Full of trepidation I rode my first 200km Audax on Saturday. I was mainly concerned about my ability to ride the distance despite a 145km test ride to Cambridge in the week which went OK.
As I was staying locally it wasn’t too much hassle to make the 08:00am start as it was only half a mile up the road. We all rode off in a bunch as usual but soon split up according to age and ability as each took its toll. I started with Geoff from Team MK who, unexpectedly to me, appeared at the start. It was good to see a friendly face. Geoff is a veteran of many Audax’s of great length and he said this was his 22nd 200km event this year! and I know he has done more than a few of greater length too. However, he readily confesses he is not built for speed and just gets around in his own time, climbs are his downfall, that sounds wrong somehow but you know what I mean.
It wasn’t until around the six kilometre mark that I realised I hadn’t started the timer on my Garmin. I started the navigation bit, but not the timer so that knocked about 6km off the displayed ride total. This also messed up the the control point stops on the route sheet as they were all about 6km out. I spent of lot of the time doing mental arithmetic as I went around the circuit. So the final ride distance shown on Strava is 6km short ..
It was a bit lumpy until the first control point around the 50km mark. Starting off again from there I joined up with another rider, Ian, from Bristol as I later found out. We rode together along ‘The Golden Valley’ to the next control point at Hay on Wye, pretty much in silence but co-operated as cyclists do by taking turns on the front as we were fairly equally matched in ability. It was a reasonably flat road with just a few undulations and it was the same road for about 25km so that made navigation a bit easier.
At the 96km mark at Hay on Wye control point we had the breath and the time for a conversation and Ian asked if it was OK if we rode together for the rest of the ride as his Garmin was playing up so this is what we did. I had the benefit of the route map on my Garmin and he had a printed control sheet with and a correct distances on his Garmin.
After Hay on Wye the road got a bit lumpier again and it seemed after every Info Control the ride restarted with a climb. The route out was a loop a few miles south of Hereford and return loop was a few miles north of Hereford. The halfway point was just about at the third info control at Eardisly at 96km, with a brief stop to answer a question. Despite my best intentions of making plenty of refreshment stops I didn’t, just a brief snack from my back pocket usually and off again. There were two info controls next , where questions needed to be answered, food eaten and drink drunk.
At the 140km control point at Bromyard, ‘Flowerdews Cafe’, we did stop for a rest and a coffee and piece of cake to get us over the final leg. Just as well because this was quite a tough section coming up that took us over part of the Malvern Hills and down to Worcester. There was one more info control at 187km, quite close to the finish now. The road had levelled out a bit by now fortunately and just a steady run in to the finish.
The course was completed in about the time I expected, or rather hoped for but it had been a long day overall. My overall time was 10 hours 24 minutes the actual riding time was 8 hours 41 minutes, so I suppose the stop times at the various controls must have been a bit longer than I though, they were quite leisurely though with a snack of a cereal bar a drink of water and then refilling of water bottles for the next stage. The longer stop at ‘Flowerdews’ was much needed. In the end I was about three hours under the maximum allowed time limit for the ride and two hours over the minimum time so I guess thats not bad for an old ‘un.. :o) and right side of average!
If I had had to drive to the event and not stayed locally that would have added about another 3 hours plus on to my day. I do apologise for the lack of photos but as usual I let photo opportunities pass by. Every time we set off again I would think, I should have taken a photo of that. But I still repeated the error again at each control. I was grateful for Ian’s company as on occasions if he got ahead of me I had a target to aim for, if not I would have probably just slowed down.
Conclusion is I did enjoy the ride, even more after I finished it. Would I do another one? probably but not sure about this year, plus there is the time factor, it is a very long day. I don’t think I would try any events longer than 200km thats for sure. 200km is the shortest distance you can get points for and getting points give you a target and a reason to ride I suppose. So far as the shorter Audax’s are concerned I might just as well do my own 100km circuits. Another thing is that my home area doesn’t seem to have many 200km plus, events so a lot would involve travelling time as as well. Food for thought anyway.