Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Neither Cider Nor Rosie

A 300km Ride? In October? Are you mad?

This was the conversation held with my alter-ego shortly after the 100km Over and Over the Trent Audax. Of course, to achieve the target of 5,000km in Audaxes for the 12 months I would either have to do the 300, or two 200's, in addition to the Horseshoe Pass Audax at the end of October. In the end, I opted for the two shorter distances. Strange, isn't it, that 200km can ever be considered a 'shorter distance'.

Finally, I decided on the "Cider with Rosie" Audax from Andoversford near Cheltenham as the first of these 200km rides on 11th October. Collecting 2 colleagues en-route, we three arrived at Andoversford early. Tea, biccies and the first cakes of the day ensued.

All GPS'd up, we set off into the Cotswolds for the first leg to Fairford. This route took us across many of the lanes we had used for Etape training, albeit in different directions and was very pleasant indeed. The tourist trap of Bibury was passed whilst still quiet, and the route passed into Fairford the back way to take best advantage of the scenery.

Leading off from the control, we caught a couple of riders having navigational problems, pouring scorn when we informed them they were trying to navigate from the wrong page of the route sheet. Pride cometh before a fall, just remember that.

The next sections of the ride passed over the Ridgeway (steep and long) into Hungerford (cake stop), then through Marlborough and along the A4 to Lacock for tea. By the time we ascended the Ridgeway, the cloud descended to meet us as we rode up toward it. By the top, the cloud reached the road. A mile later, full blown drizzle started. By the time we reached Hungerford it was a proper rainstorm and we were about as wet as cyclists can get. And tired. So tired, that I cannot properly remember the emergency rations administered at the Tutti Pole Cafe, but I do recall hazily something to do with Crumpets, Toast and Marmalade (x4) and Death By Hot Chocolate. The route to Lacock was much on major roads, not entirely to our liking, but did pass interesting locations such as Silbury Hill, Avebury and a couple of White Horses.

Lacock was very picturesque, but better still had a tea rooms serving a clotted cream tea that was a heart attack waiting for somewhere to happen. Suitably fortified, we departed the place barely able to resist the allure of the real coal open fire at the neighbouring pub. Still, only 70km to go (or so we thought).

Having descended the hill from Avening to Nailsworth (rejoicing in the fact that we set off the 30mph flashy thing on the way down) and picked up Ray who collided with Brett whilst stopping for road works, we picked off the last Info Control and headed for Stroud, the Slad Valley (setting for Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie) and the finish. At this point we made the cardinal mistake of letting me lead.

It appears that in the middle of Stroud is a double mini-roundabout. I misread the GPS unit, turned right at the first instead of the second, and failed to notice that the track on the GPS unit had gone missing. Brett and Ray came tanking past with the bit in their teeth, sensing the finish, and I set off after them for the 'last' 20km. I remember thinking "I must be tired, I've ridden straight past the Woolpack Pub without noticing" because it never appeared. Neither did the Air Balloon pub at Birdlip.

Just before my suspicions fully surfaced, a sign for Cirencester appeared. Note: a sign FOR Cirencester, not a sign TO Cirencester. Yes, this was actually Cirencester itself. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Corinium is a mighty fine place, but not when you think you're 2km from the finish of a 208km Audax and you turn up in a place 25km off-course.

Thankfully, having a GPS unit with a map allowed us to plot a route back to the finish, but adding an extra 25km in the last 20km despite having the assistance of a GPS is a record even for me. In the end it took us 12 hours 25 minutes, in which we eventually cycled almost 235km.

Still, they all count and at the end of the ride I was up to 4,700km and only 2 rides short of my annual target (but still more than a little bit embarrassed).

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