membership Renewal Form away.
Peter Turner Simon Jones
Ribble Blue Jon Periam Joe Jord
Chris Boulton Peter Bond
Martin Lucas Colin Bezant Ivo Miesen
Agenda for the Annual General Meeting 2012 to be held at The Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells on the 17th November 2012 commencing at 2:00pm
Agenda for the Annual General Meeting 2012 To be held at The Hotel Metropole, Llandrindod Wells on the 17th November 2012 commencing at 2:00pm 1) TO RECORD THE NAMES OF THOSE PRESENT AT THIS MEETING. A list will be circulated around the hall. Please add your name to it and pass it to your neighbour. 2) TO RECORD APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE 3) TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE LAST AGM as a true record of that meeting. (These were published in Arrivée edition Number 115.) 4) MATTERS ARISING from the last meeting. 5) TO CONSIDER OFFICERS’ REPORTS. Copies have either been printed in Arrivée or will be available at the meeting. 6) PROPOSAL: To adopt the Audax UK Regulations as published in the November 2012 issue of Arrivée. RATIONALE: As it became clear that the Regulations were in need of revision, since they included items not under the Board’s control, they have now been re-written and re-formatted for the sake of clarity. The name “Guidelines” has been replaced by “Appendices” as they modify and expand on the basic Regulation without suggesting the possibility of choice. The language has been simplified, with some generalisations and renumbering, but the intention is to update them rather than make extensive changes. Proposed: Sheila Simpson for the Board Seconded: Richard Phipps for the Board 7) ELECTION OF OFFICIALS. One post is falling vacant for which there is one candidate and one other for which there is no candidate. All other members are standing for re-election and no competing nominations have been received. CHAIRMAN: Ian Hennessey, Proposer: Lara Day, Seconder: Simon Proven. TREASURER: Linda Johnston, Proposer: Paul Rainbow, Seconder: Martyn Mullin. SECRETARY: Richard Phipps, Proposer: Roger Philo, Seconder: David Hudson. BREVET CARD PRODUCTION: Pam Pilbeam, Proposer: Roger Paddey, Seconder: Alan Rayner. LRM/ACP CORRESPONDENT: Ian Hennessey, Proposer: Peter Marshall, Seconder: Linda Johnston. PERMANENT EVENTS SECRETARY: John Ward, Proposer: Paul Whitehead, Seconder: Dave Minter. PRESS SECRETARY: No Candidate PUBLICATIONS MANAGER: Sheila Simpson, Proposer: Tim Wainwright, Seconder: Maggie Lewis. RECORDER: Allan Taylor, Proposer: Steve Ginty, Seconder: Peter Gawthorne. SYSTEMS MANAGER: Peter Coates, Proposer: Matt Haigh, Seconder: Chris Keeling-Roberts. VALIDATIONS SECRETARY (job share): Susan Gatehouse & Keith Harrison, Proposer: Bernard Webb, Seconder: Viv Marsh. EVENTS SECRETARY: John Hamilton, Proposer: Jackie Popland, Seconder: Mark Rigby. MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY: Mike Wigley, Proposer: Chris Crookes, Seconder: Peter Bond. 8) ANY OTHER BUSINESS 9) DATE AND PLACE OF NEXT AGM: To be advised &/or discussed. 10) CLOSE OF MEETING.
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Official Audax UK (AUK) - Regulations and Appendices Glossary AUK Events are cycle rides registered with AUK. The AUK Calendar is the list of cycle rides registered with AUK and published in Arrivee and on the AUK website. A Brevet can be: (i) a certified ride ; (ii) the card carried on such a ride; or (iii) the award for successful completion of such a ride. Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM) is a term registered to Audax Club Parisien (ACP), used to describe a cycling event of 200, 300, 400, 600 or 1,000 km, controlled through a series of time and distance checks by means of a ‘brevet card’. BRM events are registered with ACP, appear in the Randonneur Mondiaux Calendar published by ACP and, when held in the UK, also appear in the AUK Calendar. Randonneur Mondiaux events (RM) are as above but are registered with Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (LRM) and are longer than 1,000 km. Brevet de Randonneur (BR) describes an event registered with AUK, similar to BRM but subject only to AUK Regulations. Brevet Populaire (BP) describes an event of lesser distance and/or speed than a BR. Permanent events are BR or BP that are registered with AUK but not calendared and can be ridden at any time by arrangement with the organiser. Audax Club Parisien is the club which initiated the Brevet de Randonneur style of cycle ride. Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (LRM) is the group of national organisations authorised by ACP for the administration of BRM and RM events in each member country. The Memorandum and Articles of Association of Audax United Kingdom Long Distance Cyclists’ Association can be seen at: http://www.aukweb.net/official/07auk_mem_and_arts.pdf Subject to the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the following constitutes the rules (the “Regulations”) governing the conduct of officials and members of Audax United Kingdom Long Distance Cyclists’ Association (the “Company”). Where there is any conflict between these Regulations and the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company, the Memorandum and Articles of Association shall take precedence. Regulations
1. Application of Regulations 1.1 The Regulations govern the administration of AUK and the system of AUK events. 1.2 The Regulations can only be changed at a general meeting of the Company. 1.3 The Appendices to the Regulations are additions to the regulations that detail best practice. 1.4 The Appendices to the Regulations may be changed by the board during the course of the year, subject to ratification at the next general meeting. 1.5 Complaints Procedures: AUK publishes complaints procedures, to be followed in the event of a dispute in the application of these regulations and appendices.
1.5 Complaints Procedures 1.5.1 Complaints regarding the conduct of a rider should be made to the rider’s club and copied to the AUK secretary. If the complaint is upheld by the AUK secretary, the validation secretary and the rider concerned will be informed that no further brevets will be accepted by AUK in the current year from that rider. 1.5.2 Complaints regarding the conduct of an event should be made to the organiser’s club and copied to the AUK events secretary. If the complaint is upheld by the AUK events secretary, the organiser’s level will be rescinded. 1.5.3 Complaints regarding a decision by an AUK official, delegate or helper should be made to the AUK secretary or chair who will take the complaint to the AUK board If the complaint is upheld by the AUK board, the relevant decision will be over-ruled. Should a complainant disagree with the decision of the AUK board, s/he should ask the AUK secretary or chair to place the matter before the next AUK annual general meeting.
2. Affiliations 2.1 AUK associates with Audax Club Parisien (ACP) and represents ACP in the United Kingdom. 2.2 AUK associates with Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (LRM) and represents LRM in the United Kingdom. 2.3 AUK may affiliate with other organisations as appropriate. 3. Financial 3.1 Financial year: the financial year is the 12 month period ending 31 August. 3.2 Subscriptions: the level of annual subscriptions is decided at each AGM. 3.3 Honoraria: levels of honoraria payable to those officials nominated to receive them is decided at each AGM. 3.4 Expenses: officials and members with delegated duties are entitled to be reimbursed from AUK funds for expenses reasonably incurred in carrying out those duties. 3.5 AUK event charges: fees for services relating to events, including registration, validation and recording, are decided at each AGM. 4. Membership 4.1 Club annual subscriptions: the membership subscription year is January to December.
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4. Membership 4.1.1 The initial subscription may include an enrolment fee. 4.1.2 New members who join after 31 August shall be members until the end of the following membership subscription year. 4.1.3 Life members: (i) any member over 65 years of age on 1 January who has been a member continuously for the previous 10 years may remain a member without subscription. (ii) A reduced subscription may be payable if AUK publications are required. 4.1.4 Household members: (i) where one member of a household is a member, other members of the same household may become members at a reduced subscription rate. (ii) Such additional household members will not automatically be sent personal copies of AUK publications
5. Officials’ Duties 5.1 The board or any duly authorised committee shall allocate duties to its members having regard to their responsibilities. 5.2 A job description shall be prepared by each job holder and agreed with the board or the committee. 5.3 The general secretary shall hold the details, publicise their existence annually and make them available to any member on request. 6. Publications AUK publishes a calendar of events.
6. Publications AUK official publications include a yearly Handbook, yearly Organisers Handbook, quarterly magazine Arrivee and the AUK website www.aukweb.net
7. AUK Events 7.1 AUK events are cycle rides approved and registered with AUK, organised by AUK members and published in the AUK calendar in time for riders to take part. 7.2 AUK Event Classifications: AUK events are registered as: (i) Brevet de Randonneur (BR), an event conforming to Regulation 9 or (ii) Brevet de Randonneur Mondiaux (BRM) a calendar event conforming to regulation 9 with modifications under regulation 10 or (iii) Randonneur Mondiaux (RM), a calendar event conforming to regulation 9 with modifications under regulation 10 or (iv) Brevet Populaire (BP), an event conforming to regulation 9 with the possibility of modifications under regulation 11 7.3 Additional Event Classifications, plus additional regulations, may be designated by organisers, provided they do not rescind any AUK regulation or appendix and are published in official AUK publications and in the event literature..
8. Validation 8.1 AUK arranges validation of participants’ rides under the above classifications. 8.2 AUK maintains records of all validated rides.
7. AUK Events 7.2.1 Further AUK Event Classifications: (i) Calendar events: Are ridden on specified date(s) published in the AUK calendar (ii) Permanent events are BR or BP that may be ridden on any date by prior arrangement with the organiser. 7.3.1 Additional Event Classifications: (i) Arrows are 24 hour events, intended to be ridden as place-to-place rides. Riders provide organisers with their own control details. Min/max distances at randonneur standard are 360/720 km. (ii) Darts are events, organised like Arrows, above, of under 24 hours. (iii) Grimpeurs (G) and Super Grimpeurs (SG) are hilly events with points awarded under the Audax Altitude Award. See the AAA page of the AUK Handbook for details. (iv) Off-road events have a route consisting of not less than 50% designated bridleway, byway or any other right of way open to cyclists as is acceptable to the U.K. events secretary as Off-road or Rough Stuff. The event must be designated as Off-road or Rough Stuff in the title. (v) Relays are a series of events between predetermined places and may be ridden singly or consecutively. (vi) Team events are ridden by teams of 3, 4, or 5 machines (a tandem counts as one machine). At least 3 machines must complete an identical route/distance to be recorded. Each team nominates a captain to deal with the organiser. (vii) DIY events (DIY) are permanent events where riders provide the organiser with their own control details. (viii) Extended Calendar Events (ECE) add a DIY event to a registered calendar event.
9. Organisation and Conduct of Brevets de Randonneur 9.1 AUK and organisers are responsible only for indicating or agreeing control points to confirm that a participant has completed a predetermined distance within the allowed time. 9.2 AUK events are open to all cyclists, with the following provisos: 9.2.1 Non-members may be required to obtain temporary membership of AUK for the duration of the event. 9.2.2 Minors may take part providing they have the consent of their parent or legal guardian and subject to any guidelines issued. 9.3 Any kind of cycle may be ridden, with the following conditions: 9.3.1 The cycle is propelled solely by human effort. 9.3.2 The responsibility for ensuring that a machine complies with the road traffic laws rests solely with the rider. 9.4 Event Entry: Entries must be made before the start of an event using the official form, or a textually exact copy. 9.5 Insurance 9.5.1 All riders must have 3rd party liability insurance cover for the duration of an event. (i) Entrants declare that they have this insurance when entering an event. (ii) The responsibility for ensuring that a rider has suitable insurance cover rests solely with the rider. 9.5.2 All organisers and helpers must have public liability insurance cover for the duration of their event duties. 9.6 Distances: The standard event distances are 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1,000 km but any distance over 200 km may be offered. 9.7 Speeds: Events are run within maximum and minimum overall
9. Organisation and Conduct of Brevets de Randonneur 9.4 Event entry 9.4.1 The organiser may set a closing date for entries and/or a limit on entry numbers, which must be published in the calendar. 9.4.2 Entry fees are not refundable. 9.5 Insurance 9.5.1 Rider Insurance: (i) All AUK members, including temporary members, who are normally resident in the UK, are provided with private 3rd party insurance while participating in AUK registered events in the European Union. (ii) 3rd party in this case includes all members of the public and other event participants. (iii) For the purpose of insurance, an AUK event begins when the rider arrives at the start control and ends when the rider abandons, or leaves the finish control, or the finish control closes, whichever is the soonest. (iv) Non-UK residents must arrange suitable insurance cover. (v) All entrants of AUK events outside the European Union must obtain suitable insurance cover. 9.5.2 Organisers and Officials Insurance: (i) AUK has public liability and employer’s liability insurance for organisers (and their helpers) of events registered with AUK and for members acting in a voluntary capacity for AUK as directors, officials, committee members or delegates. (ii) Public liability in this case includes all members of the public and other event participants. 9.5.3 Claims should be addressed in the first instance to the AUK secretary. There is an excess in place, meaning that the first part of the
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speeds, set by the organiser and published in the calendar: 9.7.1 The minimum speeds are: for events up to 699km - within the range 14.3 to 15kph; for events from 700 to 1299 km - 13.3kph; for events from 1300 to 1899 km - 12kph; for events from 1900 to 2499 km - 10kph; and for events over 2499 km, 200 km per day. 9.7.2 The maximum speed for the whole or any part of an event is any speed acceptable to the AUK events secretary up to 30kph. 9.8 Controls: Riders obtain proof of passage through controls whose opening and closing times correspond to the published maximum and minimum speeds for the event. 9.9 Rider Conduct 9.9.1 Entrants agree that they are on a private excursion and will follow the rules of the road, show consideration to other road users, and obey AUK regulations and appendices. 9.9.2 Participants who infringe AUK regulations, ignore event officials’ instructions, or behave in a manner likely to bring an event, an organiser, or AUK into disrepute may be excluded from the event and from future AUK events. 9.10 Results: AUK events are not races and no timed results list or placings list of any AUK event may be published.
compensation is paid by the claimant. 9.8 Controls 9.8.1 Controls are placed at intervals of approximately 50 - 80 km at the discretion of AUK. 9.8.2 Controls may or may not be staffed by a representative of the organiser, the ‘controller’. 9.8.3 A rider arriving late at the final control may give a written explanation. The brevet will be awarded if the Board considers the explanation is reasonable. 9.8.4 At the final control, it is the rider’s responsibility to ensure that all necessary details are provided in order to ensure validation. 9.8.5 Where the final control is unstaffed, the rider shall return the brevet to the organiser within 14 days to be validated. 9.9 Rider Conduct 9.9.1 An AUK event may not be ridden concurrently with any other organised event. 9.9.2 Organisers of calendar events and their helpers may ride their own event(s) up to 15 days in advance or 7 days after the scheduled event date and be included in the event results. 9.9.3 Participants may ride singly or in groups and may pace each other but may not be paced by any other cyclist. 9.9.4 Participants are expected to be self-sufficient. They are responsible for their own feeding and may stop for food and rest at any place. 9.9.5 Participants’ personal helpers are not encouraged but may be permitted, at the discretion of the AUK event secretary, provided the participant and their helpers agree: (i) Not to not drive a motor vehicle on a section of route in use by participants, except within 1km of a control or in the case of an accident or emergency. (ii) The participant will be held responsible for the behaviour of their personal helpers. 9.9.6 The organiser or AUK event secretary may impose additional conditions, provided these do not conflict with AUK regulations and appendices, and are published in the calendar and event literature.
10. Modifications of organisation and conduct applicable to Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux and Randonneurs Mondiaux events 10.1 Speeds and distances are as set down by ACP or LRM. 10.2 In addition to AUK validation the brevet is ratified by ACP for events up to and including 1,000 km or by LRM for events longer than 1,000km.
10. Modifications of organisation and conduct applicable to Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux and Randonneurs Mondiaux events 10.1 Speeds and Distances 10.1.1 The minimum and maximum speeds for BRM events are as regulation 9.7, with the following exceptions: The maximum time limit for 200 km is 13 hours 30 minutes The maximum time limit for 400 km is 27 hours The maximum time limit for 1,000 km is 75 hours 10.1.2 Only the standard BRM distances may be organised. 10.1.3 The minimum and maximum speeds for RM events are as regulation 9.7. 10.1.4 RM events may be run at intervals of 100 km from 1200 km. 10.1.5 RM and BRM events must not be more than 5% over the standard distance. 10.1.6 No extra time is allowed for over-distance events.
11. Modifications of organisation and conduct applicable to Brevets Populaires 11.1 Brevets Populaires (BPs) may be of any distance acceptable to the AUK events secretary. 11.2 The minimum speed may be further relaxed at the discretion of the AUK events secretary.
11. Modifications of organisation and conduct applicable to Brevets Populaires 11.1.1 Standard distances are 50km, 100km and 150km. 11.2.1 A minimum of 10 - 12.5 kph and maximum of 20 - 25 kph is normal practice.
12.9 Points 12.9.1 Members shall gain points at a rate of 1 point for every 100km ridden in BR and BRM events in the UK or overseas, the PBP and Fleche Velocio. 12.9.2 These points shall count for trophies awarded by AUK
12. Awards 12.1 Distance medals and badges: Riders who successfully complete a standard distance event up to 1,000 km shall be entitled to buy the appropriate medal and/or badge for that distance. 12.2 The Randonneur Series is for rider achievement in one season. See the Randonneur series pages of the Handbook. 12.3 The Brevet Series includes rider achievement over extended periods. See the Brevet series pages of the Handbook.
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Official Appendices 12.4 Audax Altitude Award: see the AAA page of the Handbook & AAA website. 12.5 International Super Randonneur: see the ISR page of the Handbook 12.6 Fixed Wheel Challenge: see the FWC page of the Handbook. 12.7 The Randonnée Organiser Award (ROA) series marks organising achievement of individual Organisers according to the cumulative total distance of kilometres organised in BRM, BR and BP events in the AUK Calendar. The standard distances will be used in the calculations. Organisers have the right to have their ROA level indicated alongside their events in the Calendar. (i) ROA 1000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (ii) ROA 2000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (iii) ROA 3000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (iv) ROA 4000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (v) ROA 5000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (vi) ROA 10000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. (vii) ROA 25000 kilometres organised in AUK Calendar events, over any period of time. 12.8 Trophies: Although the Club is non-competitive, it does recognise achievement and some of the club’s trophies reflect this. Special awards may be made via nominations by members and/or the directors or committee for outstanding achievements of tenacity, courage or service. The following are annual awards which, with the exception of the Helpers’ Trophy, are made only to AUK members:As per current guideline 6… 12.9 Points 12.9.1 For individual points trophies listed under Appendix 12.8, the number of points gained from permanent events must not exceed the number of points gained in calendar events. 12.9.2 It is the rider’s responsibility to inform the recorder of points gained in overseas events. 12.9.3 AUK members who ride and appear on the result sheet of an official 24-hour time trial road ride organised under the rules of Cycling Time Trials or any successor body, may claim 1 point for every 100 km ridden in that event to a maximum of 7 points provided the member covers a minimum distance of 360km. Subject to a claim being made by the member, such points will count towards AUK individual and club awards for the AUK season within which the 24-hour ride occurs. 12.10 The season for events is the 12 month period from 1 October to the following 30 September.
JUST A MINUTE Once more to Birmingham where there was this time a full complement to navigate AUK along the right route. After a long session discussing a strategic plan to reverse the decline in numbers of riders on events which will be broadcast when it is closer to being finalised, the committee returned to more routine concerns. Mike reports the number of members is virtually 5,000, so that trend is continuing upward at least. There were a few problems with reports of missing AGM booking forms; hopefully they were not discarded too hastily and now is the time to check your membership renewal form on the reverse of the address sheet has not been thrown away prematurely. He has tidied up the membership data in advance of the renewal season and any members renewing with unchanged inadequate Standing Orders will have their membership suspended. John Ward has validated 2623 Perms, with approximately half being DIYs. Some 200 attracted AAA points while ECEs remained a relatively niche activity at around 100 rides. On the Calendar side, Sue & Keith have approved 13,953 Brevets, an increase of 5% on the previous year. No doubt that number would have been greater, had this year’s weather been better. The on-line start and finish lists have been wonderful and you will have noticed how much more quickly results are appearing on the website. Sadly organisers returns have been very prone to error, and are very time consuming to correct. New medals sporting the latest logo have been ordered and are due for delivery any time now. New Grimpeur medals are also on order and all of these will be sold to successful riders at £2.00 each. New distance badges are due to be ordered very soon and will be priced at £1.00. Both prices are significant reductions. Woohoo! And thanks to Sue & Keith for their killer deal making. Continuing with the insignia theme, the same validation stickers will be used on both Calendar and Permanent Brevet cards, featuring the new red / blue logo. LEL arrangements are progressing well and Danial will have written an update elsewhere in this issue. The meeting was very favourably impressed with the update presented and the design of the LEL jersey. Don Black has stepped down from the Membership Renewals team, Bill Carnaby has retired from his job assisting with organisers’ returns and Sheila Simpson has left the events team and is succeeded by Nigel Hall. Many thanks to all of those for their past assistance and hope they can enjoy more cycling (though Sheila isn’t entirely jobless yet.) I trust your 2011/2 season lived up to previous plans and extend best wishes for the season just begun. Safe riding and I hope to see as many Randonneurs as possible at the AGM and Reunion weekend. As ever, full Minutes will be available from me on receipt of a sae or on the website in due course. Richard
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Official Honorary Officials’ Reports 2011/12 General Secretary’ s Report for 2012 Audax UK AGM This year has been a rather busy one. After it was decided to take insurance matters out of Regulations because there should not be items in there over which we had no control, as well as the usual incremental improvements, the whole project took on an impetus of its own, leading to the wholesale revision of both Regulations and Guidelines. The results are printed elsewhere in this issue for your perusal and, hopefully, approval at the AGM. In addition we started a strategic review to increase the number of active members and the sizes of fields on events. There has been much discussion and there is still much to be decided. Before any final conclusions are reached an interim plan will probably be shared with members for further consultation. Danial Webb stood down from his position as Publicity Secretary earlier in the year to concentrate on L-E-L organisation and Peter Marshall is not standing as International Events Secretary and ACP Correspondant as increasing computerisation and the Internet had decimated the workload, so that secretariat is being lapsed. Thanks are due to both guys for all their efforts over the years.
Event Secretary’s Annual Report 2012
This year has seen a total of 535 events, organised by 195 organisers. The breakdown of these is shown below, along with recent years for comparison: 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 BP 318 317 322 310 320 200 144 146 148 166 159 300 25 23 21 32 27 400 15 16 27 26 18 600 12 14 16 22 10 >600 1 1 1 Total 515 517 535 556 535 As expected the longer events have shown a decrease in numbers since last year, although numbers are comparable with recent nonPBP years. The spread of events across the country continues to be uneven, particularly at the longer distances (300km+) where events are concentrated in the South of England and the Manchester / West Yorkshire area, leaving big gaps in the Midlands, Scotland and Wales. Online entry continues to grow in popularity. This year a total of 293 events offered online entry facilities (either AUK’s system or the organiser’s own), just over 54% of the total. The highlights of the year were undoubtedly Graeme Wyllie’s Mille Alba 1000k and the return of the National 400 in the hands of the Norfolk’n Good team. But of course every organiser, whatever events they run of whatever distance and all their helpers are owed our thanks for providing the range of events throughout the year and across the country. Looking forward to 2013 the National 400 moves to the South West and of course London-Edinburgh-London will take centre stage in the calendar. And finally, the Events Team said goodbye to Sheila Simpson. Her (considerable) shoes are now being ably filled by Nigel Hall who has taken on responsibility for the Northern England and Scotland regions. John Hamilton
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Treasurer’s Report 2012
The club’s finances remain strong, £80,000 on deposit and the remainder in the working account. The account with Credit Agricole has at last been closed. A further loan has been made to LEL 2013 bringing the total to £14,000. In memory of Rocco a donation of £1000 was made to Marie Curie Cancer Care. I would like to remind anyone purchasing items for the club to obtain authorisation from the treasurer before ordering. In response to the rising costs of mileater diaries and medals members now have the opportunity to buy these separately. A diary will cost £4. On completion you will have the opportunity to buy a medal at £10. Linda Johnston
Membership Secretary’s Report 2011/12
We have a membership of 4996 (as of 28th September 2012) which is 3% up on last year (4828). Females comprise 1 in 6.8 of the Membership, and the average AUK is aged 53 years 9 months. We enrolled 650 new members this year with an average age 50, so we’re getting younger. I hope they enjoyed any rides they may have undertaken and stay with us for many years. 2012 main members : 4127 household members: 499 life members: 370 4996 male: 4354 female: 642 UK address: 4923 overseas: 73 commuted: 1347 one year membership: 3649 age under 24: 88 age 25-44: 1067 age 45-64: 2615 age 65-84: 1069 age over 85: 34 unknown 127
2011 4026 458 344 4828 4223 622 4776 69 1290 3555 77 998 2516 1087 34 133
Membership Renewals again become due after the end of December. I created 4476 renewal notices which went out with the recent Arrivée; 1214 have nothing to pay (because they have commuted membership which doesn’t yet expire), 2460 have subscriptions due, and 742 are for Life Members who can renew for free, but if they want Arrivée there is a reduced fee of £9. Once again I’m anticipating that most renewals will take place online using credit cards, debit cards or PayPal. I thank my team of helpers, without whom my tasks as Membership Secretary would be quite overwhelming; Ian Hobbs who sends out the “welcome packs” to all new members, and my renewals team of Findlay Watt and Peter Gawthorne. I occasionally receive complaints of non-Arrival of copies of Arrivee; these are sent out early in February, May, August and November, and a small number go missing in the post. If you haven’t received yours by the third week of those months, by all means query this with me at email@example.com. Don’t forget to keep your details up to date, as I always have several copies returned to me marked “no longer at this address”. I have started to review the listing of CTC member groups held on the system, trying to replace the obsolete names with the current versions. If you think I’ve got yours wrong, you can update these at www. aukweb.net/members/profile. If your club isn’t listed in the drop-down lists, please contact me and I’ll get it added. Mike Wigley
Official AUDAX UNITED KINGDOM Income and Expenditure account 2012
Expenses Membership Membership Publicity General Committee/AGM Handbook publication Arrivee
Year ended 31 August 2012 2011
4,021.58 1,253.88 4,986.95 2,623.82 25,668.19
4,884.12 1,208.43 3,775.54 2,577.32 23,765.00
Membership subscriptions annual, temporary & commuted 67,495.65 Donations 72.00 Calendar sales Arrivee & ReCycling 2,385.50
2,594.85 627.06 81.29 427.92 1,000.00 43,285.54 27,866.17 71,151.71
2,471.29 106.87 0.00 496.52 0.00 39,285.09 27,711.08 66,996.17
Mileater Sundry Deposit a/c interest members badges stock
Events ACP/LRM subs/validation
Validation Brevet card production Calendar production Medals & badges Medals stock @ 1-Sep-11
5,025.72 9,921.42 1,207.00 847.30 4,553.00
3,916.53 7,850.13 1,017.30 521.00 8,577.25
Validation AUK Brevet card charge Medals & badges Stock @ 31-Aug-12 - medals & badges
20.32 427.92 188.37 73.47 2,166.01 26,159.68 (1,076.46) 25,083.22
123.62 496.52 318.19 (460.64) 1,389.31 25,033.06 861.68 25,894.74
misc Forex gain calendar
0.05 0.00 4,027.80
2.00 0.00 315.00
Membership surplus/(deficit) Events surplus/(deficit)
27,866.17 (1,076.46) 26,789.71
Insurance & affiliation Mileater Bank charges to close CA IT & systems Sundry sub-total Membership surplus/(deficit)
Bank charges IT & systems Sundry Corporation tax Depreciation sub-total Events surplus/(deficit)
61,550.41 2,312.96 2,329.10
340.00 0.00 858.56
339.00 0.00 268.70 196.00
3,721.20 9,911.87 2,877.70
2,798.50 11,379.40 2,609.04
Balance Sheet at 31 August 2012 Balance b/f Add 2012
Reserves - ACP - Medals & badges - IT equipment - Events - Brevet card production - Commuted - Arrivee
Equipment B/f Additions
4,000.00 1,225.00 1,875.00 4,000.00
5,000.00 1,000.00 1,875.00 4,000.00
3,000.00 28,206.00 3,500.00 175,191.23
3,000.00 26,805.50 3,500.00 147,776.02
Equipment (see below) Stock: - Medals & badges Lloyds Bank Credit Agricole Debtor (LEL 2013) Officer in hand
3,869.00 155,568.93 0.00 14,000.00 200.00
4,749.00 133,504.92 1,932.79 6,000.00 200.00
Bank balance verified and accounts audited 11/09/12 Mr J Tinsley MSc
ArrivĂŠe November 2012
Official Honorary Officials’ Reports 2011/12 (cont) Systems Manager Report 2011/2012
Once again the Audax UK systems have been running reliably for the whole season. Any questions and problems sent my way have usually being resolved reasonably quickly. We did have a small problem with the web site in January. It turned out to be a problem with the network disks at the hosting company. They tracked down the problem and resolved it fairly promptly once I had reported it to them. There has been continued development of the various systems over the last season, including: > A revamp of the event planner has started, but is still only in development. > Changes for the new season start and end dates. > Pending results now appear as soon as they are entered by the event organiser. > The calendar event pages now include details of the locations of controls the ride uses. Plans for next season include > Complete the revamp of the event planner. > Try and move the website to an open source CMS so we can get more people editing the content on the website. > Investigate making the website more attractive to non members. > Add online payment option by organisers for all event charges. Pete Coates 29th September 2012
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 November 2012
Membership Membership Renewal: Yes, it’s that time of year again. With
this edition of Arrivée you should have received your Renewal Form, so just make sure you didn’t throw it in the bin! If your membership number has a prefix of “G” then your membership expires at the end of December 2012. You will receive no further copies of Arrivée and you may have no insurance cover when riding AUK events in 2013
Current Membership Rates: One Year: £14 (until Dec 2013) Commuted: £56 (until Dec 2017) (i.e. 5 years for the price of 4) Life Members: free (but to receive all editions of Arrivée send £9 to cover costs) Overseas Members: please add £4 postal surcharge (£20 for 5 years) to the above. Household: £5 (or £20 for 5 years)
How to renew:
Online: perhaps the easiest way to renew, using your credit or debit card or (if you have one) your PayPal account. Go to www. aukweb.net/renewal, input your user-id and password, and follow the on-screen instructions. By Post: You can still pay by cheque made payable to “Audax UK”. Send the bottom section of the renewal form with your payment to the delegate named on the form but please do NOT staple your cheque to the form. Standing Order: If you have arranged to send your membership fee by Standing Order you need do nothing (but it might be a good idea to check with your bank that the amount is correct; there are still some SOs paying out-of-date fees). To set up a new Standing Order, please download the form at at www.aukweb. net/ forms/AUK_SO_form.pdf and send to your bank (not AUK!). Please note that payments must be made by January 5th. Direct Debit: Unfortunately our bank does not allow Direct Debits. In Person: I will be at the AGM in November and will be happy to accept cash and cheques from you immediately after the meeting closes.
Household Membership: For Household memberships, all
correspondence is sent to the main member’s address. To add to or change Household members, please send full details of additions or changes and the appropriate fee to the Membership Delegate named on your form. NB Household members must have same membership expiry date as the main member. To add household members, please contact renewals_team@Audax. uk.net
Life Membership: We offer Life Membership to those who are
aged 65 or more at 1st January and have been a continuous member of Audax UK for more than 10 years. Life Membership is free but has all the benefits of fully paid-up membership. Life Members receive the Autumn edition of Arrivée free of charge. Life Members can also elect to receive all 4 issues of Arrivée and Handbook by paying £9 to help cover costs - see the renewal form.
Deadline for Renewals: Please let us have your renewal by
31st December to give us time to include you on the mailing list for February Arrivée. If you miss this deadline we may charge you the enrolment fee of £5 to cover the extra costs incurred.
Contact: reneals_team@Audax.uk.net or Mike Wigley Higher Grange Farm Millcroft Lane Delph OL3 5UX. Please include your membership number if you know it.
Have I already renewed? You can easily check if your membership is still current by going to the Gateway (see box). If you see the phrase “Your AUK Membership has expired” or “Your AUK Membership is valid until the end of 2012” then you will need to take some action.
Check your personal details. Use the website (see box) or
correct your renewal form before returning it. Please make sure we have your current postal address. Information on Date of Birth, Sex, Club and CTC Club is optional but is used in the calculation of award categories, while we also use your Date of Birth to calculate eligibility to Life Membership.
Lizard Loop: Falmouth Wheelers leaving the Lizard photo: Geoff Sharpe
Membership on the AUK website:
www.aukweb.net/members/profile/ You will need your user-id (your 4 digit membership number) and password - and there’s even a forgotten password facility if you need it! From here you can check the status of your membership and review, or even change, your personal details.
Commuted Membership: Take advantage of our special offer: 5 years membership for the price of 4!
Overseas members: Overseas members pay an additional charge
of £4 for postage. The most secure method of payment is perhaps using the Online Renewal system, or you can send us payment by cheque or cash (at your own risk) in Pounds Sterling. To pay by bank transfer, please contact renewals_team@Audax.uk.net some of the staggering scenery on Friday 10 morning on the road to Aulla
Lizard Loop: Miles Barrington-Ward photo: Geoff Sharpe
Arrivée November 2012
News / Letters Organisers’ News By the time you read this we’ll be well into a new Audax season. You can read about 2012 in my annual report elsewhere in this issue, but now it’s time to look forwards to 2013. As I write this in mid-September events are starting to be registered for next year, but if you haven’t already done so here’s a few tips and reminders. - Get your event on the planner early to get the date you want. The Events Team will be paying particular attention to date clashes for longer events, and especially LEL (28th July) and the National 400 (15th June). - Before your event can be published remember we need i) all information control questions, ii) a completed Risk Assessment and iii) payment of the £7 registration fee. - Remember to renew your AUK membership Next year’s National 400 will be in the South-West on 15th June. We’re now starting to look for an experienced organiser (or team of organisers) to come forwards to organise the 2014 event. The intention is that the National 400 will move around the country so we’d like to see the 2014 event in the North after two years in the south of the country. For more details get in touch with the Events Secretary or your regional Events Team Delegate.
Next Events Publishing Deadline Tuesday 1st January 2013
All events before 1st June 2013 – this is your last chance
King’s College London
Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences
A Special Thank You to All Audax Cyclists who Responded to Our Appeal for Volunteers The Research Team at Kings, Guy’s Campus would like to thank all the cyclists who volunteered for our study which aims to set the benchmark for healthy human ageing. Thanks to you we have a list of over 70 cyclists who are willing to have their physiology rigorously evaluated. We are now well into our testing programme and we ask the people still waiting to please have patience. We will not forget you.
What are the ideas behind this research programme? Ageing is inherent in all biological systems. Ageing cannot be stopped. However, the rate of ageing can be retarded. Exercise has been suggested as the most efficient retardant known. What is not known is how much exercise anyone needs to maintain optimal health and physiological function. In order to answer this, tests could be done on people stratified and classified in groups representing low exercisers to high exercisers. We believe that the most logical and efficient place to start is by examining high exercisers because these people would set the benchmark for maximum retarding of the ageing process. Later we can look at low exercisers and uncover just how much better off the physiology of exercisers is, compared to those who do not exercise. Because our society is becoming increasingly sedentary you can understand how important it is to get reliable data which documents the adverse effects of inactivity on human physiology. Who can enter the programme? We want the people selected to be representative of society in general. That means we do not take professional or elite athletes whose physiology falls outside the vast majority of us. They also are selected because of special body types and we are looking for all shapes and sizes. Because Audax is non-competitive and amateur, the membership is varied in body type, exercise capability and age. It is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on equal terms. In addition, the exercise undertaken, whilst not competitive, is vigorous. These factors make Audax cyclists ideal candidates for getting answers to our central question. Why have we restrictions on age? The effects of ageing only become clearly apparent after about the sixth decade. All research shows that ageing, as a general rule, accelerates after about seventy years. It is in these crucial years we wish to document the effects of exercise on the ageing process. Before these years the rate of decline is slower so it is difficult to document the small changes that occur year by year. Are we still recruiting? We would welcome more women into our test group. If there are any ladies out there aged 55–75 capable of riding 100 kms in 61/2 hours and who are vacillating about volunteering, please do get in touch. We would really appreciate your participation in our study and will do our best to make it easy for you to attend. We are also keen on recruiting more men over 70 years of age. The cyclists who have been through the tests will have by now received their first report on their physical well being. I hope that you have all been pleasantly surprised at the state of your fitness. If anyone wishes to contact us please do. firstname.lastname@example.org
Erit Lass: Ken Morrison and Kerr Noble in the Garleton Hills photo: Martin Foley
Arrivée November 2012
Keep cycling and best wishes from the Team based at Guy’s Campus, Kings. Ross Pollock Norman Lazarus Stephen Harridge Centre of Human Aerospace and Physiological Studies 11
Events Out and About - 100K Audax Sunday 22nd July While Bradley Wiggins was riding into Paris wearing the yellow jersey to win the 2012 Tour de France and Cav was winning the sprint down the Champs Elysees, in the West country we were enjoying what must be the first day of summer with a cloudless sky and temperatures creeping up into the mid twenties. Dave Sanders has been organising this ride more times than I can remember and from time to time he makes changes to the route, adding a few extra hills, using some new lanes and generally keeping you on your toes so not to go off route with the route changes. This year was no exception with changes in the second half which took out a couple of hills, never argue with that. Just a few miles out from the start you get a taste of what you’re in for with the start of the hills up Forges Corner in the Blackdown Hills, climbing nearly 900 feet above sea level to go along the ridge past the old airfield at Tricket Warren. Just as you start to relax with a bit of flat riding you find yourself pluming down a long hill into Bishopswood only to be followed by a steep one up out of the village to cross the busy A303.
Out and About: Cliffs near Beer photo: Geoff Sharpe
Got caught out in Whitestaunton with the right turn for Northay. Coming down the hill at speed I see the road ahead going up and I’m looking to shoot up the other side to clear the top only to notice in the dip that I’ve got to turn right. With the speed I’m doing and some gravel on the road, no way I’m going to try and make the turn, I’m half way up the other side before I can stop and come back down, I think a few others also got caught out at this junction. Passing on through some picturesque villages and a series of ups and downs to join the A30 and the first control a mile or two along the main road. The second section involved going back along the A30, taking the first left to climb some more hills before a long lane around Membury which generally dropped down to find an obscure turning to get to Kilmington, I was fortunate in having a couple of riders in front who picked out the turn for me. Joining the A39 for a short distance then a series of ups and downs to get to the second control at Colyton with it’s decorative lamp standard.
Out and About: Alan and Maggie Penlington photo: Geoff Sharpe
The ride down to the coast was uneventful except there was a strong head wind coming off the sea and going through Seaton to Beer only involved a couple of hills. In Beer there was an info control which presented a problem. There’s no question on the card so how can I record the answer ?. I just wrote down the distance to Branscombe as proof of passage and left the village going up away from the coast. After climbing up to the main road there was long stretches of flat roads over Broad Down Common then a long, steep drop into Honiton. The last 40K was a series of minor lanes through Payhembury, Broadhembury and Culmstock with some confusion before Ashill where the instructions didn’t seem to fit the road, but since I’ve cycled around the area before I just rode to the village after checking on the map and sorted out the route when I arrived in the village. The last bit involved crossing the M5 and locating Ford Street, the sign almost completely covered by the hedge and had to turn back to pick it up then getting back into West Buckland to complete the ride. Thanks Dave for a interesting and at times a testing ride and hope you’ll put it on again next year.
Out and About: Riders crossing the M5 photo: Geoff Sharpe
Arrivée November 2012
Taking on the Mille Alba
photo: Rimas Grigenas
Road to Talla Linn Introduction
think it was sometime in September when I saw a thread on the forum about a 1000km ride in Scotland. It soon became clear that this would be hotly subscribed and so, without the consultation usual (and required) in such circumstances, I entered at the first opportunity. I justified this lapse on the basis that this would not be like PBP or the Mille Miglia, taking me away from home for 6 or even 10 days. This would be a Thursday night sleeper up, Sunday night sleeper back, one day off work event. After all, I’d been able to do 1000km in 53 hours on PBP with 5 hours of sleep in Brest. When details of the route started to emerge, a climbing figure of a mere 7000m was mentioned, less climb/km than on PBP. This sort of made sense, as in Scotland the roads often follow the valleys. The Cairnwell is more than 500m higher than Banchory but it does take 75km to get there. Perhaps it was not going to be so easy after all. A revised climbing figure of 12750m appeared. I had not considered what a magnificent route Graeme Wyllie would put together, selecting elements of previous Audax Ecosse rides and some new sections. With an entry capped at 75 there would not be the hundreds of riders on the road, each one a potential ally, as there is on PBP. And, of course, there was the weather; if it cut up rough on one of the high mountain passes a lot of damage could be done to both time and will. Originally I had planned to do this event on my race bike with tribars, the same set up as PBP. Two things
Arrivée November 2012
went against this plan. The first was the weather forecast (unsettled) and the second was a work meeting in London that meant I would need to go to work first and then get on the night sleeper. There was no way around it, I would need the extra carrying capacity of the Audax bike, which I knew to be about an hour slower over 300km than the race bike.
‘This would be a Thursday night sleeper up, Sunday night sleeper back, one day off work event.....’
However, what was most informative were the raised eyebrows and polite observations of “really?” when I mentioned my plan. 1000km between 7am Friday and late Sunday evening. It was not going to be easy. The plan Although there were four loops on the Mille Alba, for anyone wanting to catch the Sunday night sleeper it had to be broken down to three day rides. The first day was 356km with a couple of feature hills in Cairn o’Mount and the Cairnwell. All in all it did not look too tough, but with a start time of 7am it could easily be 11pm or even midnight before we finished. The second day was 324km and, on paper, looked easier, mostly gradual climbs in the Southern Uplands, as long as the wind wasn’t from the West when there would be a very long headwind section from Berwick to Biggar. The third day would require a final 336km, firstly a 266km loop into the Perthshire mountains and then a shorter loop out to Falkland over the Lomond Hills. In order to catch the midnight train ideally I would like to finish at 9pm. But, a 13
Colin Bezant at the start
Ride on the Firth of Forth Saturday morning photos: Richard Evans Day 1
hilly final day, possibly with bad weather, and lots of hills (I’d no idea how big some of the climbs turned out to be, even when following the route on Ordnance Survey maps in planning), could easily take 17 hours to complete, or longer, given that I would be tired. That meant a 3am to 4am start time. So, in a perfect world I probably want to finish the second day quite early.
We set off in pouring rain. I found myself at the head of the front group, with Paul, from Ireland, who I had first met in a Little Chef near Wrexham where we were getting breakfast before the Mersey Roads ‘24’. The roads were typical of this area, more patch than original, with many water-filled potholes to trip the unwary. We weaved our way across the sodden tarmac and concrete, through a few bleak-looking settlements. It was an odd sensation, riding through such ordinary streets, with such a long distance to go. Martin Lucas and Bob Johnson came past, looking like they were on a mission and I latched on to them, able to keep the pace but doubting the wisdom of such a plan in the long term.
As I travelled up to London for a day’s work on Thursday, with everything packed up on the bike, I began to ponder. Things were quite tight, especially as there was no opportunity to get part way round the third day ahead of time. The weather forecast was not good. After one of the wettest springs on record Friday was “heavy rain in the morning, followed by heavy showers in the afternoon”, Saturday and Sunday both showed showers, with freshening south-westerly winds. We could be in for a soaking. At least having a base, Fordell Firs Scout centre, meant that we could take as much kit as we could carry. Apart from a bar bag and two stuffed panniers I also had a 45-litre rucksack stuffed nearly full. I took the liberty of having a full set of dry kit for each day as well as a 2.7kg tub of PSP so that I could make fresh energy drink each morning. Before the Start Travelling by the night sleeper was incredibly comfortable. Although I was apprehensive about the ride and tense from work, I had a reasonable amount of sleep. There was room for my 190cm frame to stretch out on the bed and the suspension was like a Rolls-Royce to my usual commuter trains. I arrived at dawn (04:58, on time to the minute) at Inverkeithing into stair-rod rain. I took everything to the shelter of a footbridge to add panniers and bar bag to the bike and then wheel the bike up the ramp to the car park, trying to get my bearings. It was uphill all-the-way to the Scout Centre, done in heavy rain. It felt like it was going to be a long weekend. I chatted with the first few people who were up, got myself a first breakfast, and picked up a brevet card. I’d missed the registration and pre-event supper the night before, due to my pared down travel arrangements. Once the hall was thronging with nervous rides I found my room and sorted out my gear, sleeping bag ready, and one pannier packed for the day ahead (kit for the day rainjacket, bib tights, bib shorts, base layer, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve jersey, socks, winter socks, thin gloves, winter gloves, assorted gels, two bottles of PSP, multitool, tyre levers, four inner tubes, and two cuddly toys wrapped in the ziplock plastic bags that protect Brevet Cards. Lights and battery were also tucked away. It was not as cold as it looked. I’d noticed that on the ride up and confirmed it as I fettled my bike pannier. I decided to go without a base layer and just a long sleeve and the rain top. This turned out to be a good decision. In the midst of many conversations, catching up with other riders, were the raised eyebrows at my plans, advertised on the forum, long ago, of completing to catch the Sunday night sleeper. 14
‘in many places water had rushed off the fields and left sharp angled stones across the road.....’
In a silence befitting the gloomy morning we continued, taking turn and turn about. Even the lowest of the Lomond Hills was blanketed in fog, leaving the shape of the summit to the imagination. Dave Bradshaw was with us as was Hummers, and the VC167 tandem. The River Farg was in spate, a swirling mass of brown water and dirty spray fighting its way down the gorge, lapping at the trees on either side and at the foliage foolish enough to grow low over its malign and untrustworthy surface. There was a degree of confusion at the Aberargie control, with someone who had just turned up with a list of riders, George Berwick who was meant to be manning the control nowhere to be seen, and another rider, who had been desperately hanging onto our tails, claiming that he was the controller. The cards got stamped quickly. Bob Johnson and I soft-pedalled until the group had re-formed. We were in a part of the world I had never even considered going to before. The UK doesn’t have much in the way of north coasts, but here the Tay estuary is so wide that it might as well be a north coast. It was undeveloped, unlike any of the south facing coasts around, just farmland on a big slope reaching down to the muddy brown water. It must have rained very heavily overnight, because in many places water had rushed off the fields and left sharp angled stones across the road. There was a loud pop and hiss and we had lost Paul to a puncture. We were down to a group of four as we headed up into the mist: Bob Johnson, Martin Lucas, Andreas, from Germany and me. The wind was a brisk northeasterly and brought a thick fret from the cold North Sea. We exchanged turns on the front. At one point the road was under a huge puddle of muddy brown water, which I sailed through rather carelessly. We descended into Wormit, a town of high walls on the steep sides that sloped into the Tay estuary. A curl back upwards took us onto the cycle path for the Tay Bridge that, unusually, was in the middle of the two crash barriers. I guess that gives more protection from the winds that can rage in these parts. A long while ago a storm took out a span of the railway bridge and no-one noticed until a train went straight over the gap taking its crew and passengers to a watery grave. At the end of the bridge a lift took us down to road level, 4 men and bikes crammed in. Here I noticed quite how tall Andreas was, 208cm (6’10½ “). It wasn’t clear which direction Arrivée November 2012
Randonnées we were supposed to go but, having researched the route on Ordnance Survey maps, I found the way out to the A92 where Martin and his GPS took over. It was warming up and so we took off our rain gear. Soon Martin and Bob were taking long turns on the front through the thick mist. Each time we went up hill it seemed just a little bit harder to hang on, especially given the brisk wind. However, as we turned toward Forfar, having got to a group view on which crossroads was the one referred to in the route sheet (it said SOX but we had right of way the whole way), the wind was behind us and we were going down hill. Andreas, as if powered by sail, shot off and I vaguely followed him. It was time to have a break.
further on I began to feel quite peculiar; I’d left another bit of my essence on the road. I would have to be careful or I would start to get tired with no pick-me-up possible.
They were excited to see us at the control, their first customers. The soup was excellent. I don’t usually have soup as it seems to fill me up without giving me much energy, but I liked it so much I had a second bowl and a cheese scone to top up the bread that came with the soup. It had been a good first stage.
This feeling did not last long. On the second or third imperceptible rise out of Banchory I could sense Flat Earth Bob pushing on again. My chain was squeaking; the frequent immersions in floodwater had stripped it of most of its lubricant. This was not a pleasant experience. I had a choice. On each little rise I could take another little 1% out of my reserves and hang on, secure in the company of the group, recognising that this would get me round the quickest. But there would be a lot of little one percents on the long valley road to Braemar, and they would soon add up. So I let the gap open up and proceeded at my own pace. Once they had disappeared the squeaking chain annoyed me so I used this as an excuse to properly separate myself from the front group. I also had a quick comfort break and a snack.
The road to Brechin was hard. It rose up ever so slightly for about 6k into the wind. I towed everyone along and probably put a bit too much into it. Before Brechin I found myself on the front again, with legs that felt ever so slightly heavy. There was a debate about a turn in Brechin (I misheard Craft Street for Market Street) and so I had to chase back on, a little reluctant. I felt that I would want to drop back from this group at some point but hoped that it would be Cairn O’Mount and not before. We had made a good start on our minor Scottish football teams. Given the blankness of the sky Forfar Athletic nil Brechin City nil sounded about right. We would also pass Alloa, Dunfermline Athletic, and Cowdenbeath, names remembered from watching Final Score on Grandstand in the days when there was sport on the BBC. We wondered what Forfar was famous for. I never knew that Brechin had a cathedral. Here in northeast Scotland were places that had a grander impact on history than their current presence would suggest. My observation that Dundee was a city built, in part, on making jam because of the soft fruit production in the area was not obvious given the cold grey skies. Perhaps the cold and the grey got into my head. Bob Johnson is known as Flat Earth Bob for a reason, all hills are flat to him. In this mostly flat terrain, whenever there was a slight rise he would kick on to maintain his momentum, an excellent technique. But each micro-kick took me out of my comfort zone and left another little piece of my soul on the road. It could not last. Before I blew I allowed myself not to get back on his wheel. It had been good while it lasted but now that we approached some proper hills I wanted to ride my own pace. When I’m dropped (and I think this applies to most of us) my heart sinks; I begin to question my legs, my heart, or my head. Instead of realising that there are three riders ahead of me and sixty-five behind, I tend to look at the group of three above and wonder if I should put the extra effort in to close that gap. But we were 130km into 1016km. To go deep into the red this early was simply foolishness. So I put the bad thoughts out of my head and began to concentrate on a rhythm, one gear lower than with the group. We were still in the arable farmland typical of the east coast, with plenty of trees so that soon they were gone from view. I worked my way through Fettercairn and into the hills looking for the start of the Cairn O’Mount. It announced its presence with a steep ramp that hardly eased off. I could see the others split up further up the hill. I concentrated on my own sweaty process, opening up my top to see if I could get some air. The climb was supposed to ease off but I did not see any advantage in getting out of the little ring. I could see Andreas ahead of me and was closing on him very slowly. The second steep ramp was hidden in the mist. Andreas, on a compact chainset, ground to a halt. I continued onwards, not knowing what to say, being a firm believer in a triple for such things. I was cranking out low revs even with a 30-23 gear but just had enough to get to the top. A little
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There was an initial high-speed descent but then we got into the forest. After each drop there was a short, steep, rhythmbusting, rise. I kept expecting Andreas to catch up with me but, after a struggle, I was into the warm forested slopes around Banchory. Bob and Martin waved to me and pointed out the Co-op they had used as a commercial control. Lunch was a prawn sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps, and a chocolate fudge brownie milkshake, of all of which was just what I was looking for and I felt able to hold their wheels again.
‘Given the blankness of the sky Forfar Athletic nil Brechin City nil sounded about right....’
There was a tailwind on this section and I started to get into a good rhythm, probably not as fast as those ahead of me but still a decent pace. It was too far to calculate a precise finishing time but I felt that I was good for a finish around about 11pm. The route sheet from Banchory to Braemar had only one instruction, “follow A93”, but 65km is too far to digest so I broke it up into 4 sections: Aboyne, Ballater, Balmoral, and Braemar. By the time I got to Aboyne I was going well. (I remembered Aboyne as the place that sometimes appears as the warmest place in the UK as it is the most sheltered from southwesterly winds; today there was a gentle easterly and it was quite pleasant). Then the rear tyre felt a bit spongy. I tried to convince myself that it was my imagination but after another mile it was clear there was a problem. Just when I had got my head in order. I hooked the saddle on a stone wall and carried out the tedious task of repair, concerned that I could find no obvious damage to the tyre or remains of a shard in the tyre wall. It’s always much more comforting to find the culprit rather than suspect that it might still be lurking to claim another tube on an appropriate impact. Zigzag passed me and asked if I was alright. I was just pumping up the tyre so I called out “two minutes”. He carried on but he was only looking for a place to fill up a water bottle. I caught him up and we rode on together. I like Zigzag. He was the one who persuaded me than the forum was a good idea (and so probably the one to whom I owed the pleasure of this ride). He is also good company and rides at a slightly easier pace than Flat Earth Bob. I’d noticed on the route sheet that there was a possible short cut past Ballater and so was not surprised when Zigzag took that route. The road climb through thick coniferous woods into a forbidding defile but did very little extra climbing so almost certainly saved us some effort. There wasn’t much wind by now, and a lot of this area is now home to recovering Caledonian forest, giving the route a lot of shelter, but it was still nice to have it helping rather than hindering. Things were looking up and we got into a good rhythm. I pointed out Balmoral to Zigzag, who hails from Lithuania although I believe lives in the London area. It was 5pm by the time we arrived in Braemar. There was a rather dodgy looking café almost on the road junction, offering pretty much every version of junk food known to mankind (it offered fish and chips, pizza, burgers, and curries). For a moment I hesitated but didn’t have the wherewithal to think about somewhere else. I asked for pizza 15
Randonnées but that was going to take 10, no 15, possibly 20 minutes (which suggested they hadn’t fired up the oven) and then settled on burger and chips. Just as we were ordering Bob, Martin, and Andreas waved to us; they were heading down to Perth, so we could only have been twenty minutes or so behind them. The burger was one of Brake Bros budget options but the chips were some of the finest I’ve ever had. We got the poor assistant, who seemed to be new or temporary, to sign our cards as the till wouldn’t give receipts and headed off.
distance climbing legs, finding the gear that would turn at a decent speed (11 – 12mph) all the way up. With newfound confidence I sped up through Kinross and was in good spirits at dusk for the last rough bit of road through Hill of Beith to the Scout Centre at Fordell. It was 10.45pm when I arrived. Bob, Martin, and Andreas had arrived at about 9.30pm so they must have been steaming back from Braemar; thinking about it, this was the sort of terrain they would have made short work of.
It was like entering another territory. Before becoming a serious cyclist I had been a hill walker and mountaineer. Working in Aberdeen in 1994 I had stayed over for a weekend and bagged 14 Munros in two days (a Munro is a mountain over 3000 feet in Scotland, the selection of which is rooted in history and lost to modern knowledge, even more abstruse than the old AAA system), one of the walks starting from the Cairnwell. Here was a land of heather and cotton grass and peat bog that I knew and understood. In bad weather this would be fierce terrain but we had a gentle breeze was on our backs and misty cloud drifting on the mountain tops. I got into a steady rhythm and we were going fine for a few miles until Zigzag announced he had a crisis; he had left his bottle back in the café. He decided to go back, so once again I was on my own. But that little bit of company and comfortable pace had got my mojo back. I settled into the long climb up to the Cairnwell and enjoyed the evening. At one point I began to get quite excited about getting back by 9pm or so but then I realised my watch had stopped.
I went upstairs, sorted out my kit and had a shower and then struggled to eat a large portion of excellent fish pie. The hall was beginning to fill up with arrivals. It was midnight by the time I went back up stairs and scrambled up to my top bunk (the consequence of being a late arrival). I set the alarm on my mobile phone for 03:30 to give me 3 hours sleep. It had been a good day. 356km had been completed in 15 hours and 45 minutes and I would have a reasonable rest before what should be an easier second day. Things were going very much to plan.
One thing I was looking forward to was the descent of the Cairnwell. The magnet on my cycle computer was not quite in place so when I reached 41mph it started giving random numbers and then dropped to zero. I’m fairly confident I hit 50mph on this fast descent; I certainly didn’t touch the brakes. After that the route followed the valley, descending most of the time but with a few short rhythm busting uphill sections. This was part of a 78km section on the A93 so I used my cycle computer to count down the miles first to Blairgowrie and then to Perth. There were a couple of showers and at one point I thought I might need my rain jacket again, but then they passed. It really was a beautiful evening’s ride with hardly any traffic despite following a trunk road. A rider on a recumbent stopped to cheer me on; he was a local Audax rider who had come to take a few photographs and offer encouragement. I was tired by the time I got to Perth. The traffic lights were a nuisance. Here was another place of memories. I had stayed here involuntarily in 1988 on a walking holiday. A not particularly nice weather forecast had encouraged me to visit the city and explore Scone Palace. But a core plug failed in the exhaust manifold of my old Audi 80 (remarkably only a mile or so from the only Audi garage in the Highlands of Scotland). They didn’t have a spare to hand, so I had to book myself into a bed and breakfast for a night whilst they got a part shipped and fixed the car. That was where I bought my Munro’s Tables and got into Munrobagging, trying to climb all 290-odd (very much like a Brevet 25000 to recognise a lifetime’s achievement). I stopped many years ago recognising that the Scottish Highlands were inconveniently located for someone living in Basingstoke, with my count on 147 (which at that time was exactly halfway – a little like the distinction between BR and BRM – they reconsider things from time to time and decide that a mountain that isn’t currently a Munro is more deserving than one that is – so I am not sure of the current total. If I did have more spare time I’d rather go cycling in the Alps now). I confused myself with the route sheet, found the centre of Perth deserted of eating-places and got an ATM receipt. This didn’t address my need to eat but I resolved to stop at the first filling station. Here I got a chicken sandwich, packet of cheese and onion crisps and a milkshake. I sat down in the lee of the filling station wall, struggling to eat this not-particularly-appetising fare, wishing that my nose would stop dripping. I was disturbed by a group including Hummers, Postie, and Dave Bradshaw who seemed to have had similar trouble in locating eating establishments. Their company perked me up. It was getting cold and so I did not wait for them, assuming that, as a group, they would catch me up. I knew there was a long climb after Aberargie because we would be repeating our route back. However, it was here that I found my long16
Day 2 It seemed to take me longer to get ready than I had hoped. But I did get two bowls of Crunchy Nut and a large bowl of porridge, washed down with two cups of tea. This set me up. It had been still and dry when I went to bed but now the wind was blowing steadily from the west and there was some rain in that wind. There was no sign of Martin or Bob but they had said that they were going to start later. I wanted to get back by 8pm to have a decent break before the final day; all in order to make sure I caught the midnight train on Sunday night. Graeme, the organiser, told me that the weather forecast was windy with a few showers, but easing later on. I did not check what he meant by later on. I descended into Inverkeithing carefully, with just a long sleeved top and bib tights. I didn’t need the lights at 4.30am. I did not want to miss the route onto the Forth Road Bridge, though this turned out to be easy to find. I think that makes a full collection of major road bridges: Severn, Humber, Tamar, Forth, and Tay, though I am sure there are others I have not done that others would consider important. There was a strengthening crosswind and the sky to the west looked angry and threatening. As I reached the B800 and looked for the brown sign for Bedlam Paintball it began to rain. I recognised this section from the Only for Softies Audax organised by Sonya Crawford a couple of years before (it was raining then). At the time I had been quite weary so it was nice to do the section on legs freshened by an overnight sleep and being pushed along by a considerable tailwind. More careful navigation took me to the seafront at Cramond Glebe. Another day, another north coast, this time the coast of the Firth of Forth. There is something magical about north coasts in this part of the world in the summer, with the pearly light of dawn coming from the north-east. When south coasts would still be shaded, the north coast is lit with an artist’s palette, an infinite range of colours too delicate for human manufacture. The route took us through a countryside park, a wide strip of tarmac along which I was propelled by a considerable tailwind. All in all I could ignore the angry scudding clouds and the spitting rain. Sadly the park ended and the route took us through the docks and harbour conversions of Leith and through to Portobello. A seemingly endless series of traffic lights turned red on me and the roads were as patched and cut-up as any other built-up area. I was feeling a bit rough, with an acid stomach and runny nose and gave up with the intricate navigation in Portobello, sticking to the A199, knowing I had to get to Tranent. The rain continued, never quite heavy enough to put on the rain jacket but heavy enough to get into the eyes and make the ride unpleasant. I didn’t have much power on the climbs to Tranent. On the other hand I did realise that I had the privilege of being at the head of the ride. To the south and west were the wild lands of the Lammermuir Hills. To the north and east were more rolling border lands. The route took me closer to the A1 than I was expecting (we were only 4 miles from Haddington) but step by step it rose through villages. The scenery was very pleasant. After 40 miles I stopped, ate a Twix left over from the day before and had a comfort break. Ahead I could see the last sharp part of a climb, a faint scar on a brown heathery boggy hill. Now I could feel the full force of the wind pushing me along. As I
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Randonnées began the descent the speed rose indecently quickly. There was no need to pedal, all I had to do was hang on. The numbers reached the 40s. I could see trees and a sign of a cattle grid in the far distance. The magic 50mph was reached. I let out a whoop of joy. This was great. Then I began to feather the brakes and seek out any imperfections on that cattle grid that might cause me to tip up. The next 20km followed a valley. If anything the river was higher and in greater spate than those I had seen on Saturday; the overnight rain must have been very heavy. There were a few short hills but these were generally swallowed up by the 30mph tailwind. It was all very exciting but forming in the back of my mind was a doubt. This was not going to ease by the time I left Berwick. There was a long stretch of almost due west after that, which was going to be into the teeth of this wind. In good Audax fashion I decided to concentrate only on the next control and put the following stage out of my mind. I had got into my head that the stage was 100km and it was only as I reached a turn for Chirnside and decided to stop and check the route sheet (it was also a good time to eat a flapjack) that I realised it was actually 112km. The next section of road had flood-damage. They had put a road-closed sign up and were ineffectively trying to scrape off loose stones using a bulldozer. After this I was soon at Chirnside and flying along the A6105 to Berwick. More tailwind pushed me along at a rapid rate of knots. It was obviously going to be much harder when I turned round towards Galashiels.
A swollen Tweed with the Eildon Hills behind photo: Rimas Grigenas
I remembered Berwick from a family holiday the week after LEL. I had taken my son there to find some cycling kit and we looked around. I remembered some shops in the Market Street but as I turned in caféblindness took over (this is where a tired AUK rides past a perfectly good café and ends up in a Tesco or grubby petrol station). I turned a corner into a street that looked like it had run out of shops and resorted to asking a little old lady who kindly pointed me to a place two doors down. Her suggestion was excellent. I had a large strong coffee, a bacon roll and scrambled egg on toast, ingeniously made by bubbling steam from the attachment on the coffee machine. It was some of the best scrambled egg I have ever tasted and I assure you that it was not just because it was greatly needed. Fortified I set out into the westerly blast, for about a hundred yards until I found a small corner shop where I could top up with flapjacks and similar bonk rations. Now it was time for a crawl. The first 5km were done at an average speed of less than 20kph, even though it was flat or only slightly up hill. Heading towards Coldstream there were a few places that were easier, either where trees blocked the wind’s passage or there were slight downhills, but after Coldstream the sun went in and progress seemed to become even harder. The route took us over several undulations to avoid Kelso and after a couple of these I knew I needed a five minute stop just to restore sanity. As I was sitting down in the lee of the wall another old lady drove into the drive of a nearby house and asked how I was. I told her it was windy but I was OK and she asked where I was going. “Galashiels”, “That’s a long way, where have you come from?” “Inverkeithing” She did not seem surprised, as if she had seen other riders on this route before. The clouds were looking angry as I neared the Jedburgh Hills. There was a nice long descent and I picked up the B6360 with only 10k to go. However, if I had not stopped for another flapjack, it might as well have been 100k as I would have bonked. Fuelled, I scrambled up the next couple of hills out of the saddle, the trees thrashing around me as the wind caught them. I had been checking my progress using distance on the cycle computer and I reached the point where I should turn into Winston Road. There was a road sign, halfway down a road that looked like it led to a council estate, faded and wind-blasted. I checked carefully. It was Winston Road. Glad of this I descended the hill and soon found myself being welcomed by Lucy McTaggart as the first to Gala. Even more welcome was the offer of pizza. This and cake and tea and I was restored. Bob and Martin arrived about fifteen minutes after me. They had made up about an hour, which made sense. They suggested I should wait and ride with them but given that the next section was hilly I decided it would be easier to go at my own pace. I was sure that they would catch me up sooner rather than later.
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On the road to Braemar photo: Rimas Grigenas There was a steep hill out of Galashiels, which led into some sheltered woods. My get up and go had got up and gone a long while ago so I just laboured up the hill and hunkered down in to the wind. It was warmed in the sheltered valley, the leaves were thick on the trees and rustled around as the wind swirled and eddied. It would have been nice to find a sheltered spot except everything was saturated by the overnight rain and topped up by a recent shower. After a stretch of A-road the route took us on the other side of a big river. I had hoped that this would be a valley floor road but it climbed for a couple of miles, a tiny little lane a little akin to some of the Surrey lanes around Hindhead except that the surrounding hills were much bigger. At one point a family of stoats crossed the road in front of me, eight or ten of them. Again progress felt slow but at least it was sheltered. I passed a few mountain bikers who looked at me incuriously. The distance crept up on the cycle computer and I was back on another route etched into my memory, the climb out of Innerleithen to the Gordon Arms. That had been another windy day. I took it slowly up the climb, which was also mercifully sheltered, measuring my progress by the gradually dwindling burn and the increasing nearness to the skyline. Just when it looked like there was no way through the hills a gap opened up and I was exposed to a damp blast and a sky full of thick grey cloud. I descended the first part of the hill on the middle ring before turning a corner and getting into some proper gears and, after a slower descent than on LEL reached the shut Gordon Arms that look like it 17
Randonnées was undergoing fitful redevelopment. In its lee I munched on a banana and contemplated a long section of exposed headwind. On April 29 the weather in England was appalling. Gale force north-easterly winds lashed the country with heavy rain and temperatures of 5 Celsius. There were three 200km Audax rides, one of which was cancelled and the others didn’t have their entries decimated for that would have indicated one in ten not finishing. It was the opposite. One in ten did finish. I had set off for a 200km perm in the worst of the conditions at 2.30am, completing the ride after having to cyclo-cross around a fallen tree and risking the 45mph gusts that ran along the scarp of the Lambourn Downs like an assassin in the night. I call this method training. You can never tell what will happen on a major Audax ride (my first two were PBP 2007 and LEL 2009). If you are not used to stonking headwinds for over 100km, lashing rain and the dark, then it can be terribly demoralising, not to mention dangerous if you realise your kit doesn’t work. In my view, the way to prepare, is once in a while (at least every two years) take on these conditions, go out where the wind shouts back and the rain scores lines into your soul and learn what it takes. Then, when it happens for real you will know what to do. So I got my head down, stuck into a low gear, and counted down the miles. It was alright for a while along the main road but once I turned off onto the little road to Talla Linns and Tweedsmuir it was harder. The wind was a solid force off the reservoirs and, as this was a road consisting of tarmac sprayed onto a hummocky landscape each little rise exposed me to the blast, wrecked any rhythm and brought me almost to a standstill. Worse still I convinced myself that my rear tyre was going flat. In the middle of this wild and beautiful landscape, with sunbeams breaking through the clouds and touching the water I stopped and slithered down the shelter of a bank to examine the tyre. It was clearly some psychological trick. The tyre was fine. I ate half a flapjack and continued my labours up the hill into increasing darkness (even if it was only 5pm on one of the longest days of the year). Finally I reached the top, and, as I started the welcome descent the wind blasted rain at me. I very quickly stopped as I would have been soaked and chilled and struggled to put my rain jacket on with the wind blowing it inside out. At this point two bedraggled cyclists caught up with me, Martin and Bob. “Good idea” they said, seeing me struggling with the jacket. “I’ll see you at the bottom” I said, finally getting my left arm into the thin fabric of the Assos lightweight raintop. Rain lashed itself on to the smooth whiteness. It was time to go; this was no place to hang about. The descent was steep, gravel strewn, and with a sharp left-hander at the bottom. With swirling head- and cross-winds there was no risk of reckless descending. Bob caught me up on the flat ground by the lower reservoir. We found our way down a second descent and onto a main road where, for the first time in 120km we had a tailwind. I managed to cram down some bonk rations. Martin caught us up and after a few more km we stopped to take off our rain jackets and I crammed in most of the rest of my bonk rations, leaving little more than a single gel. Then we were off and running again, doing big turns on a fast road. In Broughton we turned back into the wind. Bob was on the front on a short hill where a gust caught him as if he had been hit by a bus. I found myself back in front and hammered it most the remainder of the way into Biggar, just keen to get to a proper stop. We found a chippy and I ate steak pie and chips and very nice it was too. I washed it down with a Coke, which was probably a mistake as I suffered badly from reflux for the rest of the day. We set off. Between Biggar and Carnwath there was a brisk crosswind and I struggled. I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself keeping up with the other two. I had a much earlier start planned the next day and so needed something in reserve. I had so far got round a tough day and it looked like, despite the weather, I would not be far off a 9pm finish. So I let them go, plodded to Carnwath and stopped in a town 18
that had a rough reputation to buy a couple of Twix. It was time for long straight and demoralising A70, with a 24km stretch before the next turn. I started slowly and gradually picked up speed although was fairly hopeless on the climbs. The clouds lifted and evening sunshine picked out my route. The wind eased, much as I had predicted to Graeme that it would, but it still helped and, when I eventually got to the downhill bit, I enjoyed spinning a big gear and keeping the speed high. It was a predictable chore working across to the Forth Road Bridge but a great joy to ride it in the sun and less labour than I thought for the climb up to the Scout Hall, where I arrived about 9.15am (having stopped again at the Shell petrol station on the south side of the Road Bridge to get a couple of flapjacks). I went up stairs, took a Moralpro antireflux tablet (given to me by a pharmacist in France when I was suffering badly on PBP), had a shower, sorted out my kit for the next day and went to eat, struggling with a chick pea and pasta bake that I hoped would have sufficient fibre to assist the tablet in its work. I went to bed at 11pm with a 2am alarm call.
‘The wind was a solid force off the reservoirs.... I slept well, tossing and turning a bit and waking up once. It was a little before my alarm call but I decided to get up anyway. Day Three
......each little rise exposed me to the blast, wrecked any rhythm and brought me almost to a standstill.....’
This was it. I had taken nearly 17 hours over 324km on Saturday and if I had similar conditions on the Sunday the 336km could easily take 19 hours. A 2.30am start would mean a 21.30pm finish, which would be quite close to the wire in terms of getting packed, fed, and leaving by 11.30pm. Graeme wished me luck as I set off at 2.30am, with a bowl of Crunchy Nut and a bowl of Porridge inside me. This time it was dark. There was a lightness in the northern sky but not enough to see the route sheet or the potholes by. I was soon confused by the roundabouts around the north side of the Forth Road Bridge but persistence found me on the right route and the A895 to the Kincardine Bridge. There was one wrong turn near Culross (which I discovered when almost getting back onto the main road) then I was OK for a long while, picking up the delightful cycle route to Alloa, the lights of Grangemouth a comforting distance away across the Firth of Forth. My high-viz tabard was a nuisance, it kept tucking itself into my pocket when I tried to get my route sheet out, so somewhere on the western outskirts of Alloa I took it off and stripped the lights off the bike. I had a flapjack and carried on along the flat roads to Bridge of Allan and the old A9. The road rose surprisingly uphill, reminding me that I hadn’t really checked this day out on the maps beforehand. I remembered Dunblane from a terrible massacre of schoolchildren many years ago, but there was no trace of such evil on this peaceful Sunday morning. I followed the road to Kinbuck. Here there was an info control. I got to the point where I expected the info (the maximum vehicle on a bridge) and there was a bridge but no sign. After about half a mile I turned back because my mind had been wandering. There was no such sign. I memorised something about the local village hall and then found the actual info on the next corner. Such things can mesmerise a tired rider. It was a lovely calm morning as I entered Braco and started on a long but gentle climb. This road was one of the pleasant surprises of the Mille Alba, entering a low-level wilderness that once upon a time I would have bypassed but on a cycle ride was required to look around and appreciate the raw beauty of the Scottish landscape, rolling hills and peat bogs, wondering just where the road might go. At the point I thought it might require a further climb I found myself on an immaculate descent, sweeping turns continuing for a couple of miles until the final flat run in to the control at Comrie. The town looked deserted which was bad news as I had been on the go for four hours but then I spotted the van dropping off papers to
Arrivée November 2012
Randonnées the newsagent. This allowed me to pick up a BBQ sausage sandwich, crisps and chocolate milk. There was a little park almost next to the newsagent so I had this curious breakfast, the sort of thing that only an Audax rider would breakfast upon, staining the brand new seat by accidentally tipping over my chocolate milk. Guiltily I continued on a flat road to the west. There was a little bid of wind blowing across Loch Earn in my face, but nothing like the previous day’s blast. I enjoyed the scenery as I rolled along. The climb up Glen Ogle passed pleasantly, a steady rhythm taking me up to the summit. I could really do with a coffee. But there was nothing open in Killin as it was before 8am so I stopped for a brief raid on my bonk rations before continuing, looking for the turn for the Bridge of Balgie. There was a van looking to turn out of the road, which made me hesitate. By the time we had sorted ourselves out I was on the hills. After 800km hills tend to seem a lot steeper than they really are but a good chunk of the bottom part of this hill must have been 10%. It required all the granny gears I had. The woods closed in, thick coniferous woods; even with a temperature of 12C it was oppressive. But I kept a steady rhythm and emerged on to a bare mountain slope. I worked up this, looking at the Tarmachan Ridge for guidance on my progress. A couple of cars came down the hill and I rolled steadily into the passing places to let them down. 31 years ago I had come up this hill in a car with my parents on a journey that would lead us to the summit of Perthshire, Ben Lawers, at almost 4000 feet, one of the major mountains of Scotland. This time I would restrict myself to the pass, a thin ribbon of tarmac that was challenge enough. I saw the dam, a bleak concrete wall ahead, then the road climbed steeply once more. The descent was amazing, narrow, twisting, with big exposure on every right hand bend, and washed out gravel ready to rip the tyres of the unwary. It chilled my stomach but it was exhilarating, yet another highlight to a trip that was bordering on the amazing. By the time I got to the bottom, wired from constant concentration on the road, I was quite dazed and took a couple of goes to work out the information control. Then I realised that (at 8.30am) although the café was not open the shop was so I said hello to the lady who was manning the place. There was no hope of hot food or coffee so I bought a banana and struggled to eat it. The wind was getting up; there had been signs on Ben Lawers. But the good news was that it was from the west and it blew me down Glen Lyon. I took a fair number of risks on this valley route, taking the corners at high speed so that I would maintain my momentum on the flat sections. There was plenty of “wow’ in the scenery but little time to look at it. At the end there was a T-junction and the valley opened out. Now it received the wind properly and, although I was now going on the flat rather than gradually downhill my speed improved and I was regularly doing 20mph with the long grass blowing waves in my direction. This was more like it. I kept a good speed all the way to Aberfeldy where, once again, I began to suffer café blindness. I had done over 100 miles (169km) by the time I reached this control, all without the assistance of caffeine. A couple of tourists pointed me in the direction of a bakery and café where the English proprietor saw me right with a large black coffee, bacon eggs and beans on toast. There were a couple of Australian tourists in the café and I correctly guessed that they were from Coffs Harbour. All day I had been making connections with my past (Beinn Ghlas and Beinn Lawers were my first two Munros, we had stayed at Balquhidder near Lochearnhead). But now I moved to a part of the route that was new. What’s more, I realised I hadn’t properly researched it. The climb out of Aberfeldy was quite steep and was obviously going to go on for quite some time. I began to boil in my bib tights; I never like stopping on a hill but the alternative was to melt, so I stripped down to shorts and a short jersey for the first time on the ride. It immediately started raining out of nowhere, but I persisted on the climb and by the time I reached the top it was clear. This was a long climb, rising over 300m, and one with a couple of false summits. I did do some of it out of the saddle, but more to give me a change of position; the climbing legs were still working. On the other side was a long descent. I could have rolled down this at a not very high speed, but with some wind assistance I decided to
Arrivée November 2012
The dam at Ben Lawers photo: Rimas Grigenas work up through the gears. After a mile or so I got the 53-12 turning and had an exhilarating time. After reaching a forest section there was a turn to the right and a short climb to Amulree. Here I felt the strength of the headwind and was glad that my early start had spared me riding into much more of this. The climb was very short and the route soon took us down another valley, again most a slight descent where it was important to get the big gears turning. I was going really well and looking forward to the next control. I picked up the turn to Logiealmond exactly at the right distance and carried on with another, steeper descent. The hard climb out of Aberfeldy had been a fantastic investment as the majority of the stage after that was downhill. I followed the winding B-road round and began looking for a turn at the 3km point as indicated on the route sheet. At almost exactly this point a creature ran across in front of me, small, red, tufty ears and a tail, too small to be a fox. It took a second for things to sink in. After 40 years or so of hoping to see a red squirrel in the wild I had finally and incontrovertibly seen one, long after giving up any real expectation. Enraptured by this I plugged up a hill and down a descent looking for the R to Fowlis Wester sign. It did not appear. I must have done nearly 5km since the last turn. Something had gone wrong. Reluctantly I retraced my steps and got to the previous junction. The main road went round to the right quite sharply and there was a R (actually SO) but no Fowlis Wester on the signpost. Could it be that I had enjoyed the descent so much that I had missed a turn. I looked at the steep geography where such a turn might be. Not even a Landrover would make that. I look around but there was no-one to ask. So I decided that I would take a guess and assume that the road had been repainted since the last time the route-sheet had been checked. My guess worked out. 200m down the road was a little sign to Fowlis Wester that apparently pointed to a farmyard. Years of occasional Audaxes in the South West of England meant that I was not put off by this and sure enough it turned out to be a tiny little road that took me in the right direction. It climbed for a while and then descended in true Devon-lane fashion (steep and lots of blind corners) to a crossroads. The lane then turned sharp right to be parallel with the main road and I had visions of another wrong turn (a genuine error in a route sheet can be quite unsettling and often leads me into imagining others when they are not there). The road was newly surfaced with loose chippings causing me to worry about punctures. But I survived these fears and rolled into St David’s where they applauded me for being the first rider in. That was a really nice feeling. So was the bridie (a Scottish steak pie – apparently what Forfar is famous for if you are wondering about the question we asked on day 1). I told them about my little adventure and they sent someone out to make it obvious where the route went. On the forum they mentioned me as looking ‘fresh’. As I don’t recall making any dubious remarks to the helpers I assume that meant that I looked 19
Randonnées in good condition. I certainly felt fine, for someone who had ridden 900km. It had been a relatively easy stage and I had fed well over the last couple of hours. They had a track pump and we checked the tyre pressures. The rear was down to about 60psi (the one that I had repaired in Aboyne) so we topped both up and I was on my way. It took a while to get into rhythm. The legs had seized up a little, but by the time I approached Auchterarder I was going well again. The route sheet instruction “Keep L and thro MUIRTON village to L @ T in GLENEAGLES” had me puzzled, especially when the L @ T that I did find seemed to have me going in the wrong direction. I was lost again and decided that I would follow road signs that might help me get back. This led me onto the busy A9 for half-a-mile but then I picked up the A823 to Dunfermline and was back on route. There was another long climb up Glen Eagles (the original geographic feature rather than the golf course); by now I was getting a little ragged, doing too much out of the saddle. We were in another delightful range of hills, totally unexpected given that I had not looked properly at this bit of the route. The wind helped in the main, which was good as there wasn’t much of a descent of the other side. It was warm and the legs worked quite well through Glendevon. I had left St David’s at about 1.30pm and so had plenty of time, with 7 ½ hours to complete the final 125km of the event by my self-imposed curfew of 9pm. Another unexpected climb was the long drag up to Knockhill; I had heard of this motor racing circuit but never been able to place where it was. Fields full of cars and an eerie high pitched whining sound indicated that there was an event on but fortunately I passed whilst the racing was happening and the road was empty. From there it was mostly downhill to Dunfermline. I had a couple of dodgy moments at traffic lights where my weariness started to tell but there was a really good feeling when I discovered that the road I was on joined the B891 almost opposite the Scout Centre at Fordell Firs and the stage was about to finish. I arrived at 4pm, again to congratulations for being the first rider on the road. Here Graeme informed me that the next two riders (I assumed Martin and Bob) had just left or were about to leave St David’s, so I had two clear hours on them. I’d never set out to be in this position, or assumed that I would be the first back, but it seemed that barring unforeseen accidents I would be so. I kept my meal break quite short, eating an omelette and some cake as there would be plenty more time later. I lightened my pack, taking out bib tights and a few other things and then headed off at about 4.30pm. It was very hard to get my head in gear for the last stage of 70km. For two-and-a-half days I had been concentrating on each stage as it had come, focusing on the balance between good speed and reserving energy, of eating and sleeping whilst maintaining digestion, of saving mental reserves for the hard bits, rather than thrashing myself to hold a wheel. Now it was all about to come to an end, but not quite. The road surfaces through Cowdenbeath were shocking, especially for a rear with 940km of wear and tear. I made a simple navigation error at “Thro CROSHILL LOCHGELLY & BALLINGRY (B981 becomes B920)” - I turned right on the B891 rather than going straight onto the B920 – simple failure to consult route sheet. I bashed my left shin on a pedal when failing to get the cleat set at a set of temporary lights on a hill. I climbed out of the saddle in a clumsy fashion rather than getting in the right gear. I knew there was a big hill to Falkland and I was letting it get to my head. Gradually I got my head back into gear, just by concentrating on the basics, getting the pedals to turn fluently, being sensible about gears, enjoying an unexpected descent and then focusing on the turn out of Leslie up into the Lomond Hills. It was marked as “easy to miss” and would have been if I had not researched on the map beforehand and known it was about 300m after the church. The directions were painted on a wall rather than a standard fingerpost road sign. I could see the ground stretching upwards but it was not clear where the road went. After a gentle start there was a steep ramp that got me into the granny gears and then a series of ramps thereafter, which I dealt with in slow plodding fashion, focusing on the ever-nearing summit of East Lomond Hill. It was not done with speed, style or finesse but I did not care. I would grab a snack from Falkland and then spin the wheels back 20
to Fordell Firs. At the top I expected an immediate descent but there was a kilometre or so of plateau with an inviting footpath leading to West Lomond a couple of miles away; but that sort of thing was a past activity. It was time to concentrate on a fast descent, with a couple of surprising corners, one of which showed the track of a rear bicycle tyre locking up under emergency braking (Graeme claimed credit to that one on the helper’s ride; it must have been a nervous moment). Falkland was shut except for pubs so I used an ATM and delved into my bonk rations. I was cold after the descent and wished that I had not left my bib tights back at the base for this short but difficult leg. The next 4km were on a freshly dressed road into the wind, not particularly good for my psyche and I started along the cycle path in Strathmiglo wearily. I found that if I rode on the wrong side of this lane I got shelter from the wind and this encouraged me on a never-ending slight uphill drag. Meanwhile the sky had clouded over, although it was still a fine evening with fine scenery, a broad flat valley, rolling hills, and the steeper slopes of the Lomond Hills to my left. I thought I had missed a R turn on the routesheet but then realised that I had read the same line on the routesheet twice and so was much nearer the info control. I was running on empty so I finished off a flapjack at the info control. From here it was only 5km to Kinross where I needed another receipt for the penultimate control. I had a strawberry flavoured milk, which was what I would have rather liked at Falkland. Now it was time for a time trial back to the finish on roads familiar from Friday. It was not a particularly stylish time trial and I ran out of steam about 300m from the final turn, but I did not care. I rolled into Fordell Firs to see Zigzag leaving. He raised his hand to congratulate me and we did a careful “high five” to celebrate success. I got a cheer from the helpers for being the first to finish, sat down and had a cup of tea before getting ready to pack. Once I’d sorted out my bags, showered, and phoned home it was about 9pm, so I had time for a couple of beers and a chat. Martin and Bob did not get in until 10.30pm, so had taken about the same time for the final day as I had. Various people asked me about the final stage, including Andreas, who told me he had gone too hard on the first day and wished he had stayed with me! I gave them the same answers, it’s about 4 hours, the hard to miss turn is 300m after the church. How can you convey all the information you need to know about a stage in a couple of stages; you cannot predict how someone will feel, doubtless the points they struggle with will be different from yours. Someone who read my Wordpress article on PBP said that I could have been describing a completely different event from the one that they had experienced. I think that is a fair expression. Audax is one of the closest things to a solipsistic experience that I have encountered, where we become completely wrapped up in our own world, detached from our day-to-day experience. It is that which is so valuable to me; it becomes a form of self-renewal from all of the other pressures that I face. I both succeeded and struggled on my return to work. I made all the meetings, did all the things I needed to do, and approached a particularly critical team meeting with a fresh heart. But after a week I felt weighed down again. I realised that I was escaping back to those wide open Scottish vistas, and the winding road that reached up through the forests and into those hills where the wind shouted back at me and the rain glistened in the low sunshine. I had ridden 800km of 1000km on my own, without other riders on the road. This was different from my solitary excursions on PBP and LEL where I was often not riding in company but there were others on the road; for 10 hours on Saturday and more than 15 hours on Sunday I was in complete isolation. Martin asked me about that, wondering if I would have got better riding with others. I don’t think there was a simple answer to give, but on reflection, at that time and place I was happy to be alone with my thoughts, riding at my own pace, living my own experience. I certainly couldn’t have stayed with Martin and Bob; they were a little bit faster but had a completely different rhythm to mine. Besides. I had a train to catch. At 11.30pm I said my farewells, tied the panniers to the rack, and hoisted the huge rucksack onto my back and rolled down the hill, for the train that would take me back to London.
Arrivée November 2012
I’m putting together a play list to remind me of the Mille Alba. Here’s what I have come up with so far. Arrive Thursday night ; forecast pretty terrible so let’s start with Before the Deluge (Jackson Browne) Or the whole of the album Before the Flood (Bob Dylan & The Band) which includes Rainy Day Woman, Endless Highway, Blowin in the Wind and The Shape I’m in. Get up Friday morning and it’s still raining. Here Comes The Rain Again (The Eurythmics) Why does it always rain on me (Travis) Day 1 Forfar/Banchory/Braemar/ Perth 356km
June 22nd to 25th 2012 Peter Turner
Remember to concentrate and pay attention to the route sheet and Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds) Otherwise you could find yourself on The Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads) If you get lost you may have to ask directions from a local (Is this the way to) Aberfeldy? (apologies to Tony Christie) The strong headwind has made this leg really tough and it’s taking longer than expected so you may have to be riding All of the Day & All of the Night (The Kinks) And you may feel I am Weary (let me rest) by the Cox Family on the soundtrack of the film ’Oh, Brother, Where art thou’ but Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush)
We need something uplifting (and Scottish) so what better than The Proclaimers I’m on my Way I’m Gonna be (500 miles)
The climb up and over towards Tweedsmuir was the hardest part. We’ve got to get out of this place (The Animals)
First stage ; see photographer ahead Laughter in the Rain (Neil Sedaka) *
Day 3 Lochearnhead/Aberfeldy/Auchterarder 266km
Lots of debris washed onto the road by the heavy overnight rain causing quite a few punctures. This Charming Man (The Smiths) (Its first line is ‘Punctured bicycle on hillside, desolate.’)
Feel better after some rest so how about Out on the Weekend (Neil Young) Or one for the prog rockers, Long Distance Runaround (Yes)
First major climb up Cairn O’Mount ; let’s have some classic British rock from Led Zeppelin Misty Mountain Hop Stairway to Heaven Ramble On Arrive at Banchory to join A93 all the way to Perth. The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles) Day 2 Berwick/Galashiels/Biggar/Forth Bridge 320km Set off over the Forth Bridge to skirt round Edinburgh. Only one song will do :Sunshine on Leith (The Proclaimers) Although, in reality, the sun remained obscured by more clouds so maybe Raintown by Deacon Blue would be more appropriate. Much windier today so for the leg from Berwick to Biggar it helps to have a group to ride with. With a little help from my friends (Joe Cocker) Let’s Work Together (Canned Heat) Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones) otherwise it could be Idiot Wind (Bob Dylan)
By now the time spent in the saddle may be taking its toll so remember to keep shifting your hand position or you may get Needles and Pins (The Searchers) Hopefully it won’t get so bad as It hurts like Hell (Aretha Franklin) Better take some painkillers so it becomes Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd) Feel like something more classical? Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony should suffice or, for the climb up Ben Lawer maybe Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King would fit the bill. Alternatively how about Ain’t no Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross) Descend to the wonderful post office/café at Balgie Bridge Halfway to Paradise (Billy Fury) or even Heaven is a Place on Earth (Belinda Carlisle) Leg 4 The Lomond Hills 72km Beautiful sunrise this morning ; do you remember the classic Northern Lights (Renaissance)
Following the valley of the Tweed Many Rivers to Cross (Jimmy Cliff )
Not far to go now so Don’t Stop me Now (Queen) or Nothing’s going to stop us now (Starship)
In the Borders now so how about 24 Hours from Kelso (Gene Pitney)
Finally the finish is in sight I got you (I feel good) by James Brown
Arrivée November 2012
Tearing along the Belgian Diagonales “Call me Freddy - not Mr Maertens”. The twice world road race champion and Tour de France green jersey modestly corrected us as he stamped our brevet cards and added his signature at the Centrum Ronde van Vlanderen (the Tour of Flanders Museum). I haven’t often met a famous personality (although I did once step on the Yorkshire cricketer Freddie Trueman’s foot). I really wanted to shake the famous man’s hand. He was the ‘Cav’ of his day. He quietly acknowledged our remarks with a wry smile, before a smiling lady in the museum cafe offered to go next door and fetch some hot food for us.
his is Belgium. A country that smiles at being the butt of humour from its European neighbours and a country we were to relish for the next few days. We had already savoured the wonderful beer. We had even found one with a strength of 11.4%! Jim Churton and I had just reached our first control at Oudenaarde after a 5 am start from a very wet Ostend. We were riding the 320km Diagonale de Belgique Oostende – Virton. We had 24 hours to ride it but we were planning to avoid a night ride. The organiser had given us very smart brevet cards and we devised a free route between the control towns. We then planned to take a rest day at Virton, a pretty town in the southeast corner of Belgium, and then start our second Diagonale, 255km from Virton to Baarle-Hertog, an enclave of Belgium just inside the Netherlands We had made good progress over the first 80km to Oudenaarde that morning. In Belgium all cyclists, unless in a group of 10 or more, are required by law to ride on the designated fietspad or cycle path parallel to the road. The standard of these is often of equal quality to the road and the cyclist has priority at roundabouts. Traffic in Belgium can be as busy as that in Britain so we quickly learnt to appreciate this separation. If you don’t keep to the fietspad the odd idiot driver thinks he is entitled to treat you as invisible. As we climbed away from the flat lands of Flanders the dark clouds moved in. We hit some sections of pavé which gave us that authentic feel of a boneshaker classic. We went off course twice and discovered how few road signs there are at junctions out in the countryside. Having just got back on track the most almighty hailstorm was unleashed upon us and we had to seek protection from stoning 22
Freddy Maertens photo: Simon Jones
under a parked tractor. Were we glad we were wearing every item of clothing we had brought with us. Winter gloves in May?? It was to be one of the coldest Mays in Belgium for years we were told. It continued to rain steadily after Ath as we picked up the pace a bit on the long straight road to Mons (140km). A place of great significance in 1914 the town did not look at its best as the rain increased, as did the wind. The idea of a cold sandwich from a supermarket chiller did not thrill us and instead we found a warm welcome and some sustaining hot food in one of those many takeaways that help make Belgium such a delight for the soggy randonneur. Much restored it was difficult to leave our haven behind with the pools of our rainwater on the floor. The patron bid us “bon courage” and on we went. As we approached the half-way control at Thuin (170km) we began our wet descent into the valley of the R. Sambre. On the way down there was some more pavé with some old narrow gauge rails running down it. I cursed aloud as my wheels went from under me and I hit the deck, landing on my hip and elbow. I should have known better. Jim behind me was already assuming the worst and thinking our ride was over. But after hopping to my feet and hobbling around for a short time I felt ok. A man came over from his garage to offer me his help and a drink. He really cheered me up when he told us someone came down at this point everyday! After a few moments we were back on the bikes, crossing the river and climbing up to Thuin. The friendly barman stamped our brevet cards and provided us with a well needed coffee. A quick check on the injury situation revealed some impressive bloody grazes but no real damage thankfully. Briefly we entered France crossing the R. Meuse at Givet, which looked very picturesque and noticeably more affluent than its Belgian cousins. But soon we were out in the rural lanes of Belgium, climbing out of the Meuse valley as darkness fell. Once more there were
no road signs. Just as we thought we were still on track in a small village there was no road sign of any kind, even a street name to give us a clue. We were now in the high Ardenne with the temperature falling rapidly. The forecast was for 1˚C that night. The idea of a hotel for the night suddenly seemed a very attractive idea – to hell with the schedule! We were beginning to shiver. There was no reply at the “tavern” we were directed to. Was Belgian hospitality going to let us down at the most crucial time? At that moment we spotted a small low door that was open in the basement below the terrace. ”I’m stopping here” said Jim. Without more delay we groped our way into the darkness of what turned out to be the boiler room. We tried to get ourselves into some sort of awkward sleeping position for the night across some chairs. The boiler went off and we began to shiver again in our soggy clothes. Mutterings about this being the worst randonnée we had ever ridden were uttered. Dozing fitfully I would wake up to see shadows moving in the light of the open doorway. Each time I expected the sudden shock of the landlord’s challenge? Had we been discovered? Would they send the dogs in? Did the dogs like cyclists? It began to get light and we stealthily left our night refuge without incident and gently began to unbend our stiff limbs as we moved on through the forest. We covered the last 85km of the ride to Virton in relaxed mood, resigned to the fact that the ride was lost and we were well out of time. Much of the countryside here was forest and there was a long descent from the Ardennes to the finish. Virton is a picturesque town and worth more of a look. But our hotel beckoned and we needed to get in, get cleaned up and the laundry done, and then crash out before dinner. There was little left of our rest day. But the hotel did us proud. It had been in the same family for centuries and had huge doors, high ceilings and the food was excellent.
Arrivée November 2012
photos: Simon Jones
on the pavé
Having moved from the ridiculous to the sublime in 24 hours, we were on the road next morning by 5am, heading for the Netherlands on our next Diagonale. Once again it was very cold but the sky was completely clear. We had decided to forget the lanes and stick to the main roads. The forests looked wonderful in their new foliage. After a swift stop in the next control town for a stamp and ‘stickies’ we were soon moving well again in the sunshine, so much so that we did once revert to our own route sheet for some more lanes. This meant crossing a number of valleys and streams but they made a welcome change from the main road. At the top of one of climb we reckoned we should definitely be near our next control at Huy on the R. Meuse, but we did not want to take the wrong descent. A local rider appeared, struggling up the lane ahead of us, followed by his two clubmates. Yes, he gasped, Huy was down this lane but watch the bad surface. Well, that was an under statement. It was not a road so much as a series of irregular deep holes, with loose grit and stones and to cap it all it was 1 in 5. I was amazed the Belgians had been able to get up it at all. Gingerly we descended and with some relief we met up with the main road again at the bottom. Just round the corner was Huy (130km) and our next stamp. Things were looking good. We were almost halfway along the Diagonale. As the countryside of northern Flanders got more open and flatter we picked up the pace again.
on the rivet
Arrivée November 2012
We pushed on to our third control at Diest (205km), another fine Flemish town with interesting clock towers and cobbled market places. We now had 60km left and it was getting colder again. So a good time to get the cards stamped and get some warm food inside us. We got all this in a
café in the market place where the smiles of the waitresses could not have been warmer. This was definitely Belgium! As we covered the last few kilometres the colour of the road signs changed. We were in Holland. But then suddenly it all went back to Belgian colours. We had arrived in BaarleHertog, our final control. It was time to celebrate with a beer or two. After a slap up breakfast of bacon and eggs next morning, we crossed Holland again back to Turnhout to catch the train. But first I had to visit the bike shop with whom I had arranged to take delivery of a bike bag I had bought online. This I needed in order to travel on the high speed train to Paris. (Unlike many of the TGVs in France, the high speed Thalys trains cannot take entire bikes which must be fitted into a bike bag (90cm x 120cm)). So I encountered yet more Belgian kindness as Derik Vriens invited me into his spacious workshop and within minutes had removed what was necessary from the bike and even given it a quick service after its bad weather days on the road. Belgium – I recommend it.
Foot note Since writing this Jim Churton has successfully completed all nine of the Diagonales de Belgique. He is the first British rider to do so. Les Diagonales de Belgique are run by the Fédération Belge du Cyclotourisme. They run from frontier to frontier. Details on the FBC website.
LEL Report It’s not long now until the next London Edinburgh London, so the team are working flat-out to get ready for next summer. Most of the controls are firmly booked, with just a couple to sort out a few details on. The controllers have started to plan their controls, and our routemeister is making his final adjustments to the route. How do I enter London Edinburgh London? You won’t be able to enter London Edinburgh London through the Audax UK website. Instead you’ll need to go to londonedinburghlondon.com. Entries will open on 5 January 2013. We’re limiting entries to just 750 riders. It will be first-comefirst served, but we’ll always make room for you if you volunteered during 2009. Once the event’s full, we’ll start a waiting list of people wanting to enter. How much will it cost? Entry will cost £219. This will include: • All food and drink at controls. At most controls this will mean soup, a choice of hot meals, puddings, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, as well as something to stick in
Danial Webb your back pocket. • All beds. Most controls will have plenty of beds and blankets for you to use. If you prefer to bring your own sleeping bag, there’ll be plenty of space for you to get your head down. • Showers and towels. These will be available at most controls, but not the smaller venues such as Traquair and Eskdalemuir. • At least one free bag drop. We may be able to offer a second bag drop. No promises yet though. • Online rider tracking and support on the route. We’ll be posting arrival times live on the event website, so your friends and family can see how you’re getting on. We’ll also have moto crews patrolling the route, to help make sure that everyone’s OK. • Commemorative medal, and validation with Audax UK and Les Randonneurs Mondiaux. • Any extra goodies that the controllers choose to make available at controls. Keep in mind that some of our controls are very small and in remote locations, so will not have the same facilities as bigger controls. For more information go to londonedinburghlondon.com and click on ‘controls’.
Arrivée November 2012
LEL LEL London Edinburgh London DIY competition winners The DIY competition is now closed, and we’ve picked a winner and two runners up. They are: Winner - Stephen Poulton Runner up - Ben Harris Runner up - Peter Lewis Stephen wins free entry to London Edinburgh London, and Ben and Peter each win a London Edinburgh London jersey. Please contact us at email@example.com to claim your prize. Many thanks to everyone who took part. Your feedback has been really helpful. London Edinburgh London jersey As you’d expect, we’ve produced a commemorative jersey for the event, available only for people entering. Made in Britain by forceGB of Dewsbury, this is a cut above your typical event jersey. Nifty features include a water-resistant back pocket that’s big enough for your route card, and extra hi-viz trim to the reverse of the jersey. Sizing will be typically British; not too slim (Italian-style) or too casual (US style). Full details will be available on the website when entries open. The jerseys will cost £39.99, and will be available in short-sleeve only.
Another call for volunteers London Edinburgh London would not be possible without the tremendous input from volunteers throughout the year. This includes the LEL directors, committee members and controllers, who all work for free. Now that we are getting close to the event, we’d like to ask you to consider volunteering during London Edinburgh London 2013, either before the event to help us check the route, or during the event itself. Route checking Our routemeister will need people to check the route before we publish the routesheet. He’ll also need people to check sections of the route right up until the event itself. Even checking just 50km could be tremendously useful. Controls All of the controls will need a team of volunteers to make the event a success. As well as cooking, cleaning, registering riders and repairing bikes, there will be 1,001 other things to do, not to mention the little emergencies that crop up. The controls are at the heart of the action, and our volunteers are what makes London Edinburgh London so special. Bag drops and deliveries We’ll need a team of people to transport beds, food, bags, blankets and other equipment along the route. If you’d like to help, go to londonedinburghlondon.com to register your interest.
Sunday 29th July 2012
Leaving home just before 7.00 for the two hour drive down to Carnon Downs, near Truro to ride the Lizard Loop Audax in the west of Cornwall. Joined by Miles Barrington-Ward who was down in Devon from Oxford for a few days and liked the idea of a ride in that part of Cornwall which he hadn’t visited for many years. Uneventful drive down, fine sunny morning, that is as far as Plymouth when dark clouds began to fill the skies and before too long rain showers were making a regular appearance. Haven’t brought too much in the way of waterproof gear as it’s been dry in Devon for the past 10/14 days, well, it might not be raining in Carnon Downs, but it was. Getting away from the start about 15 minutes late and at the back of a field of about 60 rides we’ve got some catching up to do. It had stopped raining by then but within a few miles what started as a few drops turned a bit heavy so it’s coats on, although it cleared up after 10 minutes or so and in fact that was all the rain we encountered all day. Riding through what was very much the Tin Mining area of Cornwall, old ruins of engine houses with their chimneys dotted around the countryside, now all listed buildings and in some cases World Heritage sites. Cycling down very rural lanes, Miles has got his GPS on the bike and I’m using the organiser’s route sheet so between us we should stay on course as we pass through delightful villages with quaint Cornish names like Nancegollan and Trenwheal to get to the first control at 32k in the Little Pengelly Farm Tearoom and join up with several other riders. Andy Keast and Rob Scoble who I often ride with have come down from Plymouth, but they appear to be the only ones and ourselves from out of Cornwall, there’s a large contingent from Falmouth Wheelers which seems to make up half the entry.
packed with some event to do with the Lifeboat. After several tours around the park we located an Audax sign and a chap waving his arms at us and a few other cyclists having the same problem as us. Free cake and drink then we’re riding up the A3083 towards Helston with a not so friendly wind for company but make a turn before the town for a long decent into Gweek, (only in Cornwall would you get a place named Gweek). The long decent was followed by a long ascent to leave the village to take to more of the Cornish rural lanes. Poldark Mine, the name of a television series some years ago was encountered on a right turn off a main road as we past through Porkellis, Carnkie and Stithians on our way back to the finish with the events sting in the tail. The finish is up a long hill, rather steep in places. The organisers are to be congratulated on a well organised event with a very good choice of roads, not too many steep hills and a well detailed route sheet with all the distances between junctions. Hope more Audax members can make the trip down to Cornwall for next year’s event. Ribble Blue
Out of the control after the usual cake and cuppas to take us the 30 odd k to the next control at the Lizard. Now on B class roads to Helston and to climb the hill going around the town and out to Caldrose Navel Air Station before going left to go over Goonhilly Downs with its enormous satellite dishes dotted around. Making good progress along here with a tail wind to get the speed up but we will suffer form this later when we turn back from the Lizard. Had some difficulty in locating the control at the Lizard. The route sheet stated that it’s opposite the Regent Cafe where there’s a large car park
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Lizard Loop - Gweek photo: Geoff Sharpe
The National 400
t was the Wednesday before that the weather forecast looked its worst. A big depression was heading in, with strong winds and rain forecast for the whole weekend. Better change my tyres at least, I had suffered several punctures of late, a sure sign my tyres were wearing thing. 25 mil Continentals were fitted together with my largest saddlebag. Even though I would ride past my house twice, and my work once, I was taking plenty of kit. Bike loaded, wow she’s heavy now. The Saturday was bright and windy, much better than that Wednesday forecast. I parked on the well kept grass by the village hall. Van unloaded and into the hall. ‘Tea or Coffee” ahhh Keiths famous hospitality had started already. Too many biscuits later would find us gathered outside for the 9am start. As a large relaxed group, we rolled out into the sunshine and headed toward Thorndon, the first control. We hadn’t been riding for more than 40 minutes, when I spotted a library in a phone box. It was the real deal, shelves, books, no phone I may add, all in a traditional red phone box. Sightings of hunting owls kept us entertained, and we arrived in good time for refreshment. A good display of cakes and rolls were there to greet us. Some lingered others rushed off. Two teas later and a roll and I was on the road again. This time solo, my usual style, heading for Long Melford in Suffolk. Suffolk rolls, unlike Norfolk and you soon begin to notice. A strong head wind had me on my drops a good deal of the time. The lanes looked lovely, the sun was quite strong, but the wind screamed in your ears, and pulled the air from your lungs. I fought all the way to Long Melford, and arrived with ringing in my ears, and salt in my eyes. The stillness of the hall was church like. I sat at a long trestle table to find a menu! Wow, that’s just what I needed. I chose Beans on Toast, Rice Pudding, Stewed Apple, Cake and Tea. Get the picture!! Hoist the main sail, lets head to Barnham Broom. Woosh, it reminded me of my motorcycling days. With the wind on my back, and my shadow at my side I tore across the green and rolling landscape. I was allowing myself to dream of other adventures when the sight of a Deer, 5 foot on front of me, at around 20 miles an hour, brought me back to reality. We dodged each other somehow, and one I rode, the best fun you can have on a bike. Martin Badham was at Barnham Broom to welcome us. Homemade soup, rolls and cake made a hearty display. Their were a group of school children camping outside for their Duke of Edingborough awards. They were cooking up their tea, and could be seen at the village hall
Yorkshire Mixture: climbing to Marske photo: Peter Bond 26
windows, surveying their teachers, in with us, enjoying the hospitality. Off to Salthouse I set, It was getting dusky, but there was plenty of light left, and my lights were on only so I could be seen. It was not until I could smell the sea, that I needed all my lights on. Very quite Norfolk lanes gently led us to the coast road. I had the sea to my left, and the smell of the check point in my nose when a fox brushed my front wheel with his tail. Corned beef roll and tea and the largest after eight mint I had ever seen. Homeward bound. Just another 80 km to go, but pitch black with a head wind. Twisting narrow lanes with nice tall hedges did a great job of providing shelter. The miles rolled under my new tyres, and before I knew it I was riding past my work. At 2.30 in the morning, I didn’t feel like popping in, so up Marlingford Hill I went and on to Wymondham. The road from Wymondham to New Buckenham is an exposed straight one with no cover. Back on my drops I fought to the turn signed Tacolneston. I was riding with the wind again, soon crossed the main Ipswich road and cruising to the finish. Sue and Keith were there to greet me. Two teas, toast and marmalade. Nice one Keith, and thanks to your great team. Jon Periam C C Breckland
Yorkshire Mixture: Richard Hodgson climbing away from Fremington photo: Peter Bond
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Schiehallion Sunrise 400
ycling is my hobby and is sometimes a little difficult to mix with photography as most events are on a weekend as are most weddings! As luck would have it this event had caught my eye and was also a free weekend through a cancellation. I always try and do one ride in the mother country each year. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly, with a start in Linlithgow followed by a tour around the Perthshire Highlands. The route covered 411k (254 miles) and was rather hilly, as you would expect going through the mountains. It had an evening start time of 9.00 pm. This was a bit of a problem as I had to leave the hotel I had stayed at the night before and basically hang about all day getting no real rest. It didn’t help that I’d spent two days wandering Edinburgh till late having a ball watching the Fringe. I’d pay for this later.... Here is the route and if you would like to see it in more detail the excellent Ride with GPX site has it loaded there also. The start was in the car park of Tesco’s in Linlithgow and as this was classed as an X-rated event (no facilities) we expected to have to carry everything needed until Pitlochry at 240k (150 miles) mark. As it was an evening event all the shops in the highland villages would be shut. Neil the organiser did however have a trick up his sleeve! Around 35 riders left in lovely clear evening light with headlamps blazing on a little adventure. I only knew one person, Alex, who is also an Audax organiser. The first section was basically weaving its way through the built up area of central Scotland on towards the highlands via Loch Carron. As soon as the hills arrived the big group shattered and I found myself riding alone along the lovely moonlit Loch Carron, which must have the worst road surface I ever had the pleasure of riding over. The below shot is of riders leaving Linlithgow and into the night.
I used a Nikon AW100 compact which is meant to be waterproof and shock proof. It was still working at the end! It also has a GPS which is handy for actually remembering where the photos are were. The route wound over to Aberfoyle before the lovely climb over the Duke’s Pass and past many a silent loch towards the control at Lochearnhead at 110k. The Lochearnhead control was brilliant. As a few late night revellers went home a helper called Dave had driven to a car park and had his camping stove on the go and muffins and crisps. This was so welcome particularly as we had expected to have to go through the night without a cuppa! From Lochearnhead to Crieff was a fast flat section and I left alone but quickly caught someone and we worked together along the fast main road which at that time in the morning was totally car free. Soon after another chap joined and the three of us took turns to pull the mini peloton along. From Crieff the route turns to Aberfeldy where Dave had set up another tea stop which was most welcome after a very long, fast and cold descent from the moors above. From Aberfeldy and now in wonderful daylight the route wound over high moors to Kinloch
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Schiehallion Sunrise photos: Joe Jord
Schiehallion Sunrise photos: Joe Jord Rannoch and over the shoulders of Schiehallion the fabled Scottish mountain the ride was named after, funny enough at sunrise. Amazing riding country. The amazing weather wasn’t to last long. With the coming dawn also came a lot of cloud cover but thankfully little wind and no rain. From Kinloch Rannoch the road turns to the very busy tourist town of Pitlochry and the group I was with arrived there for 8 am and a cafe stop for a full cooked breakfast, a cake, and a couple of cups of tea. After 240 k (around 150 miles) to say it was nice to have some proper food was amazing. We were also well over half way with just a 100 miles left to go. From Pitlochry the road went up and up and over another wonderful moor on the way to Kirriemuir and I started having problems staying awake! Luckily in a little village I cannot remember the name of I spotted a bench outside a shop - to a tired Audax rider a bench is a 5 star hotel! I expected everyone to carry on without me but they all waited. After 15-20 minutes sleeping I felt much better and a big slice of cake and a cup of coffee didn’t do any harm. Onwards to Kirriemuir which at 300k was three quarters of the way round. Just after Kirrie we stopped at another cafe at about 320k - and again I had a little sleep. The route from Kirrie to Perth was probably the easiest of the entire ride but for some reason it was my low point. On leaving Perth and hitting hills again I was fine! The longest climb of the ride was just after Dunning which went on for a few miles but at a steady grade. From there most of the route seemed downhill or flat and the sun even came out to add a bit of warmth to the last few k before arriving back where we had started. I really enjoyed this ride: the scenery and people made for a grand day out.
Total statistics for the ride are: Distance: 411k 255 miles Climbing: 5400 metres or 17800 ft Moving average speed: 15mph
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Otley Audaxes a new organiser’s view Chris Boulton
aving ridden Audax events for a number of years now, I started last year to think about the possibility of organising a local event. It seemed to me that Otley as a location would be a really good start point for events, with access straight into some great scenery requiring little urban riding. The Otley CC clubhouse would be an ideal headquarters, too. But first I had to become an official organiser. I duly filled in the appropriate form, and passed it to Chris Crossland, my mentor and referee, to endorse. With hind sight, it wasn’t a brilliant idea to hand it over at St Quentin-en-Yvelines last August, as Chris clearly had his mind on other things at the time. He hadn’t actually scattered it on the road back to the hotel from the PBP finish – we did pick up his gilet and other bits – but one way and another, it went missing for a while. That was soon overcome, though, and I set about getting the event settled, running under the CTC West Yorkshire banner, thus also benefiting from being part of their regular programme as well as the CTC’s Tourist Competition. Devising the route took some time, first revising a favourite ride of around 100 miles to extend it to 200km. This was all worked out on internet mapping systems, with some to-ing and fro-ing with Sheila and Nigel Hall, both of whom made useful comments. Sheila managed to reduce the number of controls to an acceptable level. Nigel queried part of the proposed route (“surely you’re not going over there” – but I was) and in the end I had an approved set of controls and was able to publish. The next step was to ride the route, armed with a small tape recorder, both to give it a final check and also to set out a route sheet. The first leg went up Wharfedale and over Kidstones, down Bishopdale to climb through Thoralby, down to Aysgarth, then Carperby, Redmire and Castle Bolton and over to Swaledale. The Dales Bike Centre at Fremington were very happy to host a control when I enquired – and their cafe would be a welcome break after a ‘lumpy’ first 80km. Ideally a cafe break in upper Wharfedale would have been good, as I needed a control of some sort there anyway, but unfortunately the cafe at Buckden didn’t open until too late, and with the uncertainty attending a new event, I didn’t feel I could persuade them to make an exception. From Fremington my choice – which Nigel had queried - was over two great climbs of Marrick Moor to Marske and over to Richmond. Then the route flattened out through Northallerton and down the Vale of York to Aldwarke Bridge, before returning via lanes well known to local riders to Wetherby and back to Otley. I broke the recce at Northallerton, where there’s a good train service back to Leeds. A 100km ride, based on Otley CC B Section’s “three M’s ride”, would be easy to run together with the 200km, and I used much of the last part of the 200km route for the return leg of this. Running a shorter event would be little more trouble than just the 200km, and I hoped this would attract some newer riders – even some from Otley CC, who seem very Audax-averse despite my efforts. Routes devised, annotated and approved and in the official calendar, and clubhouse booked, I could concentrate on riding for the winter and spring. A bit of minor publicity at Audax and other events, was almost all that I did until about a month before the rides. Entries were slow to start with, but by two weeks before the event – when the brevet cards for the riders need to be ordered, I had a modest but workable entry. About a month before Dave Atkinson and I rode the 200km as a check (and a nice ride), and I rode both routes in the fortnight before the event. There were one or two changes to signs Arrivée November 2012
Setting off from Otley Club Room photo: Dave Dodwell – not to mention some being obscured or misaligned – and I added a couple of bits of supplementary guidance for the final versions of the route sheet. The day itself was blessed with – for 2012 – excellent weather. Opening up the clubhouse at 6:45 I was soon joined by Chris and Dave Dodwell from CTC Calderdale to help with setting out, brewing tea and so on. Riders started to arrive from about 7:15, and at 8:00 eighteen riders set off on the 200km ride. By 9:00, the start time for the 100km ride, just over twenty people were ready to go. I was pleased to have seven riders from the Otley club appear at 9:15, after their normal Sunday meet. Once they were off, I updated Dave Atkinson with the numbers. He was manning the Fremington control, considering ‘the scenic route’ from Northallerton to Fremington suitable recovery from a knee operation only just over a week before. (Personally I thought returning via the Stang a bit, literally, over the top.) Then I could close up the clubhouse and pop round to the shops for some food to supplement the homemade cakes which had been temptingly cluttering up the kitchen over the recent days. Back home, some food preparation and a spell with feet up over lunch was necessary re-fuelling for the afternoon and evening shift. Back in Otley at 13:15, accompanied by Veronica (who was happy to do paperwork but drew the line at conventionality by refusing to get involved with food and drink) we set up some food and waited for riders to arrive. First back were one or two from the 100km ride, expressing satisfaction with the route if not, in some cases, with their time. A strong head wind over the last section, which is also fairly lumpy in places, had rather nullified the joy of considerable assistance on the way out. Running the control was the expected mixture of periods of quiet – at least with the usual banter going on once riders had started to arrive – with periods of frantic activity as groups came in. Nevertheless, things remained largely under control, everyone willing to brew their own tea and generally co-operate, as you’d expect. 200km riders started to come in from around 17:00, again on the whole satisfied with the route, and especially with the Dales Bike Centre, with its friendly atmosphere and excellent (if fairly small) cafe. A fairly large first group was followed by a succession of ones and twos, and all were back by 20:00. Clearing up took a bit of time, but we were home by 21:30 after a satisfactory day, with the paperwork, thanks and general tidying up to come. Overall, while I was naturally apprehensive about a first event as organiser, things went pretty much to plan, the food didn’t run out, not too many people got lost and – the main thing – everyone had had an enjoyable day out. Numbers were very satisfactory, particularly as the events attracted quite a few riders new to Audax. Folk seem to want a repeat; we’ll see. I would certainly look for some definite offers of help (my initial plans unfortunately evaporated for various reasons), improve the catering while keeping it simple, and publicise more widely through some local clubs, but otherwise keep everything much as before. If you’re wondering about organising an event for the first time, there’s a lot of help and advice available, it’s not too onerous and there are good rewards in new friends and happy riders. Chris Boulton 29
YORKSHIRE MIXTURE 15.07.2012
his is a new ride organised by Chris Boulton of Otley CC. The name is because it’s a mixture of hills and flatland, I imagine, and it is perfectly designed in that all the serious climbing is done in the first half, leaving a flat run down the Vale of York before turning (into the wind, naturally) for the final kilometres from Wetherby to Otley. We looked like having a rare dry day for it as I entered the clubroom at Otley CC. This is a great venue for an Audax, with cycling photos and mementos on the walls and a general good feel to it. The feeling was augmented by a clutch of well-known faces, including Bobs Bialek and Johnson and Andy Clarkson and, obviously, Chris Boulton. It was great to see Chris Crossland over from Sowerby Bridge, who was hoping to do his first Audax since damaging his neck on PBP. I was so pleased to see him I let him make me a cup of tea. However, I didn’t get time to finish it before we set off over the cobbles and through Otley towards Ilkley. Roughly speaking, we were going to follow the River Wharfe as far as Buckden, then Bishopdale Beck to Aysgarth, where we would climb over Grinton Moor before descending to the River Swale, which we would trace to its confluence with the Ure, before turning west and picking up the Wharfe again, near Wetherby. It was a good bunch of riders but I easily matched them for the first hundred yards and then got caught at a red light. No matter; I nearly always end up at the back of the field and today I was intending to stop and take pictures anyway. I soon had company, though, and rode at a steady pace with Paul Anthony, from Harrogate. As we rolled along some picturesque and in some cases very narrow lanes around the north of Ilkley, we passed several runners and many cyclists out celebrating the unusually summery day. Between Ilkley and Addingham, we turned north with the river and began to climb, fairly gently. The landscape of parks and golf-course was giving way to large fields and woods. The green of the trees at a distance was so dense 30
Arrivée November 2012
Randonnées it was almost black, and set off the lime fading to yellow of the newly cropped grass. The sheep, too, had been shorn and looked sleek and content. Just beyond Beamsley, we jinked across the A59 onto the Grassington road. Paul rode on as I stopped to take my first pictures at Bolton Abbey. It’s actually an 11th century priory and only got the “Abbey” as a tourist attraction when railways were new. It was never properly finished and was also one of the monasteries the Henry knocked about a bit, though part of it is still a parish church. It’s a very imposing structure. Riders on some of Chris Crossland’s and Andy Corless’s rides come at it from the other side from Appletreewick but it’s easy to miss from either direction unless you are looking for it because you are concentrating on climbing. But I was too clever for it this time and was able to tick it off the list of several imposing buildings I hoped to see that day. Back on the bike I pushed on and soon reached the next ruin, Barden Tower. It looks like a castle but is in fact the remains of a hunting lodge. Approaching Burnsall I very nearly came a cropper on the steep descent to the bridge. I went into a tunnel of trees at some speed and the dappled shade obscured the road surface and I hit a large pot-hole and only just managed to keep the front wheel straight. The bridge itself is very fine and the road off to the right is the one that leads to Appletreewick and eventually Bolton Abbey from the other side of the river. It was a strong feature of interest for me on this ride to do many roads that I have done before but from the opposite direction. “So that’s where that comes out,” was also a frequent thought. The flowers in the verges were gradually changing: earlier on had been great ribbons of blue geraniums and the occasional clump of deep magenta wood cranesbill and the fluffy white meadow-sweet; now these gave way (largely) to the yellow fumitory and bird’s foot trefoil or bacon and eggs. And clover, so much clover. The village of Burnsall is beautiful and the church bell was ringing as I passed, though I suspect that was a coincidence. Beyond the village there is a definite sense of the country becoming gradually lonelier – and higher. The next landmark to loom into view was the famous limestone overhang at Kilnsey Crag, which looks like a giant mushroom from underneath. From there I could see over beyond Kettlewell to where the old miner’s track climbed over the hill behind the village.
In Kettlewell itself, which is chocolate-box pretty, I availed myself of the best appointed toilets in Yorkshire before tackling an irritating rattle that was coming from the front mudguard; a few deft strokes of the sixinch adjustable and I was on my way again. The lane from Kettlewell through Starbotton to Buckden is a delight and one I’ve done many times in the other direction, the last time being at the end of March when I rode down in the eerie dawn of a 400k that had taken me up to Alston. In Buckden itself, we had an information control of the “what colour is the red post-box?” type, before the first serious business of the day was tackled. The climb of Kidstones was full of surprises for me. As I approached Cray, I caught a glimpse of a waterfall where the Wharfe flashed white through the trees. Cray sticks in my mind as the village to which an airman crawled despite a broken ankle, all the way from the top of Buckden Pike when his Wellington bomber crashed in the snow. Years later he had the memorial cross erected on the top of the fell. That epic crawl, following a fox’s tracks, helps to put my efforts into perspective. A little further up I saw what looked like a mini-Malham Cove to the left of the road, before the grand sight of Kidstones Scar came into view, again on the left of the road. In fact, the climb was pretty straightforward with a helpful wind. What impressed me no end was the descent of four or five miles down Bishopdale. Not for the last time on the ride, I found myself amazed that I’d ever got up it from the other side. Rather than let us stay on the easy road, Chris sent us through Thoralby where three short sharp climbs awaited. But this was a lovely diversion, with many pretty gardens and the remaining long wall and arbour arch of what had been a long, walled garden on the left as you leave the village. I especially remember some deep blue delphiniums. If we hadn’t “done” Thoralby, we’d have missed Aysgarth with its iconic falls across the Ure, which is pretty wide at this point. Again, I marvelled at
Arrivée November 2012
Castle Bolton 31
Randonnées how I’d managed to climb the zig-zag out of the village on a previous ride! I stopped to get a photo on the bridge and generally appreciate the scene before hauling myself up the hill on the other side and on to Carperby. From Carperby there was a little respite for two or three miles as I rode east towards Castle Bolton, perversely named after Bolton Castle. This edifice, with its four square turrets, had first come into view as I climbed over Kidstones and just as quickly disappeared as I plunged down. Now it peeped through the roadside trees and over the plate-like flowerheads of the wild carrot in the verges. Another stiff climb or two brought me into the beautifully manicured village itself, which looks like a typical estate-workers settlement that has fallen on rich times. The castle itself has a lot of history (I think it was built in the 14th century), including the owner having backed the wrong side in the Pilgrimage Of Grace (against the dissolution of the monasteries) and getting away with it. It was also where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned for a time. But my chief delight is in the name of the family who built it and possibly still own it – Scrope. Excellent! Also excellent was the bracing odour of the pine plantation as I left the castle and headed for what I expected to be the most difficult climb of the day, the crossing of Grinton Moor, sometimes referred to as Redmire. The verges thinned out, as did the air. Now the predominant flowers were the bright blue speedwells and low-growing white chickweed. At last we were up on the heather moorland of my beloved north country. More mysterious tracks ran to the horizons. An imposing rock-face loomed on the right, which turned out, prosaically, to be part of a quarry. As with Kidstones, I found the climb comfortable with the following wind but at the top I made myself stop and look around to see where I’d come from. As for where I was going, the lovely village of Reeth, in Swaledale, was spread out far below on the left. The drop down to Fremington was another case of “how on earth did I climb this before?”. Just before reaching the first control at the Dales Bike Centre, I met the peloton coming the other way as they set off for Richmond. In the café at the centre we were met by Dave Atkinson, an Audax stalwart and organiser in his own right. He marked my card and I ordered beans on toast and tea and generally enjoyed the company. While I was eating, Paul arrived, having stopped, I think in Kettlewell, where I must have passed him. I left the excellent café after about half an hour or so and just after another group of riders. Following the routesheet, I quickly realised that the peloton had chosen to deprive themselves of the pleasures of Fremington Edge and were going the flatter but slightly longer way to Richmond. My way and that of the group in front of me was over the moor to Marske, which entailed two or three kicks before bringing us out high above the plain, with industrial Teesside visible over to the North-east and the Vale of York to the south. Half-way up, I passed what I think was a preserved lime-kiln in a field just above the road. I was really pleased with this climb and I passed several riders to try and get some pictures of them pretending to smile. However, I’m pretty useless going downhill or on the flat and they all passed me a few kilometres later (although I must plead traffic lights in mitigation!) On the drop down to Richmond, the castle had been visible but, once in the town, I didn’t see it again until I was climbing out towards Brompton. Near the top of the bank there is a gap in the buildings on the right and I remembered from an epic night-time ride from York to Tan Hill that the castle could be seen between the houses and I satisfied my curiosity with a glance over my right shoulder. Audax has provided me with great opportunities to learn 32
the geography of The North. The run down the Swale valley towards Northallerton was just what was needed after all the climbing, the kind of riding I had been dreaming about all “summer”, with the wind behind, fluffy clouds in the sky and the foliage closing in on all sides. The verges were not quite so resplendent in wild-flowers as earlier on because they seem not to cut them so often in this area but the grasses were lush and flowing in the breeze.
‘It peeped through the roadside trees and over the plate-like flowerheads of the wild carrot.......’
Before long I was through Brompton on Swale and near Scorton I stopped to make a phone-call, to check if it was ok to call in on an internet friend in Romanby, Northallerton. This was a big step for me in my efforts to practise what I preach and treat the day as a bike ride instead of a time trial, albeit with myself as the only competitor. Having confirmed the invitation for coffee, I rode on to Northallerton, where I met the group I’d climbed over to Richmond with, just as they were leaving Morrison’s. They (Morrison’s) didn’t have any cheese sandwiches, so I loaded up with bananas and spring rolls. It was just my luck to choose the till where they waited until it was my turn before changing over the cashboxes, or something. Pockets bulging grotesquely, I made my way only slightly off course to Phil’s house, where I had the most superb cup of coffee. The diversion was made all the more enjoyable by a surprise meeting with Dean Clementson, recently returned from India; his exploits have kept many of us fascinated through the last nine miserable months of weather. Regaining the A167 (of VC167 fame), I met Paul again, as we rolled south towards Topcliffe. I asked if he had enjoyed the climb out of Fremington, to which enquiry I received a resounding “No!”. This is code for a marvellous invigorating experience. We had an excellent, chatty ride all the way to Wetherby on a section that was full of interest. Almost immediately on leaving Romanby, the Cleveland Hills became visible on our left and my heart was tugged again towards the moors and pubs of my youth. At the cross-roads past Sandhutton is the famous Busby Stoop, an inn with a grisly story attached. Apparently, a criminal called Busby was hanged at the cross-roads (“I’m down on my knee....”) and his ghost cursed anyone who dared sit in the chair (stoop) at the site. Curiously, I knew the word stoop from Afrikaans (stoep) before I ever knew there was a, presumably Saxon, version in my own country. The inn still has a noose outside as an “attraction” which may be one reason why it seems to be closed now. At Topcliffe, we left the main road, which had been very quiet anyway, and meandered down lovely lanes to Aldwark Bridge, where we had another question to answer. The bridge itself can be heard from some distance as the cars rattle across the wooden slats. The crossing is of the River Ure, which is about to end its long journey from Wensleydale by flowing into the River Ouse. On this section the wildflowers returned with joyful vengeance, this time in the fields themselves. In some places, the farmers had left borders of wild-flower “meadow” round their barley, which were resplendent with poppies and ox-eye daisies. We crossed the A59 and then almost immediately crossed the York – Knaresborough single track railway, via the pedestrian operated gates, which was a nice old-fashioned touch. Crossing the A1(M), we joined the cycle path alongside the A168. This path is the remains of the Great North Road, which I had travelled countless times as a child. It was eerie to see the ghostly road-markings disappearing into the verges. This was a very relaxing percolate between borders of high grasses, ragwort and vetch to Wetherby, where we pulled up outside Sainsbury’s to control. I used an ATM, as I had sufficient provisions. After a little wait I pushed on. It turned out that Paul was considerably delayed in his search to find his comestible of choice and I rode the last ten miles or so alone. Arrivée November 2012
Dales Bike Centre
Reeth Paul Anthony at level crossing
At Wetherby, we had finally turned into the wind again, which in combination with the undulating route, made for a searching last few miles. Sicklinghall is a fine village but the climb up to it is stiff, after a day in the saddle. However, this is balanced by the superb plunge down Kearby Cliff, which, mercifully, is a lane, not a precipice. And so, on through Dunkeswick to Castley and Pool, thence to Otley. By the time I’d finished, everyone had gone, except for organiser Chris and his wife Veronica. Paul arrived a few minutes later and we enjoyed the tea and home-made cakes and a good chat about the ride. It had been exactly what it said on the tin “A Yorkshire Mixture” and Chris can be well pleased with his creation. When I got home, I realised that the two views for July on my calendars in the bedroom were of Aysgarth Falls and The Cleveland Hills. So, it truly was a “Calendar Ride” and I hope it becomes a regular one. Well done, Chris! The icing on the cake was that Chris Crossland had successfully completed his comeback ride; a great day all round!
Otley Club Room
Yorkshire Mixture photos: Peter Bond
Arrivée November 2012
Group near Aberlady
Group, Garleton Hills
Erit Lass 9th September 2012
photos: Martin Foley
Tom Orr, Alan Burke, Kevin Rae, James Mearns, Tim Edwards (L to R)
‘EVEN IF IT’S COST ME A BOTTLE OF BUBBLY’ or Lou Ups the Ladies Up Record
Starting an 11mth AAA-best campaign on 1 Nov showed an intent which was not to waver. Spurred on by ‘AAA Team Lou’, Lou Rigby has shattered the Ladies’ AAA points record and gained an incredible inseason 3x3 180AAA points. This report includes Lou’s own post-ride reports to ‘Team Lou’. Lou Rigby has shown that determination and a passion for cycling can overcome the vagaries of weather and the distractions of work; Lou has three part-time jobs to juggle, including sleep-over shift work. Did a mild winter help? Yes, it kept the ice off the hills some of the time. AAA-country is often quiet country lanes, where gritting machines do not penetrate. Local farmers may lay patches of salt but Lou was often thwarted and returned home dispirited when ice suggested the safe approach. So where did Lou ride? Tewkesbury is close to the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean and Wales, so it is no surprise that the majority of Lou’s rides were close to home. On 76% (69 of 91) of rides for 77% (142.25AAA) of points she rode from home. YatMon150 2.25AAA (38) = 85.5AAA, starts in her hometown; Cotswold Corker 100 1.75AAA a 30min ride away in Bishops Cleeve (29) = 50.75AAA + 2 Super Corkers (6AAA). Lou normally kept her rides within 150km, to ensure recovery and winter daylight, though the Neville Chanin Memorial 200 (ridden with Mark and Steve and the McTaggarts (Dick and Lucy) down from Scotland) in August tempted Lou to remember a special (Audax) friend for a 3.25AAA top-up. To celebrate the end of season, Team Lou had a gathering for a finale 36
YatMon150. A secret was to ride midweek; by ensuring a day off between rides, Lou was normally able to ride up to 3 AAA rides a week between her shifts. And then planning DIYs for a Mallorcan holiday (6r=10AAA) and other blocks (Peaks 4r=9.75AAA), kept the numbers climbing. Indeed, once the Winter had abated, the Spring saw Lou increase her rides and by early Summer re-adjust her target from not just winning a trophy but to breaking records. Initially, Lou’s target was the Opposite Sex Award, won in 2011 by friend Ann Marshall. Other notable targets came into view; firstly Jackie Popland’s impressive total of 100.25 new-AAA from 2010, which the Hall of Fame shows as over-shadowing the more impressive and quite incredible 98.75 old-AAA by Sandie Shaw from 1997 (which converts to 164.58 new-AAA). As the months went by, Lou overhauled these figures and began to set her sights on an ambitious 180AAA in a single year (remember, this is an 11 month year!). Even Steve Snook could not recall such a feat happening before! An uncharacteristic lack of male attack for points also saw Lou take the ‘Overall AAA Trophy’, an unexpected, though fortuitous late target. Lou has become a familiar sight at many of her regular Controls, where they could almost tell the time by her arrival! She developed a regular pattern of 2 YatMon150s and 1 Corker100 a week: Shops, cafes, tea rooms began to ask questions after turning up with a variety of male companions! AAA Team Lou (Mark) even provided a smiley stamp for Bisley PO, a Corker regular.
Arrivée November 2012
AAA AAA Team Lou comprises mainly hubby Mark, family, Ann Marshall (who achieved a useful 115AAA 2012 AAA total of her own and No2 in the overall AAA list!) and Coach/Organiser Steve Poulton, who joined Lou on rides and provided constant encouragement, essential when weather and mood can drain the enthusiasm. And not to forget Steve Snook for making some gps (the Brick) rides into AAA-qualifiers. Here is some of Lou’s self-encouragement, which hints at her fortitude and gratitude to Team Lou. After July’s Tour de France, Ann became Froomy to Lou’s Wiggo and Steve Froomy2, both Froomys happy to give Lou that special armchair ride. 15 Nov: Hi Steve: I set off this morning at 7am; was I pleased I had my winter top and full-fingered gloves on. This morning felt as a Nov morning should, a real nip in the air. At my first stop at Mitcheldean Co-Op, I noticed the receipt gives everything except where I was; hope this is OK. Goodrich store provided a PO stamp and another choc bar to carry around. 5 Acres garage was excellent for my first proper stop, coffee and oat bar in the warm and a stool provided. Monmouth an ATM, then on to Grosmont, where the PO stamp is very faint and the till does not issue receipts. Gentle Jane cafe is closed Tue & Wed and will soon be shutting for the winter. The Angel pub (I pre-phoned Mark the landlord) was excellent as promised with an open coal fire, mug of coffee and, as his kitchen is having a re-fit (fully opened on 1st Dec), he heated me up a can of soup and I provided my own roll. They filled my water bottle and listened with interest to my madness. When I went to pay the total cost was 85p. Yes, really, this is not a typing error. The weather was still damp and dull but, as I climbed out of Grosmont, the sunshine appeared. I had no problem finding the ‘trike’ route and it really is much better. Then, a bit of a treat stop, afternoon tea at the cider café in Much Marcle. I was not so lucky with the bill here!!! Indeed, I felt I was doing the scone a favour eating it but with an extra helping of jam, the stop was welcomed by my tummy. I arrived home at 4.10pm and had time to wash my bike (although, in comparison, the roads were spotless compared to the Corker perm roads when ridden on Sat). I really did have an excellent day out on my bike for another 2.25AAA points. 2 Dec: Hi Steve: I left a little late (7.10am), the coldest morning for a while but the roads were ice free. The clear weather gave excellent and stunning views, the best being from the top of Ruardean; I could see for miles. I chugged on this morning, as, in the valleys, the mist hung a bit and it was cold; the higher I went, the sun touched me with a small amount of warmth. My first proper stop was in Wetherspoons (Monmouth); both my bike and I enjoyed the warmth indoors (yes really, bike as well - came indoors). Beans on toast & coffee and some 35 mins later I left my cosy environment. I did not stop again except for (POP), until my afternoon tea stop at Much Marcle cider tea room; once again I did the scone a favour by eating it, but my large pot of tea saw me home. I arrived in Tewkesbury at 4.25pm, sad that I am!! I am now looking at next week’s weather! 30 Jan: Ice has yet again put me off going out on the bike this morning; that and I’m shattered from work last night. 13 Feb: Hi Steve: Not a good start this morning, I pumped my tyres up last night, as my bike had not been used for 19 days. As I went to get my bike out of the garage 5 mins before heading off for my appointment in Tewkesbury, I had a flat. No time to fix, so I jumped in the car and had the stress of the 9am ‘find a parking space’. On my return, I fixed my flat tyre; I almost gave up on riding today. But I left in time to make BC for the Corker at 10.30am. I was shocked at how much ice and slush was about and pleased I did not attempt this ride before now. Where there was neither ice nor slush, there seemed to be lakes of water; all this took extra time to get through or around. And, with the late start, I decided to take a ‘leaf out of your book’, and only stop for POP, snacking out of my bag at these times. Most time was lost between Bisley and Andoversford, mainly from me picking my way through various road problems. After leaving ‘Mr Grumpy’s’ stores (by now it was raining heavily) I got going as fast as I could and I realise I may just make a sub-6hrs. And that’s what I did, just that by about 35 seconds. I photo-copied my brevet and then got it in the post to you 1st class, so it should be with you in the morning. Then straight into Costa coffee as I had not had a warm drink since
Arrivée November 2012
from top: Ann Marshall, Lou Rigby Team Lou riders Lou Rigby, Steve Poulton, Ann Marshall (photos: Steve Poulton)
AAA brekkie and it was the best coffee ever. I found today’s ride tough going but pleased I continued with riding today. Work tomorrow and then, all being well, YatMon on Wed; it said in the newspaper that this warm weather is not set to last, and the cold will be returning next week. So make the most, whilst we can. 2 May: My first problem this morning was getting out of the Tewkes area, I followed the route towards Ashleworth and soon realised my mistake. My hubs, bottom bracket, and shoes, not to mention my piggys, don’t do flood water. So, I turned and headed towards Corse on the main road and then back onto route. My next concern was just before High Leadon where there is an old water mill; in 2007 the bridge was washed away but they have re-built it and the road higher. The water was lapping at the edges and reminded me of the tide coming in. No real problems then, except lots of surface water, vehicles going too fast and I was getting wetter from this than the rain. Plenty to look at; flooded fields and streams running like rivers. Whilst having my lunch at Monmouth ‘Spoons’, Mark texted me to say the river at Grosmont could flood over so best get going. No probs at Grosmont, or indeed as I turned for Garway and over the bridge. I did notice the river was running fiercely. As you go over the bridge the river runs alongside the road, and that’s where I stopped. It looked deep; I could see a way round it across a field but could not see how to get into the field. Then I heard a vehicle so I went to see where it was, it was a Transit van reversing out of a drive, so I asked the driver which way he was going. Luck had it he was going my way, so I ask if he could give me and my bike a lift through the puddle (enormous under statement here). As I jumped into the back, all those thrillers I watch came into my mind. But I was armed with my mini-pump if needed. But the kind builder said he would leave both doors open, or it would have been pitch dark and I would have panicked. Half-way through the puddle with the exhaust pipe just above the water, we stopped. Through the solid bulk head I was ask to hold on tight. A few moments of wheel spinning (we had slipped off the road) and we were away. This all seemed to take forever and was only a few meters, the builder helped me and my bike out; there was now a number of cars turning around. Talk of the Hereford road being blocked with a landslide; with a toot and wave, my builder was on his way and so was I. Hoarwithy was just sludge and more sludge, by Kings Caple the road from there onward was closed. But I continued, trying to remember where the bridge was. There, the bridge was holding up well, the water coming down had washed the road away, but not so bad that I couldn’t get through. Home from then onwards there were no problems. Brevet is in the post, bike now cleaned, and washing done. Thursday my next day off I’m heading into the Cotswolds; looks like another wet ride. 2 Jun: I’m now 0.25 off the current ladies record of 100.25. But another record which was set in 1997 when the points were added up differently is equal to 164.58, so this is my next target. This year Audax is changing the year end, so I only have 11 mths, whilst before and after me had or will have 12 mths. So I am going to ask the AAA organiser when he returns from hols if there is any way around this, to put me on an even keel. The chairman of the club said it was up to the AAA organiser to decide. At the very least I would like a note in the handbook saying it was an 11mth year. There are 2 AAA trophies one for the overall winner and one for the opposite sex; it would be great to get the overall prize. 3 Jul: I cycled the YatMon 150k today, so another 2.25AAA’s in the bag.
It probably was the muggiest and muckiest ride I’ve done for ages. But I made it around in good time. 11 Aug: I’m now on 155 magic points, only 10 to go and I’ll have the record. 17 Aug: I am now on 158.25 and planned by next Thursday to be on 165 yipeeee. Guess you have sussed my plan total for Sept 30th is 180AAA’s. 21 Aug: Yes another 2.25AAA’s today. Plan another YatMon on Thurs, then one either Sun or Mon weather depending which day. That should put me at 165.00AAA and over Sandra Shaw’s total in 10mths. Looks, all being well, I will get 180 by end of Sept. 26 Aug: (After riding the YatMon to take the Ladies Record to 165AAA) Finished in Tewkesbury with a glass of wine) Having achieved the Ladies Record after 10 months, Lou relaxed during September to pick up the extra AAAs to gain the 3x3. She decided to use up the remaining Perm cards she had in her drawer. Then, she rode a few social rides with friends (the Team) in Surrey and Derbyshire before topping up with a flurry of rides from home and a big ‘Team Lou Do’, with much of the Team, family, fellow local AUKs and Club members, as the year ended on a high of 184.25. Here, Lou recalls those final September rides: 10 Sep: I had a great weekend in the Peaks; I managed 2 AAA rides so another 4.75 points in 2 days. 2 chaps who joined me on one of the rides, are Chris Keeling-Roberts, the organiser of the Peaks perm events, and his friend Desmond Winterbone. And I had real summer weather…My next planned event is the YatMon tomorrow, (hope you have enjoyed your rest Steve!!! from brevet cards), and then depending how I’m feeling maybe the Corker perm on Wednesday…My total to date 171.75 AAA’s getting closer to 180… The next person closest to me is my friend Ann, who went over 100 points last weekend. Remembering Ann has completed an SR and also working towards a RRTY. So mega brill Ann. And 2 girls on the top!!!!!! of the AAA’s. 22 Sep: (From MarkR) Today Lou and I rode Steve P’s YatMon 150. We had a wonderful day’s cycling - The weather was perfect all day. As you’re all probably aware, this morning Lou was tantalisingly close to her target - standing tall on 179.75AAA…with the 2.25AAA points gained today, she’s now on 182AAA: the crazy woman’s done it - reached her target with over a week to spare. I’m very proud of what Lou’s achieved in eleven months - even if it’s cost me a bottle of bubbly. 30 Sep: Hi AAA Team, My final email of Audax UK year 2012, after my final ride and what a grand finale. But before I start, I would like to thank you all for your support in whatever way, text message to ‘perk me up,’ back wheel, GPS advice; the list is endless. Even in the smallest way you may think, this has been invaluable support to me. Yesterday, my final ride, I had company on what was a lovely early autumn day. The group of 10 reasonably matched cyclists set off from Tewkesbury at 8.15am, not my usual time of 7am, to ride as a group. The group was a mix of Audax friends and local CTC riders, including Ann (number 2 in the AAA points), my son and husband ‘The Mark’s’, Steve (P) with his camera stopping to take what are to be stunning photos on a crystal clear day. I could not have had better weather to ‘show off’ the views and route I have come to love. Our first proper stop, besides POP, was at Monmouth Wetherspoons, after having a speedy descent chasing the clock, so some of us could have our breakfast meals. My usual lady served me and was pleased to see I have some friends at last; we sat alongside our bikes outside in a real sun trap. And the day phase ‘group dynamics’ came to prove itself, enjoying
Arrivée November 2012
Monyash Peak Perm: L Chris Keening-Roberts, Desmond Winterbottom R Chris Keening-Roberts, Louise Rigby, Desmond Winterbottom (photos: Lou Rigby)
the company etc, time disappeared. Grosmont was a quick pub stop, and then our final stop, How Caple Tea Rooms, which were staying open especially for us, where Mark and Anne Brazier, who had been chasing us for some time, appeared. I was pleased they caught up with us, as they have both accompanied me on parts of several rides, and have been watching my points grow. Here, tea and scones were enjoyed in yet another sun trap and just enough to push us over the last ridge (Marcle) and home. Here, most of the men spotted a large aircraft (ex-RAF Vulcan on 60th Anniv UK Tour), but I reckon they must have dreamt it. About 6 miles from home, the pace started to rise and we had the end-of-ride burn up; it was great fun as we did bit-and-bit until the Tewkesbury sign finally appeared and I’m guessing the other 4 remaining let me have this sign. My son Mark’s comment, on arriving back ‘I can’t believe you dropped me Mum’ did make me chuckle from within. Then, a quick shower for all and off to the local pub for a group meal, two bottles of bubbly, thanks Ann, and a couple of glasses of wine for me, totally finished off the 11 month year, ride and day. This morning, when we got up, husband Mark enquired how was I; ‘still drunk’ was my reply. My legs are great but my head!!! So what’s next? I think Oct I would like to try and get 15.75 AAA’s to make 200 for a 12 month year. I start tomorrow with a GPS ride to Chepstow with 1.75AAA’s, staying over in a B&B run by cyclists, and returning home on Tuesday with another 1.75AAA’s. That should keep anyone who may be thinking they would like my record ‘on their toes’. Bfn Louise And that is not all. Lou already had a PBP(03), Ultra-SR, 5xRRTY, AAA3x3(achieved in year) in her Audax Palmares. But what it takes to take a record is guts, commitment, determination, consistency and a love of cycling, which Lou showed in spades. An understanding man at home was probably an advantage too!
Yat Rock viewpoint (photo: Steve Poulton)
not identify 2012 as an 11mth year; so, any girl wanting to ‘Break the Ladies Record’ should regard 200+ as a realistic and honourable target. Just check Lou’s rides for the ‘12th month’!
How Lou Rode to a Ladies AAA Record Table to show how Lou came out of the Winter ready for a Spring and Summer surge to take the record by end-Aug 2012 and achieve 3x3 (180) in 11 months. Month
No of Rides
AAA for Mth
Acc AAA Total
No of AAA for Rides Mth
Acc AAA Total
Whilst noting this as a giant leap for Women’s AAAs, it is probably also worth noting that the Gents AAA 12mth record held by Marcus Yeo converts from 147.5 old-AAA to 245 newAAAs; so, anyone who has achieved this order of number is in a special league.
PS: The Hall of Fame does not identify 2009 as the introduction of new-AAA Rules, representing a need for a 20/12 conversion to comparative achievement numbers. Similarly, the records may
Arrivée November 2012
Riders on the Witham, Essex rides photos by Peter Faulks
ArrivĂŠe November 2012
Controls in Northern Russia ArrivĂŠe November 2012
photos from the Vologda Onega Ladoga by Ivo Miesen
Randonnées KNOCKERDOWN 200 - June 9th 2012
ll of John Perrin’s rides are fascinating and so this inaugural 200 in the Peak District became a “must-do” for me as soon as it was mooted last autumn. Apart from John’s justified reputation as an organiser, there was the attraction of great novelty in the route. About a quarter of the ride is along disused railway tracks; the other three-quarters go where railways fear to tread. Not for nothing are many of the hills in this area known as “Clouds”. Perversely, those that aren’t are called “Lows”. The forecast was poor (and correct) and there was a disappointing turn-out. It did, however include old friends Graeme McCulloch, Ade Hughes, Chris Crookes and Bob Bialek. I became acquainted with the other three or four hardy souls as the ride progressed. At 201k, the distance was spot-on, so I quickly set about increasing it with a lapse of concentration near Gawsworth. But it enabled Bob and I to get an early sight of the Jubilee effigies that adorned the roadsides for a lot of the ride. I imagine the theme was The Commonwealth because, apart from the corgi-walkers, I saw Bob Marley and Dame Edna Everage. These displays were in addition to the bunting John had festooned throughout the route. Back on track, we forged through the drizzle onto the Leek road for a few fast miles through Rushton Spencer to Rudyard Lake, a reservoir built to supply a local canal. It’s now a leisure attraction with Victorian villas on its shores and boats moored on the water. It is very beautiful, even under cloudy conditions. Kipling’s parents named him after the spot and cake rhymes with lake, so there is a pleasant circularity to the tale. Our route along the east of the lake was on the old Leek to Manchester railway and had almost as much water on it as the lake itself. I’m a fairly nervous off-roader, hating to feel the wheels drift sideways, but I managed to trust the tracks of the earlier riders through the puddles. A wonderful splash of colour was provided by the red and green engines of the narrow-gauge railway steaming gently at the start of their working day. Soon, the tree-tunnel we had been riding in opened out into lush, buttercup-filled meadow. It was easy to see that this is also a floodplain. There followed a bit of a scramble off the trail, up a stony lane, before we jinked across a main road and onto our first climb of the day. Crossing the River Churnet, we passed the Abbey Inn, which is made from stones from a nearby “dissolved” Cistercian abbey. A little further up there is a fine house with an odd port-hole-like window. It is built of the red sandstone of these parts and for the next half hour I had “Roaches are red, violets are blue” buzzing through my head. I love the Roaches. There is nowhere else like them in Britain for strange-shaped outcrops and formations. But today I had to work hard for views of them because the cloud was so low and I had to make myself keep looking around me, in the hope of catching a summit breaking through. I was on my own by this time at it looked as if I might be in for a hard day as I struggled round a steep bend before realising I was on the wrong chain-ring. Chris Crookes knows I specialise in this! The few miles round the Roaches were bleak, foggy, lonely and fabulous. The cloud got denser as I left the crags behind and climbed the superb ridge known as Morridge. I was pretty damp as I made the left turn at the appropriately-named Mermaid Inn for the twisty, almost technical descent to the B5053 near Warslow Brook. From there it was a short but again hazardous drop to the first control at Wetton Mill. Eschewing the delights of what I understand to be an excellent café, I pushed on. The second section starts on the Manifold Trail. This takes you through limestone outcrops covered in ash trees, which were almost luminous in their wet summer foliage. This is known to geographers as Karst country and is riddled with water-courses and caves. One of the great landmarks appeared above me almost immediately: Thor’s Cave opens its huge black maw a hundred feet or so above the trail. It is known to have been occupied in the Stone Age. The track itself is a delight, though the surface was very sticky because of the rain, which slowed me down even more than my geographic gawping. At one point we had to squeeze past a fallen branch blocking the trail. 42
The rivers were very high and flowing fast and golden like molten ginger. The amount of water in the landscape was a vivid feature of the whole ride. I think by now the trail was twisting along the River Hamps, rather than the Manifold. Wherever it was, the verges were snowy with cow-parsley and in the fields the hawthorns clung to their scanty lace clothing as we rolled along the confetti-strewn way. At the end of the trail we had a few yards on the A523 before swinging left onto a country lane which climbs steeply to Throwley Hall Farm, where the yard was covered in slurry. After sorting out an information control under the baleful eye of a bull keen to be out of its barn, I flew down the wonderful, open descent across a sloping meadow in which fat sheep grazed. There was a very sharp left-hand turn at the bottom, which the route-sheet points out. If you don’t make it, there is a beautiful chestnut tree with red flowers to gaze at while you die. The next habitation was the village of Ilam. This is an idyllic spot but it felt unusual to me. It was almost as if there never was any history and that all the houses are well-appointed, villa-type Victorian homes. When I got home I discovered that the reason is that one Watts-Russel had all the old buildings demolished and built others in the Swiss style he had seen on holiday. The area reminded him of Switzerland and, as you pass Thorpe Cloud on the left, you can just about see his thinking. This is a “reef knoll”, a limestone outcrop from our tropical past. You can see these near Cracoe in the Yorkshire Dales, too. After climbing through Thorpe I was onto the Tissington Trail, another old mineral line. This afforded a couple of easy, if shadowy miles to the snacks kiosk, where I met up with Ian Ryall, who’d come up from Coventry, and Graham from Stourbridge. Chris and Bob also arrived. I had an excellent pasty and a coffee before returning to the lanes. The ford in a couple of miles was so full that people were fishing in it. I used the foot-bridge. A couple of miles of lanes and a short climb brought me out at the centrepiece of the ride, Carsington Reservoir. Just before you reach it, you pass within a few yards of the Knockerdown pub, though I confess I didn’t notice it, this time around. Carsington Reservoir is pretty unusual in that almost all of the water in it is pumped from six miles away. It doesn’t even appear on my addition of the OS map, as it was only completed in 1992. Happily, a comparison of its outline with the old map seems to show that no habitation was lost except a couple of farms, upsetting though that may have been for the occupants. There is a very well-appointed visitor centre and facilities for boating and water-sports. But the most attractive feature by far is that there are cycle-tracks round the whole perimeter. Our way took us around the eastern side of the lake on an undulating and twisting course through woodlands and open spaces with good views of the water. One feature I’d never come across before was speed bumps on a cycle track. Presumably they are designed to protect walkers from thoughtless cyclists, which is fair enough, as they were on steep descents with limited visibility. All too soon, I left the lake for Hopton, beyond which a hundred yards
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Randonnées of footpath took me up to the High Peak Trail, where I was joined by Graham, from Stourbridge. Immediately, we tackled the Hopton Incline, scene of several bad accidents caused by runaway mineral wagons when the railway was operational. At this stage we only did a couple of miles on the trail before taking to the lanes again through Elton and onto the lovely wooded climb of Cliff Lane. A sharp descent brought me to the River Lathkill, which I followed for a mile to the A6, where I turned left for Bakewell. On the run into Bakewell, I came up to John Ramsden from Burnley, who was trying only his second Audax and making a good job of it. Graham arrived in the town about the same time and we were glad of a sandwich and coffee on a bench in the town centre. Soon after setting off again we climbed to the newly completed Monsal Trail via a little cut to the side of the old station building. This is a delight to ride: it’s flat, though ever-so-slightly uphill; it’s tarmaced; and it’s got tunnels! Just listen to these names: Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton, Chee Tor, Rusher Cutting! In fact, the tunnels indirectly gave the only (very slight) problem in a terrific nine miles of trail. The three of us were using “be seen” lights but many on-coming cyclists weren’t and appeared suddenly and often closer than I’d have liked. Deathray for me next time, maybe. In addition to the tunnels were the bridges with great views into the wooded valleys below. This trail is justifiably popular, with families, school parties and dogs and cyclists all requiring care and consideration. I just think it’s wonderful that so many people want to be out exercising, especially given the lessthan-perfect weather and I was happy to slow down from time to time. We had to leave the surfaced trail at Wye Dale car-park and cycle-hire centre where we met Graeme McCulloch. This is a rider who is happy in his work. I’d passed him earlier replacing a tyre (the only way I’d ever pass him) and he was as cheerful as ever. Now, he’d missed an instruction and had come in from the other direction and told us that the river was very high and the track from here a bit rough and ready. He was right. The trail was flat enough but surfaced with a shingly aggregate which made me apprehensive here and there. But though the river was indeed very high, we were in no danger and before long we were at our “terminus” under Topley Pike. A stiff climb, enjoyable to me after so much flat riding, brought me to a tricky turn off the A6 and another twisty climb, on which two tandem riders were pausing. They were taking part in the Lutudarum ride which John ran in conjunction with Knockerdown, effectively the middle section of the longer ride. Ascertaining that they were no worse than tired, I climbed on before going left for Chelmorton. A few miles later I had crossed the Buxton to Ashbourne road and rattled down a stony lane to reach the High Peak Trail for the second time. Just through the gate, I met Alan, also on the shorter ride and it was good to see him recovering some of his love for cycling after an uninspiring year. If you are not able to feel good cycling in these surroundings then it really is hard luck. John and Graham had come up by now and we took turns over the next few miles to open gates for each other. It was noticeable that there was always a puddle where you need to put your foot down, because, of course, everyone walks through the gate at the same side, wearing a depression. However, frequently this was balanced by a shock of beautiful wild-flowers growing round the gate-post, notably red campion and forget-me-nots. There were late bluebells throughout the ride, too, and mossy walls covered in the beautiful herb robert with its small pink cranesbill flowers and rich green leaves turning to red and maroon. Here and there clumps of bird’sfoot trefoil or bacon and eggs spilled over the verges and many of the fields had huge swathes of clover. After about seven miles of good riding, we left the trail at Minninglow and made our way by country lanes with some steep descents to Parwich, thence to Alsop-en-leDale. Somewhere along this stretch we came up to Chris Crookes, who had had a flat and briefly we were a group of four as we made for Mill Dale. This is at the top end of Dove Dale and must surely have produced its rivals to the Lake Poets?
had pointed out on the sheet that there was a good view of Thor’s Cave on the run in and it is even more striking from this approach because you see the tor jutting up out of the river valley below you. The descent into the control requires concentration; it might be tricky in the dark, even with good lights. We had arrived at the Van Of Delights! John was dispensing tea and coffee and there were cheese and pickle sandwiches, cake and doughnuts, to name only what I ate.
Little wonder that riders were dawdling and reluctant to set off on the final leg. Some were more reluctant than others and I was still there when Tim and Denise Hughes arrived with their tandem to complete the Lutudarum. Chris, Graham and John were long gone when Bob Bialek and I finally saddled up for the last corral. We headed off up the Manifold Trail in the opposite direction to the morning’s visit. On this section too, the river had swamped the mighty butterbur plants, whose plate-like leaves bobbed about in the flood. At Hulme End we left the trail to start climbing again. We’d been chatting all the while when I became unsure about whether or not I’d missed a direction. At a T-junction we were advised to go left for Royal Cottage. There were several signs but nary a one for Royal Cottage. Now, I always carry maps but they are sheets torn out of an old road atlas. Normally these are perfectly adequate but on this occasion it had occurred to me that trails wouldn’t feature in a road atlas, whereas, even on my antiquated OS maps, they would show up as old or disused railway lines. So I’d put the OS maps in the bag, just in case. I hadn’t needed them for the trails but here they quickly helped me to decide that we hadn’t made a mistake (it was just a missing sign) and we were soon on our way. True audaxing! Some good climbing followed as we ground our way up to Flash. The routesheet warned us about the 1 in 3 twisty descent, again not one for the reckless in the dark, and we were approaching what John had labelled as the last climb of the day, past the Wild Boar Inn. What he hadn’t intimated was just how long it was! Bob let me win the climbing points on this stretch and we reeled in the final few miles to Broken Cross. I’m glad John mentioned that we had done the last hill because the climbs after it didn’t count as they obviously didn’t exist. It had been a long day in the saddle but a unique one. A sort of “Audax meets Cyclo-cross”. Even in dry conditions, this is never going to be a particularly fast ride. There are so many gates, for a start. The odd hill, of course. And cattle-grids – it could have been called The Cattle-grid Challenge. But every grid was absolutely safe and I was fine on 28s and I know some were on 23s and Ade may even have been on 19s. But who wants fast in countryside like this? And even when you finish the enjoyment isn’t over. There was the usual Perrin family hospitality and the craic was as good as ever. This is a terrific addition to John’s group of rides from Broken Cross. Thanks to everyone for good company and to John and his family for great hospitality. Come and join us next time!
We were strung out again by the time we passed through Wetton and onto our final checkpoint at Wetton Mill, for the second time. John
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Riding the Cambrian 10A
he Cambrian 10A is a 1015 km permanent in Wales with 18,000 m of ascent and is the big daddy of the Cambrian series permanents organised by Colin Bezant. It consists of 3 loops centred at Llandrindod Wells in Mid Wales. Colin has prepared route notes for prospective riders to assist their planning. Having completed the ride in late August 2012 this is a summary which I hope will be of use to others contemplating the ride. Based on Colin’s notes I decided to ride the loops in 1, 3, 2 order starting around 05:00 with the expectation that loops 1 and 2 would take 18 - 22 hrs and loop 3 would take 14 -16 hrs. I hoped this would allow a decent sleep after loops 1 and 3 and I would then be able ride straight through to a finish on the final night. I was based at the Disserth campsite 5 km to the south of Llandrindod Wells as recommended by Steve Abraham (1st rider to complete the C10A). My timings were based on having ridden a Wessex SR series, Mille Alba 1000 and Douze Cents 1200 over the spring/summer so I had a good level of fitness and climbing legs. I rode my Condor Ti bike with a triple chainset giving 30 x 27 lowest gear. I used a GPS and Colin’s route notes for navigating during the ride. The GPS track was provided by Steve A (thanks Steve!). Distances and climbing figures shown below are from the route notes. Actual figures will depend on route options taken, my total distance recorded by GPS was 1055 km. Loop 1 Mid & North Wales (388 km, 6420 m climbing, completion time 18:12 hrs) Many of the roads from Llandrindod to Llanberis via Aberystwyth, LLanidloes, Machynlleth and Dolgellau will be familiar to riders of the BCM 600 scenic and the Cambrian 200. As expected there is plenty of climbing but the gradients on A roads are generally moderate and descents can be enjoyed to keep the average speed up. After leaving the A5 on the LLanberis to Bala stage the roads get lumpier, and the route more technical, but it is great cycling. This theme continues after Bala on the remote road to Lake Vyrnwy, where the flatish road along the lakeside provides some welcome respite before the rollercoaster roads all the way to Newtown. Be prepared for a series of steep climbs requiring low gears and twisting descents needing concentration; it took me much longer than expected to complete this section, I think the term is grovelling. The climb out of Newtown on the A483 is long but straightforward and then it should be a cruise back to Llandrindod. Loop 3 Mid & South East Wales (271 km, 4720 m climbing, completion time 14:43 hrs) My route followed the minor roads through Llanbister to Clun, these are lumpy and provide a real test of how legs have recovered from the previous day’s efforts. There is a major descent into Clun which needs to be retraced after controlling (oh joy!). Control options are limited here as I didn’t see a cashpoint and the store only opened at 09:00 on Saturday but the Butcher was open when I arrived just before 08:00. The run south to Hay-on-Wye takes in a variety of A, B and minor roads with great views towards the Brecon Beacons to enjoy as featured on the Offa’s Dyke 600. On leaving Hay I chose to follow Colin’s suggested route via Craswall on quiet lanes rather than using the Golden Valley alternative which can be busy on fine days. After crossing the A465 at Pandy there is a steep climb on a very gnarly lane and then things are undulating all the way to Monmouth. The next stage to Chepstow down the Wye valley is easy (hurrah!). Using the suggested route from Chepstow to Abergavenny on B4246 is a good alternative to the BCM roads and again is relatively easy. The climb up the Tumble (450 m) from Aber’ is long but not steep so provides a welcome chance to get a good rhythm and enjoy the emerging views across the valley. From the top there is a shortish descent to a garage which provides the 1st control possibility in Blaenavon. It’s then a case of returning to the top and taking the direct route down via very steep minor roads to Gilwern as I did or perhaps a high speed descent of the Tumble might be the quicker and easier option. After crossing the river at Crickhowell it’s back on familiar BCM 600 roads via Bronylls to Builth Wells and then Llandrindod. 44
Loop 2 South Wales and Black Mountains (356 km, 6790 km, completion time 19:44 hrs) Straight in at the deep end on this loop with the Newbridge on Wye road from Mille Cymru as a warm up followed by a crossing of the Cambrian mountains via the Devil’s Staircase to Tregaron. A control stamp seemed like it might be tricky at 7am in Tregaron but although the store hadn’t yet opened for business a helpful assistant signed an old receipt for me. From there the route goes across the grain of the land to controls at Newcastle EmIyn and Fishguard, a total of 95 km and 1900 m climbing according to the notes, it is the kind of terrain that has you winching upwards in your lowest gear one minute and then plummeting down to the valley bottom the next, only to repeat the experience more times than seems possible. Patience is required, it’s slow progress and hard work but things do eventually get easier towards Fishguard. Here there is great cafe by the roundabout at the top of town, try the cawl soup and pasties and relax a while. Faced with the next stage to Camarthen I had a dilemma; the recommended route on minor roads is 55 km with 1210 m climbing, from experience on the Cambrian 6A I knew this would be a repeat of the previous two stages and, after asking the cafe staff about traffic, decided to take the less mountainous but 14 km longer main road route via Haverfordwest. I recommend sticking to the minor roads as the main roads are a mix of single and dual carriageway and there was too much fast traffic for comfort even on Sunday afternoon. The next stage to Pontarddulais is more big rollercoaster hills (well what did you expect on this ride?). After controlling and crossing through Neath the route climbs gently up the Afan valley and then a glorious long fast descent to Treorchy. Another long steady climb up the Rhigos before descending to cross the A465 Heads of Valley via some twiddly lanes and then out on to the open Brecon Beacons countryside before a long rolling descent into Brecon. The final stage now with some short sharp climbs to Builth Wells and then the last 10 km to Llandrindod. Extra points awarded if you have the energy to attempt a sprint to the town boundary sign! Final Thoughts 1. The campsite at Disserth is a convenient base. There is a communal fridge and microwave, the showers are good and leaving/arriving in the small hours is no problem. 2. I think loop 2 is the hardest and best tackled with fresh legs so I with hindsight I would have preferred to ride the loops in 2, 3, 1 order. The idea to do the shorter loop in the middle worked well and allowed me to have around 4.5 hours sleep after each of the first two loops. 3. Gearing is subjective but my 30 x 27 allowed me to climb the steep stuff at 6-8 km/h in the saddle even on the final loop. You will not regret having a low granny gear. 4. Try and get the Welsh weather on your side as it will obviously be a major factor on a ride such as this. Colin and I had planned a joint attempt but we postponed due to a poor weather forecast. I rode solo the following weekend when the outlook was better. 5. Finally, of the nominal 75 hours available I spent 53 hours riding the loops, 9 hours sleeping and 5 hours general duties and faffing at the campsite giving a comfortable 8 hour reserve. All in all a good result I think.
Amongst the hills on the Hellfire 600 with John Barkman and Simon Gent (photo: Alan Parkinson) Arrivée November 2012
Audax with Children Colin Bezant Peter Bezant, age 11, completed a brevet 500 this year. The 5 100km rides were: the Cheesie Toastie (5 May), the Fairies Flat 100 (1 July), the Cotswold Midweek 100 (18 July), a DIY perm featuring Selsey, Wittering, the Itchenor Ferry, Rowlands Castle, Eartham, Yapton, Birdham, and Selsey (7 August) and the New Forest and Coast 100 (2 September). It rained a little bit on each of the rides, and it was only on the permanent that he managed to start in the dry. His steed is an Isla Bikes Beinn 26 featuring Schwalbe Marathon tyres, a single chainring with a wide-ratio 8 speed cassette on the back, and occasionally Ortlieb panniers. He gets the occasional push up the hills, much to the envy of other riders on hilly events like the Cotswold 100, but otherwise covers everything under his own steam. A base layer and a good waterproof Altura jacket kept him warm even at the start of the Cheesie Toastie where there was horizontal sleet over the North Downs. As I wasn’t going my usual speed I had to remember to add an extra layer to keep warm.
Audax for all ages photo: Colin Bezant
It was great to see him improve over the summer. In May we would go 15 – 20km between stops but by the end he was quite capable of riding 35km to the first control without a break. By the end of the Cheesie Toastie he was pretty much all in (much to Bezant senior’s disappointment at missing the chance for a second round of cheese on toast from the El Supremo oven) but by the New Forest 100 he could easily have done another stage (if we could have lured either him or me from the excellent spread at the finish) I originally thought about writing an article “Audax for children” but realised that this missed the point. The reason these rides worked so well for us is that both father and son got something out of them, not just time together but a shared experience that will last a lifetime.
El Supremo control on the Cheesie Toastie photo: Colin Bezant
Fairies Flat 100 photo: Colin Bezant
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Eyeing up a corner on the New Forest and Coast 100 photo: Colin Bezant 45
n recent years the St. Petersburg audax club, Baltic Star, has rapidly grown into one of the European powerhouses of audaxing. Their yellow/blue jerseys are visible during many 1200+ events throughout Europe. At home they organise a 1200 around two large Russian lakes, the Onega and Ladoga lakes. Due to the dense traffic situation in St. Petersburg the start is in the quiet provincial town of Vologda. During their first edition, in 2008, I had to pack due to a shoulder injury. So in early july I set out by train from Moscow to the starttown of Vologda. This time I opted for a quiet preparation, admiring the old Russian town of Jaroslavl situated halfway between Moscow and Vologda. I arrived in the early afternoon. The sightseeing in Vologda I had done already two and four years ago. By now I know my way around town so directly out of the railway station I went to the bikeshop to get some last minute supplies. A lavish late lunch in a local eatery later, I set out for the assembly point, a students’ hostel 14km north of town. I leave the town through dense traffic and easily I find the commuter village north of Vologda. Riding towards the hostel I spot a reassuring amount of supermarkets and food stores. No need to head back to town to buy the needed supplies for the first leg of the ride. In front of the hostel I meet Claus from Hamburg. He is waiting for the van which transports his bike. The Russian railways don’t cause too many headaches for cyclists so I prefer taking the bike by train. In the hostel I meet many old friends from previous rides. I quickly settle in and transport my things to my room which I share with Michael from Switzerland. A dash to one of the foodstores gets me nearly everything I need. Only my battery supply is rather low. There’s no restaurant in the village but a kitchen in the hostel solves all problems. Together with the
others I head out for the pre-ride meeting, in front of another student hostel. Last time the chief organiser Mikhail did all the registration work, assisted by his daughter. Now she takes over the job, efficiently organising the distribution of frame numbers, routesheets (in 3 languages) and brevetcards. And the much coveted VOL shirts of course. A promising young organiser (still in her teenage years). The van with the bikes only arrives after the documents are issued. Those who still have their bikes boxed scramble for them and with some assistance from others assemble their bikes. Chikara’s box is a bit startling. He extracts a strange amount of tubes and assorted bike parts from it which after some work form a nice recumbent, the only one in the ride. We all wonder how he managed to pass airport security with this, disassembled it hardly looks like a bike. Back in the hostel we all eat from our supplies. Some riders didn’t manage to download the newest GPS track. Luckily I downloaded it in Jaroslavl so I can transfer it from my netbook. Some of the younger riders wonder a bit about my bike, a 1987 Koga Miyata Grantourer. Many parts are not known to the younger ones. So the old hands explain how we used to ride back in the old days. I like the comfortable front fork of it. Tyre clearance is a bit larger as on my PBP bike. That combined it forms an excellent bike for the rough roads of Northern Russia. I opted for bar-end shifters. There’s no need for quick shifting on this brevet. Russian roads are rather straight, no steep hills looming behind sharp corners here. And a bar-end shifter is repairable by a Russian village mechanic, in contrast to the more modern stuff. Only a few riders are still fettling with their bikes when most riders go to sleep. We need every sleep we can catch now. In the morning most riders wake up far too early. There is some nervousness in the air. Breakfast is again a do it yourself affair. Probably better than being
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Overseas served something which you might not like before the start of a big ride. Start is at 7. At 6.30 a van is announced for the dropbags. But no van in sight when we all are outside the hostel waiting for it. 7 is nearing when there’s still no van. A rider’s wife volunteers to stay with the bags so we can set out for the start, 2km from the hostel. We all arrive after 7. But the organisers are still handing out routesheets and brevet cards to those who arrived in the early morning. When all of us are equipped with them a group photo is made and we set out in small groups, half an hour later than scheduled. I opt for the first group, with my (lack of ) speed I need every wheel I can follow during the first part of the ride. We’re 80 riders, twice as many as 4 years ago. Looking around I see many unfamiliar jerseys. A lot of new clubs around, many of them from smaller towns all over Russia. Of the classic three only Baltic Star is out in force, Caravan Moscow and Orion Volograd are outnumbered by clubs from Novosibirsk and Voronezh. The first group settles rapidly into a reasonable pace. Even during the first rise there’s not a single rider tearing off. I’m happy with this situation. For the first 10k we keep this reasonable pace. Then something uncommon happens, something I’ve never seen during the 5 other audax rides I’ve done in Russia so far. The Voronezh-club passes us in an excellent paceline, several other riders in tow. Up till now most riders I’ve seen during brevets over here were riding rather individually, this is the first time I see a proper road men’s paceline during a Russian audax ride. Immediately the front riders in my group increase speed and not much later the group rips just in front of me. I try to keep the gap small but hardly anyone wishes to help or is capable of doing this. Most are quite happy to sit on my wheel for a long time. For a few dozen kilometers I ride with this group until I stop for a call of nature. I resume the road alone, something I’m quite used to. And it doesn’t bother me at all. I quickly find a steady rhythm and roll along through the usual Russian countryside of endless forests interspersed with scenic lakes. Occasionally a sideroad veers off to a distant riverside village. In this part of Russia the villages were founded along the rivers. The rivers were the old roads. Only in the age of motoring the asphalt roads took over and were built on the high grounds. Not far before the turn-off to the Fillipovo Monastry the first control is located by the roadside. Nothing fancy, just a car, some food and water and a few controllers. Not that anyone needs more. The only thing to be desired could be more water. It’s a hot day and not everyone took enough water with them. I started out with 4 litres of drinks, most of it used already. I top up at the control. There are still riders out when I resume my ride, I’ve already built a comfortable time-cushion to the closing times. We don’t visit the Fillipovo Monastry this time so I keep on heading north. Temperatures start to rise, it should be around 30 degrees now. Normally I would enter the disaster zone here. Before I started using sports drinks my stomach would gradually shut-down above 30 degrees. After some experimenting I found some sports drinks I can still drink in the heat and which keep my stomach working. Not that I would enter rides where much higher temperatures are expected though. In fact, I choose this ride because usually temperatures are in the 20-ies here, my prefered range of temperature for long distance cycling.
photos: Ivo Miesen
Now we’ve passed the Fillipovo Monastry traffic gradually diminishes
Arrivée November 2012
to a few cars per hour. One feels quite lonely here. It’s my second time on this road so I know that I can expect some services at the second control. Here a road leads to the small town of Lipin Bor. We continue on the main road but not before checking in at the 2nd control. Just next to it is a service station. I stop there for a hot meal. Els is allready sitting there, enjoying some of the local pastries. I stock up with supplies. No-one knows if the next shops will be open or not, they only cater for the villagers’ needs. There’s one halfway on the next stage. I leave the route and to my surprise it’s open. That’s perfect, it’s still hot and an icecream would be great. And stocking up on drinks again. During the first days I’m drinking about 15 litres a day so I need a regular supply of water. Last time the shop was already closed, I had to use my emergency rations to reach the next control. Just after resuming the route I meet Vadim and Elizaveta from Moscow. It’s their first big brevet and they’re still equipped as proper roadies. Shiny carbon fibre bikes and neat kit. They don’t speak English so my basic Russian has to do for conversation. Sometimes we ride together, sometimes alone. But still the occasional stretches of riding together are enough to reach the 3rd control in good spirits. Last time I was struggling here and needed some sleep. I remember that this control is midge-infested so one of the first things to do is using the midgerepellant. Industrial strength is needed in this part of Russia. I eat and drink the usual mugs of tea (staple drink at Russian controls). There’s a 4th rider at the control, Aleksey. He suffers from a nasty crash and has to retire. When I’m about to leave Vadim and Elizaveta also pack. Vadim has knee problems and Elizaveta joins him in packing. Quite a shame, she’s still in good form and there are enough riders near us to ride together for the remainder of the ride. I’m back in my usual position, last man on the road. So I settle out alone again. The next stage is far more scenic and populated than the previous ones. Several times I’ll cross the great waterway from the Volga to the White Sea. But first I have to negotiate some bad roads near the village of Depo. The main road veers to the left but I continue straight on, up ahead I see a cloud of dust in the evening sun. The asphalt disappears as I cross the small gauge railway track. This is a logging village. Last time I was here at dawn, now it’s still evening. It’s still scenic, the white nights are something to experience. Near Beluosovo the white nights are especially spectacular. I pass a scenic bay where several cruise ships are moored for the night. The Onega lake starts here. To my surprise the local shop is still open. I enter it as I make my way through the cluster of late-evening drinkers at the doorstep. Probably they think that they’ve drunk a bottle too much as they see me in reflective jacket and helmet light. I stock up again on food and drinks. When I resume the road I head north into the sun. A strange feeling for me, the sun shouldn’t be in that corner. In Vytegra I reach the first turn of the ride. I’ve been riding straight on for more than 300km. Still one rider manages to overshoot the turn and log some extra miles. The small town of Vytegra is asleep. Probably some riders too in the local hotel. I continue on, not far up is the control of Saminky Pogost. I reach it without problems. A lot of bikes at the control, I’m clearly not that far behind. I opt for a short kip before eating and continuing. I’m not very sleepy but I have enough time in hand to invest in some sleep. Usually that makes you faster in the next legs. Less than an hour later I wake up. But it takes some time between 48
waking up and really being active. It takes an awful long time before I really start going again. I sit around a bit trying not to be noticed by the midges. Wearing full raingear is the best method at this moment not to get bitten. Luckily my mind kicks in again, I take some extra clothes from my dropbag and resume my ride. I’m among the backmarkers now. We’ll be seeing each other regularilly for the next few days. Luckily no quitters this time, 4 years ago all the riders I met at the controls were packing. These are the real riders, determined to finish, not afraid to balance on the edge of the time limit. The rest of the backmarkers are all fairly local, lots of them from St. Petersburg. About half of them speak English, for the others my basic Russian has to do. But it’s a good feeling to see some other riders. Shortly after the control I pass the Karelian border. The rest of the ride will be held here, in one of the Russian autonomous republics. Not that I hear Karelian in this part of Karelia. There are more Karelians living on the shores of the Ladoga lake. There are many controls here, spaced about 60km apart. Hospitality is superb, a bit too superb in fact for those who are fighting with the time limits. Controls eat away a massive amount of time. I’d rather prefer them spaced about 100km apart Especially since the food is more or less the same at all the controls. So for variety it’s needed to shop at local shops or use the few roadside restaurants available. Mostly defined by the circumstances, a lot of the controls consist of a few tents by the side of a lake. The only solutions if habitation is nearly failing. Roadsigns informing you that the next hospital, service station ore other amenities are more than 60km further on are quite a normal sight. As are roadsigns warning for potholes. It would be cheaper to point out the roads without potholes. Pudozh is the only place of any size during daytime. Even large enough to have a mainstreet market. Police officers guard the entrance and send me via some backroads. When I’m back at the mainstreet the police officer on duty there already knows what’s happening and points out the school where the control is. Another control with dropbags so I change clothes. Opposite to it is a shop. Finlly a chance to cool down with an ice-cream. The next announced shop is 80km further on. A village shop so no certainty if it’s open. The only company I have for the next leg are all sorts of insects. A lot of short sharp hills here, uphill I’m an easy target for them. I could do without the next control, 60km is far too short. The control is located in a holiday camp. I arrive here without any water. I could have asked one or two villages before but knowing there’s a control ahead I simply press on. Several riders are still at the control when I arrive, eating in a small hut. I’m escorted to another hut where the vegetarian food is. It’s very relaxed here. One could stay here for hours. But I don’t have the time for that, soon it’s time to continue. 20Km further on is the announced shop, not too far away from the route. It’s still open so I can stock up on food and drinks. When I’m back on the route I see Dima, a young rider from St. Petersburg. Together with him I continue to the next control. One of the lakeside contols. We have to dismount and walk through the forest for a few minutes to reach it. The path to it is very muddy. Over a rickety bridge we reach the control. One of the controllers arrives, fishing rod in his hand. The fire is burning, water in the large kettle already boiling. A typical Baltic Star control. I eat and drink tea here before resuming
Arrivée November 2012
Overseas my ride, together with Konstantin and Katja this time. Out of the blue a good asphalt road appears. We enjoy it, it might not last long. And indeed, after passing the village of Novaja Gabalja the road deteriorates again. A sign for a café points to the village. We try to find it but it’s too well hidden. Katja and Konstantin left the village a bit earlier so I’m alone again. In the next village I pass the Belomorskij-Baltiskij kanal. One of the many in this region. It’s getting quite chilly so I change clothes after Povonets. I’m not that far away from Medvezhegorsk but my progress is very slow. I nearly fall asleep and need a few short kips on the handlebars. Finally I reach Medvezhegorsk where I find an open service station. I stop and drink some tea. Finally I start fo feel human again. This is the first place where I find a proper map of Karelia. I immediately buy it. In the centre of Medvezhegorsk I easily find the turn to the control, 25km further away. Immediately I see the first rider returning from the control. A few minutes later a car stops. A few controllers inside. Tanja is among them and tells me that the control opening times are changed, we have a few more hours. I had expected something like that since the control times were still calculated on the basis of the 15km/h average although I’ve passed the 600km mark already. So it’s quite normal to get some extra hours. The control is excellently located, 2nd night and past the 600km mark. The moment most people need some sleep. That’s also my first thought when I arrive at the control. Especially since I’ve eaten in Medvezhegorsk so I don’t need food directly. I enter a tent and fall asleep. More than 2 hours later I awake. There’s still breakfast and there are still some other riders present. So I take my time to eat and try to get my body back into working order. During the first kilometres to Medvezhegorsk I feel that I’m not asleep but not awake either. It takes ages for my body to get going. Still I have to make some tactical choices in Medvezhegorsk. I don’t know if the next control will stay open longer and if so, for how long. But I do know that after leaving Medvezhegorsk there are hardly any services untill the turn-off to the next control, over 60kms with only one truckstop mentioned on the map. And I do remember this stretch from last time. The map indicates a service station on the outskirts of Medvezhegorsk. But no information if it sells food. So I cycle back to the centre of Medvezhegorsk. The big supermarket is not open yet, they only start at 10am. But a small shop opposite to it is already open for business. I stock up for the next 100km, at least with food. No batteries here and I need to restock somewhere today. It’s the first big brevet I ride on battery lights with an old bottom bracket generator as back-up. So I don’t really know how many batteries I need. And my GPS is slowly giving in, every few kilometres it shuts off. Battery consumption is rather high, probably due to the constant restarting of the unit. When I exit Medvezhegorsk I see that the service station has a small shop. And indeed, they stock batteries. Of unknown quality. I buy a set of 4 and continue. This stretch was one of my worst last time. And it is this time. Only the first bit is interesting. The rest is simply mind-numbing. A long line of straight asphalt is visible ahead. Next to it some wasteland and 30-40m later the forest starts. Endless forest with no human habitation in sight. But there’s enough traffic to form a nuisance. On the busy sections I have to ride on the 70-80cm wide stretch of asphalt to the right of the actual road. The only distractions are a logging truck entering the road in the first section and a river crossing later on. The truckstop is a welcome sight. I stop and order the food I have been missing at the controls, scrambled eggs. 2 years ago there were no services during the White Nights 1200 but enough truckstops serving hot food. Overhere even the truckstops are lacking for large sections of the route. While waiting for my food I check the map. The route this time returns to the M18 after the Girvas control. Last time we took the old road via the villages. That road looks a lot better to me. I even wonder if the more northern road from Medvezhegorsk to Girvas would be better. A simple relocation of the control south of Medvezhegorsk to a lake along the northern road would solve all control problems. That supposing that the northern road has a halfdecent surface. The first bit after the truckstop I manage to ride at reasonable pace. Later on I’m back at plodding. Shortly before the final turn-off Vladimir calls me. He asks me where I am. Still 15km to go to the control I report him. That’s ok for him, now he can plan the closing of the control. At the turn-off a service station looks very appealing. The routesheet even mentions that it has showers. But I have no time
Arrivée November 2012
for that luxury, I stop rapidly to restock on cola. When I’m back on the road I first see Nikolai and Katja entering the café behind the service station. Not much later I see the other Katja returning to the M18. So I’m not that awfully far behind the others. Nothing I couldn’t solve with budgetting on sleep. I reach Girvas without much problems. One of the controllers waits at the roadside to point me to the school where the control is located. I’m quickly served with hot food and tea. With Vladimir I discuss my mental problems with the M18 and my idea of taking the old road. It should be about as long as retracing to the M18 and following that road to the next control. But I don’t know if Mikhail had a special reason to replace the old road. So Vladimir calls Mikhail. Mikhail sees no problems with following the old road. Relieved, I check the contents of my dropbag and hit the road again. I immediately feel refreshed when I am at the old road. The scenery is a lot better, starting with leaving Girvas via a small river canyon. The road winds its way through forests, lakes and lots of small villages. At last I don’t have to stop at each available shop becaue the next one is hours away, but I can simply stop and buy whenever I need something. In the following hours I see more people than during the first half of
the ride. I’m enjoying my ride again. The last bit of the old roads leads me through a series of scenic lakes. Lots of people here, it looks like half of Petrozavdosk has a summerhouse here. It’s Sunday afternoon so there’s a bit more traffic than expected. But still within acceptable limits. Shortly before Petrozavodsk I’m back on the M18. It’s just a short bit to the control. But it’s still an interesting feeling to ride under and over motorway bridges. When I reach the control I see a few known bikes. So I’m back among the other backmarkers. Claus is sleeping but awakens when I’m eating. We talk a bit, he was also nerved by riding on the M18. I tell him that when we leave the M18 in the village of Prjazha there are some amenities here including a small 24h restaurant. Last time I covered this stretch in darkness, crossing over 20km of roadworks. So now I expect a very well kept road. Well kept it indeed is. There’s hardly a section of bad road untill the Kroznozero control. Although this road is mostly at 2 lane motorway standard it has a different feeling to the previous part of the M18. Here it’s the old road refurbished to higher standards, a road grown naturally, a road following the lines of the terrain. Not a road designed in a far-away office. Several villages after the control I see a sign for a watersource. When signposted like this it has to be good water. Several cars are parked here and people carry jerrycans full of water to their car. I only refresh myself. Downstream of the source I hold my feet in the cold water, a welcome treat after another hot day. Without any incidents I reach the village of Prjazha. I stop here to eat. That might be the last café food before I reach the shores of Lake Ladoga. When I leave Prjazha it’s dark enough to use my lights. Also this road is recently refurbished and feels very good in the semi-darkness when I reach the Kroznozero control. There’s another control 56km further on, but with tents. Here it’s a school. I decide to sleep here and not to press on. I still remember the problems I had during the first part of the previous night. When I awake the control should already have been closed for hours. But over the next stretch we get another batch of bonus time, 5 hours are available for 56km. That should be fairly doable, including some sleep. When I’m back on the road I see that I made a wise choice to sleep here. The road is wet, there has been a serious rainshower during 49
Overseas I have nearly reached Salmi when a rider stops to give me the exact location of it. His English is worse than my Russian so we switch to Russian. I reach the control where Vladimir and his crew are already catering for the few riders still present. By now I know that I can finish this ride. But I don’t know if it will be an official finish or an out of time finish.
the past 2 hours. Later on I see video footage from the rain, it was indeed quite serious. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. The next control is with tents again so not the best place to arrive wet. Within a few kilometres I’m on the refurbished road. Again very wide and superb asphalt. A complete contrast to the shores of Lake Onega. But again it’s a road designed in a far away office. It completely bypasses all villages. The roadsigns sometimes have Russian names of villages, sometimes typical Karelian names. Which could mean that Karelians and Russians don’t live together in the same villages but are separated. Only the morning sun and light fog create a decent scenery. Somewhere halfway to the Mandera control I see a controller’s car passing with a bike on the roof. I can’t recognise it that rapidly. Later on I hear that it’s Nikolai’s bike, he packed due to a broken rear mech hanger. Shortly before I reach the control the road turns more natural again. A short stretch of unpaved road and I enter the tent village of Mandera control.
Vladimir tells me the new location of the next control. Again a lakeside tent. The original spot was already taken by other campers. The new spot is 4km further on. The GPS coordinates give me the exact location. My battery supplies are very low again. The next shop which might stock batteries is down in the village. Pitkyaranta should be a better option. So I set out again trying to reach Pitkyaranta before the electronics shop closes. Luckily my legs are good again so I can push it a bit. Halfway to Pitkyaranta I have to stop to change the GPS batteries. No new ones so I’ll have to rob my frontlight from half its batteries. Vladimir passes me when I’m
Ivo Miesen on VOL changing the batteries. As does Katja. I pass her again Still some bikes around and riders sleeping in an old later on, she’s having a bad moment. In the outskirts of Pitkyaranta a box shaped trailer cabin. The sort used by roadworkers. Within minutes car overtakes me and the driver stops me. He tells me that there’s a I’m sipping hot tea and enjoying the stop. cyclist in trouble somewhere behind me. Vladimir shouldn’t be too far But I don’t stay long. A bit further on is a guesthouse where we can away so I call him so he can have a look. Not much later he calls back, have a shower. I return to the mainroad and 10km further on stop at he phoned with Katja and she’s tired but still ok. I resume my ride to the guesthouse. But it’s closed, Monday is it’s usual closing day. Bad the electronics shop. Before I reach it I see a supermarket. And this one luck. I check my GPS for possible places further on the road for a 2nd doesn’t only stock food and drinks but also decent quality batteries. breakfast. A café is mentioned in the next village. And indeed, at the I buy two sets and am relieved. I put the light batteries back in their crossroads is a bus stop and café just opening for business. I enjoy the place and finally know that I have fitting batteries again. An elderly man great Russian rolls here. Always very tasty and filling. approaches me while I do this. He has seen a few riders passing with The first bit of the next stretch is via an interesting road. But the whole frame numbers and studies mine. He is impressed and invites me for middle section is again one of these modern roads, wide, unappealing coffee at his place. I politely decline, no time for this. I still don’t know if and without a single bit of shadow. The sun is out again and the I can finish in time or not. temperature rises rapidly. For dozens of kilometres I plod on. There’s I continue at a brisk pace and leave Pitkyaranta. But not much later hardly anything to see, my speed really suffers because of this. Only I must admit that I can’t keep on like this. It’s very hot again and I’m towards the end of this stretch a sight merits a short stop. A monument overheating. My legs can support the speed, the rest of my system to honour a few Soviet soldiers who died here, probably fighting the can’t. I stop at the last service station before I reach an empty stretch Finnish army during WW2. A fact which isn’t widely known in the west, of road. An ice cream and a long rest in the shade have to restore my the Finnish army supporting Nazi-Germany. Various visitors left food, temperature balance. I gambled and it went wrong. When I continue drinks and cigarettes for the souls of the fallen soldiers. Old pagan I have to ride slower so my body can cope with the temperatures. I’m rituals don’t die here. But I can’t pause for long here, I have to continue. in plodding mode again. Luckily the road is quite old and scenic so at least I have some distraction in the form of old villages and nice views on Lake Ladoga. I don’t stop in Lyaskelya to admire the small waterfall. I have seen this a few times before. When I reach the control they are already packing. I’m short on time but they still insist on serving me a meal and brewing tea. I’ve already decided not to bother about time anymore, I just ride as fast as feasible. The next town I reach just before ‘darkness’. This was the finish town last time. But now we have to continue, the new finish is 40km further on in Lahdenopolya. I’ve done this stretch only once, 8 years ago during the Ladoga 800. In Sortavala I have to make a detour, the bridge in the central part of town is under repair. The deviation is well signposted. For the last time I switch on my lights. I hope to be at the finish within a reasonable time.
A while further on I reach the only service station of this stretch. No fuel to be had here but the café is open, an ice cream is all I need at this moment. After the service station I turn left, a dogleg to Salmi. I arrive at the shores of Lake Ladoga. Immediately the scenery changes. There’s much to see and a lot of villages. And I directly gain speed. I need the scenery to keep on going. My supplies are low when I reach Pitkyaranta. A small shop has all I need for now. The last bit to Salmi is my favourite stretch for this ride. I’ve passed here a few times during previous Baltic Star brevets. A nice winding road with constantly changing scenery. And well sheltered against the wind. I see lots of riders already riding northwards to the finish. I had expected many of them to be further on the road. Either they took it easy or the brevet is harder than expected. 50
But I must have forgot that the stretch between Sortavala and Lahdenopolya is a beast. It’s a complete rollercoaster, mostly between 20 and 100m altitude. But sometimes hitting 200m. The sort of stretch where you only need two gears. Luckily the temperatures are ok now and my legs are good. So I don’t lose an enormous lot of time. But still too much. About halfway I have to change from trying to gain time to trying to finish. I don’t barrel downhill anymore with 60+km/h, don’t sprint uphill (ok, sort of sprinting). Even in Lahdenopolya I have to climb, the finish is in a high part of town. It takes a few minutes before I found the right building. I’m not sure if I am on time, all depends on the exact calculations of the organisers. The exact time of departure (about half an hour too late) and the possible time extension for overdistance. Even at the moment of writing I don’t know if I’ll be pardoned or if it will be an out of time finish.
Ivo Miesen Arrivée November 2012
Gremlins on the Avalon 400
is ridden annually on the Mad March when midday traffic is heavier. In the middle of the night traffic was occasional, although the night time views less dramatic. The night time bird calls were a worthwhile distraction, though some calls we could not believe could be avian in origin, yet we were way out in the country. Neither of us being twitchers we were left wondering.
It seems that my longer rides are plagued by an unwelcome wayward section where the ‘gremlins’ creep in one way or another, and stymie any success that has preceded it. These gremlins take many different forms, and on this ride a triple top event complemented a three way simultaneous attack on what was otherwise a great event. In one of the many hidden corners of the Blackdown Hills, centred on the The Half Moon Inn, gathered an assorted range of cycling types. Brian Jago had travelled up with me, but we had no firm commitment to stick together. As the sun set on the village of Clayhidon, so final preparations were made, tents trimmed by some for rest at the return, and additional clothing donned for our 10.30 depart. Clayhidon is atop the hills, more of that later, so we started with a long descent to the Culm Valley, and then due west toward the fading redness in the sky. The early juncture meant that we formed groups and denied the headwind its potential for impact on our pace. Police were monitoring the strange actions of the arrivals and departures of colourful lycra-clad folk at the Tiverton Tesco, but they kept a safe distance. This was the first control, and early cake was on offer at this late hour. Closing time in Tiverton can be a lively place on a Friday night, so it was good to be safely out of the buzz of the town and in to the darkness of the upper Exe Valley. The road to Wheddon Cross I normally find quite a trial, despite the fine scenery, it always seems to become such a long valley drag, made worse by the rough road surface. The night time ride was a revelation, it went so much more quickly by night, and lagging of the legs just did not occur. Thoughts stray – My second ever Audax, and first ever 400, was in August 1989, the breakfast Audax out of Salisbury, correctly titled ‘Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset 400’. It was routed via Minehead to Exeter, and this very valley road, ridden over night, took me then in to gremlin territory. I rode around with Graham Brodie and the Exeter Wheelers, I was therefore in the group that descended upon the Luxtons and were treated to a legendary spread of off-route sustenance. But the need of sleep struck, and I limped to Exeter services where the comatosed state developed. So much food was placed before me, that eventually I recovered sufficiently to be placed back on the bike for the long road to Salisbury, I was so grateful to all those guys! Now, with so much more long-distance experience, how will I cope with sleep deprivation this day?
Cresting East Quantocks Head, thoughts stray further. It was here all those 24 years ago that I discovered flat roads of the Plains caused me all sorts of trouble, yet on arriving at this very hill in a state of exhaustion some 100 miles in, I recovered through climbing and rode well in to an amazing setting sun and for many miles after. This discovery was sealed on the onward section from the Exeter Services when rising from the mist toward Newton Poppleford that I properly recovered.
‘Police were monitoring the strange actions of the arrivals and departures....’
Bolstered by such thoughts we sped toward Bridgwater, still on an average speed not far off 16mph – unheard of for both Brian and I at this distance. Surely this would be the gremlin-busting event we had dreamt of – dream on. We missed the intended right, but no worries, there was the sign we needed for the A39. We reached a large roundabout with an all night garage, and realised that we must have gone wrong. The useful guidance notes had told us there were no battery purchase locations after Tiverton. Route sheet, and maps out under street light, but could not work out where we had gone wrong, therefore nothing else to do but retrace, ignore the A39 sign, and soon reached the Cross Rifles Roundabout. Looking at the map from the comfort of home it is clear that the wrong turn had been a detour in itself. Undaunted, but feeling a little peckish now, we sped on, passing so many cyclists in civvies despite the 4am hour, it turned out to be the departing night shift from the monster Morrison’s distribution depot. Our forecast was for cloud to come in and the sunrise would therefore be at risk, alas not only cloud arrived, so did rain. Before we reached decision time on waterproofs, so we stumbled upon a defunct garage forecourt complete with canopy, just the shelter that would fit the bill for an early morning snack. We loitered for longer than intended to allow the rain time to pass, and eventually accepted our fate, we were to get wet. GREMLIN ATTACK CENTRED ON BRIDGWATER: Lost / Loitering /Cooled-off / Movement restricted by waterproofs / Potholes concealed by puddles. Additionally average speed down to 13.5mph.
Wheddon Cross is a point for great satisfaction, climbing done, now just a rapid ride down to a very peaceful Dunster. The route advice was great, we were informed that the road surface for this descent was good, so we could ride it with a little more confidence under the restricted glow of our lighting systems. Similar useful snippets of information were provided throughout the ride, great idea, thankyou Jamie! We turned west on to the A39 and in to a strong headwind, and on this occasion it was to be celebrated, for it was to last just two km before we would turn on our tails, so blow wind blow. The two km took us to a domestic control on the edge of the town, two ladies were doing a sterling job keeping up with filling the cafetiere , bottle filling, dishing out the food etc.
The main roads in Bridgwater despite appearing domestic, now carried articulated distribution lorries, so we were relieved to head in to the lanes, but not for long. The waterproofs made the route sheet harder to extract, so navigation was more challenging. Soon however the rain stopped, so chance to remove the wet gear, and do our best to rediscover the speed of the night, what is more dawn chorus was now in full song, surely daylight was imminent? A fine little plains lane took us toward Cheddar, dead straight, huge puddles and a surprising number of cars. Potential incidence of puddle, cycle and car was such that we took a precautionary approach and regularly slowed to allow car and spray to pass before proceeding.
Our ride was going well, no gremlins, and every intent not to loiter unnecessarily, so we were soon looking east, aiming for Avalon, and looking forwards to a fine sunrise. The tailwind was fabulous, on some occasions one feels like one is flying on a bike, the road swoops, and the resulting buzz just energises you for more. The towns and landmarks were being crossed off one by one. The A39 is a familiar Audaxing road, or at least the section from Wilton which Arrivée November 2012
We should have been set fair for the ride to the Frome control, taking full advantage of the continuing tail wind, but the lack of sleep had taken its toll and the slumbering approach was causing a significant pace problem. Brian had told of their 2011 strategy and the use of the Macdonald’s in Street, this evolved in the mind over the miles from awful prospect to sanctuary, and so we turned in and took a long
RETURN OF THE GREMLINS: Nods and coffee
Randonnées so much drier, that time it had rained for the first 6 hours. No dreams of old times come to me, so depart again sleepy eyed.
coffee and a snooze. Observationally what we saw was unexpected, after the procession of teen cars on a ‘drive through’, presumably fresh from all night partying, came numerous folk in for breakfast takeaways.
Sharing stories we make our way to the Wotton Under Edge control, but not without route sheet confusion over what was the first sign. The lone controller and proprietor looked after us, and provided reassurance that the storm would miss the south west peninsula, and would bash Wales instead, great news, but why oh why can’t sleep come as easy as that sort of good news.
We approached Glastonbury under leaden skies, reflected on the glistening road surfaces, awash from the earlier rains, so absolutely no prospect of the profound experience in the rising sun over the Avalon so close to the summer solstice. GREMLINS KEEPING US COMPANY: Getting lost / nodding on Plenty of lane work, and junctions keep the return to pace at bay, and then in Oldford, a premature left turn had us heading 180 degrees off route for a couple of miles. About turn again and back on our increasingly weary way. By the time we arrived at our Little Chef there were no signs of fellow riders, our gremlin section had done its dirty work. We had taken almost as long to ride the 50km from Bridgwater as it had taken over the 107km to get there, and average speed had dropped to 11mph. There was still the breakfast to indulge in, and another forty winks to grab, and the thought that if we maintain the current pace, we were likely to fail, for we still had the headwind to face, added to which the high likelihood of the night rain catching us since we were on for a slower time. We got our act together on the next section. It is a strange thing the mental adjustment one can enact in the transition from one section to the next. Sure there was a big hill to face, not Brian’s favourite of terrains, but the early morning section had done a lot to bind us in to mutual support through thick and thin. The climb before Bath was busy, rough and prolonged, spiked with running surface water and potholes that could not be avoided due to the traffic. Relief on reaching the top, then a great descent. The adrenalin rush of a couple of rapid manoeuvres in Bath on busy junctions to catch the intended route was just what I needed to fire up the pace. The Bath to Bristol cycle way is not the most enthralling of routes, but it was a great pace builder, and from this we sprung on to the amazing network of cycle paths to the north west perimeter of Bristol. We were not sure if we had followed the route absolutely correctly, and the roundabout where we returned to the roads seemed entirely wrong, but we did end up back on route for the section out to Frampton Cotterell. By now we had turned in to a big headwind, and it was inevitable that the culmination of our westerly effort was to coincide with our arrival on the Severn Bridge. At least we finally caught sight of other riders, albeit already out of Wales on their return leg. Regrettably we followed the cycle path signs; this resulted in both detour and us riding over the southern side, thereby offering us rather less shelter than the northerly path would have done. Leaning to the left to stay upright was entirely predictable, unexpected was the yolk of the helmet cutting on to the neck consequent to the wind assisted uplift. A memorable crossing completed, we debated how to get in to Chepstow, Brian was more insistent than me regarding the route which was fortunate, and we stumbled directly in to the control. I am not sure how I managed to eat so much, but I guess I had worked up quite an appetite. It was a wonderful moment of denial to be sat in the sunshine with the knowledge that we had a few miles of tailwind prior to our southerly turn. The second crossing was somewhat faster than the first, cycle lane speed limits were surely surpassed as we crested and commenced our descent – on the north lane this time. By the time we had climbed to Thornbury a precautionary snooze on the grassed school forecourt proved too tempting to miss. If memory serves correctly this is a school where I had slept on the National 400 in 1998, wow that was a wet ride, glad this is 52
‘a premature left turn had us heading 180 degrees off route....’
The wind was on the shoulder as we headed south, so did not have a terrific impact on us. It is a strange thing how some sections are erased from the memory, I am pretty sure this was not due to its being unpleasant, perhaps other sections has more remarkable happenings. What did happen was a marvellous ridge edge route toward Bath with a fantastic final descent, then a long slog out. There is also a recollection of a long grind to have reached the ridge leading to Bath. We were headed for Frome again, and the same Little Chef. The final few km on the A roads were to turn directly in to the gathering headwind, and give us an indication of the effort that would be required for the last 100km, and it was not to be savoured. Putting such things as far out of the mind as we could we purchased food from the garage to save the waiting at the Little Chef. We sat on the forecourt out of the wind, with musical accompaniment from nearby marquee. Inevitable passage of time forced us back on to the road for the final slog. No high pace return was in order, just steady as you go to Glastonbury. The hills broke the effect of the wind somewhat, and a Pilton draught defied the wind direction and assisted a high pace section toward the town. Thus far we had been relieved to see very little evening rain, but the change was happening and as we passed Glastonbury so it got heavier. The mid-evening wet main roads through Street created a feeling of vulnerability, but we remained unscathed for the slog to Taunton. The A361 became a hideous epic, but we realised that in some respects we had been lucky. All we had to endure were hard headwinds and heavy rain, the strongest winds had blown through earlier. Route sheet interpretation was assisted by a passing Police car in Taunton, so we were soon on to the final slopes to the Blackdowns. This particular hill is one that I have hitherto not discovered, but what a complete beast. Added to the fearsome gradient was the now gale like wind battering the trees overhead, and the lashing rain. I recall one point early in the climb where the quantity of falling water from rain and trees was so great that it obliterated the view ahead of me, a complete sheet of water. GREMLINS – THE FINAL ATTACK: With so much stimulation I remain puzzled as to how the brain could chose this moment to switch off. I lacked the concentration to keep the pedals turning and found that I kept turning across the road in to the hedge. Eventually I gave up and took to walking. I cannot explain then how I could manage to keep nodding off and stumbling while walking the bike up the hill – what a state. Brian had ridden to the top and started to chill while waiting for me, he therefore started to return back down the hill. I had hoped in my struggles up the hill that he had continued to the finish. Once back on two wheels it was a real effort to keep focus along the ridge until with the joy of an ending adventure we saw the Half Moon Inn lights. We had missed the live music, but the party continued inside, what a place to finish on such a foul night! Many thanks to Brian for the company, and to Jamie Andrews for putting a rather fine Audaxing idea together. Gremlins made life difficult, slowed us down, but they did not win!
Arrivée November 2012
RandonnĂŠes Avalon Sunrise photos taken just north of Bristol at Kendleshire by Ian Sparrow
Beyond Shropshire 200
Mike Lane and Tony Greenwood climb Stiperstones on Beyond Shropshire 200, 29.9.12 photo: Martin Malins
ArrivĂŠe November 2012
Hmmm. In which Vera Sloe is verra slow Short version:
We went for a bike ride. We stopped and ate some food and then cycled on. It was nothing like the <insert enjoyable bike ride> but had a strong resemblance to the <insert less than enjoyable bike ride>. It got dark and then got light again. At the turn control we saw <friends> who fed and watered us nicely, this was the best bit of the ride. Then we rode the bike some more and ate some more and got rained on until it got dark again, and kept going until it got light again, the rain was still going. We had to stop and sort out a deflation. There was too much rain, it got chilly even though it was June. Eventually it was over.
Longer version: To start with … That was hard. In the past few years I’ve done a few rides of 600km and up. I suspect that this is the one for which I was least well prepared physically - I did more or less no practising. In the previous month I’d done 0 audaxes. In the previous 2 months, I’d done one 200km ride. So I wasn’t very well prepared. Well, I did say I’d only do 4 bike rides this year (with caveats). So, I started off with too few miles in my legs. It also turns out that I’m not imagining things and my bike is in fact a bit heavier than average, (ie the equivalent of 26kg if you weigh 78kg, which I don’t). I’m not entirely sure that this is really a problem as I’ve always claimed that when loaded with a week’s shop the hard bit is getting moving, and that once you have momentum it’s no worse than an unloaded bike. So I could just be whinging. So: (a)foremath. (Since we have “aftermath (n.) 1520s, originally a second crop of grass grown after the first had been harvested, from after + -math, a dialectal word, from O.E. mæð “a mowing, cutting of grass”. Figurative sense by 1650s.”) I wanted a 600km ride to complete yet another SR series. My boys’ dad having decided to not be there for a bit, I sent a grovelling email to my wonderful sister who lives 5 hours away, by car (so about 400km), and she volunteered to drive up and mind the nephews for me. Marcus volunteered to keep me company/ensure my sorry carcass made it round, just as well. The pleasure of my company for 600km of DIY around a tent in a soggy field in Yorkshire being apparently more enticing (well shorter anyway) than the other options such as the Mille Alba. This may have been due to my waxing lyrical about Steph’s wonderful breakfast, cosy tent and how nice it was to see the folks at the York rally. Yup, it’s the Return of the York Sparrow! And to start … So there we were on a Friday, me fresh from my started-early-schoolhours-only-working day and Marcus damp from a lovely train ride followed by a downpour on the way to château Arabella. In a fit of being organised-ness I’d swopped the dynamo hub back onto the fixed a whole day in advance and even checked it worked, which it did once I’d tweaked the Edam wax a bit. (Another solution from the mechanical ingenuity of the Arabella: notice broken wire, trim it, find a short length in my sons’ age 8 electronics set and connect each end to the original wire, then wrap the result in a combination of electric black plastic tape and wax from an edam cheese to keep it correctly aligned. Note: will only work in a cooler clime. Note 2: eventually something else will go wrong and a proper repair will beckon (later: it did and it has). So off we set (pedants will notice the avoidance of a dangling preposition!). The weather forecast had suggested a south westerly slightly stronger than ideal breeze, which would have been a cross wind. For some reason instead, for more than I’d like to admit, this had a better resemblance to a head wind with the occasional bits of tail wind. The wind didn’t blow us all the way to Stowmarket. I regretted putting on my raincoat and overshoes at the start so removed them before we even left Ipswich. The trouble with any ride from your doorstep is that you’ve already done the first bit once, or ten or umpteen times previously. This route was no exception, ambling up to Stowmarket whence there is a choice of slightly more to the north towards Thetford (Fetfud) or slightly more to the east towards Bury St Edmunds (BSE). This time it was Thetford. The excitement for me en route to Stowmarket is the very-close-to-
Right rider, wrong ride.
Photo: Mark Brooking
Ipswich Needham Market and its parish church, the hammer beam roof over the nave gives an unusually very wide open space, very impressive to look at (we didn’t, I’d seen it previously and so deprived Marcus of the opportunity). The joy of the Fens (or not) After all the Market-ing we ended up at Downham Market, eating pizza at a kebab shop (the pizzas seemed more popular) and entertaining the other folks waiting with the excitements in store for us. Pizza ready, we ambled over to a bench with Grand View Of Passing Cars (and in easy reach of tescoes bogs). Leaving Downham Market involved the excitement of crossing the ‘Great Ouse Relief Channel’ and the even greater excitement of the Great Ouse itself, followed by the privilege of cycling along next to the dyke ensuring that the fens were no longer the oozy marshland, and home to the Fen-slodgers (?) before Vermuyden came and drained the fens. A bit like Hussein (of the Saddam variety) draining the marshes (and marsh arabs) in Iraq. On the up side we found a stall selling strawberries, which, although closed, offered a solitary punnet. We purchased said punnet and consumed the content thereof. Next up: a thrilling trip trough the centre (geographically anyway) of Wisbeck (ok, it’s spelt Wisbech, but I’m sure someone, once, told me it was a hard ‘ch’) and then the avoidance of some, but not all, of the A15. We also eschewed the charms of the Farm Café as being too soon after the delights of Downham Market. In spite of which I persuaded Marcus he _was_ enjoying the ride, really. Sutterton roundabout had upgraded their service station to include real chairs (of the perch on at standing height tables variety). I’d already got to the point of not wanting any of the food, I have since come to the conclusion that what I need on a bike ride is things with lots of custard and things with lots of gravy. In that order, probably. At least we were about 1/2 way there (1/4 way round). I rang my sister who confirmed that my prediction of being at Sutterton by the time she arrived was correct. Eventually, Swines Head (hurrah) and East Heckington (more hurrahs. Anyone would think I was in the hse of cmmns) and we left the fun that was the (much emptier) A15 for a meander towards Lincoln, recognisable from various previous visits as you get to join the non-A15 Sleaford-Lincoln route. Lincoln – somewhere I’ve visited before, more than once, but not this year (yet) Somewhere on the way through Lincoln I had a wonderful idea, triggered by the sight of a work-in-progress hotel chain hotel. Lincoln was about 200km into the ride. How about stopping there for the rest of the night, doing the sights on Saturday morning and then cycling back again. Still a decent amount of cycling? Unfortunately Lincoln is on the Lincoln ridge, which means up, which means Marcus couldn’t
Arrivée November 2012 Arrivée November 2012
Randonnées hear my muttering as he was sort of well ahead of me (how did that happen - he lives nearer the fens than I do). Audaxing: like fun, only different. Sometimes very different. When I caught up Marcus (OK, he waited for me, quite a lot too), his response to my whining was “You’ve got to come up with a better excuse than that if you want to pack”. So on we went to the 24 hour garage at Gainsborough and a coffee. It was hot so I took ages to drink it. Then on into the wind and daylight. Being later on than last year the A19 was somewhat busier (pah!), until we finally picked up the planet cycleway via Naburn etc.. Steph called to ask where we were? “On the planet route”. Just as well Marcus came as I’d have found it difficult to lob my bike over the race track fence - gates shut fast this year. Steph rolled out the choc croissants and other luxury, a cup of tea was placed in my hand and so it was we were entertained, fed and watered. Then off to a ready warmed sleeping bag in a tent. Now it’s time to turn around and go all the way back again We awoke up to the sound of rain on the tent and decided it was time to start back. The weather hadn’t got better and the wind had done a lousy job lulling us to sleep. On the way out we found an open gate which meant Marcus avoided having to heave my bike over the railings but also didn’t get to see me doing a gate vault (the one where you lean over and swing your legs above you). I don’t think he missed it though. The A19 had got busier in our absence. The weather was gloomy and Selby was as exciting (in the distance) going southwards as it had been (in the distance) going northwards. The swing bridge didn’t swing for us this time either, probably just as well; I’d forgotten about it from last year. It was a relief to get back onto smaller roads on the way to Camblesforth (nice bus shelter) and Thorne - the day trundled on and so did we. MOAR Flatness ahead! Tea time and back at Gainsborough. It wasn’t raining (yet), though it was still (head-)windy. At about 4:30pm the café to which we were directed was no longer serving. So off to the Sweyn Forkbeard for another ‘spoons meal (pudding: steak’n’kidney with lots of gravy), rinse and brush up etc. We exchanged comments on the way out with local, um, drinkers about how fast we weren’t going to get to Lincoln on account of our mumblety km of warm-up. Lincoln in the early evening with no rain was as exciting as Lincoln with no rain at any other time of day. I lamented in passing the 24 hr garage, another ‘spoons, and the MuckD (only joking) and off we went back to Sutterton. The first bit of this leg is nice enough. Then my wonderful route took in a visit to the A17, plus detours eg past the Saracen’s Head (William de Littlehampton, anyone?) which I enjoyed all over again, despite the gloaming. At Sutterton we sat at the same table and ate something different, at least I think it was different. After Sutterton it started raining, the sort of rain that’s not quite heavy enough to get out a coat, to start with. Except you then realise that it’s wetter than you thought, and your jersey is wet and you raincoat is dry. So in the end (much later, see below) I took of the soggy jersey and put on the dry raincoat. The lightening flashed, the thunder roared and in the middle of the night there was a knock at the door. On the doorstep stood a woman dripping wet, so wet there was water running out of her shoes. Yup, I may as well have forgotten to redon the overshoes as well, and I seem to be channelling the ladybird 1970s version of the princess and the pea. Did I mention there was wind as well? With Added Rain, in spades buckets Somewhere around Downham Market the rain got heavier. Fortunately not very heavy indeed until after we were leaving so I’d found the round tuit to actually got out my raincoat and put it on, removing my cosy-but-damp jacket to do so. I didn’t quite get the clothes right on this ride. Well, it could be worse, we comforted ourselves, it could be chillier, it could be windier, we could have to stop ... I didn’t feel like eating enough at Downham Market - that stage of the ride where I know what I want but it isn’t on offer. Another steak’n’kidney pud, or even just a steak pie. I had to make do with some flapjack thingy that wasn’t very nice, but it did go down without sticking. I’ve realised that I need lots of gravy/custard/whatever on
Arrivée November 2012 Arrivée November 2012
audaxes to make it easy to hoover up food. No coffee was consumed, we started eating the choc coated coffee beans as I didn’t want to take my chocolate coated coffee beans to York just for the ride ... from Ye Olde Sweete Shoppe in Ipswich. The rain was very loud. We identified another ‘could be worse’ - a P******e, which we made worse with our mekanikel skillz innit and so used up 2 fresh inners. However we did find a patch of road above the water level on which to carry out this fine feat of engineering. Even better, nothing got washed away and my fingers stayed un-numb. I declined to shelter under a nearby tree on the grounds that large drops of wet stuff would fall on us (rather than more, smaller drops). By the time we were ready to go again - well, it wasn’t as if we were getting any dryer, my gloves we no good though as the inside came out of the outside and they were impossible to put back on. I decided choc coated coff beans would help (they didn’t). In the end I resorted to the fingerless ones, seeing as it wasn’t cold. OK, I was lying about the cold. In spite of non-coldness I was definitely chilly and missed my damp but warmer jacket. sigh. Mainly my upper arms. I also spent a large amount of time wondering whether I should create some knee warmers in lovely wool - wool stays warm when damp. The next excitement was a passing car, someone not having a sunday morning lie in. The driver slowed down a bit and then proceeded to drive past me at not-so-fast speed through the puddle on the other side of the road (did I mention it was raining? that the road was a set of islands joined by puddles?) I was splashed beyond the tops of my boots, splashed beyond the tops of my (unworn) overshoes, splashed beyond my knees and half way up my thighs. Oh the lovely cold water which replaced the ready warmed water about my person. I was so pleased I gave the departing driver a one-fingered salute. A little further down the road and Marcus’ mudguard redesigned itself to a lovely zigzag shape, at which we cursed anew. Having put it sort of back to rights (requiring the occasional nudge but nothing more tedious). I got out the chocolate coated coffee beans. I left the plastic bad in the dry and was gutted when the drop drop drop sounds turned out not to be further rain but chocolate coated coffee beans escaping through the papery mush that had once been the bottom of the bag. o woe. o sniff. I swiftly bundled up the rest of the beans and we set off again. On the up side: at no point in the ride did I cycle into a hedge; it has been known, even without the assistance of sleeplessness or alcohol. As any hedge would have been either soggy, or the other side or a ditch/drain this was a very good thing. Before the ride I’d done a bit of careful preparation to avoid any unnecessary excitement - the route goes from Ixworth to Elmswell via a side road that isn’t signed at all (it’s meant to be a dead end but isn’t), and having had far too much fun getting distracted by every possible field gate the last time we’d done that stretch I wrote some nice markers: Tostock turn off, railway, posh hedge, lay-by the other side of the road. All unnecessary as the Elmswell turning was easy to spot in daylight. But really, by then we had had enough excitement for one ride. Back to local boredom, what a relief, must be nearly done (in) We didn’t stop at the 24hr garage outside Stowmarket for more coffee, as I’d done last year after also failing to get any coffee in Downham Market (it was earlier, I stopped at Tesscon, it doesn’t do coffee, OK). The remainder of the journey is over familiar to me so I merely noted that none of the cafes were open at before 8:00 am on a Sunday morning. I was as uninspired as at Downham Market for my final control and got a lovely Dime bar. I still haven’t eaten it, that’s because I gave it away though, you don’t really imagine chocolate would remain uneaten for that long? A couple of days later I found myself wondering whether I shouldn’t make the best use of my newly exercised legs and go for another bike ride. Somehow, in spite of the sunshine I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm. Besides, my new mantra was “Resting is Training” (JES). So it was another 8 weeks until I got out again, whereat I felt faint after 48.7km. Oops 55
Populaires Otter Spotter Audax
The Otter Spotter 55K Audax was the newest Cycle Sport Dynamo event to appear on the South West Audax calendar. The event hoped to attract first time audaxers and leisure riders who hadn’t previously tackled the distance or an organised event. Despite weeks of flooding and torrential weather, riders benefitted from a generally dry day with a late appearance of the sunshine. The dry weather produced a run of ‘on the day’ entries ensuring a good field. The riders departed from Budleigh Salterton heading along the seafront in an easterly direction to meet the mouth of the River Otter. Because of large scale flooding the weekend before, a quick rewrite of the route sheet guided riders away from an impassable road along the edge of the river Otter. The detour via the village of East Budleigh soon had the riders back on course as they crossed the river slightly further up stream at Otterton. Here the riders followed the East back of the river gently climbing along quiet country lanes until they reached Tipton St.John where they crossed over to the left bank and continued heading north, following the river to the town of Ottery St.Mary. Passing through the town the only steep climb of the ride passed picturesque Georgian houses and the church before joining the old Roman road taking the riders along the Otter valley to the one control stop in Honiton where refreshments were taken. Refreshed, the riders headed back on the reverse of the outbound leg following the Otter downstream and along the undulating gently rolling hills back to the coastline of Budleigh Salterton where a large spread of home made cakes awaited their arrival. No one reported spotting an otter, although one group of riders spotted a stoat crossing the road.
Otter Spotter photos: Andy Stovell Aiden Headley at start of Bryan Chapman photo: Colin Bezant
Arrivée November 2012
Populaires A slow three year rise to the first challenge!
decided in 2010, at 52 years old, that my time for mountain biking was over. In fact that time had long gone as for three years I had been using the amusingly named Fat Boy Slick tyres which rather put the end to taking your mountain bike anywhere other than a smooth road. I decided I should buy a proper racing bike – the sort of machine I had lusted after since a child when I would spend my Saturdays looking at the unattainable machinery in Harry Hall’s window in Manchester (it’s been 26 years since I left Manchester but I’ve just checked on the internet and it seems that Harry Hall’s is still in business). When I say mountain biking I mean pottering around the roads, lanes and tracks where I live now – rural Gloucestershire - my maximum outing being 20 miles followed by a week of complete rest. I thought I had done lots of research and began to be a known figure in local bike shops, I soon felt guilty of time wasting and suspected that I might not be far from a restraining order to keep me out. I found a different bike shop in a neighbouring town where I wasn’t known and started the process one more time. It was here that I first heard of Audax as the shop owner took the trouble to ask me what I wanted the bike for, was it for winter training, Audax, touring or racing? I mumbled something and went for the shiniest, coolest looking bike I could afford (an Orbea Aqua with a triple chain set and Sora groupset). Whilst waiting for delivery I researched Audax and found there were a couple of events in my area and I was intrigued to find out what sort of organisation it was that had members riding routinely literally hundreds of kilometres. My first event was the Silk Run in Tewkesbury in 2010, a 100k event, by this time I had ridden a maximum of 40 miles over one day. I should also mention that I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis which means I don’t bend too well in places and sometimes things just hurt and it’s the best excuse I have for being useless on a bike. I turned up on time and met some friendly people who assured me that if I had ridden 40 miles then 100k would be no problem for me. As the day unfolded and I was overtaken by each of them I managed to cling on to their back wheels for a few moments to try and get their stories. They all seemed such regular, nice people - but who hadn’t ridden from Lands End to John O Groats? Not that many, apart from a pair warming up for a London to Paris run so I began to feel in a different league – a much lower one! I also learnt that my route sheets carefully laminated and mounted on my bars could not be read unless I stopped completely – too much vibration and too small a font. To get noticed and really make my mark I fell off when I couldn’t get my foot out of the toe strap at a junction. Plus I scratched my beautiful, although regrettably highly uncomfortable, shiny new bike. I did finish within the prescribed time and carried by the enthusiasm of others signed up for an event two weeks later, the Beacon Cotswold Audax. This was another well organised event with more friendly people but I badly misjudged the weather and had too many layers on and nowhere to stash them once I’d started. No mishaps this time but I learnt about the unpleasant manners of some of our speedier chums – vigorous nostril blowing,
Arrivée November 2012
‘I decided in 2010, at 52 years old, that my time for mountain biking was over....’.
Tim Harrison copious spitting as they passed me (I don’t think it was personal) and roads littered with energy gel wrappers. I did manage to finish and survived the day on water and cake. I was given some advice by a few of the tipsters out for the day and shortly after upgraded to clipless pedals which were going to boost my power by at least 10% and get me up the hills quicker. I persevered with clipless pedals for a year in which time my hill climbing didn’t improve, my times around my local circuits stayed the same and the only thing I managed to increase was my number of crashes and knee pain. Today I use big flat pedals with no fastenings at all and when the tipsters arrive I advise them I am a superlight tourer who needs just one pair of shoes for everything. My times remain just the same. That was the total of my Audax experience in 2010, two events entered and two successfully completed. In 2011 I again entered the Silk Run in Tewkesbury but this time failed to complete the course as I was caught in a heavy shower and decided that what I wanted was fun and not a miserable wet challenge (to be exact it was a short lived light shower and I didn’t get that wet) The organisers did their best to convince me to complete the course and I began to realise that Audax riders don’t quit. I think I have learnt that a lot of completing a ride is down to mental attitude but I struggle with this, I just like things too nice and easy. Later in the year I entered my fourth Audax, the Cloverleaf run by the Evesham Wheelers. This was another good event and I spent a large part of the first half in the company of a Paris - Brest competitor who really gave me an insight into the mental challenges such riders face. The second half of the ride didn’t happen – the start/finish of this event is also the half way stage and the lure of my car was too much for me to ignore and I ended up slinking off. It wasn’t even wet this time (it looked like it might rain) I simply wimped out. It does bother me not completing things and with hindsight I felt I should have persevered and realised that unless I could complete the course I would be better off not entering in the first place. So where does this leave me now? Do I quit Audax or do I slowly chip away at things and try and beat my personal shortcomings? I do like the feeling of achievement on completing an Audax, I do like the people I have met who have been supportive and not too forceful with advice and as for my bike not being the right one I see this for what it is a poor excuse for lack of will. This year with my new mental attitude I have already completed once again the Tewkesbury Silk Run 100k (this time in the company of a multiple Paris - Brest and LEL competitor recovering from a knee operation), the Beacon 100k Cotswold Outing and have entries in for the Witney 100k Tour of the Cotswolds and the Evesham 100k. My ambition is to simply finish within the time and by the end of this year to complete a 100 mile ride, then next year to complete a 200k event. Not very stretching for most the readers of this magazine but when I do achieve the Brevet 500 this year and the Randonneur 500 status in 2013 I will truly feel that I have arrived. Maybe the bike is cool but the rider – I’m not so sure
2011 Mileater Diaries and Mick Latimer trophy. Rob Hidderley Writing this after one of the wettest year’s on record it’s difficult to remember how 2011 actually was. I started my own RRTY campaign in the autumn and by the end of the year I had begun to feel the chill of the cold, dark nights. Once again my annual mileage failed to get anywhere near the winning number but I did manage to be ‘above average’! Peter Baker was the 2011 entrant with the highest recorded mileage of 24,304 miles and so wins the Mick Latimer trophy, followed by Tricia Farnham on 8,178 miles (the opposite sex winner). Three riders recorded over 10,000 miles in 2011. The average number of miles recorded was 6,516 miles, an increase on the 2010 average. Although 2011 was a PBP year the number of entrants to the Mileater again fell although Peter Baker recorded an annual total that is within the top twelve totals of the previous twenty one years of competition. In response to the declining number of entrants to the Mileater the AUK committee have decided to reduce the entry fee to £4 which will include a diary but not a medal, see the announcement below. Here is a selection of the diarists’ comments from 2011: “Now back riding again after broken leg in 2010, completed PBP.” JR “Traditional New Year’s Day ride ... a grey day and cold. Feeling a little fuzzy to start with. As many miles today as I did in all of January last year” MC 1st Jan
again to £1.309/Ltr.” GC 24th Feb. [Will it ever be that cheap again??] “Went reasonably well, felt much stronger in the last 30 miles managing to push up the pace thank goodness for ‘fig rolls and rice pudding’!” KK 12th March “Tar and gravel brigade out ruining the roads.” SC 15th Mar “On the way to work, when a motorist shot out of Coleridge Street. He took out my front wheel & forks which spun me round. I remember my left hand side slamming into the side of his car. The next thing I remember is coming to, face down on the tarmac in tremendous pain. Driver’s insurance company admitted liability. Driver not prosecuted - sent on a ‘driver’s awareness course’.” DS 15th March “Morning spin. Got flagged down by another cyclist for a chat. He told me that the field next to where we were standing was where Fauston Coppi was held as a prisoner of war!! Why can’t there be a plaque?!?” MC 1st April “Where have all the rabbits gone?” KK 28th April “Another rest week! I’ve heard rest and recovery is as important as the ride itself.” PW May “Running late - some idiot had put his lock through my rear carrier. I put bolt croppers through his lock in the end.” EW 5th May “West to Midhurst - Got caught up with 7 horse drawn carriages at Coldwatham - v. effective traffic calming.” SC 6th May
“... shocking puncture, I never puncture but a ½ inch nail went right through armoured tyre and through top and bottom of slime tube and into the rim.” RC 15th Jan
“... spin up to Gronant Dues (?). Met Alan walking his dog on Rhyl sea front, he recognised the bike not me, as I passed him he called me back, typical cyclist. DP 8th May
“Car to Paisley. Black ice on cycle path - I fell, Eric fell - about turn - back to Paisley on main road. Some damage to bike. Holes in wind jacket and tights. Knee hip and elbow damage. A lovely sunny day.” CH 19th Jan
“Such a relief not to have to ride a bike.” KK 25th May
“Full blown ‘flu, guess I shouldn’t have ridden on Saturday.” CL 24th Jan
“Basking in all the praise & glory of completing PBP it’s like the returning hero.” PW Aug
“Nearly got T-boned by a taxi on way home; his defective headlights clearly didn’t help his ailing vision/concentration.” SC 28th Jan
“(after a week off ) How on earth can cycling fitness diminish so rapidly?” GC 17th Aug
“Started cycling - legs felt like porridge, wheels and body felt musty - how had I got so unfit?!!” KK Feb
“Cracked rib after fall in summer, back on now”. SO
“Car shunt - damaged rear mudguard. Reported to Police - no witnesses and car driver (keeper) disputed involvement therefore not proceeded!” DS Feb?
“Tour of the Cotswold ... set off at 6 but chain snapped on first slope ... a batch of bad chains?!” PW 9 June
“Fell on ice and fractured elbow.” PW Dec?
Some informal (non-prize winning) awards for 2011: Bad driver, car magnet award: DS (see above) Most near misses reported: SC
“A gusty (gutsy) ride down to Llandudno, talk about the wind (and that was just me!).” DP 1st Feb
Male birdwatcher of the year: SC for “Owl, Kestrel, (bat!), Buzzard, Barn Owl, Blackbirds, Peewit”.
“(After Cotswold Corker) on the way crawling home over-taken by 2 mountain bikes!!” KK 12th Feb
Puncture Queen and female birdwatcher of the year award goes to: TF having reported seeing Heron, Egrets, Buzzards, Woodpecker and Ostriches.
“Round trip of 1.2 miles on the old hack with a trailer full of garden tools - smiling while passing the garage and observing petrol up 58 58
Most detailed diary, smallest writing and most accomplished pensioner’s Mileater award
goes to RT. Noel Simpson, the long time organiser of the Mileater reported that he had not been riding due to prolonged recovery from ill-health. I hope a 2012 diary will record that recovery and more French experiences. Many thanks to all of the diary writers who have written such entertaining diaries, without whom this article would be impossible! Apologies for any misquotations or embarrassments, I have tried to maintain accurate copies of quotations but errors may have crept in, all of which are entirely my responsibility! Thanks especially to those I have quoted: CH - Colin Horn, CL - Carl Laver, DP - Darryl Porrino, DS - David Simmons, EW - Ed Woodward, GC - Gary Catlow, JR - John Radford, JW - Julian Williams, KK - Karen Keeling, MC - Michael Calam, MG - Mark Garrat, PW - Pippa Wheeler, RC - Robbie Calder and SC - Steve Cockram, SO - Steve Oram. The annual Mileater awards (Men’s and Ladies’) are made after the year’s Mileater diaries are submitted to the organiser. The individual with the highest total mileage for the year (male or female) is awarded the Mick Latimer trophy. All 2011 entrants should now have their medals, please contact me if you have not received yours. New arrangements for entering the Mileater Up to now the Mileater entry fee has included a diary and, upon completion, a personalised, engraved medal. Recently AUK had to purchase some new stock of medals which cost significantly more than before. Therefore it was appropriate to review the entry fee to the Mileater to ensure that AUK do not suffer a financial loss from the competition. It was felt that the resulting all-inclusive cost would possibly deter some members from entering the competition. The AUK committee decided to permit the optional purchase of an engraved medal and to reduce the basic entry fee to the competition. The standard entry to the Mileater competition will now cost £4 per year and includes the normal diary. The engraved medal costs a further £10; a black and white impression of the multi-coloured medal can be found in the handbook. Entrants can choose to purchase a medal at the time of entry or at a later date if they wish. The Mileater competition and diary run from January 1st to December 31st each year, diaries must be returned by April 30th of the following year to count in the competition (although a medal will be produced whenever the diary is returned). If you would like to enter then send a cheque for £4 (or £14 if you wish to also receive the engraved medal) and an SAE (Large letter, over 100g postage please) to the organiser (payable to Audax UK): Rob Hidderley, Woodfield House, 417a Stourbridge Road, Catshill, Bromsgrove, B61 9LG.
Arrivée November 2012 Arrivée November 2012
First Achievement Last time I wrote something for Arrivée I sought to explain how I was battling with my lack of determination to complete events and my goal for 2012 was to achieve a Brevet 500 and progress to Randonneur 500 status in 2013. At the time I had completed two 100k rides successfully and was looking forward to the Witney 100k Tour of the Cotswolds and the Evesham 100k Cloverleaf events. I suffered a determination set back when on the day of the Witney event the skies blackened and the weather forecast was for heavy rain all morning and into the afternoon. I have become somewhat obsessed with weather forecasting and track rainfall radar and a number of forecasts which I then spend hours mulling over before I make a decision - do I or don’t I go? It frustrates my wife immensely and if I calculated how much time and effort I spend trying to guess what might happen and what I might do as a result I have probably squandered weeks of my life on what invariably turns out to be pointless exercise anyway ie I never get it right! I’m smart enough to know I never get it right so with my new found determination I ignored all the forecasts and set out to Witney with my lights on and wipers working at full speed, in the knowledge that for certain the weather would brighten up. It didn’t and by the time I was almost at the start I decided not to start would be my best option – I convinced myself that it would be unsafe for me to ride around the Cotswolds without high intensity LED lights flashing everywhere imaginable. I know the event took place and that there were at least 13 finishers but it was a shockingly bad day and I managed not to beat myself up too badly for failing to even make a start as I do, after all, want to have some fun along the way. For those brave souls that did turn up and make it you certainly have my respect and I look forward to riding with you one day. My next scheduled Audax was the Evesham 100k event. I live near Evesham and have been an off and on member of the Evesham Wheelers who organise the event for a number of years. I have been a mostly off member as I have found the pace of even their C group (“ideal for those new to cycling”, according their website) a little too hot but I like the idea of being in a cycling club so I pay my subs. On the day I joined their C group who rode the Audax as a club run and completed my quickest 100k Audax to date. For the shirker that I am the mid way control on this particular event is at the start/finish so there is a temptation to slink back to the car and call it a day, especially as once again it was certainly going to rain. Riding with a group however makes an early departure a little difficult as I would have felt obliged to fabricate some lame excuse so I stuck it out. The second half was miserable with rain and hail but at least I did it and in great company. At this point I had completed 3 x 100k events so was more than half way to the Brevet 500 but my time was running out as I had some hefty calendar commitments elsewhere for the rest of the year so my next challenge was to venture into the unknown world (for me) of the Permanent Audax. Luckily Stephen Poulton lives nearby and appears to be a prolific organiser of Permanents in the area. I picked what I hoped would be the easiest one possible and sent off my money. It was great to be able to pick a dry day and to be able to ride to the start and back from the finish. This was a relaxing day out but lacked the sociability of planned events but for me it gave me the furthest distance I have ever travelled (132k) on two wheels and as I cycled at no one’s pace but my own left me feeling not quite so drained at the end. My only worry was that I might not have provided the necessary proof of passage and the ride would be invalid for some technicality. Happily my entry was rapidly validated and the Brevet 500 was in sight.
Arrivée November 2012
Tim Harrison Finally, I had one more event to complete to achieve the Brevet 500 and I’d chosen the Lymington New Forest and Coastal 100k. What could be a better end to summer than a trip to the New Forest and what I hoped by now would be an easy ride (does it ever get any easier?). I convinced my wife that she should join me and we would make a weekend of it, she could do a little sketching and painting on the waterfront while I completed the last part of my challenge. With my obsession for the weather I had checked and checked and checked again. Absolutely no rain clouds showing up on the radar, a good set of forecasts on the TV, maybe a risk of a few very light showers and on my various apps predictions of showers with a probability of 5%. So 95% chance of a dry day, little wind and quite warm. I’ve struggled with my determination to start and continue when things aren’t quite perfect but this time I had driven 130 miles to participate, had sold my wife on an ideal weekend and knew that whatever light shower there was at the start would soon die out. This had to be my most miserable experience to date, it rained and poured for hours, my route sheet disintegrated early on and I struggled to see where I was going most of the time. I don’t have mudguards and 10 minutes in my feet were soaking, they remained like this with increasing coldness throughout the day. I had two punctures and my ability to change a tube with my eyes closed left me as I struggled for 30 minutes to force the tyre back on the rim, maybe the rubber had shrunk in the wet. Either way sore hands and thumbs joined my list of woes. I have observed before that Audax riders don’t complain or whinge they just get on with it so if anyone else felt the same as me they certainly weren’t sharing their feelings, in fact most were thrilled to tell me that the year before had been much worse. I knew I could quit anytime as I figured my wife might rescue me, after all I didn’t expect her day was going to plan either. The first time I tried to contact her I couldn’t get a signal and then my phone packed up with water damage so that was that. I figured the omens were making me complete the course so I persevered – I then spotted a BT phone box. I haven’t been in one of these for literally years but it was like a beacon of hope. I stopped, levered open the door with all my strength (why are the doors always so stiff and heavy?)and pushed my way into it. My soaking wet gloved had found a coin and I looked for the slot – NO COINS ACCEPTED. It was going to be okay as the phone accepted credit cards except of course I only had cash. Luckily it’s still possible to reverse the charges - except not to my wife’s mobile phone. One last chance was to put in a reverse charge call to my children and they might be able to get in contact with my wife but they were all out having fun (in an incidentally dry area called home). And because all my numbers are now programmed into my phone rather than into my head like they used to be in the old days and my phone is truly dead with a touch screen that no longer responds to touch I could either phone numbers of houses I used to live in 20 years ago or continue. I continued. It did eventually stop raining and I did complete the course and I am now the proud new owner of a Brevet 500 certificate. It felt good to have completed the event but I’m not sure it scored highly on the fun scale this time. The following day was near perfect, blue skies and no wind and as I drove around the New Forest and coast I realised what the day could have been like and what a beautiful area I had spent time cycling in. Will I continue with my next challenge of the Randonneur 500 in 2013? I think I probably, might try to give it a go, depending on the weather – does that sound sufficiently motivated and determined to succeed, we shall see.
Bryan Chapman: Rimas Grigenas, Mike Pain and Matt Scholes nearing the summit of Llanberis Pass photo: Colin Bezant
Rider on the Avalon Sunrise 400 photo: Ian Sparrow
Lou Rigby on the YatMon150 Perm - photo by Steve Poulton Martin Malins and Ann Marshall on the Severn Across 400 - photo by Steve Poulton
Quarterly magazine from Audax UK. The long distance cycling organisation in the UK.