“End of Hibernation” audax 2010


As I’m sure most of you know, Audax is a form of organized long-distance cycling in which riders aim to complete a route within a time limit, but do not (in theory) race against each other.

John Juckes of Cambridge Cycling Club put on a 200 km Audax ride on Sunday, the “End of Hibernation”, starting and finishing at Haslingfield Village Hall.

I had never previously done a 200 km Audax, but I did a 220 km ride last summer and so I thought I had a good chance of finishing in time, but since the last time I did a ride over 100 km was back in September I feared I might be lacking in fitness.

The morning brought the usual dilemma about what to wear. Shorts or longs? It was a cold day but with clear skies and sunshine, so I gambled on shorts.

There were about forty1 riders at the 08:00 start, and I was soon left well behind: I know better than to try to chase. The first section is a route that I’ve done many times before: over the Gog Magog hills to Fulbourn, then the Wilbrahams, Six Mile Bottom, Dullingham, Stetchworth, and across to the café at Stradishall. In Great Wilbraham at about 08:45 I passed Geoff setting out to lead the day ride.

The controls were a mixture of “information” controls (something to discover and record at a point on the ride, such as the wording on a sign) and “commercial” controls (rolls of stickers in the cafés). There were no manned controls other than the start and finish: these would have been rather tedious to operate, as the gap between the fastest and slowest riders grew to more than four hours.

From Stradishall the route continued east into Suffolk, passing Denston, the steep climb to Hartest, Felsham, and Rattlesden, to the Lakes Café at Onehouse near Stowmarket. On the road to Denston a large group of cyclists came the other way, shouting “you’re going the wrong way”. It was clear that they weren’t audaxers, so no damage was done, but it seemed rather mean-spirited to me.

There seemed to be a lot of dead chicks, or more properly embryos, on the road. I saw several carrion crows picking at them. I wonder why this is? Are they chicks that died in the egg and failed to hatch? Or are there scavengers that steal eggs and discard the embryos?

On the A134 near Cockfield I punctured, and discovered that my spare inner tube, never used, had two big holes in it. Luckily my second spare inner tube was good. I patched the first spare (just in case) and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t puncture again.

After Onehouse, the route turned southwest along the B1115 through Bildeston, Monks Eleigh, Sudbury, and then to the tea rooms at Finchingfield. This section was a bit of a low point for me: the B road was rather dull, and the headwind blowing across the Suffolk downs meant that I was often barely exceeding the 15 km/hour minimum speed. I got to Finchingfield (144 km) at 16:00 feeling quite wrecked. Some tea and cake and half an hour’s sit down improved matters, and once I got going again, the evening was cooling, and the wind dying down.

After tea, the route headed west through Thaxted, Brent Pelham, and Great Hormead to Hare Street. This was familiar territory from CTC day and afternoon rides. I see that I crossed Sunday’s day ride at Clavering, but of course they were long gone by then.

At Hare Street it was about 18:50 and getting dark. But I know the way home home through Barkway, Barley, Newton and Fowlmere very well, and I was at the finish at 20:05, the second-to-last of all the finishers (there was one rider who abandoned). For comparison, the fastest finishers were in at 15:30!

Thanks to John Juckes for organizing the ride, and to Simon Proven, who assisted with the administration. Sorry, Simon, for shouting at you to dip your light, but it was very bright.

What with the ride being a bit over distance, and getting to the start, and getting home again, I had 244 km (151 miles) for the day.

  1.  The results list 63 finishers, but there didn’t seem to be nearly that many! Some of the listed finishers (e.g. Simon Provem, John Juckes) had ridden the route beforehand and helped with the organization on the day. And maybe some others were hiding.