African adventure page 22
s’ cyclist e c n a g-dist ine he lon ers’ magaz t – K b U Audax tion – memr 2020 a e i c asso 48 • summ Issue 1
INSIDE ISSUE 148
Just a Sec…
sts’ ce cycli istan ine long-d agaz – the embers’ m x UK Auda tion – m er 2020 m associa148 • sum Issue
Shattering glory of Shropshire’s stony peaks
Much too quiet on the Western Front
Freewheeling along memory lane
NAETW URE FE
Much too quiet on the Western Front20 Dan’s diary19
Front cover… Bob Watts in an African heat haze page 22
Under African skies22 A last ride, over the hills and far away
Pride & joy
Tackling those two imposters
A jolly jaunt with two Janets
Mayo… but no chips until you finish
NAETW URE FE
In that mountain greenery42 Pedalling through the pain50 Be prepared to catch that bus52
A pilgrimage postponed
The Baking Biker58 Defeating the menace of Storm Dennis60 Voyage of the Dawn Pedaller61 Prize crossword62
NAETW URE FE
Welcome to the summer 2020 issue of Arrivée
A golden age for cycling?
“Bold actions, which would have been almost unthinkable before this pandemic, are now a logical necessity. I just can’t see any realistic alternative to putting in place effective measures to enable mass cycling.” These are the words of the Bicycle Association’s executive director, Steve Garidis, following the government’s pledge to stump up £2 billion for a package of measures aimed at getting the British biking – ushering in a new “golden age of cycling”, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The lockdown produced many disagreeable things – isolation, loneliness, fear, panic and depression for some – but it also pointed to a different way to live our lives. The near-empty roads, the peace and quiet, the palpably positive effect on our environment – these have led many to believe a social turning point
has been reached. Are we really prepared to go back to how it was before? The raft of plans proposed include the establishment of a cycling and walking inspectorate which could impel local councils to adopt cycle-friendly strategies. There is also talk of pop-up cycle routes, vouchers for bicycle repairs, government subsidies for the purchase of bikes and electric bikes, the adoption of French-style zebra crossings at side road junctions – and the ideas keep coming. The enthusiasm to create a lasting change as a result of the socially catastrophic virus is heartening. People are inspired. We cannot go back to roads clogged with cars and killer fumes, surely? Well, of course, there is a danger that when the pandemic is a memory, we may do just that. Memories can be notoriously short. Will we go back to our old ways… queueing for
flights to Tierra del Fuego to celebrate a mate’s stag night; splashing out on that dieselguzzling 4x4 to get the kids to school; taking that luxury cruise up the Orinoco? Will the bikes purchased in a wave of post-viral optimism end up rusting in a shed in 12 months’ time? Let’s hope not. The last time we had a “golden age” of cycling it was rather more connected to the fact that hardly any of us could afford a motor car, and the bike was our only option for getting to work, going out for a picnic or to visit your granny. When the fear of pestilence has evaporated, how many commuters will swap their comfortable cars for a bike? Thanks to the pandemic, we are at a point in history where dreams of something better, healthier and happier seem possible. But so-called progress has a tendency to flatten our dreams. As we go to press, bulldozers are ripping up
ancient woodlands and green fields through the heart of England to make way for a pointless vanity project – the HS2 rail line. The scheme is likely to cost well in excess of £100 billion. Compare that to the £2 billion promised for cycling and walking. A golden age for bikes?
Tony Lennox former editor, Birmingham Post and Warwickshire Life, 45 years in regional newspapers
AUK SURVEY… with Caroline Fenton, AUK Membership Secretary Caroline Fenton, AUK Membership Secretary, reports on the initial findings of a survey of members:
Listening to the membership MANY THANKS to everyone who completed our Membership Survey. As I write this (in early May) we’ve had around 2,300 responses, which is approximately 30 per cent of members – an excellent response. Most have been online but we’ve also had a few sent by post as we didn’t want to exclude anyone. The survey closed at the end of May so we can’t give you any final results in this issue of Arrivée. In particular analysing the free text comments will take some time. The essential outputs are an update to the AUK Strategy – the current one is available on the website (About Us/Strategy) and an action list where improvements are needed or good ideas have been received. However just to give you some early feedback here are a few snippets: Some questions allowed members to choose more than one option, and also in some cases add their own free text answer. We asked: “What would encourage you to enter more rides?” and there were some interesting thoughts, including “a new heart and lungs”, “getting younger”, and “waiting for the dog to die”. The second and third standard answers were: “More free time” (33 per cent) and “Change in domestic commitments” (22 per cent). There isn’t a lot AUK can do about those. However the top answer was: “More rides local to me” (49 per cent). This obviously needs further analysis by region, preference for using public transport etc. We can take heart that 12 per cent of respondents expressed an interest in becoming an organiser, and an even more impressive 38 per cent were planning to, or would like to help at events. Many of the latter weren’t sure how to go about this, so that is something we need to address. The “attitudes” questions yielded some interesting results – the two questions with the greatest and least agreement on answers were:
The service with the lowest “good” rating is the Recorder. We know a backlog has built up and we are working on increasing resources here. Calendar rides show a very high level of satisfaction and a high level of usage, so a big thank you to all the organisers out there. One set of questions asked about technology, so we now know whether route sheets are on the way out. The answer seems to be “no” as nearly half of respondents use them either as their sole means of navigation or in conjunction with something else. However results do confirm the importance of having an “official” event GPS track provided.
I enjoy exploring new routes and places I enjoy x-rated events which provide a lot of support
So clearly, we are all great explorers but divided on whether we like to have tea and cake provided! We asked you to rate various AUK services/teams and this is what you said – the bars show the relative rating by users of a service and the dark blue line is the proportion of members actually using that service (some are more niche than others): What about the magazine you are reading right now? Eighty per cent of members rated it as “good” or “excellent”. There were some useful detailed thoughts on the content and these have been passed on to the communications director and the editor. And finally, the median number of bikes was four (with one member expressing dissatisfaction that the options only went up to eight!)
● Do you enjoy number-crunching and producing charts and graphs? If so, would you like to get involved in producing the full analysis and report? Extra help would be welcomed. P lease contact email@example.com www.audax.uk
Letters… TIME TRIAL MEMORIES Sir. I very much enjoyed the article on 24 hour time trials (Arrivée winter/spring 2020). It brought back many memories. I’m now 72 years old, but I rode in eight, finished six and won one. The one I won was my best ride – the Wessex 24 in the 1970s. I won it mainly because it rained for 16 hours, and all the fast men climbed off. I coached a lad in the Mersey 24 several times, but toward the end of my trips up there I was getting increasingly worried by the number of heavy lorries on the roads at night. I’ve won a number of time trials over the years, but these days I only ride 100km and 200km randonnees, as I know how much training you need to do to ride 12 or 24 hours fairly fast with no stops. I ride
IMPROVING THE AUDAX EXPERIENCE Sir. There’s been a big increase in recreational cycling over the last ten years but I’m not convinced that this is reflected in AUK membership numbers. This is an opportunity missed, in my opinion. Audax is in a unique position, offering a challenge to a wide range of cyclists. If we are to attract more new riders to events of less than 200k and provide a gateway to further Audax participation then there is need for radical change in the way events are run. There are a lot of practices that create unnecessary work for organisers and AUK officers. For instance, I don’t know why we bother with information controls. Many AUK regulations seem concerned with ensuring riders have precisely completed the ascribed route. Why not just assume that they have, and impose a punitive penalty if there is clear evidence of deception? Cheating is simple if you wish to do it. However, you are only cheating yourself. Audax is all about setting yourself a challenge and achieving the personal satisfaction that comes from completing it. In terms of administration, the ongoing IT project to update the AUK website is a real opportunity to provide a better experience for riders and to reduce organisers’ workload. I understand there are many complications with online transactions, but if we are not able to establish our own online entry system with payment by credit/debit card, then we should look at what other
200s because they are a nice day out with cafes arranged, and people to chat to. When I raced the distances I was doing 10,000 miles a year – sometimes more. I hope to be riding them again this season as I am pretty much recovered now from multiple broken bones when a car hit me in April 2017. I used to be based in Portsmouth and joined the local CTC group in 1964, and the Hampshire Road Club in 1965. I moved to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire in 1985 and rode for the Melton Olympic CC. I didn’t realise until I looked up my results book that it was so long ago. I qualified for the 300,000 mile club in 2017 but a lot of my miles were unrecorded as, when I started keeping records in 1969, I only kept the
miles up to the end of the racing season. Unfortunately I don’t keep a lot of paperwork, and since my bang with the car, when I was unconscious in hospital for a fortnight, I’ve lost a lot of my memory… especially for names. I know the roads and where I’m going, and where the cafes are, but the names of the villages are a complete blank. On the miles front, I did 1,848 miles before and after the bang in 2017, 2,285miles in 2018, and 2,822 in 2019. So far this year I’ve clocked up 532. I’ve also spent 54 years in total on club committees. In addition, I got into coaching – my greatest success being with Ben Eliot, who raced on grass tracks. He won nine national titles in those years. Bill Vetcher
Colin with his long-suffering wife on their tandem at last year’s International Tandem Rally in the Midi Pyrenees
organisations do. There might be an alternative. In order to deal with entries in a more logical way, events need to be “owned” by Audax UK. When I organise an event I have no idea who owns the event. A better system would only work if all Audax events were an intrinsic part of the AUK structure. If fees were collected by AUK the balance of an event, after brevet card and validation fees, could be paid to the organiser when all paperwork/results were submitted. When entries are made it would help if both entrant and organiser received automatic confirmation. This confirmation should say that all information about
the event can be downloaded from the event page on the website. Similarly, it ought not to be possible to enter an event without including essential information on the entry form. Everyone should provide an emergency contact name and phone number. I suggest that the brevet card should also include a statement saying: “If for any reason you are unable to complete this event, you MUST phone the number below”. I have waited well over two hours at the end of an event for riders to appear when they have just decided to go home! Colin Gray
WHO ARE YOU CALLING PATHETIC?
Sir. Love the new edition of Arrivée. I’m a new convert to the world of Audax and very keen to take my efforts much further. However, I don’t really appreciate being labelled “pathetic” (Arrivée winter/spring 2020, comment by Tony Lennox), simply because I also enjoy using a turbo trainer on Zwift. I do regular high intensity sessions for endurance and muscle training which aren’t always possible outdoors in winter, and really enjoy the
competitive element of racing and measuring PBs etc, if I have a couple of hours free. Don’t be so quick to judge that all Arrivée members share this old-school view of virtual cycling. I’m sure many readers, possibly the majority of them, cycle exclusively outdoors in all weathers but why not live and let live instead of being so judgemental of many of your other readers. Paul Firth
(Tony Lennox responds: It wasn’t my intention to mock users of indoor exercise bikes, Paul. Please accept my sincere apologies if you felt insulted. I guess that, unlike our excellent readers, I spend too much time watching television – and that dreadful Peloton commercial just got right under my skin. I was really trying to applaud those who, as you say, get out on their bikes in all weathers, rather than those who prefer the virtual version.)
GRAEME PROVAN, General secretary, Audax UK
Just a sec… IN THE CORRESPONDING ISSUE last year, I mentioned a season in “full swing” as the PBP qualifiers filled the calendar and so many of our thoughts. What a difference a year makes. In these fast-moving and unprecedented times, anything I write now is in danger of being out of date long before it appears in print so I will concentrate on describing a busy period for the Board as it wrestled with a series of momentous decisions for our sport. We held our first Covidrelated board teleconference on 2 March. At this point we agreed to keep a watching brief on government guidance and that of similar organisations and Sport England but agreed that no further action was necessary save to reassure our organisers that AUK would treat cancelled or postponed events as flexibly as possible. By the time of our next formal teleconference a fortnight later we were reacting to the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier that evening and suspending all AUK activities and validations. We were soon followed by both Cycling UK and British Cycling. I must give a particular mention to Rob McIvor, Communications Director, and Caroline Fenton, Membership Secretary. Between them they managed to draft and publish a formal notice on our forum and website that same night and email a message from the Chair to all our members during the next day. We held a further board meeting the next day (17th March) during which we began to identify and plan
for some of the consequences of the decision to suspend activities. The first item on that agenda was providing some more detailed advice to organisers, including an offer of financial support where individual organisers were suffering unrecoverable losses on cancelled or postponed events. Nigel Armstrong, Financial Director, had already produced some forecasting on the likely financial effects of the suspension for AUK as a whole. During this period and subsequently, Board members have been in almost constant contact discussing and considering our continuing response to the suspension. Normally, our quarterly board meetings are held in Birmingham and last a full day. Clearly this was not possible for our April meeting but there were still plenty of items to cover so a series of teleconference calls were arranged with intervening discussions on the AUK forum. We were joined by Kevin Lake, IT Project Manager, during one of the calls. Kevin was able to report that, despite the difficulties with the insolvency of our contractor, his team had completed Phase II. This Phase deals with membership and will be one of the more noticeable changes when the switchover takes place. The final phase to come is potentially the most complex of the three phases and will require further planning and consideration before any contracted works can commence on its development.
Caroline Fenton and Martin Stefan presented the preliminary results from the members’ survey. They will publish full details in due course but one thing that did stand out was the impressive response rate. It is vital that we maintain that level of engagement with our sport during these difficult times. Speaking of which, plans are already at an advanced stage for this year’s Annual Reunion which is being planned as a celebration of long distance cycling. Paul Rainbow and Mark Gibson, Annual Reunion Delegates, have already lined up a special guest and a number of different workshops and
seminars for the Saturday afternoon (the usual Board forum will take place on the Sunday morning to free up time for a more social Saturday). The Reunion will take place in the South East, more precisely to the West of London but the exact dates and venue will clearly be subject to the progress of the pandemic. I wish all our members the best during these difficult times. With so much going on in the world, our sports and hobbies might often seem like a relatively trivial consideration. However they provide us with a vital part of our physical and mental well-being and a route back to something like normality.
Together alone Some cope with the boredom of lockdown by pedalling away on their home
If you’ve ever been in a room full of cyclists, you already know that every one of them has a tale to tell. In this edition of Arrivée we’ve gathered a few short yarns, describing how a number of Audaxers have been coping with the lockdown restrictions. If you have a story of lockdown lunacy… or any other anecdote relating to your cycling habits, old or new, send them to us. We’d love to feature them in our Cycling Shorts section. Just email around 200 words and a picture of yourself to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Discovering a different London A nice, quiet bike ride
through central London – a phrase rarely heard a few months ago but which has summed up Rob McIvor’s permitted daily exercise. His regular journey takes him the six miles to Tower Bridge, on main roads usually clogged with traffic and other hazards. “I pootle along as if I were in a park,” he says. “Savouring the emptiness, I’ve been enjoying the clean air and, most of all, the near silence.” Rob says that cruising the empty streets without the need for constant vigilance seems to free the senses to appreciate the city in a way that isn’t possible when it’s full of people and traffic. “We do have some beautiful buildings and public spaces,” says Rob. “I’ve spotted things I’ve never noticed before and have made mental notes to revisit when some form of normality returns.” Those are the memorable days, however. On most mornings he confines himself to his summer house in the garden, where he keeps a spin bike. “I pedal intensely for a couple of hours, listening to music or watching DVDs,” he says. “After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was actually enjoying being in lockdown!”
turbos, or going for short solo rides. But others have come up with inventive ways to get together while keeping their distance. Rider Paul Salmons, for instance, says: “My friend Brendan and I have a circular route round Weston Super Mare which passes both our houses. We’ve been doing this together for a while, starting at either house. “As we now have to exercise alone, we both start from our own homes at the same time but ride in opposite directions. That means we’re able to meet twice and can stop and spend some time chatting, from either side of the road, and keeping two metres apart. “We’ve done this, Monday to Friday, for our daily exercise and feel as though we are still riding together and are motivated to get out more than we would be if we were just riding on our own.”
Power of imagination At the start of the lockdown
in March, many Audax riders turned to their indoor turbo trainer bikes for exercise. Some, like Ben Connolly, found adjusting to the method more difficult than they’d imagined. “My opinion of turbos was that they were unbearably sweaty and loud, but were a necessary evil of winter training,” he says. “I tried to combat the boredom with heavy metal music. I opened the windows to relieve the sweatiness. I got hot, and ended up in just my cycling shoes. I wished I was doing literally anything else. “I decided I needed a different tactic. I would use all my powers of imagination to beat the boredom. The turbo, in my mind, became a real bike, but the first problem was that I was clearly in my kitchen… so I turned the lights off. Now, my view was exactly the same as if I was night-riding. “Before I knew it, I’d teleported to that tunnel on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia. We were going to have cheese and tomato sandwiches at the summit. I was riding home from my successful job interview with a sudden purpose and vigour for life. I was wincing with pain and running on empty up the second big col of the day in a week of big cols. “I was wherever I wanted to be. Good had triumphed over the evil turbo. I had completed my session, and actually enjoyed it.”
Ben Connolly CS
Family room…Dan Campbell CS
Home work-out Dan Campbell, the
Stoke on Trent-based cyclist whose rides are a regular feature of Arrivée, prefers to ride alone, but thanks to the lockdown he’s been forced to share his rides with others – his whole family. Though not a fan of the turbo trainer, he’s been using it regularly at home, watching box set episodes on TV while he pedals. And he’s frequently joined by his family in front of the television as he cycles his static miles. “Actually, it’s quite nice when they join me on a ride,” says Dan. “Both my wife and I work in education and are very conscious of not transmitting the virus to the children of key-workers, so we’ve only gone out for shopping, or for a group walk,” he says. “But I’m looking forward to cycle commuting when the rules allow.”
Archiving Forbidden Mountains In the Republic of Ireland the lockdown means that Audax Ever wanted to know more
Peir pressure… Brendan Dykes, left and Paul Salmons
Virus strikes biking medic
Regular Arrivée contributor, Dr Alaina Beacall, a trainee GP in Sheffield, volunteered to join the ranks of medical professionals on the front line when Covid-19 began to peak earlier this year… and then fell victim to the virus herself. The cycling medic joined the team at her local A&E department in a bid to help, but within a few days recognised the symptoms of coronavirus infection in herself – dry cough, headaches, and fatigue – and took the decision to isolate at home. “It left me bed-bound for 14 frustrating days,” she says. “I was unable to function mentally. Every day, come late morning, I was suddenly smacked with a dense head fog, drowsiness and a tight, throbbing cerebral band that rendered me unable to manage anything other than lying on my bed.” Fortunately, Alaina recovered and is now back at work. She has also been keeping tabs, from a distance, on her two grandmothers, who are both in their nineties, other family members and friends while detailing her experience in a blog – https://covid.alaina.co.uk. She is using her time in lockdown to plan her own Peak District endurance challenge event, in the hope of holding it in the autumn: www.purepeakgrit.cc
Alaina Beacall CS
no-one, including cyclists, is allowed beyond a two kilometre radius of home, which Irish Audaxer, Helen Kerrane finds “interesting”, but frustrating. “There are Garda checkpoints up in the mountains on the edge of Dublin,” she says. “If you’re caught up there you’re definitely more than 2km from home. I can see the forbidden mountains from my kitchen window – and they’re just beyond my loop. “My husband has taken to the turbo trainer while I’m doing more running and bodyweight exercises every day. My ten year old daughter is doing a short charity ride for a local animal shelter – 111km in 11 days, before her 11th birthday!”
Go-on, go-on, Helen Kerrane on Craggy Island
Zoomed in … with Liam FitzPatrick
about the history of Audax events – the people, the places, the pictures? What we need is an Audax archive – and that’s exactly what archivist and rider, Mark Hudson is planning. He has volunteered to create an archive for Audax UK, giving an insight into the history of the organisation, and information on past events. He says: “I am currently the archivist for the Rough-Stuff Fellowship which now has over 20,000 images. Among many more pieces there is a full set of RSF Journals dating back to 1955. “I’m keen to do something similar for AUK. This would not only provide an understanding of the history of AUK, but could become a promotional tool for future events.” If any members have images to share, whether hard copy or digital, Mark is keen to hear from you. He is also happy to scan photographs, negatives or slides. Also of interest for the archive are early copies of Arrivée, early patches and badges, AUK kit, or anything else connected to Audax. “This will all take some time and will be an ever-evolving project, but I think a very worthwhile one,” says Mark. He has set up an Instagram account – @aukarchive. He also hopes to share some of the images on the AUK website.
Randonn Chats When Audaxers aren’t riding they seem to
love talking – that’s the logic behind a series of Friday night Zoom chats organised by Liam FitzPatrick and Grace Lambert-Smith during lockdown. Originally intended as a one-off on Good Friday to keep disappointed Arrow riders occupied, the RandonnChat has started to run fortnightly. It’s a simple format, rather like a chat show where a number of invited guests natter and also talk about an area of particular interest. The first edition brought together cycling writer Emily Chappell, coach Jasmijn Muller and LEL supremo Danial Webb and they covered everything from the focus for training during the Audax drought, recording audio books and how LEL is changing in 2021. As well as seeing and hearing the guests, Audaxers contribute on-line or get brought in to share their experiences. It’s a great platform to catch up on news; for example LEL route planner Nick Wilkinson explained how 40 per cent of the 1,500km mandatory route would be new on the second RandonnChat. Because it uses Zoom, places are limited and are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Details of each chat, including how to get a log-in, are posted on the Audax FB page and on the AUK Forum.
Social history… Mark Hudson
WORDS AND PICTURES BRANDON EDGELEY
As the floods of February 2020 began to recede, a brave band of Crewe Clarion Wheelers cycled through the muddy aftermath, down into the Severn Valley, heading for the ruggedly beautiful Shropshire landmark, the Stiperstones – the county’s second highest hill. Brandon Edgeley reports…
Brandon in Montgomery
Shattering glory of Shropshire’s stony peaks
THE RIVER SEVERN spectacularly burst its banks in February, flooding much of the course of the Descent of the Stiperstones 200km group DIY. But early in March I met up with fellow Crewe Clarion Wheelers John Gallagher, Ian Wilson and Anna Burton in Nantwich, ready to tackle this challenging course. We set off without any ceremony at 8am, out through the Cheshire lanes to a rainy Whitchurch, contrary to any forecast we’d seen. We rode on, passing through Whixall, Loppington and Burlton, before arriving at our first control at Baschurch, 48km in. A sandwich and a coffee from the Spar and it was time to get going again. The rain had stopped but there was still a 15 mph headwind to contend with. We crossed the A5 and passed Nesscliffe before descending all the way to the Shropshire flood plain. The Severn had completely flooded the whole area three weeks earlier but it had all drained away, except for 50 metre stretch. I decided to shoulder my bike and wade through, but soon realised that the flood was only 20cm deep, and I could have ridden through and kept my feet dry. I was climbing back on the bike as the rest of the group just rode through – with no problem, and without getting their feet wet! We took a 100 metre detour to visit the beautiful 15th century St Peter’s church in Meverley which had appeared in Dan Campbell’s Strava feed the previous Sunday. Incidentally, Dan had been unable to join us on our Stiperstones event, so rode it as a solo DIY the week before. You can read his report in Dan’s Diary on page 19. We were now at Crew Green, the scene of severe flooding a few weeks earlier. This was the start of the day’s climbing – and the next 70km would see 70 per cent of the day’s total ascent. We were quickly sorted into fitness order by the time we hit the hairpin, regrouping before crossing the A458. Then it was uphill again, all at our own pace, until we were on top of Long Mountain. We followed the ridge for three miles, high up, with wonderful views all around. This is a truly delightful corner of the world. A super-fast descent to Kingswood saw the speedo head towards 60kmph, plenty enough as the road was still damp in places. From here we pushed on to the charming town of Montgomery and climbed out until we were up alongside the ruins of the castle, perched a good 50 metres above the town. From here it was downhill to Abermule before picking up the main road for the 5km run into Newtown, Powys. Newtown is
30km in… Ian, Anna and John looking fresh and enthusiastic
PICTURE © BERND BRUEGGEMANN/123rf
The Stiperstones is a distinctive hill in Shropshire, formed 480 million years ago. During the last Ice Age, its peak of quartzite rock was exposed to constant freezing and thawing, causing the rock to shatter into a mass of jagged scree. The place is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Wild Edric, an AngloSaxon earl who held out against the Normans after 1066. The Descent of the Stiperstones is a 200km event, starting from Nantwich in Cheshire, passing through the stunning landscapes of Shropshire’s borderlands, its hills and valleys.
Shattering glory of Shropshire’s stony peaks Arrivée148Summer2020
Heading up… The crew climb towards the Stiperstones
… An outstanding ❝ area of the country, complete with red kites overhead, no doubt eyeing up the four randonneurs passing underneath, wondering if they could pick off the weak one at the back!
❞ about halfway (102km) with plenty of feeding options. We opted for lunch at the Tesco café and had a substantial meal and an hour off the bike. We set off, refreshed and refuelled, ready for the next section which was immediately uphill out of the town. Three kilometres later we were at least 100 metres higher, before enjoying a gradual descent with a tailwind, passing through Kerry, Sarn and Churchstoke with relative ease. We turned, passing through Hyssington, for the final major challenge of the day. We climbed the Stiperstones via a road which runs alongside Linley Drive, an outstanding area of the country, complete with red kites overhead, no doubt eyeing up the four randonneurs passing underneath, wondering if they could pick off the weak one at the back! Ian saved his climbing legs for this section and made sure he beat John G to the top with ease. From the summit there was another fast descent down to Minsterley and Pontesbury, before working our way to Dinky’s Dinah 24 hour transport café at Ford (153km). Fried egg baps all around, washed down with a final coffee should get us home, we all agreed. Dusk was now falling, and the temperature dropped rapidly, so I stopped to put on a windproof top. We had a strong tailwind all the way home.
Needs attention… the remains of Montgomery castle
Dinky’s Dinah and a welcome break near Ford
The day’s exertions were making themselves felt, and the group split into two, one stopping at a pub for a swift coke and use of the toilets, the other Fried egg baps all around, group pushing on to Whitchurch for a quick feed washed down with a final coffee at the petrol station where we should get us home, regrouped. All that was left was the 20km we all agreed. back to Nantwich. We stopped on Welsh Row, about 500 metres from the actual end of our route and nipped into the Black Lion for a quick celebratory This really is a magnificent day out on drink before getting back to finish the the bike and has to be ridden to be route and head our separate ways home. appreciated.
● The route is to be offered as an Audax for the first time this year on August 8. See https://www.audax.uk/event-details?eventId=8004 and https://creweandnantwichaudax.wordpress.com for more details.
WORDS AND PICTURES CALLUM ROGERS
Having just completed his last exam, postgraduate Callum Rogers, who works for the London Cycling Campaign, took himself and his bike to the battlefields of northern France to take part in the Great War Remembrance Brevet in May 2019. At one stage, cold and alone in a deserted landscape, short of rations, and surrounded by the graves of thousands of fallen soldiers, Callum experienced a moment of doubt and fear. Here’s his cautionary tale…
Much too quiet on the
I TOLD MYSELF that I was fortunate not to be dodging shrapnel or contracting trench foot, but I was alone in the pre-dawn on a 100 year old battlefield, teeth-chatteringly cold and drifting in and out of sleep. I said to myself: You’re in real trouble now. Here I was, taking part in a 400km brevet across Belgium and northern France. My water was rationed, food was dwindling… and it was so cold. It was, without doubt, my hardest ride ever (so far!). Don’t let anybody tell you that a Low Countries’ Audax is an easy option. I’ve done some big bike rides but this was the only one in which I thought I was in a genuinely nasty spot – entirely of my own making. It wasn’t the Atlas Mountains or Arctic Circle. It was tranquil rural France. The place in which I was shivering, tired, and increasingly a little bit scared was one of the most dangerous places in history – the frontline of the last stages of the First World War 101 years ago, to the day. I’d roped myself into the 400km Great War Remembrance Brevet after seeing it advertised on a cycling forum. I’d been warned that the distance is a fearsome step up from 300, but thought this would be an ideal opportunity to get my “upgrade”. Seven Euros to enter, and shortly after my last exam, just a short ferry away, nice flat profile, back in time for tea and medals. What could go wrong? I jumped on the train to Dover on Friday 10 May, and arrived in Dunkirk in
… Seven Euros to enter, and shortly after my last exam, just a short ferry away, nice flat profile, back in time for tea and medals. What could go wrong?
the small hours of Saturday morning. But I had my secret weapon with me – a Gore-Tex British Army bivvy bag, that an English seagull had pooed on for good luck. I’m a shy sleeper, and rode outside of any towns before finding somewhere I felt out-of-sight, then snuggled down for four hours of quality snooze. If you’ve been to rural France you’ll know that bakeries open very early, and the local spot did not disappoint, with a fine spread of pain-au-chocolats and hot strong coffee. The French were wandering in and out with baguettes tucked under their arms. Some grinned at me and gave the thumbs up, knowing what my game was from the clothes. The crossing point from northern France into Belgium is always a great experience, and this time the sun was out, the wind was still, and I congratulated myself on my excellent taste in holiday making. So far, so bon. Welkom in Vlaanderen! This lovely
bike path is part of the route from Dunkirk to my brevet’s start point, a Flemish pub/ café in Oudenberg. The ride was due to start at 6pm. I am hugely grateful to the locals for strongly advising me to stock up on food from the supermarket for reasons that will become clear later on. The pub generously let me dump some belongings in their garage for safekeeping. Weight shed, I collected my card, got lined up and headed off with the big mob. Within an hour or two I’d located the one other Brit. I’d come to be hugely grateful for his being there within a few hours. I tried to head off with the “hares” as long as I could, thinking that with flat terrain I could hang in and get pulled along, but upon encountering the first rolling hills, decided to quit while ahead and ride my own pace. Later, I found that two riders had completed the brevet in an incredible 16 hours, averaging 25kmh throughout. An effort to keep up with these guys would have not gone well. Around four hours in, I began to get my first inkling that this may be a difficult ride. Firstly, there were not many supermarkets, cafés, or anything, really. Petrol stations were universally just a self-service machine. Not even a sevenday old croissant to be had. I joined a small group going at a
civilised randonneur pace. We crossed into France, and this is where the ride started to get tricky for me. We got to the midway point, the Australian war memorial, and as it was dark, I started to get cold. I’d not brought enough insulation. I had on a short sleeve base layer, summer jersey, arm and leg warmers and bibs, plus a rain cape and a rain jersey – and I was slowly but surely chilling. I’d researched what the weather would be, of course, but I hadn’t realised how cold I would get while moving on the bike. Continuing on, I got to 4.30am and realised that I wasn’t comfortable with the group’s pace. I said that I was going to leave and ride at my own pace for a while. Fundamentally as much as I was feeling pretty poor, this ride was called the Great War Remembrance Brevet and I should be able to cope with being a bit chilly for a few hours. Thankfully I’d listened to the locals and filled my saddle bag with a kind of custard tart combined with a rice pudding, which is true cyclists’ ambrosia. But I was very cold and while I’m used to riding big distances, I was having to focus hard to control my panic at having to ration my food and water consumption for the first time. Even worse, I was beginning to really feel the “dozies” – I’m sure that I micro-slept on the bike. My
M uch too quiet on the western front Arrivée148Summer2020
eyes were heavy. It was not nice. I pulled in to a train station waiting room and tried to nap, but it was little more than a bus shelter. I was soon cold again, and had no choice but to ride on. Thankfully I’d brought enough lights. This had been my main worry. But the cold and lack of sleep and food was beginning to make itself felt. I began looking at things on the roadside wondering if I could burn them, or stick them inside my clothes for extra warmth. The route took me past nothing that was open or hospitable. There was nothing for it except to keep the pedals turning. I had enough battery for my lights and the GPS. I was not completely out of food. I was in a safe country. It was mostly flat, and most importantly, my bike was performing splendidly. All I had to do was grind for a few hours more, and the bakeries would fling their doors open. Hours passed, and the sun began to rise, thank god! However, what I didn’t reckon on was the instant cold snap. The sunrise is actually the coldest time of the day – it’s the longest time since the sun was setting, after all, and the cold was suddenly worse than ever. I was shivering like a leaf. I would roll past a bakery seeing the chaps getting ready for the day, but knew better than to demand early service from the French. At long last, I ground my way up the incline to Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, the world’s largest French military cemetery. The sun had finally come out, and with its rays warming my back, I rolled into the café. I bought four pastries
… as much as I was feeling pretty ❝ poor, this ride was called the Great War Remembrance Brevet and I should be able to cope with being a bit chilly
and two hot drinks, scoffed the lot, locked my bike to my right leg, set an alarm and crashed out on a picnic table within seconds. The scene of my snooze, the Nécropole Nationale de Notre-Dame-deLorette, is surrounded by the graves of 40,000 French soldiers. When I woke, 90 minutes later, everything had changed. It was warm. Birds were singing. Tourists were wandering around with cameras. I realised that I’d broken the back of the ride, and had just 103km to go. I jumped back on the bike and rolled down the hill, cheerily waving at people walking up it. It was surreal. The remainder of the ride was just like any well-organised Audax – great weather, plentiful food and drink, and interesting historical landmarks. The route passed through many places which warned that leaving the road could put you among land full of unexploded ordnance. Going through Vimy Ridge, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war, the ground is lumped, as if by huge moles. It has to be seen to be believed. I rolled into the arrivée, ordered a big dark Belgian beer, and reflected. It had been a really, really hard ride for me. I’d done much hillier routes, routes in much
worse weather, and over cobbles, but it had pushed me right to the edge. I had underestimated the night-time conditions for sure, but had pushed my way through anyway and learned a lot. I would from now on beware of the cold. In rides where I suspect there might be chill, I now pack an excellent synthetic down jacket which is super snug. I rarely actually wear it for longer than 15 minutes at once, nearly exclusively at stops, but my 400 experience taught me the hard way that I cannot be cold. Secondly, to beware of assuming everywhere has the English availability of food and drink 24 hours a day – this was nearly a dangerous assumption. After picking up my kit from the pub’s garage, I was kindly offered a room by a local for the night, which I took gladly. I don’t remember getting into bed. After a refreshing breakfast of eggs, bread, and lots of fine coffee, I rode to Dunkirk along the coast, en style touriste, got on the ferry, and the train from Dover to King’s Cross. For a lot of people they don’t think of France or Belgium as terribly adventurous places to go, but I had been taught a lesson that you can find yourself pushing at new limits in the most innocuous of places. I’d done my first 400, and after validating it with Audax UK, it was the 400 I needed to complete my 2018 Super Randonneur award. People look at me a bit funny when I say that I love holidaying in Belgium and France – really you have to go and experience riding there yourself.
WORDS AND PICTURES PETER ALDRIDGE
In his eighth decade, veteran Audaxer Peter Aldridge recalls some longdistance rides in the days before satellite navigation, smart phones and support crews… and concludes that cycling was more challenging in the old days, though he concedes that “an octogenarian would say that!”
Peter Aldridge completed his first randonnee in 1980 – the Milton Keynes 200k, which was his qualification for joining AUK. He has ridden events throughout the UK and France, and together with his wife Pat (an AUK super randonneur) has toured France, Spain, Holland and Germany, often on their Mercian tandem frame, which he built up himself in 1982. Peter admits that one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling is spending the winter poring over maps, and planning routes across Europe. “I never spent my time recording mileages and altitudes, etc. I just enjoyed the time on my bike or tandem,” he says. “For me, the introduction of trophies in the Audax world was a disappointment as I always thought they were not in the original spirit of Audax UK, which was always to be non-competitive. But riding Audax events had led to friendships that have lasted to the present day.”
Freewheeling along memory lane
The Exmoor 100k, 1989
AS AN AUK “ANCIEN”, the mention of the WindsorChester-Windsor 600k in a recent copy of Arrivée, brought back happy memories. I rode the event twice – in 1982 and again in 1991. The first ride started at a control in a tent by the side of the road near Worcester. The turning points were at Beaconsfield and at John Nicholas’s home in Moore, near Warrington. In 1991 the ride started in Kidderminster with the turning points being Marlow and Northwich. The 1991 event was ridden with friends and treated as an extended social jaunt with plenty of sticky bun stops. It took two and a half hours longer than the 1982 event, in
line with the philosophy of former AUK chairman, Mick Latimer, who always said that he regretted every minute he arrived at the final control before finishing time because it was time he could have spent riding his bike. The start dates for both rides were in June, providing long daylight hours. Cycle
…I rode a 1950s ❝ Higgins frame, hand-built with 531 competition tubing with 700c wheels, a Campag 50/42 chainset and a Regina 14-28 five-speed screw-on rear block
lights, particularly in 1982, were pretty poor. Most front lamps used a twin cell, tar-sealed battery which didn’t last through the night, and spares were carried for both front and rear lights on night events, adding to the weight. The only practical alternatives were sidewall driven bottle dynamos, which, while they gave a reasonable light, were hard-going on a long trip. The later Sanyo and Subitez tread dynamos improved matters but, with horizontal dropouts they could slip on wet or greasy roads if not close to the tyre and, if too close, it could be difficult to remove the wheel. At a later date, vertical dropouts obviated this
Peter on Mont Ventoux
problem but brought another because they could not be used with a fixed wheel. It was possible, with the necessary expertise and equipment, to combine two Lucas hub dynamos, one each side of the wheel, (at 2.5w one was inadequate) but they had to be cut through in the middle and then welded together out of phase – not a job for your average bike shed, and the weight was considerable. I rode a 1950s Higgins frame, hand-built with 531 competition tubing with 700c wheels, a Campag 50/42 chainset and a Regina 14-28 five-speed screw-on rear block. The block was bought separately and sprockets
chosen to suit from a board in the local shop, although 28 teeth was the maximum that many changers would then cope with. My rear changer was a Campag Record, more a racing gear, but it would cope with my gear range provided I shifted to the appropriate chainwheel in the middle sprocket on the back, using the 52 chainwheel with the three smaller sprocket and vice versa to keep the chain correctly tensioned – not too inconvenient with practice, and at least it avoided those very inefficient dog-leg chainlines which seem to be common now. The hubs were large flange Campag GS with cup and
cone bearings which I greased every year. I bought some spare cups and cones at the time and the hubs are still in regular use, although now with six sprockets! Gears were operated by Campag down tube levers so that broken cables could be replaced quickly and easily in the middle of a ride. Mobile phones were yet to come, so no calling the wife in the event of mechanical failure, and a good selection of tools was carried, as were spokes and tubes. Tyres had no Kevlar band so punctures were more frequent than they are now. In those happy days bikes could be dismantled by the side of the road without the need for special tools, except for chain splitters and freewheel block removers which were relatively small and, which, being by nature a pessimist, I usually carried. In 1982 there was much less traffic, and after pub closing time, traffic was light. Given the feeble glow produced by the lights of the time, particularly if the battery was not new, lanes and complicated routes were best avoided at night, as were fast descents. There were no satnavs so maps had to be carried – another reason for
… I was stopped by a ❝ policeman in the early hours who asked what I was doing. I expected that he would then check my mental state by asking the name of the Prime Minister
keeping the night section easy to follow. In 1982 I was stopped by a policeman in the early hours somewhere in north Cheshire who asked if I was OK and what I was doing. I expected that he would then check my
… The shorts ❝ themselves were fine and comfortable until they got waterlogged, at which point they became very heavy and tended to sag below the knee
mental state by asking the name of the Prime Minister but, when I explained, he simply raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders and went on his way. Of course, cycling events of that length were few and far between in those days, and apart from the WCW the only other 600 I can remember being reasonably accessible was the Norfolk one organised by Jaquie and Peter Denny and, a little later, the Salisbury event. All-night filling stations and food outlets had not yet arrived so supplies had to be carried in the saddlebag; in my case some dried dates or figs, biscuits and a tin of rice pudding, which always seemed to go down well in the early hours. A story of the time concerned a very experienced AUK who took in his saddlebag a rice pudding in a plastic container. All was well until he upended his bike to mend a puncture, at which point the top came off the container depositing the contents into his saddlebag. Fortunately he had a spoon and he was able to eat most of it before it soaked in! As for protection against the weather, there was no Gore-Tex, but the old yellow cape was pretty good at keeping out rain that was vertical, although not if it was horizontal. It also provided a substantial windbreak/sail depending on the wind direction and some warmth if it was cold. I also carried a waterproof racing cape, as much for warmth and wind resistance as for its water resistant properties. Shorts
Freewheeling along memory lane
…In those happy ❝ days bikes could be dismantled by the side of the road without the need for special tools.
were generally of wool with a genuine chamois leather insert which had to be periodically greased to prevent it becoming as stiff as the proverbial old board. (One of my friends always used udder cream).
The shorts themselves were fine and comfortable until they got waterlogged, at which point they became very heavy and tended to sag below the knee. Then, if
braces were not worn they progressed on down the legs. They also took a long time to dry out, although, being of wool, they did not feel too cold and clammy in the process. Modern fabrics are a huge improvement; much lighter and they dry out very quickly. I am now well into my eighties and my days of riding long events are behind me. The original AUK regulations stated that riders must be self-sufficient and back-up vehicles were not allowed; the ride would not be validated if assisted. Everything likely to be needed on an event had to be carried by the rider. Considering those factors, the subsequent improvement in equipment and the fact that, in the event of a problem, the rider was reliant on himself, fellow riders and/or public telephones, it does seem to me that those events did present riders with a greater mental and physical challenge than is the case now, although I think it probable that average times now are faster. The WCW was the big challenge in the UK in the early days of AUK and I think was originally set up to provide training and qualification for the PBP. I
never rode the PBP; even in those days it was expensive, and having family commitments and limited holidays I preferred to spend holidays touring with my wife, Pat, somewhere in the south of France. We did ride the Fleche Velocio one Easter – this was 400k and had the advantage of finishing in Provence. Of course AUK was very different then (octogenarians always say that!) and prospective members had to complete an approved 200k event before being permitted to join. This ensured that AUK remained a small, and I suppose elite, organisation restricted to long distance cyclists. It is for the current membership to determine present policy but the old arrangement did have the considerable advantage of keeping the administration plain and simple and relatively free of bureaucracy. I’ve had great pleasure from AUK events over the years. The equipment we had was the best available at that time so we accepted things as they were. We were, at least, free from the anxiety of the risk assessments and the possibility of the insurance claims that bedevil the organisers of current events.
… An experienced ❝ rider took rice pudding in a
plastic container in his saddlebag. All was well until he upended the bike to mend a puncture, at which point the container deposited the contents into his saddlebag. Fortunately he had a spoon and was able to eat most of it before it soaked in!
Concentration at Cadenet after Fleche Velocio 1986
WORDS AND PICTURES DAN CAMPBELL
As a cold, wet and windy winter fell upon his native Staffordshire, Dan Campbell stayed close to home in his pursuit of a Super Randonneur with AAA points, finding plenty to interest him on local roads, despite the weather. Here’s the latest extract from his diary… Sple nd id… Hi lderstone Ch ri st Church
I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying ON TRENT RTON UP U B D N U A RO X 100KM ast DIY AUDA tryside of e gh the coun es and
u urch at ride thro s, pretty ch This is a gre aint village u q f o ll fu e, Staffordshir h ays. w h rc a ining, whic e n sto sun was sh e lly th a rk u o ct w a was home from even if that , th rm When I got a w I f pression o gh for me! gave the im it was just warm enou ould be a t u B om home w fr in an illusion. ht! sp m k nd I was rig uick 100 rnoon – a e decided a q ft a e th d spen d at great way to ter, I stoppe d to Uttoxe a rch. It ro l u a ch su e u ok at th lo k Taking the ic u h of this q a to have photograp e a n n to e k rs e ta d r il e H nev r I waved me that I’d gh Uttoxete u ro th g d e d occurred to ea e was tryin ilding. As I h the beast h n e se to t splendid bu I’d e e g m nd Rover to ”. The last ti at “my bull a farmer’s La sense a change h g u ro th y wa can to bash his is point you uieter, cows. At th y me much q rb a co e e n b e y e h T som s. d cropton a S t t Pauls a re of the ro S tu ll. a a n H e ry th u in ver stop Sudb n you pass pass but ne e y h ll a w t su p u e I t xc e tha r landmark was anothe time. is th id s te. I d e going wa to investiga fast and th re e ld. w co t le in o tt t this p was a li The roads a ugh the temperature de the si g n lo a tho ressive p im ry e v good, even s a Stapenhill at Repton w the road is p u s e The Church il m ive. bbey. A few ery impress adjoining A ich is also v h w y a w h rc Cemetery a
al… Mini-cat heder ls The Hol y Ange the Church of s at Hoar Cros
The road skirts th e power station an d heads to Walton-on-Trent where you cross th e River Trent using a single lane brid ge, but there is a walkway on one side. A few minut es later you are in Barton-underNeedwood which has an impressiv e church set back from the main ro ad. I should have taken the time to cycle to the other side of the church as it looks much more impressive. I’d intended to ha ve a cafe stop here but it was so busy with parents and students leaving school that I just kept going. The roads becom e very quiet as yo u undulate throug the countryside. I h was quite taken ab ack when the Church of The Ho ly Angels at Hoar Cross appeared from behind the trees. I can only de scribe it as a mini-cathedral. I thought it would be interesting to have a look insid e, but it was getti ng dark and I didn have a front light ’t , so I pushed on. Rather than take the main road ba ck to Meir Heath opted for the smal I l back roads which I’ve never used before. I would de finitely use these roads again as th climbs are less ste e ep and there wer e very few cars. What a great ride, I would definitely do this route agai but stopping to lo n ok at these landm arks in more deta il. www.audax.uk
I’ve got chills, they’re ultiplying
AROUND STA FFORD AUDAX DIY 100KM
I was up at 6a m and deliver ed the wife’s cu normal. She as p of tea, as ked whether I’d be cycling toda “I’ve not spent y. I said: any time with you guys over couple of wee the past ks, so I’m spen ding the day at She replied: “W home.” hy don’t you go for a quick spin we’ll spend th e afternoon to and gether?” I’d left before she finis the house hed the senten ce. The road was wet, and the w inter wind had bite but it was a cold a pleasant mor ning. The sect Meir Heath to ion from Uttoxeter is a familiar road route to the Pe as it’s my ak D Uttoxeter I expe istrict. Around the back of rienced the fir st of two near this ride. This tim misses on e it was a mou ntain biker in overtaking me his car on a single lane bridge. The sun rose, bu t quickly vanish ed behind the I never saw it ag clouds. ain, but I did se e the rain. It st drizzle as I turn arted to ed to take the back road arou Rugeley to Ca nd nnock Chase, in a bid to avoi traffic. The clim d th e b was pleasant and listening bird’s song mad to the e me feel I was a long way from civilisation. After the long descent to Penk ridge I decided the Commonw to visit ealth war grav es which I last when I was lead saw ing mountain bike groups ar Cannock Chas ound e back in the ea rly 1990s. It’s interesting ho w some things never change .
little Penkridge left me a The road layout in gs, but e faint road markin confused. I could se doing, so I be to at I was meant couldn’t identify wh ring the du on sing this juncti just made it up! Cros n’t stop did I . us ero be very dang working day must here ted to aim for somew at Penkridge but op to push ed cid de I so , cup of tea warm and dry for a ht ug on. e Red Lion Farm, Ha on to the cafe at th is mainly nkridge to Haughton The section from Pe tween es and the route be narrow country lan poor road on has an extremely Bradley and Haught I if do this r re-routing this leg surface. I’ll conside route again. iver tried to one a young lady dr As I approached St squeeze as she attempted to force me off the road my ing pp crossing, nearly cli past me on a zebra the t se up is r rear bumper. Th front wheel with he iles to m le up co xt I rode the ne as r he d hin be c ffi tra lane, ut dominating the the main roundabo g. kin ta from over stopping other cars ord road e Trentham to Staff The section along th had to cycle I as us little dangero was pleasant but a e because side of the inside lan away from the kerb ter. of the standing wa
’s y St Peter Ma lver le c hurc h
k Cha s e Ca n n oc y ce meter
DESCENT OF THE STIPERS TONES DIY AUDAX 200KM Starting at Tern Hill near Market Drayton I headed across to Ellesmere for breakfast, by-passing my favourite café at Prees Heath as it was only a few miles into the ride. There were a couple of heavy downpours, combined with a strong wind, Leaving Ellesmere, I headed for Crewgreen and the first big climb. The headwind was killing me, gusting at 30-40mph, pushing me across the road at times. I took a little diversion just before Melverley, as the floodwater was still high. The loca ls were out collecting the plastic and other rubbish trapped in the hedgerows. They recommend ed I take the high road as it had cleared of floods a few days before. Crewgreen and the first climb was a welcome relief as the wind was redirected by the hedgerows. The descent to Wallaston is quick but the lane is narrow with blind corners and I had to slow down or stop a dozen times for oncoming car s. The next incline gradually turns into a continu ous ascent. However there are places where the gra dient reduces, and you can recover. The descent dow n the other side is fast and steep with blind corner s but you pop out at a village and start a gentler leg to Montgomery. Every time I’ve passed through Montgomery it’s
look at ok the opportunity to been at night, so I to was so e. But to be honest, I the church and castl last 60 e headwind over the tired from fighting th the off be bothered to pull miles that I couldn’t to y wa ttered me all the road. A headwind ba t like I hours of cycling, it fel 7.5 McDonald’s. After m. had just ridden 600k ough to buy three I stopped just long en e road fizzy drink. I knew th a cheeseburgers and d one ha I so , ep long and ste out of Newtown was ride my for o tw r he ved the ot cheeseburger and sa stic lip Kerry, I sheared the pla back. On the climb to of ult t cleat. This had the res off the front of my lef ed the pedal when I appli my foot popping off kle took my foot slipped my an pressure. Every time rather tedious. a knock. This became ke for my second I stopped at Churchsto It was avoid a rain shower. cheeseburger and to e incline th let mb to Ford. Don’t only a mile to the cli ich is wh mb cli l you hit the rea fool you. Eventually foot my as g lon t . I didn’t las continuous and steep gth en str e th ve ha n’t l and I did popped off the peda is e descent off the top to get going again. Th e th in le op pe d an rs of ca excellent but beware shing pu , p at Dinkys Dinahs road. I opted not to sto on for Tern Hill
DAN’S VITAL STATS Location: Stoke on Trent Bike: 2011 9-speed aluminium tank Age: 44 Weight: Wheel breaking (110kg) Fitness: broken and rebuilt Resting Heart Rate: 65 BMI: Obese WHR (waist/hip ratio): High Favourite food: See food! All Dan’s ride reports are here: https://dancampbell.co.uk/ audax-ride-list/
c olas c hur St. Nic h y er Montgom
nt The d ista es ton s Stiper
WORDS AND PICTURES BOB WATTS A member of the group stand in front of a volcanic plug in the highlands of Ethiopia
Globe-trotting cyclist, Bob Watts took himself and his bike on an eventful five-week, 2,200km East African trek from Khartoum to Nairobi earlier this year, learning a great deal, not least that one should never smile at a baboon! This is his story…
Under African skies
EVERY GREAT VOYAGE should have a guide, and for me that was Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari which grips you from the first paragraph: “All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there, though not for the horror, the hot spots, the massacre-and-earthquake stories you read in the newspaper; I wanted the pleasure of being in Africa again. Feeling that the place was so large it contained many untold tales and some hope and comedy and sweetness too.” I’d also worked in Africa, for two years, some 38 years ago and had never been back, except to Morocco which hardly counts. This time, I was to cycle south from the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile at Khartoum, where the aeroplane dropped me into a dilapidated airport almost in the city centre. Weeks without rain meant the dust filled one’s nose straight away although at least the February heat took until lunchtime to start searing your lungs and draining your resolve. My fellow travellers were two
dozen cyclists with whom I’d ride on this leg of the famous Cairo to Cape Town Tour d’Afrique route. I would describe them not so much as cyclists but as adventurers on bikes. Accompanied by local cyclists and a police escort for the first hour we were never far from the Blue Nile which would be a feature for the first leg to Addis Ababa. Indeed, some of our group swam in the river that day, though only after asking about crocodiles. Still on the fringes of the Sahara, Sudan was arid and every day was dry, hot and sunny while, smugly, I read about storms Ciara and Dennis lashing the UK. After four days cycling and bush camping in Sudan, we reached the Ethiopian border at Gallabat. Paul Theroux had been here too: “Border towns in African countries are awful places, known for riff-raff and refugees and people sleeping rough, famous for smugglers and backhanders, notorious for bribery and delay, nit-picking officialdom, squeezing policemen, pestering money changers, the greatest risks and the crummiest hotels.” There
Beyond Gondar, there were ❝ cols, on decent tarred roads, giving long views of volcanic plugs towering above
was almost no cross-border traffic but nevertheless the bureaucracy took four hours. The unpredictability of Africa is never far away and the next day we were bussed because of tribal strife rumoured to involve ritualistic killing although, because this is Africa, the notion that there was a rumour was itself perhaps just a rumour. Ethiopia is not so far down the economic scale as Sudan and being largely Christian rather than Muslim, beer can be bought and is sometimes cold. Here Bob Marley shares billboard space with Jesus Christ, and the Rastafarian colours – green, yellow, red – are everywhere. Gondar was our first historical town, and rest day, high on the basalt plateau of the Ethiopian Highlands. Once the seat of the Christian Ethiopian emperors it is now the home of some elite Ethiopian athletes. By now I was accustomed to the daily routine. Rising more than an hour before dawn allowed packing, de-camping and breakfast before it was light so we could set off when
the sun rose around 6.45 in the morning, making the most of the cooler hours. Only twice did I need to wear long sleeves, even before dawn in the Highlands. The lunch truck would set up 60 to 80km down the road (so lunch was over by 10am!) with a selection of cold buffet savoury food and fruit. Arriving at the camp sometime after midday, soup was always welcome as a filler and re-hydrator before dinner after the rider briefing at 18.00. Every night I camped in my own tent, and often in the bush where you dig your own latrines too. Basic facilities were part of the deal, and one reason for the cohesion of the group, who gelled with humour and shared interests. Beyond Gondar, there were cols, on decent tarred roads, giving long views of volcanic plugs towering above. Later descending to the volcanic Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile and home of hippos, a boat trip took us out to an ancient Christian Orthodox monastery on one of the islands. But this was not the last we would see of the Blue Nile. Spilling out of the lake and over the Blue Nile falls we met it downstream a couple of days later, still more than 2,000 miles from the sea. Here the road to Addis Ababa crosses the river which, over six million years, has gouged a 1,400m deep ravine through the basalt and limestone and into the hard sandstone, which forms a gorgewithin-the-gorge. 1400m descent and re-ascent – an upside down Ventoux. A comfortable 20°C at the rim became a stifling 40°C at the bottom, where there are many baboons. The rider meeting had included the warning not to show your teeth, for a baboon can mistake it as a sign of aggression. No smiling on the way down, then, or grimacing on the way up; although the descending road was in such a poor state that there was little to smile about. Several sections had slid away down the hill and in other parts the tarmac was severely rumpled or replaced with limestone infill which had been ground to dust as fine as flour by passing traffic. In two places the road was blocked by freight vehicles unable to ascend the unmade road.
After the long climb, our camp site on the south rim was a welcome sight with an awesome view. Leaving the Blue Nile we reached the high point of the trip at 3,122m before descending the next day into Addis Ababa, capital of this nation of 110 million people and where Lucy – our 3.2 million year old ancestor – was waiting for us in the museum. Humankind was born here in this part of East Africa. After two weeks and 1,150km of this first stage I was inured to the dust and the heat, which had in any case abated in the Highlands. I’d been touched by the hospitality in Sudan and by the kids in Ethiopia who would eagerly run to the roadside to cheer, wave and smile (and sometimes ask for money or more rarely throw stones but without menace). After two rest days in Addis Ababa we were to pedal off through the tribal lands of southern Ethiopia and Kenya. Ahead, to Nairobi, lay more desert and savannah then the tropical rainforest at the equator and beyond. We would pass through the lands of the Oromo people and, in
Under African skies Arrivée148Summer2020
Kenya, the Samburu and other nomadic herdsmen of the north, then the Kikuyu, and Masai in the south. From Addis, above 2,000m, the road falls gently all day swapping the Highlands for the African Rift Valley with its string of lakes flanked by extinct volcanoes. In the rich basalt soil flowers and strawberries grow in large shade-cloth greenhouses. That night we camped on a gently shelving beach beside Lake Koka with its white-topped waves on this breezy day, watching the local fishing boats as fish eagles soared, and white pelican, ibis and the huge maribou storks sauntered waiting for cast-offs. Sometimes the campsites were a highlight: the following night we stayed in a national park where warthog, ostrich and Thompson’s gazelle wandered freely. Who knew ostriches were so big? When the cycling was done, I took a walk through the savannah then between fields past a group of mud huts where four dogs came running and barking. Equally quickly, an apologetic herdswoman ran across shouting at the dogs and throwing stones with remarkable accuracy. In an Ethiopian cricket team she could have been a strike bowler. Beyond, at the top of a limestone bluff there were distant views of a large rift lake famous for its flamingos. Some of the overnight stops were less inviting: on one of the hottest days the camp was on a dusty, windy plain that stretched to the horizon but we were at least excited and nervous to discover a scorpion (glowing brightly in ultra-violet light). None of us left our shoes outside the tent that night. After a couple of days we climbed out of the Rift Valley into rolling hills, on an excellent road sometimes running dead straight for several kilometres, into lusher country producing bananas and mangos. It did not last: drier lands followed, with camels and mongoose and termite mounds as tall as a house said to be thousands of years old. Here in Ethiopia the kids waved enthusiastically and smiled exuberantly, and welcomed us into their schools, as if it was novel and thrilling. Although surely other foreigners and cyclists pass this way,
The unpredictability of Africa is ❝ never far away and the next day we were bussed because of tribal strife rumoured to involve ritualistic killing although, because this is Africa, the notion that there was a rumour was itself perhaps just a rumour
not least this Tour d’Afrique caravan each year? By now I was used to the heat, and the cycling was relaxed; never more than a hundred miles in a day, more typically a hundred kilometres, giving time to stop and talk and eat and drink and enjoy. The full route Cairo to Capetown is ten weeks longer than Mark Beaumont’s punishing six-week 2015 record. Beyond the poverty of Ethiopia lay the Kenyan border which was a revelation. The modest two-lane tarmac road ended at a large gate in a high fence and became an eight-lane highway in each direction with an immigration building the size of an aircraft hanger. Here is surely the only cycle path in East
Ethiopean roads… open to all kinds of vehicle
Africa, and also a flyover as we swapped from driving on the right to the left. In the hour or so I took to negotiate the border controls no other vehicles passed through these five-star facilities; it was ghostly. Kenya is jambo country, where Swahili mixes with English, 13A plugs are the norm and the roads have cats’ eyes. We camped that night at the Kenyan Wildlife Service outpost in the border town of Moyale and drank cold beer in the Moyale Prison Social Club which was edgy, fun, sprawling and idiosyncratic. Next day the Great North Road became a mirage as it stretched across a wide treeless plain with only a few vehicles per hour and only one road junction all day. Baboons were more numerous than people. At the junction the
only shop had a barely working refrigerator where, over coolish drinks, we gathered an entourage on the way home from school that was both interested and shy. Herds of cattle and camels were here for the water hole. The one climb of the day through a rocky ridge led down to another plain and another hot, shadeless campsite so we stopped in a shady bar as the heat dropped with the sun. We were near the lowest point of the trip, just 500m above sea level. After dark, black beetles about 4cm long appeared from holes in the sandy ground, encouraging us to go with a torch, tread carefully and zip the tent up! The next day was probably the hardest because of the heat, headwind and a sustained thousand metre climb to the rim of a volcanic cinder cone at the end. But the destination in Marsabit was a well-kept Catholic mission with lush grass to camp on, cold beer and a laundry. Praise be to God. In Kenya the group had been assigned two Kenyan soldiers, Ali and Joshua, armed with Czech assault rifles which they assured us had live ammunition. For here in the northern desert, remote from Nairobi, tribal lawlessness is not unknown. It was here that Paul Theroux described in his book how the truck in which he was travelling was shot at by shifta (highwaymen). He survived as a soldier onboard returned fire and the truck accelerated from the 5mph it had been travelling. The soldier later sought to reassure Paul: “They do not want your life, bwana. They want your shoes,” which Paul thought “an epitaph of underdevelopment, desperation in a single sentence”. We were bussed through this section as the lawlessness, often triggered by cattle rustling, had not gone away. From Isiolo the road climbed without a break over the shoulder of Mount Kenya at 2,600m, where the cooler landscape resembled the Marlborough Downs. The mountain is an extinct volcano rising shard-like from the countryside and is high enough to have glaciers despite lying on the equator. There is a long descent to Nanyuki where the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery had 190 graves of East Africans and other nationalities from
Under African skies
the Second World War. Fought in so many places by so many peoples this really was a world war. In the outskirts I searched for the remains of British POW Camp 354, famous for three of its Italian prisoners who broke out in 1943 to climb Mount Kenya in an epic 18 day expedition with equipment they had fashioned and salvaged from whatever was available, a
story I had just read in the book No Picnic on Mount Kenya. South of Nanyuki is the most photographed spot for miles around. Here, beside craft stalls set up by enterprising artists who know where to find a captive audience, we crossed the equator. By the roadside were a couple of bowls and a jug, used to show gullible tourists how water goes down the plug
Nairobi… this capital city, barely a ❝ hundred years old, is home to more than four million people. Yet it has a game park on the outskirts – where I saw lion, zebra, buffalo, hippo and crocodile, and photographed giraffe with skyscrapers in the background
hole opposite ways in opposite hemispheres. This was only my second time cycling from one hemisphere to the other. I knew I may never do it again so took plenty of photos. It still had not rained since Khartoum, four weeks earlier, though sometimes we saw clouds. In a month’s time, beginning at the end of April, the long rains would be here, and this was reflected in the countryside which was more verdant, lively and, well, photogenically equatorial-like. But as we left Mount Kenya and neared Nairobi the roads got busier. This capital city, barely a hundred years old, has grown haphazardly into a chaos of roads and a home to more than four million people. Yet it has a game park on the outskirts – walking distance from where we were staying – where I saw lion, zebra, buffalo, hippo and crocodile, and photographed giraffe with skyscrapers in the background. It also has the home of Karen Blixen, so authentically kept by National Parks Kenya. I had read Out of Africa over the previous fortnight, and can still just about remember Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the film. Nairobi was the end of my trip through Africa. I was delighted to see that although much had changed in the 38 years since I was last on the continent, actually much is unmistakably Africa: this is still a continent where you can never be quite sure what might happen next. Indeed, the coronavirus cloud had already descended over Asia and Europe although with barely any cases in Africa it was still a safer place to be. Nations were alive to the danger but unsure what to do or whether it could be done (a gift from a masked health worker on arrival in Khartoum airport had been a warning leaflet and a bar of Lifebuoy soap!). As I flew out I reflected that my greatest health risk might not be five weeks in Africa, that had needed a wide range of expensive inoculations, but a single public transport journey from Heathrow across the coronavirus hotbed that London was becoming. I said my goodbyes to the staff and other riders, all of whom had become friends through good times and adversity. For me this was a trip of African rediscovery, of bonhomie with other riders and of interesting encounters with so many locals. Over the 2,200km I had reconnected with this other world, and found “untold tales and some hope and comedy and sweetness”.
Mount Kenya… where three Italian ❝ POWs broke out in 1943 to climb it in an epic 18 day expedition ❞
Bob in the Blue Nile Gorge
BOB WATTS is a 63 year old retired civil engineer who settled in Kent while working on the Channel Tunnel project in 1987. When he was younger he spent nearly two years cycling around the world, starting in Venezuela following the Andes, then to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. He also cycled across North America, then East Asia, Tibet, Nepal, India and finally Europe. Bob started randonneuring in 2001. He has completed PBP four times and LEL three times. He is a member of the San Fairy Ann CC where he is their Audax and Sportive Coordinator. He lives in Maidstone with his wife Liz, also a cyclist. The Africa trip was organised by Canadian-based Tour d’Afrique (TDA Global Cycling) which runs cycling adventures throughout the world, though the African ride is still their flagship tour. They specialise in longer tours lasting weeks or months. https:// tdaglobalcycling.com/ Bob used a Fairlight Secan bike, which he bought with both the Africa trip in mind and to become the replacement for his 20-year old winter bike. He says: “I was absolutely delighted with it: the robustness of steel but lightness of Reynolds tubing; the wonder of hydraulic disc brakes; the flexibility to use fat or thin tyres and mudguards too. Some would call it a gravel bike but that is demeaning; it can do so much more than that. It had a Brooks saddle of course.”
WORDS AND PICTURES WILLIAM RAY
The Dean is a popular 300km event which takes riders through some of southern England’s most charming countryside, over the Cotswolds and into the deep glades of the Forest of Dean. William Ray recounts his experience of the event in early March this year, one of the last organised rides before the coronavirus lockdown.
e d i , o r v t s e r a l t he A
THE RAIN which battered my roof at 3am ensured that sleep before my first 300km Audax was shattered. My fitful dozing was ended by the 5am alarm, and 20 minutes later I was dressed and ready to go. I downed a double espresso and headed for a deserted Oxford, riding the 7km up to the Peartree Park-and-Ride to collect my brevet card for the Dean, a ride organised by Audax Club Hackney. And bang on 6am we were away. There was absolutely zero fanfare as we riders set off for the first control at Stow-on-the-Wold shaking off our early morning stupor. I settled into a rhythm and was feeling pretty good. I knew most of the roads we were riding, having ridden parts of the route at some point or another. In fact, last May Bank Holiday I rode to St Briavels as an out-and-back over two days. This year I was doing the same but all in one day! At Stow I stopped in the square and picked up two pain au chocolat in the Co-op. They quickly disappeared! I was surprised to find that you had to pay exactly 20p for the privilege of using the toilets in Stow-on-the-Wold. How many cyclists carry a spare 20p? Heading out of Stow, I took the B4077 to Tewkesbury, flying down the hill before grinding back up the other side. After that there was a lot of rolling terrain but the road was still quiet, the rain had stopped and the day was definitely brightening up. Most riders then took a left turn towards Winchcombe but I carried on and off the Cotswolds down the winding but wide Stanway Hill. The road was wet and muddy but absolutely deserted. Progress was then swift to Tewkesbury before I turned south-west towards Newent, straight into a robust headwind but happy I’d avoided the technical descent into Winchcombe and the long drag of Cleeve Hill. That’s the beauty of an Audax – you can pick and choose your route.
After a pleasant ride through the hills of Gloucestershire, luckily shielded from the wind a lot of the time, I rolled into Newent and was greeted by a gaggle of cyclists outside the Co-op, eating and drinking. I chose to top up my water bottles with Lucozade and wolfed down a
The Audax world has ❝ inspired me to take small steps towards realising some of the untapped potential that I must surely possess
packet of crisps and some shortbread before hopping back on the bike to tackle some hills, of which there were plenty to come in the Forest of Dean. Although the trees were still leafless, the green grass hinted that spring was on the way – and it was becoming warm work. The metres climbed figure soon racked up but the scenery more than made up for it, especially the lanes after Mitcheldean, which were lovely and quiet although a little damp. The weather had mostly cleared up but a few showers were still blowing through. After passing the outskirts of Cinderford, the road to Upper Soudley was especially fun to ride. The surface was mostly smooth and the road meandered through the forest up and down the undulating terrain. The forest floor was coming to life in the spring sunlight, the grasses and young plants bright green and glittering in the watery sunlight. It was still not quite lunchtime and progress was good. After the long drag up to St Briavels via Bream, the headwind returned on the exposed Offa’s Dyke before I descended into Chepstow and pulled into the Tesco where a few Audaxers had already colonised the bike racks. Trusting them to mind my bike, I went inside to grab myself a meal deal and some sugary treats. I repeated my earlier rituals of ride, eat, repeat and ground my way up the hill out of Chepstow, a horrible steep one, full of close passing cars without an ounce of sympathy for a cyclist with 150km in his legs. After crossing the Severn Bridge for the second time in a week, I headed towards the Somerset Monument before stopping to re-lube my chain which had started to squeak. I also took the chance to finish off the rest of my jelly babies as my legs had a bit of a post-lunch protest.
a y w a r a f d n a s
At Stow I stopped in the â?? square and picked up two pain au chocolat in the Co-op. They quickly disappeared!
A last ride, over the hills and far away Arrivée148Summer2020
Whereas a few months ago, I would have been worried about how weak they were feeling with so far to go, these days I know that the energy returns at some point and you just have to keep on pedalling. I managed to grind my way up to the top of the monument and after a bite of chocolate, I felt my energy returning rapidly. With the wind now at my back, I sped towards Malmesbury which I knew was at most 40 minutes away. With my local knowledge, I pulled us into the Summer Cafe, where I was able to enjoy a latte and caramel shortbread. The staff were well drilled and I didn’t even have to ask for a receipt! I was still a couple of hours ahead of my schedule so I made sure to make the most of my time in the warmth of the café, sitting on something wider than a saddle for the first time that day. This was my first proper stop of the day so I made the most of it. With the sun starting to set, I made my way south-east out of Malmesbury on the main road to Royal Wootton Bassett. It was mostly fairly featureless but I did get the novelty of riding through Brinkworth, which claims to be the longest linear settlement in the country, although reading up on this I hear it’s up for debate! After passing through the outskirts of Royal Wootton Bassett, the hills started looming up ahead again. I’d known they were coming and they turned into a bit of a struggle for me but one I was determined to overcome. The first climb out of Broadtown sapped the energy from my legs and before tackling Hackpen Hill, I had a quick breather to take a picture and locate something sugary from my top tube bag. It turned out not to be too bad although turning back into the strong headwind after at the hairpin proved a challenge. But there was still juice left in legs and I surprised myself with my final effort to the top of the climb. The descent to Marlborough was great fun, sheltered from the wind, long but not too steep and I was able to cruise down before a little climb up to the edge of the town before descending into the centre for a quick stop at the control. My new lease of life continued as I flew through the gathering darkness towards Ramsbury, dancing up the steep but short climbs, passing by the tennis club I played at as a kid as I entered the
In many of ❝ these rides I would inevitably be among the last to finish, and I can’t say any were particularly enjoyable, even in hindsight
Pear Tree… the final stop and KFC all round
I’m a bottler, ❝trying to blame
others while thinking of ways I can ditch my companion so I can indeed bottle it
village. Leaving the village in the proper darkness by now, someone loading their car with something shouted out “Good luck!” I wondered whether this actually happened, or whether I was starting to imagine things! One more climb up the lane to Membury and I was able to turn left down the service road and cut across the grass verge and prop my bike alongside the other Audax bikes. Inside, the scene was surreal. Cyclists were wandering around like zombies debating which sugary drinks and snacks to buy while others sat down staring into the distance, all with the soundtrack of commercial radio blaring in the background. For my first proper petrol/ service station Audax experience, it was quite something! My brain quickly flicked back to life for a brief moment and as I knew I was about to pass through Lambourn, my home village. I gave my mum a quick call and arranged to have a chat in the square as I passed through. We set out from Membury in the very black night with a few spits of rain to accompany us hoping it wouldn’t develop into any proper rain. In Lambourn I pulled up in the square and had a quick chat with my mum. I was glad to have arranged it even in the midst of an Audax. Right now I’ve no idea when I might have a chance to actually see her again, thanks to the Lockdown. I headed back out into the night to climb the drag up to the Ridgeway before flying down. It was just about 8pm and a 9:30pm finish looking very likely. With a slight headwind behind me and my legs feeling strong, fuelled by milk chocolate I was in Bampton before I knew it. A quick photo of the info and I was on my way again. Like last weekend, with the finish in sight, I had seemingly found huge reserves of energy again. We headed for Oxford and the finish at a furious pace. With no more dramas apart from missing a turning on a roundabout we all made it back to Peartree Services just before 10 o’clock. We gleefully ordered our KFCs and wolfed them down surrounded by other late-night diners giving us some very strange and concerned looks. I guess we must have looked a bit of a mess with over 1200km between us that day. Thanks to coronavirus, a lot has changed. But for my last normal weekend for what might be a long time, it was an absolute cracker!
Bridge magnets… Ged Lennox poses with Duncan Stow, back, and Jason Pelta snapping the picture, on the Severn crossing, July 2019 birthday ride
Ged Lennox, Arrivée’s managing editor, describes a labour of love, rescuing and restoring a bike designed with the Olympics in mind, which is beautiful to look at… but rather a challenge to ride MY DUTCH DELIGHT
Like many an ageing Audaxer, these days my fascination with bikes seems to involve standing back and admiring their intricate beauty – rather than actually riding the bloody things. I have a passion for bikes, and I’ve accumulated a few over Bike + engine… the years. I’m not saying how many, nor Richard Collins how much I’ve spent on them… just in with some of case my partner is reading this. his alternative bikes Seven years ago, my old friend Richard Collins led me to this rare beauty, a Koga Myata ProRacer circa 1982-84, completely original. The story he tells is that it was left abandoned outside his office in Rotterdam. He reported it to the police but kept it safe for the requisite six months in his shed until it was officially unclaimed and rehomed. Richard is no cyclist – he prefers a huge throbbing engine beneath his manly frame, so I tripped smartly over to Zeeland in the Netherlands and brought it home before he could change his mind. Thanks Rich, I owe you one (actually considerably more than one). That winter, my daughter Megan and I sat at the kitchen table, colour-matched some spotting paint and lovingly touched out the specks and marks on the original paintwork. The Chromiummolybdenum frame meant that even after years of neglect there was almost no oxidisation. The rims, though, were truly shredded and beyond salvage, so I rebuilt the wheels on the original hubs, new spokes and Mavic rims. The Shimano 600ax group-set was in better nick and polished up beautifully – even the unique brake pads were perfect – which is just as well as I had no idea where I would find spares. I replaced the saddle but kept the original, which needed attention, new chain, fresh bar tape and we were back on the road. And here she is today, the most aesthetically beautiful bike I have ever owned: looks like a fish, moves like a fish… brakes like a cow. The ride is an utter joy, provided you’re on flat Dutch road surfaces, you’re strong enough to push a truly superfluous gear range into the unremitting headwinds and you don’t need to stop suddenly. The original gearing runs from a 52/42 drive to a 13-19 cog. It’s really a single-speed with a rather classy derailleur. The Dutch Olympic team, for whom the bike was originally designed, must have had muscles in their spit. This is not a bike adapted for the Cotswolds, unless, like me, you’re happy to get off and push a very pretty bike through our gorgeous countryside.
Six appeal… it’s good to walk
Braking bad… the beautiful aero brakes are a triumph of elegant form over function
Main picture… Koga Myata ProRacer circa 1982-84 with Dura-Ace 600ax groupset. Pictured in the sundial garden at The Walled Garden Nursery, Bagpath, Gloucestershire
We’re certain that many readers have a bike with a backstory, or simply a beast that you love for the brilliant times you’ve enjoyed together. Send Arrivée a picture of your Pride & Joy, along with its story, and we will happily join you in adoring it’s style and beauty – be it old or new email: email@example.com www.audax.uk
WORDS AND PICTURES ELEANOR JASKOWSKA
Regular Arrivée columnist Eleanor Jaskowska – the Bristol-based rider who completed Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 on a fixed wheel – ponders success and failure, and how Audaxers can find a way to deal with them
Tackling those two
MANY OF US ARE THE ODDBALLS in our social circles, usually to be found defending our life choices to our friends, reassuring loved ones or trying to hide our tan lines from respectable society. Riding a bicycle a long way is odd. I’m sorry, but we may as well get the formalities out the way. Still here? Great, I’m not normal either. I often get absorbed into my own little Audax bubble and think the whole planet is obsessed with this niche world of cycling. Whilst “ultra” riding and racing is growing faster than my appetite on a 600km brevet, I’m on the side of the disbelieving
work colleagues. Our hobby is quite strange. So why do we do it? Is it something weird about us, some unique obsession? Can the fact that endurance sport is growing tell us something about human nature? I’m not a psychologist – I have a PhD in plants, and last time I checked, plants don’t have brains. But this strange hobby leaves plenty of time for introspection, contemplation and curiosity about why on earth I thought this was a good idea in the first place. I thought I’d try to summarise some ramblings, readings and conversations, in the hope
that some people might find it interesting, and that it might prompt them to consider their own motivations and to read around the topic a little. Let’s start with the obvious. Riding a long way is a challenge! Sometimes we might want to challenge expectations, other times to challenge ourselves, to answer the simple question: Can I? Peer pressure can also play a part. The more miles I’ve ridden, the more I’ve become aware that personally, I’m far more limited by my head than I am by my physical ability. I’ve also learned a lot about failure. In everyday life, it’s
This strange hobby ❝ leaves plenty of time for introspection, contemplation and curiosity about why on earth I thought this was a good idea in the first place
actually quite difficult to take risks, to open ourselves up to the possibility of failure, when so much can be at stake personally or professionally. Sir Ken Robinson, who is outspoken about creativity and education, said: “For most of us, the problem isn’t that we aim too high and fail. It’s just the opposite, we aim too low and succeed.” Failing in long distance cycling isn’t easy by any means. It can result in a long and painful train journey back from the other side of the country, not even mentioning the task of getting to the train station in the first place. And it doesn’t end there as Monday brings more awkward conversations with work colleagues, when the whole sad story gets repeated over and over. However, despite this, I do think that this is one area of life where many of us truly do aim high. For me this has led to some pretty catastrophic failures and a sizable helping of personal growth. This is my hunch on why we all love obsessing over tyres, spoke counts and various things technical. With more than 2,600 members of the “Audax Tech: tyres, tracks & titbits” Facebook group (compared to 10,800 in the Audax events and rides group), I can say there is a one-infive chance that the person reading this is a bit of a nerd who enjoys obsessing over the finer details. I count myself as one such square. Is it not surprising that when the stakes are high, we like to control the controllables? When so much is at the mercy of the elements and factors outside our control, if we can at least reduce the chance of a puncture or broken spoke, is it not
worth it? Letting go is hard. In the wise words of Mike Hall “If we treat things as a pass or fail test then we can torture ourselves mentally over the outcome, but if we consider it more as an experiment with an uncertain outcome from the start, then we always at least get an answer.” The “I don’t know” muscles are far harder to exercise than your legs. I don’t know if my gear ratio is right. I don’t know if it will start raining on Saturday. I don’t know if the food will be awful and my mouth will be shredded by excessive baguette consumption (OK, for PBP, some things are more likely than others!). While worrying is the brain’s default state, it isn’t helpful. Worrying about getting a mechanical will neither influence whether I get a mechanical, nor will it influence my ability to fix it if it does happen. There is merit in worrying about what mechanicals are likely when I’m at home packing my tool kit, but once I’m on the road, worrying is a drain on mood and energy. Having recently discovered the “Science of Ultra” podcast (which I can highly recommend), it is clear that there is still so much that we don’t know or understand about long distance training and physiology. However, in my personal experience, it has always been my head that has been the limiting factor. When I think back to past challenges, the “touch and go” moments that stick in my head aren’t those when I was physically in difficulty, but those when mentally I hit a low point, although the former can often lead to the latter (particularly if your bum is involved). Breaking this link, learning how to fix problems and hold the inevitable setbacks lightly, is a key to success in
these long distance challenges. Since Covid 19 seems to have ignited the Dunkirk spirit, here’s another great saying: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill. No-one is expecting you to be full of enthusiasm the following morning, or even the week after a big ride has gone tits up. What matters is, at some point, going back and giving it another go, and understanding that our abilities and talents are not fixed traits. “Mindset” by Carol Dweck is on my lockdown reading list and I think that for many of us, our riding is a means to grow and develop our sense of self. But it’s a delicate balance, because if you allow yourself to become defined by your sport or achievement, it can be difficult to hold the inevitable failures lightly. That’s probably a topic for the next issue!
Since Covid 19 seems ❝ to have ignited the Dunkirk spirit, here’s another great saying: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm” Winston Churchill
Slovenia at the top of the old military road up Vršič Pass. A two-week tour Last September with my other half Liam Glen
WORDS AND PICTURES PAUL HARRISON
Paul Harrison recalls an enjoyable 1,000 mile summer ride with his wife Janet, and their friend, also Janet, covering five European countries – Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Italy and France (Corsica) – in three eventful weeks.
A jolly jaunt
IN AUGUST 2016 I was in Budapest with Janet, my wife and constant cycling companion. Joining us was friend and Wirral CTC stalwart Janet Gregory. To distinguish between the two Janets, they helpfully adopted Hungarian names. Friend Janet became Kicsi (pronounced “Kitchi”), meaning small, while wife Janet became Nagy, meaning big, but pronounced “Nadje”. We set off on EuroVelo route 6, the Danube cycle route heading for Vienna. It was mostly flat, though the river valley added interest, along with the three ferries we took to avoid the main road. We were riding to Corsica – a thousand miles away. This wasn’t too bad as we’d got three weeks in which to do it. A night in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, added to the tally of countries we’d pass through. Our final stretch on the R6 was from Slovakia into Austria and, as we approached Vienna, the cycling became straight, level and tedious with a light headwind. It was very different to the next day in Vienna, where the bikes were ideal for sightseeing, and we clocked up nine miles just pottering about and gawking. Having seen Vienna, we spent the
following morning getting lost. Then we met some helpful locals who set us right for the Triestingau-Radweg, a segregated cycleway taking us south away from the city, along the delightful Triesting River. Even though it was upstream, the climbing was hardly noticeable. At the end of the second day, the Radweg ended, leaving us to climb over the Preiner Gschaid, a moderate col rising to 1070m. Nevertheless, it was a rude awakening after the ease of the river-hugging cycle path. In Austria we found everything was near perfect, which I enjoyed, despite the expense. By comparison, Hungary had been cheap, prices about half what they would be in the UK. On the downside, the quality of cycling (and other) facilities in Hungary was sometimes a bit ropey. After a few days Nagy found Austria somewhat stifling and couldn’t wait to get to laid-back Italy. But before we could do that, we had to take the R5 to Bruck, then the R2 to Graz, and the R9 and R4 to Deutschlandberg. All the routes were segregated, smooth and followed river valleys. Once more we left the cycleway for an even ruder awakening – the Weinebene pass leading into the south-eastern Alps. It’s
with two Janets Topped out… Naggy, left, and Kicsi at Nassfeld pass sumit
In Vienna, where the bikes were ❝ ideal for sightseeing, we clocked up nine miles just pottering about and gawking.
A jolly jaunt with two Janets
In Austria we found everything was ❝ near perfect, which I enjoyed, despite the expense. By comparison, Hungary had been cheap, prices about half what they would be in the UK
Long-haul… Kicsi pushes the 1,600m ascent, 16 per cent gradient of the Weinebene pass
1600m high and it’s mean. The map symbol indicated it was forbidden to caravans, so I assumed it must be a narrow twisting road. Nothing of the sort; it is the gradient that’s the reason – straight up (16 per cent) and no messing. Unusually, all three of us had to stop for a rest at some stage. In my case it was the old body complaining, but my bike also started giving messages of unease too. You know the sort of thing, vague creaks and rumblings which can’t be traced when the mechanical bits are examined. Later on the road eased and there was wonderful Alpine scenery followed by a beautiful sunlit descent to the Drava Valley and the R10 to Lavamund. A couple more days riding found us in the Gail and Drau Valleys, heading west through southern Austria along the Slovenian border. The Drauradweg is an incredible cycle route, imperceptibly climbing upstream with breath-taking Alpine scenery all around. Before laziness set in permanently, we veered south over the Nassfeld pass, 1500m, and so into Nagy’s beloved Italy. The Austrian side had been “improved” – hairpins removed, resulting in a relentless climb which is fine for motor vehicles, but alas it is no fun on the bike. At least it was smooth. Nagy and Kicsi disappeared off the front and were waiting at the top. And what a contrast was the road down into Italy. It was like the Wild West – dodgy surfaces, rustic crash barriers, and a stupendous spiralling descent
with a tunnel clinging to a crumbling cliff. The hotel in Pontebba was rundown. The side panel fell off the shower during Nagy’s ablutions. I heard some comments from the bathroom – they no longer seemed to be in praise of all things Italian. Despite this, there was a super evening meal which was not expensive. The next day we rode over the Sella di Cereschiatis, 1066m, and then dropped for miles and miles down the Val d’Aupa to Moggio. We were descending from the Carnic Alps to the flatlands and the views were truly dramatic. It was a lovely day – hot sun, downhill, tailwind and effortless scenery. Then we hit the plain. It went on forever, and it was getting seriously hot. Two days later and we were at the end of the Litorale del Cavallino, a peninsula which divides the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. We spent a couple of days here to explore Venice and do some island hopping. I was amazed at how enjoyable it was, despite being a no-go area for cycling. Then it was off on the bikes, south again to Chioggia. The journey involved taking three ferries, linked by mad dashes along the intervening
All packed… Nagy en route to Deutschlanberg
islands to make sure we didn’t miss our connections. We were now going towards Florence and the roads gradually became hillier. We passed through Firenzuola and climbed the Giogio di Scarperia col at 882m before descending to Borgo S. Lorenzo. The col is probably quite nice, but all we were interested in was getting off the mountain and away from the wind and rain. We spent the next 24 hours sightseeing in
What a contrast was the road down ❝ into Italy. It was like the Wild West – dodgy surfaces, rustic crash barriers, and a stupendous spiralling descent with a tunnel clinging to a crumbling cliff
Florence and riding trains to avoid the traffic and weather, ending up at Livorno. From here we took the ferry to Corsica. Corsica being French, it makes it the fifth country we have cycled in.
WORDS AND PICTURES HELEN KERRANE
County Mayo, in the north-west of Ireland, was the cold and stormy location of the Mayo 200 Audax in February. Helen Kerrane was the first woman home… but also the last rider to finish. Here’s her account of a long, wet and windy ride as Storm Dennis lashed the Emerald Isle
Mayo… but no chips until you finish AN AMBER WEATHER WARNING covers the province of Connacht when I check the weather app on my phone. The wind and rain scour the carpark as I leave the hotel. Descending into Ballina, rain penetrates the layers of my clothing. I say to myself: “If you can’t stay dry, stay warm.” Sign on, collect my card, and listen to last minute instructions. Seamus the organiser gives his
Driving rain obscures the road just cycled
The prehistoric caves on ❝ the hillside gape invitingly, but not today, no rest, no shelter. I’m not even halfway round
blessing from the step of St. Muredach’s Cathedral and a group of eight souls ride out into the countryside. The Ox Mountains are somewhere in the murk and the headwind hides the hills. Sheep watch as we cycle past into the gale. By the shores of Lough Talt a gust shoves me sideways but I recover and push on and up the slope. I close my eyes as the spray from passing cars hits my face. Through grey
Tobercurry out into the bogs and fields, no shelter from the storm. The line of the route directs me past Turlough, flood and forest. Fifty kilometres later in Ballymote three of us drip on to the floor of the SuperValu, commiserating with each other’s predicament. One is down to two gears, a broken lever is the cause. Cold hands, cold feet, warm stomach full of tea. Snatches of conversation drift past my ear: “Sure, there’s too much speed on that road”, and; “You wouldn’t want to be waiting for that rain to stop”. The curt nod of neighbours in greeting, farmers and families getting on with the day. A sudden squall ambushes me in Kesh; rain so hard it cuts the visibility in half. The prehistoric caves on the hillside gape invitingly, but not today, no rest, no shelter. I’m not even halfway round. After Boyle the road is familiar, the slow climb out of Frenchpark a struggle for tired legs. In a lull of the storm a stormcock sings high in a hawthorn hedge. At the foot of Christ’s picture the gale blows me to a standstill, no Pauline conversion here on
the road to Williamstown. I wait petrified until the wind loosens its grip on me then ride into the village for food. That’s 110km done with time to spare. The cloud cover breaks and the afternoon sunlight gilds my bicycle. Townlands and road signs slide past my view. Every farmer’s field has a name. The wind is omnipresent but the turns in the route change it from a headwind to a crosswind and I gain some speed. My only soundtrack is the susurration of my tyres on the wet roads. Dogs bark warnings from behind barred gates. A cat picks its way across sodden ground and I wish it good hunting. Into Knock and I have a breather, my bicycle is propped against the wall of a shop opposite the shrine. Sad-eyed saints and the outspread arms of a plaster Virgin guard the bicycle from the window. The skies darken again when I take the road to Kiltimagh. Needle-sharp rain stings my exposed face and I burrow my chin into my scarf. My lights shine on the flooded roads, water up to my axles in places. Fifty kilometres to go and I can just see the cone of
Flooded roads bar the way
Croagh Patrick in the dying light. After Manulla I message Seamus my estimated arrival time. The wind is finally on my back. My tiredness forgotten I bounce over pitted roads, legs revelling in the change of pace. It’s nice to know I can ride faster even now. Banks of cloud obscure Nephin’s bulk. The stars appear, the Evening Star over my left shoulder, the Plough on my right. In the distance I can see the glow of Ballina’s streetlights. The wind is working to dry my clothes and the roads but it is bitterly cold. Thoughts of hot chips fill my mind and I push hard on the pedals. Down into the town and back to the start beside the swollen River Moy where Seamus greets me warmly, first woman home and last person back. All eight souls safely gathered in. In time and in good order, always finish smiling. A quick picture for the WhatsApp group and I’m off to defrost in the chipper, vinegary chips warming my chilled bones. To paraphrase Tennyson: “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, into the teeth of Storm Dennis, I rode the two hundred”.
Tourist tat in Knock opposite the Catholic shrine
My bicycle is propped ❝ against the wall of a shop opposite the shrine. Sad-eyed saints and the outspread arms of a plaster Virgin guard the bicycle from the window
Fill up your bidons with holy water!
WORDS AND PICTURES KEVIN PRESLAND
Kevin Presland’s epic 5,000km ride from the tip of south-west Portugal to the north of Germany was designed with mountain scenery in mind. But he also encountered pilgrims, stone angels, and the fairy tale castles of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang country… and was that a Spanish wolf on his tail? This is his story of real highs and lows
In that mountain greenery
where God paints the scenery
I WAS DUE TO celebrate a personal milestone in 2015 – my 50th birthday. My heart was set on a short sabbatical; riding a mountainous route across Europe from south to north, from Portugal to the city of Hamburg, taking in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Black Forest. Planning involved pre-booking all the accommodation, mapping the whole course, loading the 5,200km route on to 41 separate Garmin tracks and arranging the company of friends and family for various places along the way. And so it was that on 2 May I stepped from the aeroplane into the sweet aromatic air of the sun-scorched landscape of Portugal, together with Martin Read who was to be my
companion for the first fortnight. I’d decided to write a blog, and managed to secure the simple name “Xeuro” – frustrating many that now appear to want that title for sex-based European exploits! I would pass the name of the blog to various people I met along the way, and was delighted to be followed by many of them. On our first evening we cycled out to the south western promontory, a very busy Pont de Saint Vincent, to look at the sun set. A couple of Americans took our photograph at the gates to the fort, and marked the start of the adventure proper at 8.15pm on 2 May. The magnitude of the ambitions did not dawn on me. Perhaps it was naivety, perhaps it was that
there were daily goals, and the journey did not stretch out as one in my mind, I do however recall shutting out any thoughts of Hamburg because it was simply too far to think about. To make a robust start we had planned to do 200km on the first night, which we achieved in good time, reaching our plush vineyard accommodation complete with pool for a swim. By day two we were already on the approach to Lisbon. I thought it would be a neat idea to cycle through the city to enjoy its cosmopolitan atmosphere, but on a bike it was largely about stress and traffic. We eventually escaped along the Tejo river using cycle paths and the N1 (renamed by Martin as the “nasty one”).
Kevin Presland, a member of South Devon CTC, was, for a quarter of a century, the creator and organiser of the Dartmoor Devil event, one of AUK’s longest-established, best-loved and most fiendishly difficult rides in the calendar
An unexpected boon had been to arrive in Portugal as spring was in full bloom, and as we journeyed north the spring came with us. This meant we were able to enjoy nature emerge from its winter dormancy with an abundance of wild flowers along the entire journey. Route planning through Portugal had been largely based on a mountain range and youth hostel dot-to-dot. There was plenty of room for us so early in the season, the only disappointment being the inadequate size of the breakfasts. Most memorable for both hostel and mountain was on the Estrella, the highest mountain in Portugal. It had been a long day from Lousa, first rising to and traversing the magnificent Sky Road at
1,000m through the legions of wind turbines, then the sapping undulations to Covilha. We arrived late afternoon, with a super grimpeur 100km behind us, but still 1000m to climb to the hostel. We rose through ever more barren scenery, then as we reached the boulder fields I became aware that there was an increasingly noisy panting behind us. Chancing a look back I saw to my horror a wolf gaining ground and nearing engagement distance. I let out a commanding yell, and the creature stopped dead – so perhaps not a wolf after all but giver of great adrenaline to climb the remaining contours. We’d been used to hot sunshine, but
the Estrella offered something quite different. The cloud was down as we climbed the remaining 500m to the grand altitude of 1,998m, the highest point in Portugal. Our Portuguese travels ended at Braganacia, and this was celebrated by taking a rest day in this lovely fortified border town. Rest days proved to be an
I’d decided to write a blog, and ❝ managed to secure the simple name “Xeuro” – frustrating many that now appear to want that title for sex-based European exploits
In that mountain greenery – where God paints the scenery Arrivée148Summer2020
Pyrenean mountain dogs guard goats against the wolves but are oblivious to cyclists
Alto De Etxauri… formed by a massive fault line which shaped the Sierra de Sarbil mountains
Chancing a look back I saw to my ❝ horror a wolf gaining ground and nearing engagement distance ❞ important component of the trip – time to reflect, rest the legs, do some proper exploring and relax. The length of Portugal had been covered in seven days with a total distance of 988km passing through six mountain ranges and an aggregate climb of 15,327m. And so on day nine we rolled passed the abandoned and vandalised guard buildings on the border and into a new world of wonder. We encountered balconies, roadside Madonnas, and above us, the purple hue of the heather-clad hillsides. We also noted that the Spanish started drink wine very early. We were seeking an elevenses stop and many were sipping alcoholic beverages in the sun- drenched town square. Then the bell tolled 12 times and we realised that Portugal was on a different time zone, meaning we had an hour less to complete the day’s challenge. We were on the edge of the Cantabrian Mountains, an expansive and little populated elevated landscape. It reminded me of Arizona with big wide roads with no traffic, massive vistas, and sweltering heat. My plan had been to wean myself on to meat-eating after 25 years of vegetarianism. In the only restaurant that night, the wisdom of that step was clear. Did we want to eat? Well yes – there was nothing else for miles. No menu, just the
single option of a dish of venison in a rich wine sauce, a hearty meal and necessary sustenance for another mountainous day to follow. Having spent so long in remote country it was quite a surprise to come across hordes of pilgrims. We’d strayed on to the route of the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago. Everyone was heading in the same direction as us. A benefit of the crowds was there were more snack stops. The fun of crowds only lasts so long, and we were glad to turn away from the pilgrim path. We’d been doing well to avoid mechanical hitches – just one puncture so far. Then there was that dreaded pinging sound followed by the unwelcome sound of rubbing – a broken spoke, blockside of course. We were lucky, despite the late hour, a cycle shop remained open, so the
replacement spoke was sorted there and then and so no delays for the planned early start the next day. We’d been playing at mountain climbing up until now, but we were heading into the real thing, a run of 1,500m mountain passes as we worked our way out of the Cantabrian range and through the Picos de Europa. On the climb of the Puerto Ventana we came upon our first snow. Climbing the Puerto Saint Isidro we passed a landslide that had stretched a ribbon of crash barrier across the valley beneath us, but by the time we crossed the Puerto de San Glorio we were into warm sunshine again. A couple on a tandem with trailer were putting jackets on for the 1,000m descent so we stopped for a chat. Their ride made ours seem tame – they’d ridden down from Strasbourg, around the
The plateau was good for ❝ making distance. After a long section bone-shaking road surrounded by scrub, the road fell sharply away, winding through dramatic hill towns and gorges
east of Spain to Morocco, and were now on a route back homes. They headed down before us. We never saw them again! With the high mountain passes behind us, we remained on a verdant high plateau, but what gave us much amusement were the stork nests balanced precariously on many a church spire or atop telegraph poles and chimneys. The plateau was good for making distance. After a long section boneshaking road surrounded by scrub, the road fell sharply away, winding through dramatic hill towns and gorges. The next morning, in a small village we noticed a few bikes parked up. Sure enough it was an open bar serving hot chocolate. We left shortly before the other group, but as they passed they encouraged us to catch
their wheels, and so began a tremendously enjoyable canter into Basque country under the guidance of this local team of friends. Martin and I were into our final day together. At Pamplona Martin would return to Santander and the ferry home. Waving Martin off left me in quite a spin of emotions, concerned that he would make his way safely to Santander (which of course he did), and that intense loneliness, but determination to make my own company work for me. Pamplona provided plenty of distraction for my second rest day with the second largest fortification in Europe to explore, followed by an excellent cathedral museum. I did, however, find that riding alone was slower. The following day I rode up into the cold, wet Pyrenees. I was delighted to be riding again along a section of the Camino de Santiago, with its cafes, and the tales of great determination and adventure. My last night in Spain was in the village of Isaba at a cycle-friendly hotel, and a meal with another cyclist on a quite different long distance venture to mine. So barring the one last climb, that was the Spanish section of the journey completed in eight days. We’d covered 1,029km at 128km per day. A total of 22 passes had been crossed, accruing an altitude of 15,862m – a daily average of 1,982m. The previous autumn a holidaying cyclist had joined a couple of our South Devon CTC rides. He offered to accommodate me at his home near Pau. I received a concerned message from him, warning of the weather forecast for the next 24 hours. He suggested I take the train through the Pyrenees. I’m used to mountains – and the high roads of Dartmoor have given me a lifetime of experience in remote cycling. There was no snow overnight, so I set off. Then as the cloud lifted and I noted that my road high above me was dusted in white. I was committed. I had chosen to cross into France by the Col de la Pierre Saint Martin as it featured a 360 degree bend. I was already crossing the snow line at 1,450m with a further 300m to the summit. Sandals and snow are not great bedfellows, so I hit upon the idea of socked feet in plastic bags inside outer socks inside overshoes. Well it never came to that. The road was no worse than slushy, and passing through the woodland of new leaf with snow dressing was magical.
In that mountain greenery – where God paints the scenery
The medieval city Carcassonne on the plain of the Aude
I spent an afternoon in the walled town of Navarrenx, the ruling city of the mediaeval Kingdom of Navarre. But the next day’s challenge was beckoning – the col d’Aubisque, one of the long awaited highlights of the trip, and then the Tourmalet on the following day. Snow had closed the roads so I reluctantly changed my plans. A hotel cancellation had been necessary for the diversion to a night in Lourdes. I was concerned that I was losing weight, so ate two meals that evening, resulting in an indigestionaffected night’s sleep. Or maybe it was seeing these vulnerable pilgrims in Lourdes from all around the world to join
James on the Col de Mennes
the procession to the Basilique des l’Immaculee Conception. I’d never seen so many wheelchairs in one place and I felt a wave of despair as I thought how unlikely it was that many of the pilgrims would understand why they had made their journey. The only city in France with more hotels than Lourdes is Paris, which is phenomenal. Glad to be out of the city I enjoyed a number of the better known passes such as the Aspin and Peyresourde, but when I got on to the minor passes I realised what a joy they were to discover. My 140km eight pass epic finished with the better known Col de Port and the roughest night of the trip in some very basic
Wasn’t there a great angel beside ❝ the road around here? Turning a corner, there she was, still frozen in marble.
self-catering accommodation. Wanting to keep off the major roads I skirted into more foothills taking in some wonderful lanes and big scenery through Puivert and eventually dropping to the low country and along the riverside road to Carcassonne. This was where my wife Dawn and daughter Anna were waiting to join me, and where I’d take a two day break. Over the next three days I travelled a little lighter, meeting up with family and luggage each night, so although the distances remained the same, this was like an interlude in the trip. Roads remained typically hilly. As I dropped through the forest I came upon a small village which seemed familiar. I stopped to take a photo, then as I rode on a memory of an earlier ride came back to me. Wasn’t there a great angel beside the road around here? Turning a corner, there she was, still frozen in marble. To avoid a repeat journey along the great rivers Jonte, Tarn and Lot I routed via the Causes. I came across my favourite named pass of the trip – Col de Licious, and very nice it was too, with an expansive spring flowers in verdant pastures between the pines. There were dramatic views into the Jonte Gorge on the 300m climb from
Mayruels – and an insane switchback descent into Florac. Then it was the last night with the family at the wonderful Le Pont du Montvert. We stayed at the inn which once provided shelter for Robert Louis Stevenson on his famous 1878 “Travels with a Donkey”. It was time to wave goodbye to Dawn Descending the Glandon
and Anna. I struck out on my final climb of the Massif Central – Mont Lozere. From the top it was pretty much downhill for the remainder of the day along the Cassezac River, and on to the Ardeche. It should have been easy, but perhaps the deflation from separation, or just the intense heat subdued my energy levels.
My destination for the day was at the lower end of the gorge, and alas it was anything but a level run, and all the viewing points were off on side roads. I am pleased that I visited every other one as the views were stupendous, but I had a deadline to meet James O’Neill who was to join me for the Alpine and Jura sections of the ride. James had arrived a couple of days earlier and successfully completed the Cingels du Ventoux, this it turned out was to my good fortune, for though younger, fitter and stronger than me, the effect of the triple climb of Ventoux together with the exhausting high temperatures served to equalise our climbing ability. Crossing the Rhone felt like we’d turned a new page in the adventure – a vertically challenging one at that. The foothills to the Alps took us through a series of passes of ever increasing altitude. In the heat of the afternoon we circumnavigated the town of St-Nazairele-Desert. Finding a small cafe for afternoon tea we sat perilously close to a group of hard-looking bikers. The edgy atmosphere dissolved in a pink puff as a tough, burly biker threw his leather-clad leg over his black and angry looking mega cc monster bike, turned the key, and the MP3 Player burst in to life – Olivia
… we sat perilously close to a ❝ group of hard-looking bikers. The edgy atmosphere dissolved in a pink puff as a tough, burly biker threw his leatherclad leg over his black and angry looking mega cc monster bike, turned the key, and the MP3 player burst in to life – Olivia Newton John singing “Summer Nights”.
In that mountain greenery – where God paints the scenery Arrivée148Summer2020
Descending the Col de la Madeleine with Mont Blanc in the distance
We rode deeper into the ❝ higher Alps via Mennes and the Ornon. Then followed our double 1500m climb day, crossing the Glandon complete with small excursion to the Croix de Fer and then the Madeleine
Newton John singing “Summer Nights”. We rode deeper into the higher Alps via Mennes and the Ornon. Then followed our double 1500m climb day, crossing the Glandon complete with small excursion to the Croix de Fer and then the Madeleine. The climbs were taking a toll on our legs. The temperature seemed to find a new peak in Thones. It would have been so good to stop for the rest of the day, but we had distance still to cover and slipped out of the high Alps via Gorge des Eveaux. Our last night in France was at St Jean d’Aulps – Switzerland was just two morning cols away. It had been over two weeks of cycling the 1,596km in France, this part of the journey having taken 13 days in which I had averaged 123km per day. I’d crossed 43 passes, accruing an altitude of 31,190m, so making the daily average climb of 2,400m. We hit wet tar on the ride into Switzerland. After a few sticky miles I took a coin to the tyre and scraped a marble size ball of tar from it, however the sticky residue remained until the end of the trip. The run in beside the Rhone felt like a rest day – a swim in the lake for James then the swelter of hunting out the youth hostel and a bank for Swiss Francs in among the hustle and bustle of Montreux. I was keen to visit the former recording studio, home to a fascinating exhibition of Queen memorabilia. James was happy to
use the time swimming. The Swiss section of the ride took us through the Jura Mountains, beautiful with green grass, fresh growth on the pine and an abundance of spring flowers. Our time in Switzerland was shortlived and even shorter since we realised that we needed to get into Basel in the early afternoon so that James could pack for his return flight. We passed through a short tunnel, through a craggy string of hills, and into German-speaking Switzerland. The architectural styles changed at the same time. This was to be the third farewell of the trip, and was as tough for me as the previous ones. Germany is not recorded by Google Street View, so mapping the route had been more difficult. There were some sections that involved busier main road than I would have liked. This was also the least mountainous part of my journey, so attention turned to the wonderful towns and villages along the way. The Black Forest is a place I’d long wanted to visit. But there was pent-up energy overhead. There were rumblings, skies grew darker, and then as the rain began to fall I sought shelter in a bus stop. The rain stopped, but the storm was toying with me. Thunder echoed around, and I thought I was in for a soaking, but good fortune prevailed. The focal moment of the trip was about to arrive, and it would happen in
the magnificent Wildenstein Youth Hostel, and 11th century castle. In fact I slept through the big moment. When I awoke I was 50! It was not really meant to happen this way, but being my birthday I was going to
I was keen to visit the ❝ former recording studio, home to a fascinating exhibition of Queen memorabilia
spoil myself and have lunch at Lichtenstein Castle. The castle was a gravity-defying gem, though the weather was not up to scratch, with low cloud and showers. It was early evening by the time I reached my destination of Ulm, some 100 miles away. Waiting there was Rod Pash who had used a mixture of cycle, ferry and train to make the journey from South Devon. We cycled into the city for a marvellous meal, the proprietor harked from Hamburg and was so impressed with our venture that she plied us with her best cocktail on the house. Journeying north from the city we were soon on the “Romantic Road” – a route between some of Germany’s most beautiful towns. Our first night was at Dinkelsbuhl, a medieval walled town, refurbished by King Ludwig 1st of Bavaria, better known for its Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle. We arrived at the colourful
Lichtenstein Castle… was a ❝ gravity-defying gem, though the weather was not up to scratch, with low cloud and showers
town along with a procession of horses, carts and foot soldiers in battle dress – quite a sight. We threaded our way through the procession heading north to the magical medieval town of Rothenburg. This is the place made famous as the setting for the film – the town square where the “Child Catcher” appeared. We had lunch, and a musically gifted busker provided a marvellous ambience to an unforgettable visit. At the northern end of this route is the city of Wurzburg, a destination that I had long looked forward to as it was to be the first full rest day since Carcassonne and a couple of mates were flying over to meet us and bring emergency spares. They were also carrying a birthday cake from my wife. Refreshed we headed out on a flat route along the river, bound for the Hartz Mountains. , though they would be better described as hills. On a descent we crossed the former border with East Germany. There was immediate change – no more cycle paths, austere architecture, abandoned watch towers and, most surprisingly, the clear diversity of wealth. It was obvious that neighbours had massively different disposable income, demonstrated by the expensive cars and decor to the houses next to the most basic and drab of barely maintained homes. Our next stop was Eisenach where the castle Wartburg rises over the town. This is where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. We stayed the night at Villa Bomberg, which had been used as Gestapo headquarters after being taken from the Jewish Bomberg family. The hills grew rounder, and eventually flatter. We’d been maintaining 125km per day, but this had now increased to 140km for two days, then on the final flat ride into Hamburg we were over 190km. I’d mapped a back route into Hamburg, only to discover that there were long, unpaved sections, though it avoided the traffic. When we did have to join main roads we found it the least courteous we had experienced in the whole journey. The German leg had taken 10 days over which time I’d travelled some 1,372km, thereby averaging 137km per day, but with a correspondingly lower daily altitude gain of 1,790m. We had two days in Hamburg which gave us time to explore. The journey ended with cold and wet conditions – but fantastic memories of a 5,242km, 48 day pan-European adventure in which my total climbing tally had reached 80,257m, with an OCD claim of 80,302m.
At the age of 73, Stephen Poulton’s continued efforts to complete Randonneur Round the Year trials was severely tested by the Coronavirus lockdown this spring – and then his wife Shirley, who’d been diagnosed with cancer in 2019, died. This is his account of how he used cycling to survive tribulation and tragedy:
Pedalling through the pain
AFTER 38 YEARS, every month of RRtY is harder than the last. So does it matter if you miss a month? My RRtY series has been running since 2003, the second continuous longest run after Trevor Wale. What happens during lockdown when all events are suspended? The permitted one hour allowance does nothing to replicate the longdistance which we cyclists need for distance and weather challenge, let alone the satisfaction of meeting the challenge. To ride for longer, and further from home would smack of irresponsibility, selfishness and perhaps arrogance. Find a cause? For me that was all too obvious. My wife Shirley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2019. After wonderful service from our local NHS Oncology department, she lost her battle on 7 April. It would have been our 46th wedding anniversary on 4 May. During her last months she was visited by palliative care nurses who ensured Shirley’s drugs were providing the pain relief and comfort commensurate with her condition. I became her carer, a task which
became progressively more awkward as she became less independent in mobility. That’s where the Hospice At Home service clicked in, firstly with twice daily care visits, then thrice daily visits. Not only do our Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice provide residential care but they also provide mobile support at home. With Shirley’s 82nd Birthday falling on St George’s Day, it provided me with a date and a reason to “Ride for Ryder”. Locally, the Ride for Ryder sportif, was scheduled for 28 June but cancelled. Fortunately, I have a CompuTrainer, with suitable programmes. The early challenge was to determine a heart rate to suit my Audax pace and timing and then match this to the turbo. This was determined by a couple of short local rides to match 20-25kph. So, while
training back on the Turbo, discussing funeral arrangements, advertising the ride, obtaining Sue Ryder jersey and display material, coping with the lockdown and seeing the garden thickening with weeds and longer grass, I worked towards 23 April. Final preparation was to put up some Sue Ryder bunting and blow up a few balloons. I had a bladder scrape, and required a catheter to clear inner debris, so I was “clean” for the ride … or so I thought. Another blockage meant I couldn’t pee! So it was back to A&E for another catheter. I had to ride the turbo wearing a tube and a bag. I wore padded pants, cycling bib and loose walking knickers on top. I hoped it would work. I also lowered the saddle to allow for the padding. The weather was perfect for my static
My wife Shirley was ❝ diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2019. After wonderful service from our local NHS Oncology department, she lost her battle on 7 April. It would have been our 46th wedding anniversary on 4 May
On 4 May ride – picture: Lou Rhodes
ride, with sun and hardly any wind all day. I have a garage and hedges to provide shade, so didn’t worry about sunscreen. The big issue was boredom; what to find as a distraction that would be interesting, educational and stimulating? Focussing on 10 mile then 15 mile stretches between refreshment breaks helped concentration and adequate rehydrating. It also helped to regard the kitchen as a café rather than home. I did a warm-up 10km on the road to confirm heart rate and speed, on to the turbo and set off at Prog 3. At 10 miles I sensed a logical break for tea. A friend had dropped by with some flapjacks, so a pattern evolved; 10 miles. Tea and flapjack, repeat. The tea breaks were too long and frequent and Prog was feeling too high; so I switched to Prog 2, plus shorter breaks. At 60 miles decided to do 15 miles, then another 15 to 90 miles. At 100 miles the recorder tripped back to zero miles! But now just an easy 20miles with no time pressures to finish for the 8pm NHS Clapathon. Early in the ride I read a book but found the bike position not conducive to enjoying the ride. To concentrate the mind, I played blind count-up to the rhythm of my pedal stroke; nice to watch the miles climb. Occasionally, a visitor provided a distraction as I continued pedalling. I had a few interruptions; a couple of Sue Ryder care teams who’d looked after Shirley, and their supervisor who brought me some energy food and drink. It was lovely to see these familiar faces again. Several folk read my board with pictures of Shirley alongside our Mont Blanc (climbed 1974) rope. I recorded the event on my Garmin
Shirley on Bosses Ridge Mt Blanc 1974 On ride – 23 April
The weather was perfect … with sun and hardly ❝ any wind all day. I have a garage and hedges to provide shade, so didn’t worry about sunscreen ❞ 1030, which recorded: Average HR 124; Max 143; Working Average 133; 10.36km + (CompuTrainer 120 miles); Time: 11h 19m Average 23.3kph (road); Rest (non-ride) Time: 2h 48m; Ride Time: 8h 31m Was it Worthwhile? Undoubtedly yes. My efforts raised over £2,000 towards Shirley’s memory and importantly to
support our local hospice. I kept up my monthly 200km series, though this will not appear on the Audax recording system. By the end of May contributions to my Just Giving page approached £2,700. I recognised many of my AUK colleagues in the donations list and I am truly grateful for your thoughts.
WORDS AND PICTURES BRIAN DEVONSHIRE
Shenstone in Staffordshire to the Swiss Alps is a 1,000km route across six countries – a long and tiring journey for a coachload of boy scouts, but even tougher for their scout leader, Brian Devonshire, who decided to race the bus… on his bike. Did he beat it? This is his tale of a hectic chase…
Be prepared … to catch that bus THE IDEA OCCURRED TO ME of riding to the International Scout Centre in Kandersteg, Switzerland following a visit with the 1st Shenstone Scout Troop in August 2015. It would be a good “dry run” to see if I could contemplate attempting the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris one day. So, in August 2018, that’s what I did. The plan was to “race” the scouts in their coach. I obviously needed a head start so I set off with an “easy” day of riding to Hull to catch the overnight ferry to Rotterdam on Friday. The scouts were to leave by coach on the Sunday, arriving in Kandersteg on Monday morning. There was a very slim chance that just maybe, I might win the race.
Friday: Shenstone to Hull, 219km Apart from a poor choice of cake stop in Newark, the ride north-east was largely uneventful. Perhaps the only truly remarkable thing about this section was that not once was I passed too closely by a car – a rare treat when cycling in the UK. The hardest hill of the day was the steep ramp to get on to the ferry. I hit the “all you can eat buffet” on the ferry and retired early to bank as much sleep as possible.
Saturday: Netherlands to Belgium, 282km Even before I left the port I was gliding along well-designed and dedicated cycle lanes. Initially I was confused by the Dutch not acknowledging a fellow cyclist, but as I got further on it was clear that cycling was such a normal activity that waves or nods of the head are almost entirely absent.
I revelled in the novelty of junctions where cars gave way to cyclists. While the cycle paths in the Netherlands were generally fantastic, I did come across one howler of a route through some woods. Sand isn’t a great surface for narrow tyres. After 120km I’d made it into Belgium. I spent many hours enjoying the architectural merits of the many different styles of houses. It was a great example of how modern, and sometimes even radical can provide a wonderful juxtaposition to more traditional styles. The south of Belgium started to get lumpy. I was running low on fluids, but I passed through a village that had a petrol station and in desperation resorted to using its external tap. I then spent an hour drinking rubber-tasting water, kicking myself for not running the tap before filling the bottle. With two climbs under my belt I started to tire by the time I reached Aywaille and was once again running low on fluids, but happened upon a party in the park tidying up at about one in the morning. The lady at the bar kindly
Dutch crossingâ€¦ a typical cycle/ pedestrian ferry
Be prepared … to catch that bus Arrivée148Summer2020
refilled my bottles while trying to persuade me to stay at her house as she was horrified by the prospect that I was proposing to sleep at the side of the road. Her friend intervened, convincing her that I was crazy. Sunday: Belgium to the French/ German border, 259km I’d slept for longer than intended, but refreshed I was keen to get on with the climbing that had started the night before. The climb went on forever. Another big hill was to come to get into Germany. Approaching a village at lunchtime, my stomach was starting to rumble and then with another serendipitous moment, I turned the corner to find a village fete in full swing complete with oompah band. With a full belly I was grateful for the long descent that followed. Part of this was on a cycle way down an old railway. The extreme heatwave had burnt the overhanging trees to a crisp and I was riding along with the constant crackle of fallen dry leaves under wheel. The temperature was in the high 30s. I was getting desperate for water, and there were no signs of life in rural Germany. I heard some laughter and followed the sound to find a family party in the shade. The offer of a dip in the kid’s large paddling pool was so tempting, but I knew it would result in an oil slick of dust and sun cream. The filling of my bottles with ice as well as water was lovely gesture. I happened upon a campsite at 5pm and went to the office to see if I could buy a shower. The gentlemen put the bike in the office for safe keeping and, after my free shower, took me to the café, past the long queue so I could get refreshments quicker. Another example of the kindness of strangers that helped me throughout the trip. I joined the cycle path alongside River Saar and by 10pm I was going past Merzig, Germany. After a hard hot and hilly day I was really tired. I was riding through an industrial area, surrounded by lights and the sounds of tortured metal echoing across the river. It was like I’d ridden into the film set of some dystopian sci-fi movie. Monday: France, 156km I woke up shivering and, back on the bike, it took me quite a while to get warmed up, but then such joy at riding in the cool of the night and departing the river route for normal roads. However,
passing through French villages with the automatic ovens of boulangeries emitting delicious smells soon became torture. The inevitable “bonk” was one of the worst I’d ever experienced. I found a boulangerie that opened at half six. It was a very bemused old lady who found a dishevelled cyclist sitting on her doorstep, but I was rewarded with a lovely smile and salutation of Bon Appetit! Suffering with the exceptional heat, I opted to ride along the northern branch of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. It offered continuous tree shade, but the penalty was agonising hands from the battering of a rough surface and very slow progress. Monday afternoon: France into Switzerland, 95km With temperatures slowly dropping, I left the canal for the road, but was still grateful for the cooler micro-climates where agricultural water-spraying left patches of wet road. The entry into Switzerland and Basel was fantastic, but I soon began to learn how unreliable Swiss cycle paths can be – the first one took me along a tram station platform! It was the rush of the second Shell garage shop assistant to stand by my bike that first alerted me that I was not in the nicest part of town. My plan was to follow cycle paths through the city, but the lack of signage made night navigation a real problem. I lost time and my way. I ended up in a rough-looking housing estate. Two men lurking in the shadows suddenly changed direction to intercept me. A quick sprint got me away from their outstretched arms, but I was thoroughly spooked as I left their sinister chuckles behind. I was relieved to find a small field between an industrial park and housing estate where I could have my normal one o’clock nap. Tuesday: Switzerland 110km Climbing up my first mountain pass in the dead of night was a delight. The inky blackness of the surrounding mountains against the starlit sky was truly special. At just over 700m I celebrated completing the climb with a drink from a water fountain. My dehydration worries were over. The mountain descent was scary as the extra night of riding meant batteries were low so minimal setting was all I had and I worried that they may switch off entirely at any second. I’d had the roads
Two men lurking in the ❝ shadows suddenly changed direction to intercept me. A quick sprint got me away from their outstretched arms, but I was thoroughly spooked as I left their sinister chuckles behind
The lady at the bar kindly refilled ❝ my bottles while trying to persuade me to stay at her house as she was horrified by the prospect that I was proposing to sleep at the side of the road. Her friend intervened, convincing her that I was crazy
to myself, but to make the descent worse the mountains suddenly became alive with cars at the stroke of 5am as people started rushing to work. In the morning I sent a message to the scout parents to let them know I was still on my way. The rush of cars did not diminish and in my tired state, I didn’t welcome the Swiss manner of close overtaking. I only had a large scale map for rough guidance, and I navigated a new route using lanes or cycleways. This also meant I could try to eke out the GPS battery in record mode only rather than it giving directions. Yet again the Swiss idea of a cycle path left a lot to be desired. All too often what started off as a lovely ribbon of tarmac would change to a farmer’s gravel track. At one point in the middle of nowhere, I started day-dreaming about how nice an ice cream would be.
Lo and behold, the next farmhouse had a fridge full of ice cream together with an honesty box and seating area. How lovely when wishes come true! My GPS died in the town of Thun, but by then I could see familiar landmarks and there was no danger of going wrong. I stuck to the cycle paths. Reaching a sign giving the distance to Kandersteg was a memorable moment. The main road up the valley was not an attractive option. It was jammed with cars. The cycle path inevitably deteriorated to a gravel track, completely unsuited to a carbon road bike with 25mm tyres. At one point the track was so steep that I had to shoulder my steed for a while. If I hadn’t been a mountain biker, there is no way I’d have ridden some of those tracks, but it was a gloriously ridiculous way to spend a sunny afternoon in a beautiful place. I’d switched my phone off in the morning to save the battery in case I had an emergency, so had no idea where my scout group were. At 4pm I rounded a corner in Kandersteg village and I saw them, filling their bottles from the drinking fountain and trough. With a bellow of “1st Shenstone!” I skidded to a halt and jumped straight in the trough scattering the scouts with the resultant splash as I lay down.
I arrived on Tuesday, a day later than planned. The bus arrived on time on the Monday. It was a fantastic way to meet up, but the ride was not quite over. An adrenaline surge saw me easily up the final couple of kilometres to Kandersteg International Scout Centre. While I may have arrived behind my original target, I’d still pushed my solo riding harder than ever before, covering some 1,152km (716 miles) and over
8,500m of climbing. I learnt many lessons along the way about long distance riding and if I hadn’t used so many gravel tracks in France and Germany, or taken it so easy in Switzerland, the deadline could have been easily achieved. I’d also raised a couple of thousand pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support through sponsorship. Ultimately, the ride gave me the confidence to go for PBP, but that’s a whole different tale.
1st Shenstone… meeting with the scout troop at the end of the ride
WORDS AND PICTURES PHIL WHITHURST
Ireland’s rugged and spectacular Atlantic coast draws cyclists from across the world to take part in a 2,000km ride which tests the very best. Phil Whithurst’s last attempt in 2016 ended with a severe neck injury with just 100km to go. He was training to tackle the ride again this summer – but now has to wait another year. Here he explains his emotions, which will surely be shared by many frustrated Audaxers in 2020…
circumstances I’d now be stepping up preparations for Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Audax (WAWA), which was due to take place in June this year. I took part in this event in 2016, and after covering over 2,000km, a badly deteriorating case of Shermer’s Neck, and poor forward vision, brought my ride to an end. A little more than 100km to cover and plenty of time, was not sufficient. Four years on, the second, even longer edition (2,200km) was bearing down on me like a freight train – until coronavirus happened. Even as the seriousness of the virus was beginning to emerge in March, I
I was emotionally drained just after Creeslough, County Donegal, with Shermer’s Neck taking its toll. Terry Rea, an entrant from Cork, caught up to me. He offered me some food. I’d been too drained and mentally confused to think of food. Later he sent me an email with this photograph. His words were: “I was running at one per cent at that time. Seeing you struggling on, and being able to help you, lifted me and allowed me to keep going.” I didn’t feel I was inspiring anyone at the time but his kind words gave me a warm glow.
ploughed on with my training. Progress was good. Then Audax UK events were halted, and social riding stopped altogether. Finally the news came through that WAWA 2020 was to be postponed too. Lockdown arrived. What now? My first thought was I’d be there at WAWA 2021 without a doubt. My approach to the event won’t change. I’m still aiming to do it on my new recumbent and I’ll have an extra 12 months to get adapted and stronger on it. I’m still going to opt for the nine day version and try to ride it entirely in daylight with sunrise starts. My second thought was that working on improving fitness continuously for 15 months would
just cause burnout. So my aim now, during lockdown, is not to lose fitness. I’ll be content with that. Lockdown means I can’t do outdoor rides of the typical length I would. So my smart turbo is seeing more use. I tend to do an hour or more on the turbo most days. Then I will alternate a walk or a bike ride in the early evening with my wife – walking for bone health. We take our outdoor exercise together since her gym is closed and an ankle injury means she can’t run right now. Overall I’m averaging about two hour’s exercise every day, including the turbo time. I’m at my lightest for 18 years, so it’s not doing me any harm. I’m remarkably relaxed and stress free. This moment in history is a good time to internally reflect. Let go of what you can’t control, focus on that which you can. As with everything, this moment will pass, it will be alright. It’s very difficult to describe what an Audax event like WAWA feels like. Sure you can describe the rules, you can talk about controls, and minimum distances, navigation, the mental side, the physical side, what you eat and drink. But what the hell does it feel like, particularly as you go up in distance and stretch into multiple days? I’ve always felt that long distance endurance rides have a lot in common with spirituality and pilgrimage. You get in touch with your spiritual side through time in nature. There’s a certain amount of faith in what you are doing. There’s a journey into unknown or foreign places – this can be physically or the places within oneself. There is a penance-like suffering, which leads to the discovery of your whole. It is often done in solitude, but done in the
context of a community of riders and volunteers. You can enter a sacred space, long periods of silence and isolation, leading to a meditative phase. There are a certain number of rituals you go through, externalising what is changing within. You leave behind part of yourself, and let go for a period. The celebration is about victory over oneself and not that of others. It requires commitment and perseverance; it is never quite over. During the latter stages of a long ride your brain enters a different state of consciousness. You are in that spiritual moment of realisation. You endure, you overcome your mental and physical limits. You emerge changed. Yes, spirituality and pilgrimage probably have the best writing and teaching to help me understand and describe what I go through during these long mostly solitary rides. I’m returning to WAWA in the knowledge that it broke me in 2016. Some might see that as foolish. But, for me, this event is about so much more than that moment it broke me. It elicits in me a whole host of emotions – from the depths, when I sobbed and shook as my neck gave out and my world shrank to the front wheel and road below; to the heights of cresting mountain passes, the wind blowing keenly, white horses racing to the shore as waves crashed far below, looking out over a wild and wind-sculpted landscape, a thin ribbon of tarmac snaking down to the valleys below. Looking out to headlands and peninsulas to the north, to the south; realising I’d already ridden them or I’d be riding them soon enough. Feeling as alive as I’ll ever be. The landscapes, the empty spaces, the
postponed weather, the other riders, the volunteers, the people of Ireland. The physicality of it and the mental places it took me is what is drawing me back. My soul was captured in 2016. I’m taking a recumbent and opting for a new longer option of 220 hours this time round. Measures to mitigate what broke me last time. There is a certain amount of nerves about taking a recumbent to such a hilly event, but as above you need to have faith with what you are doing. Prepare well, and hope that luck and good fortune will come when you most need it. SHERMER’S NECK is a condition where the neck muscles fail from fatigue and can no longer support the head. Cyclists are particularly prone to the condition, which can strike quickly and without warning. It is named after the 66 year old American cyclist, author, and professional sceptic, Michael Shermer, who suffered an attack of the condition during the 1983 Race Across America when he was 2,000 miles into the event. Doctors say that Shermer’s Neck is more likely to target long-distance cyclists, appearing usually after 800km of non-stop cycling, though it can afflict untrained riders in rides as short as 300km. Prevention tips include neck strength training, muscle stretching and the raising of handle bars, plus special chin supports. The only effective treatment for Shermer’s Neck is rest – away from the bike – for up to 14 days, or longer.
This photograph was taken at Rosses Point, County Sligo, before Shermer’s Neck struck. I was going well, and having fun, with no inkling of what was to come
Pocket pizzas are a handy snack for a hungry cyclist. Our baking biker, Sarah Freeman cooks up a succulent treat which will give you a taste of Italy, even if you’ re pedalling up the Pennines rather than the Apennines…
SARAH FREEMAN Our baking biker is not only a keen cook and cyclist, she’s also an active member of her local Womens Institute in Lincoln. Her delicious and nutritious snacks are certain to be a life-saver on many a long-distance slog.
INGREDIENTS (For the dough) ● 50g wholemeal flour ● 200g self-raising flour ● 40ml oil (I used olive but sunflower also works) ● 60g natural yogurt (soya if vegan)
(For the filling) ● 3 medium mushrooms, chunkily chopped ● Handful of spinach ● ¼ Sliced onion chunkily chopped ● ¼ a red pepper chunkily chopped ● Splash of oil ● Tomato puree ● For non-vegans, mozzarella thinly sliced, or any other cheese you like. And for nonveggies, chopped ham or chorizo, chunkily chopped
A pocket full of pizza This recipe makes about ten handy-sized pizzas, ideal for cyclists. I had a little filling left over, which I bunged into a cottage pie! METHOD Mix the flours together and stir in the oil to make a breadcrumb consistency. Use the yoghurt to bind the flour mix together and, if necessary, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Leave to rest. The dough should be firm and not sticky or dry and flaky. FILLING – fry off the veg in the oil to get rid of any excess moisture. Leave to cool. Roll out the dough to about the thickness of a 2p coin. Stamp out circles using a 10cm cutter. I got 10 out of the dough. Squirt some puree onto the dough circles and spread it around leaving a gap at the edges, depending on how much tomato you like you might want more or less of this. If you’re using the cheese, add a thin slice at the bottom, to one side. If you’re using ham or chorizo,
add this to the veg mix now. Add about 2tsps of the mix to one side of each circle making sure you can fold the top over it. Dip your finger in some water and run it around the edge of the mini pizza to help it seal. Fold the top over the bottom and use a fork to squeeze the edges together and stab the top to make air vents. Pop in the oven for about 15 – 20mins at 200 degrees. If you want to freeze them, do this before baking. When you come to cook them, ensure they’re thoroughly defrosted before baking as above. The pizza pockets last quite well. I made a batch of ten, froze two, cooked eight and had them for lunch over the following week – and they keep well in the fridge for up to four days. The frozen ones cooked well and I had them on my weekend ride.
Ben Connolly relishes a biking battle with extreme elements on a wild and stormy ride through Wales…
most economical way to get from Stroud to Anglesey, as well as the best. Here is a complete breakdown of my fuel costs: Eight croissants – £1.25, eight baked potatoes and six apples – £3.27, a mixture of oats, raisins, apricots, and nuts – £4.75, a jar of peanut butter – £1.75, the best veggie breakfast and tastiest apple and cinnamon cake off my life at the Maltings Cafe in Clun – £9 (I hope to become a regular here), another £7 on a sausage sandwich and a cuppa, then £2.75 on an entire bara brith (Welsh fruit cake). By my calculations, that’s a total of £29.87 – less than the £47.80 for my train ticket home. For once this was a euphoric finale, or very close to the end at any rate. I turned a corner and the sea hit me, literally. I had reached my destination and it was waving with gale force. Sunday had been rain-free from 9am until I got to the mighty Caernarfon Castle and Dennis fired his
The climate is changing. Extreme weather is no longer rare. We should be doing everything to slow this change, but we’re not. This is the bed we’ve made for ourselves – we’re going to have to sleep on it. That’s exactly what I decided to do when I set out to ride through Storm Dennis across Wales, to Anglesey. I was there to harness an epic storm, rather than fight a losing battle to block it out. People thought I was mad for going out in such conditions, but I say they are mad for not doing so. The wild weather made this ride something special. Each direction offered a completely different experience. The tailwind, which I had most of the journey, pushed me on with awe-inspiring power. In the headwinds I was reduced to a ridiculous game of grandmother’s footsteps – it was virtually impossible to move in the gusts, so I tucked myself in and held my balance, then, the moment I felt it subside, I would jump up on the pedals and dash forward as far as I could. In the crosswind I felt like a discarded crisp packet, tossed around like a rag doll, until I learnt how to tame it. I would deliberately slalom, initially taking a rush of the wind behind me, then cutting back into it so that I could much better regulate the tossing across the road. Probably the best moment, and up there with my best ever, came early on Saturday morning. I’d woken up cold from an hour’s kip in the doorway of a church, decided that was that, and got back on my bike. In silent darkness I climbed Gospel Pass, and as I arched towards the crest, the streetlights of Hay-on-Wye made the faintest outline of the summit. I was on top of my world. The juxtaposition to earlier, the cocktail of adrenaline and endorphins, the weightlessness of the flowing descent, the rain piercing my fast-moving face, the wind gushing through my nervous system – this is what it feels like to be truly alive. Using a bike for transport is integral to who I am. This trip proves that it is the
… The best veggie breakfast ❝ and tastiest apple and cinnamon cake off my life at the Maltings Cafe in Clun
Clun Bridge, courtesy of travelswitharnie.com
Defeating the menace of Storm Dennis
cannons. I was welcomed with the power I had been searching for, and realised it had always been with me. Point of view is so influential in how we judge our lives. I can tell I am in an excellent place mentally because of how positively I look upon the events that happened. Setting out in a storm I’d expected unrelenting heavy rain, so when it was unrelenting drizzle, that was good. There was still some proper rain, but this came in familiar mid-Wales, and gave the atmosphere a completely different dynamic. The trees came to life in the screaming wind and the water physically connected me to the ferocious environment. The cake tasted even better. Me, sleeping out and enjoying it, is completely different to a homeless person who has no choice. Being in control of my situation allowed me to take this approach.
From his home in Stroud, Ben Connolly set off to fulfil a dream of riding into the east, through the night to a glorious sunrise, 150 miles away…in Brighton!
Voyage of the Dawn Pedaller FOR A WHILE NOW I have dreamed of riding off into the sunset, right through to sunrise. Obviously I would head east into that dawn, but going through London would be just nasty, so I aimed for Brighton. This was absurd. It was much further
than I had ever been before, but that was the point. I wanted to do something that I didn’t know I could do. The only way to find your limit is to get past it. On previous attempts there have always been warm cafes and trains to sweep me up at that tired tipping point. Night-time took this off the table. I made the limit ride easier to do by making it harder to do. I landmarked a food stop halfway and scoped out a 24-hour cafe at the end, chucked it at google maps, then decided the route really didn’t matter that much as it would be dark. Some extremely poor logistics during my effort of the Trans Cambrian Way a week earlier had left my A-team cycling kit, including waterproof, in York. With a forecast of heavy rain through most of Friday night I decided it was best to postpone. Then I realised that the only issue with getting wet is getting wet and cold, and that this would be warm rain. The plan was back in action. A cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, bread bags to keep my toes toasty, a windproof to stop me getting cold, Kendal mint cake-shaped emergency first aid kit. I was as ready as I would ever be. The first hour was the same as my go-to road loop, splitting from that route I felt like Sam making his first step outside the Shire on his adventure. I was giddy with excitement as I gripped the bars and ploughed through puddles, laughing in the face of this foul weather. Passing Swindon’s notorious “Magic Roundabout” (which is five mini roundabouts around one larger one) was a flash of foolishness, earning me a cacophony of blasting car horns. I decided to take to the pavement and found an escape from Swindon through Coate Water Park and over the M4. I was on my Grandad’s Reynolds 531 touring bike so, inspired by the Rough Stuff Fellowship, was not shy going off road. The track to Sutton Scotney had clearly drunk well in the recent rain and was especially squirmy. The midnight McDonalds had a right mix of people – me splattered in mud, teenage kids winding up their dads, and a couple who had clearly hooked up at a wedding, now on their first date. I was a long way from home now. With everything between here and my destination closed, the only thing to do was to ride my bike. So ride it I did. Not long after leaving, the heavy rain hit. This was not the warm blobs from my
commute, this was fully committed wetness from the sky – too wet to get directions from my phone, too cold to stop and think, I just rode on, relying on my mental compass which was characteristically awful. Looking back, there was nothing pleasant about this few hours, but I remember a twisted grin smeared over my face. Life was painfully simple. This was exactly what I had signed up for. I hadn’t felt this alive in a long time. Cycling through the night gives you an appreciation of the rest of your senses. The peaceful whirr of my chain, the wind rushing past my face, the vibration from the road through my bike and into my body, the tiny starbursts of water flicked up from my wheel and illuminated by my light – I truly was at the centre of my universe. All that mattered was the next ten metres, the next rotation of the pedals. What I lacked in beautiful vistas was made up for by the wildlife. I chased a fox down the road, sent a badger into a hedge with a gruff bark, almost batted a barn owl, dodged a deer, swerved a hedgehog, sent several mice scurrying, but the recurring animal was frogs. They were loving the rain. Just sitting out in the middle of the road. This was equally deadly for me and the frogs as I was forced into several swerves. But the empty roads gave me plenty of space, and everyone survived to tell the tale. I distinctly remember the first hint that the night was ending. I noticed the silhouette of a tunnel. It was no longer complete darkness. This hope grew slowly as I dashed through canopies of trees then burst out into the open and was able to make out the shape of something more than 20 metres away. Now, without any landmarks or Garmin flashing, my only indication of time through the night had been pedal strokes and villages. This all changed now. I was moving in slow motion. After that initial injection of light, and energy with it, I slumped. It was like the sunrise was my internal finish line and my body didn’t care that I had 30km until breakfast. The end was an anti-climax. There was nobody to cheer me home, nobody about at all. I could think of nothing worse than stripping my kit off and going for a swim. I had a full breakfast and warm cup of tea then got the train home. It had always been about the journey and what a journey that was.
PRIZE CROSSWORD by Sprocket
v Wiggnleer will be drawn the win the correct from all eived by c entries re 2020 20 July
Send your completed grid to: The editor Arrivée magazine crossword Walnut Farm, Bagpath, Kingscote Gloucestershire GL8 8YQ or email a picture/copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org YOUR NAME: MEMBERSHIP NUMBER: EMAIL ADDRESS:
ACROSS 1 A district that’s almost all talk (4) 3 Backward-pointing thorny growth in seat – the last thing you need! (6,4) 10 Classic event features broken spoke and two right turns in the middle (7) 11 Unfashionable types that live in town centres? (7) 12 Fear stem will fail to reach pair of important components (8) 13 Spill: cereal spokesperson’s last resort? (6) 15 Tempt with extra time among biscuits (6) 17 Smashing? Alas – late and lost (8) 19 Accidentally step in food at beginning of Bryan Chapman (8) 21 He wrote scary stories like “who’s behind you?” (6) 24 Placing third and fifth on tandem, two blokes required (6) 25 Pass Wales in a storm? It might fill your jacket (8) 28 You’re dropped from grupetto – no sport here. Is nothing going in? Lose weight and eat this! (7) 29 A bit damp, like in many winter rides! (7) 31 (and 27, 7 down) Finish editorial and send to old money man – long way to go! (4,3,2,4,1,6) 32 Caps available, small and pointy – don’t delay (4)
DOWN 1 Put substitute between players in historic event (3) 2 A piece of chicken – two’s more sociable on the road (7) 4 Response to unused verges? Ban swerving (6) 5 A beauty of an asymmetric wheel (4) 6 Gobble a bun, exert in high spirits (9) 7 See 31 across 8 Unlikely to climb / vaguely stare around / complain aloud: a full day in the saddle! (11) 9 Unimportant halves of rear mech swapped over (4) 12 No charge for placebo – a good place to keep a receipt (11) 14 Outdated hub measurement? (3) 16 Badger’s dwelling in boxes of bike parts (9) 18 You’ll need a bigger one to move up in the world (3) 20 James on either side, AJ nowhere to be seen, ahead of Merckx the famous romantic (7) 22 Mythical creatures use up most of leek pies (7) 23 Strode off to start of 10 (6) 26 Stylish valley in Wales (4) 27 See 31 across 30 Close this to produce a draft (3)
National Cycle Museum
There is now a display of Audax trophies within the Museum and they wished us to know as an organisation. They are actively looking for Audax members to support the charity www.cyclemuseum.org.uk/ Support-Us.aspx where you can donate directly and are also looking for riders to nominate them as a charity if they are riding an organised ride. Anyone who can help please email Freda – email@example.com
Arrivée is the magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association which represents Les Randonneurs Mondiaux in the UK. AUK membership is open to any person, regardless of club or other affiliation, who is imbued with the spirit of long-distance cycling. MEMBERSHIP Enquiries: Caroline Fenton (AUK Membership Secretary), 56 Lockesfield Place, London E14 3AJ firstname.lastname@example.org One and five year membership available – for full details and fees see https://audax.uk/join-us/ ARRIVÉE Extra Arrivée copies, if available,
£3(UK), £4(EEC), £5(non-EEC) from Caroline Fenton (address above)
ISSUE 149 AUTUMN EDITION CONTRIBUTIONS
TO ADVERTISE Rates per issue: ¼ page £75, pro rata to £300 per page. Payment in advance. 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, Event Adverts: free. Views expressed in Arrivée are not necessarily those of the Club. Designed and produced for AUK by: gedesign, Bagpath, Gloucestershire. Printed by: Gemini, Bristol Distribution data from: Caroline Fenton and the AUK Membership Team.
Please send DIRECTLY to the managing editor by 27 July 2020 email@example.com NOTES TO CONTRIBUTORS ● Send your text in a word-processed format and your pictures as separate files (i.e. not embedded in the word document). ● Pictures must be as big as possible, anything below 1Mb jpeg is not useable ● It is essential that your photographs are captioned, preferably in a separate document, cross referenced to your images. ● INCLUDE YOUR FULL CONTACT DETAILS – including your AUK number – we cannot publish your story otherwise ● Package your entire content into a single compressed .zip file. ● If it is too large (i.e. more than 10Mb) please use WeTransfer or MailBigFile ● Please do not use the Mediafire gateway as it is no longer functional
Our web site: www.audax.uk AUDAX UK LONG-DISTANCE CYCLISTS’ ASSOCIATION Company No. 05920055 (England & Wales) Reg Office: Whitelands, Terling Road, Hatfield Peverel, Essex CM3 2AG © Arrivée 2020
Board and delegates Individual email addresses are listed for Board members and delegates, where relevant. For general enquiries or if you are not sure who to contact, please use secretary@ audax.uk. Please bear in mind that all Board members and delegates are volunteers and so may not always be able to respond immediately. Chair and LRM/ACP representative Chris Crossland 14 Stanley Street West, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX6 1EF firstname.lastname@example.org 01422 832 853 Systems managers www.aukweb.net Website Delegate: Francis Cooke Systems administrator: Terry Kay www.audax.uk Web content manager Dave Allison email@example.com IT refresh manager Kevin Lake firstname.lastname@example.org IT refresh project board co-opted members Dan Campbell Neil Goldsmith Otto Reinders Dan Smith Mileater secretary Paul Worthington, 213 Greenhill Road, Liverpool L18 9ST email@example.com FWC (Fixed Wheel Challenge) and Super Fixed Wheel Richard Phipps, 77 West Farm Avenue, Ashtead, Surrey KT21 2JZ. firstname.lastname@example.org
General secretary Graeme Provan Whitelands, Terling Road, Hatfield Peverel, Essex CM3 2AG email@example.com Registrar Les Hereward, 20 Webster Close, Oxshott, Surrey, KT22 0SF Annual reunion organiser Paul Rainbow, 49 Quarrington Road, Horfield, Bristol, Avon BS7 9PJ firstname.lastname@example.org Annual awards secretary Russell Kelsey email@example.com Finance director Nigel Armstrong 13 Upper Bank End Road, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, HD9 1ES 01484 687587 firstname.lastname@example.org Directors without portfolio John Sabine 107 Victoria Way, London SE7 7NU email@example.com Martin Stefan firstname.lastname@example.org Director and membership secretary Caroline Fenton 56 Lockesfield Place, London E14 3AJ email@example.com Membership admininistration Mike Wigley (Admin) Enrolments Peter Davis Howard Knight Renewals Peter Gawthorne Findlay Watt
Communications director Rob McIvor firstname.lastname@example.org Arrivée managing editor Ged Lennox email@example.com Badge and medal shop secretary Allan Taylor www.audaxmedals.southportcc. co.uk Director and calendar events secretary Ian Hennessey 10 High Street, Honiton, EX14 1PU firstname.lastname@example.org Regional events delegates Scotland & Northern England: Andy Uttley Midlands & Eastern England: Lucy McTaggart South East England: Pat Hurt South West England & Wales: Vacant, temporarily covered by Ian Hennessey pending appointment AUK forum administrator Martin Foley Assistants: Peter Lewis, Les Hereward (Moderators) UAF delegate Dave Minter Director and permanents secretary John Ward 34 Avenue Road, Lymington SO41 9GJ email@example.com 01590 671205 DIY regional representatives North-East: Joe Applegarth Yorkshire & East: Andy Clarkson North-West: Julian Dyson Scotland: Martin Foley
South-West England and South Wales: Tony Hull Midlands, North and Mid-Wales: Mike Kelly South-East: Paul Stewart ECE delegate Martin Malins Malinseastg@tiscali.co.uk OCD delegate Rod Dalitz 136 Muir Wood Road, Edinburgh EH14 5HF firstname.lastname@example.org Event services director & recorder Peter Lewis 82 Pine Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh SO53 1JT email@example.com 07592 018947 Validation secretary Cathy Brown 76 Victoria St, Kirkwall KW15 1DQ firstname.lastname@example.org RRTY award secretary Grant Huggins 76 Bryony Close, Witham, Essex CM8 2XF email@example.com AAA secretary Ivan Cornell firstname.lastname@example.org Brevet card production secretary Oliver Iles 49 Upper Belmont Rd, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 9DG email@example.com Production of permanent cards is handled by: John Ward 34 Avenue Road, Lymington SO41 9GJ firstname.lastname@example.org
A messAge from VAArU
To all of Arrivée’s readers and riders we would like to wish you positivity, prosperity and good health through these strange times #vaarurider We’d like to show you a few pictures of Vaaru owners getting through lockdown in the best way they know how - riding their Vaaru titanium bicycles! As we move towards more relaxed restrictions, we are encouraged to ride for all of the benefits we know cycling offers. This can only be a good thing for the future cycling infrastructure, awareness, safety and industry.
If you ever thought about riding a titanium bicycle, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned competitive cyclist, we have the knowledge and experience to help you through your next investment into a new age of cycling. We wish you the very best of health and look forward to your enquiry. James, Steph, Ivan & Callum
AUDAX | SPORTIVE | ULTRA-DISTANCE | COMMUTE | TOURING | BIKEPACKING Double-butted 3AL2.5V titanium tubing • Tapered head tube • Fully-formed stays • Compatible with internal Di2 or mechanical cable options • Thru-axle and Flat Mount braking system • Tyre clearance up to 32c (MPA) or 40c (GTA) • Rear pannier rack points • All Vaaru frames are hand-finished to your specification in West Sussex • Available as frame only, frameset or custom built with your choice of components.
e: email@example.com | m: 07789 931 124 www.vaarucycles.com/adventure | #vaarucycles
Arrivée is the members' magazine of AudaxUK – the long-distance cyclists' association