An ‘Extended Calendar Event’ is an award that Audax UK offers to encourage people to cycle to and from events instead of driving. The idea is that you treat your ride to the start and back from the finish like stages of an audax, with controls and time limits and so forth, and you get the points for the extra distance you do. In particular, you can turn a 100 km ride (which doesn’t get any points) into a 200 km ride (which does).
So when I noticed that it was just over 50 km from home to the start of the ‘Emitremmus’ (a 100 km audax from Stevenage), I thought I’d give it a go, even though it meant setting out at 07:00 to get to Stevenage for the 10:00 start.
This morning I had a really convincing dream in which I woke up to discover that my alarm clock had stopped working and I had overslept, and that anyway it was pouring with rain. Clearly my subconscious didn’t want to go cycling.
I took the A10 direct to Royston (it’s pretty quiet early on a Sunday), and then up the hill by the golf course to Therfield, and down through Kelshall, Sandon, Cromer, and Walkern (this bit become quite familiar as I cycled it three times). It was slow going with the wind in the south-west, but I got to the Sailing Centre at Fairlands Valley Park with twenty minutes to spare.
The depart. Photo by Diane Cawthorn of Stevenage CTC.
I haven’t seen so many cyclists since the Skyride last year—there were more than 300 names on the entry list just for the 100 km ride (there was also a 68 km ‘Lite’ version), and a huge queue of people signing up on the day.2 The organization was very smooth, with volunteers stamping cards at all the controls. The Old Swan Tea Shop at Hare Street had set up a stall selling cups of tea, doughnuts and bananas, and the Women’s Institute were selling cakes at Therfield.
I thought that with so many cyclists on the roads I’d be able to find someone going at the same speed as me, but somehow it didn’t work out that way because of all the hills. If I could keep up with someone on the downhills, then I’d lose them on the uphills, and if they could keep up with me on the uphills, then they’d burn me off on the downhills. But I did manage to draft a group from Sudbury CC for a few miles.
It was nice to see the cycle paths of Stevenage—there’s a network of separated cycle paths along the majority of the main roads, with grade-separated junctions. A bit confusing for the visitor because of complete lack of signage, but it’d be great if you lived there. (So why is the modal share of cycling so dismal?)
As I left Stevenage for the ride home, it was getting chilly and there was a gentle rain. Since I was retracing part of the route, I met some of the tail-enders coming the other way. The time limit for the 100 km ride was a very generous eight hours, so none of them would have been in much danger of being out of time. The very last rider was a poor chap walking his bike up the steep bit between Kelshall and Sandon in the gathering gloom with a rainy 22 km to go. I hope he made it.1
I was pretty tired on the way back—I’m not sure I’ve ever climbed Chapel Hill so slowly. But every journey comes to an end, and I was home at 18:25, having cycled 214 km (133 miles). Wildlife spotted: a pair of red kites, a pair of muntjacs, and a vole.
↩ He did! “That was probably me—my first Emitremmus, my first audax, and I wasn’t really prepared for it. Whilst I am from the deepest Chilterns (High Wycombe), I wasn’t really prepared for hill after hill after hill… I got back by about 17:45 with a time of 7 hours, 33 minutes! Thanks must go to the chap patrolling the rear—without him I wouldn’t have found my way back to the park.”
↩ There were 337 riders who finished the 100 km event and another 56 who finished the ‘Lite’ version.