For those of you considering some of our longer rides this year, please take a moment to read the following blog entry from our archives. Before ColVelo, Both Will and I posted our thoughts and views on all things bike related through various online outlets.
ColVelo will be attending the Wormingford Dragon Audax in March of this year. This blog post followed my first foray in to Audax.
Setting the Bar.
For the most part the recreational cyclist has no real competition. I’m talking about the weekend warriors amongst us. No opposite number to pit our wits against. No mental battle for which victory provides bragging rights. No. It’s you, the road and the route set out that you’ve chosen to follow.
Some may argue that competition exists within the confines of the club run and Cyclo Sportive events, but to my mind this is counter intuitive. Your pace line and chain gang on a Saturday needs to work as one in order for all involved to succeed. Driving somebody weaker than yourself into a heaving, red faced, sweaty mess hanging 20 meters off the back is not the aim of the game, nor in the spirit of things.
So what is that makes millions of cyclists all over the world get up early day after day, week after week in fair, foul and good weather? Turning pedals for hours on end only stopping to refuel or upon completion of the intended 50, 100, 150kms?
It’s Progress. The simple fact that the more you put in, the more you can take out.
Progress for the recreational cyclist is a measurable success. And the catalyst for progress is time in the saddle.
An increased average speed over a set distance, a PB for Total ascent on a weekend club run or a time PB on an extended segment from the same ride. All of these small successes denote a measurable by which progress is determined. And this is what keeps us coming back.
We enjoy the fact that the competition is self improvement. There is a definite sense of satisfaction as you feel your strength and stamina improving as the weeks go by, and having this confirmed by the bike computer or GPS device on your stem is the icing on the cake. We embrace the fact we are our own competition, and victory comes by surpassing the mark we’ve set before.
With that said, there are events out there that allow you to push the envelope individually or with fellow cyclists. But for many, the standard cyclosportives is losing its lustre. Ever increasing costs associated with entry, overcrowding on open roads and in some cases vociferous opposition from locals who live on planned routes. One of the more traditional avenues available is by entering yourself into an Audax ride, which I did recently.
According to their website, it’s stated that Audax UK or AUK is the foremost long-distance cycling association in the UK, and the biggest in the world. It was established in 1976. Audax is Latin for ‘bold’, and was first used in the context of endurance sports towards the end of the 19th century.
These events range in distance from 50km all the way up to thousands of kilometeres in any one ride. The UK Calendar tends to feature mostly events in the 200-400km range. The idea is simple; start at a given location and make your way in a loop or to an end location via controls and have a Brevet card marked and time stamped to document your journey. A beautifully simple event for those participating, but a whole lot of work for those who organise I’m sure.
These events are planned and organised by passionate individuals from local clubs, and this was clear on the event in which I participated. A simply spectacular route through the East Anglian heartland. 220km of magnificent views, scenery and asphalt.
This ride was much further than anything I’ve ever considered in one effort before. Plenty of 150’s, a 170 here and there, but never having broken 200km in one sitting. So along with a few friends we signed up and marked our diaries for Saturday 29th March 2014. The Wormingford Dragon Audax. It must be said that technically, AUK does not run events, it is solely the time and effort of committed cyclists who act under AUK’s supervision.
In the weeks leading up to the event, there was palpable excitement as the date neared, plenty of long rides at good pace, with all involved knowing that we’d be achieving personal mile stones if we completed the planned course.
For me, the two weeks leading up to the event included no cycling and a week long stag do in the Pyrenees. Skiing and drinking being the order of the day. Mostly drinking. I told myself that the time off the bike was well earned, and the skiing and drinking were in essence altitude training. This certainly helped ease any nerves. Sort of…
The morning of the ride rolled around and we were treated to what can only be described as the nicest day of the year so far. Bright, warm and calm. In the days that followed I wondered whether my enthusiasm for this event would have been tainted had we spend the entire day pedaling in the rain and wind. Maybe, but we didn’t. Conditions were perfect. We only had ourselves and the condition of our bikes to worry about.
Arriving at the start in time for a quick cup of coffee we hit the road at 8am sharp. 124 riders in total. 38 attempting the 220km route, the remainder going at the alternate112km Wyrm route.
The first control appeared after an easy 65km of pedalling. Cake and tea were consumed, but only after I arrived in the shingle carpark having taken a tumble on the loose stones under wheel. It wouldn’t be my only ‘rubber up’ episode of the day. Riding steady north through the horse crazy town of Newmarket, on to Mildenhall before swinging East and South towards the next control at Maglia Rosso. A soon to be opened bike shop in Hawstead. More tea, more cake and a sandwiches flew down the hatch. Maglia Rosso are billing themselves as a destination café come bike shop. It certainly looks like a good spot, and I will be including it in routes once it opens in late April. For more information see;
It was here however we feared we may lose a member of our group. He’d certainly struggled with the group pace and had spent much of the 80-120km stint well off the back of the group, and well down on the agreed intended average speed. Perhaps the warm day, and a few less miles in the legs than many of us were to blame. Nevertheless, he decided to stick it out, and what a decision it was. After battling to 140km, he caught fire and was in the thick of the action for the remaining 80km, barely missing a beat. It just goes to prove what is possible on a bike when you’re faced with limited options and decide to put the pain to one side and get on with the job. The rider shall remain nameless, but exhibited the spirit of the baroudeur this day. A doff of the cap to him indeed.
Having exited Maglia Rosso with all riders suffering low battery levels on GPS devices, a few riders had decided to turn off their hardware in an attempt to conserve battery power. Me included. This was to prove costly on two fronts. Forgetting to restart the unit once pedalling robbed me of a completed and mapped route should I wish to revisit in the future, but more seriously, trying to work out why the clock wasn’t going while moving saw me pedal my way off the road at low speed into a nice, comfortable and dusty hedgerow. No damage done aside from a few scratches. It could certainly have been worse. GPS devices’ are not necessarily the done thing while Audax riding, so maybe this was a sign from the Audax gods. Showing me that the route card provided should be all that is required, and the pixelated pink line I was hell bent on following was detracting from essence and simplicity of the event. Next time I will know better.
You lose track of time on a ride such as this. Talk and time is in distance and check points. As we approached Stonham Barns, the final manned check-point, the sun was low in the sky, and we knew we needed to make the stop snappy. We quickly headed off west towards Lavenham, at probably the sharpest continuous pace of the day. The sun was still warm on our faces, the wind was at our backs and the views across Suffolk were sublime. I regret not stopping for a picture.’it was certainly a ‘moment’.
We reached Lavenham at dusk, consumed our final bits of food, turned on our lights and headed for home. The last 30km were a lot of fun. Some quick roads, some gravely corners and the strange tricks of the light that only riding at night as a group can produce. I always seem to grip the bars tighter at night. With your field of vision narrowed, it’s easy to tense up. Morale was high as we snaked towards finish. All involved knowing that the job was nearly done. A final puncture postponed the finish slightly, the third of the day, but so close to home, everybody stuck around to ensure the line was crossed together. The route provided a sting in the tail with a pair of the biggest hills coming in the final few Kilometers. Once conquered, we rounded the corner to the finish back in Wormingford. Cards stamped, bike loaded to the roof of the car, a shake of the hand for the other five guys who I rode with this day and home I went.
A big thanks to Viv Marsh and his helpers, many from Cycle Club Sudbury for making this event a success. The route was a cracker. Quiet, well maintained roads amongst some glorious countryside. I will be revisiting some the roads ridden very soon. There is talk that this is to become an annual event. I very much hope this is the case.
As for Audax riding, It is such a great way to get out and enjoy, some decent distance on new and well thought out routes. Get yourself involved.
To investigate local Audax rides, be sure to take a look at the AUK website – Audax UK