Saturday, May 14, 2016

January and February 2016 Audacious Audax - Jack and Grace Cotton Audax and Flapjack Audax

The audax, pronounced "or-dax" as opposed to "oh-dax", is not a cycling race, nor is it a cycling sportive (these have higher entry fees, generally commercial or for charity and will provide mechanical and broom wagon support, feed stations and physical route marking) It took me quite a while to work out the audax, more of a philosophy than anything else. From the Audax UK website "Audax" is Latin for 'bold', and was first used in the context of endurance sports towards the end of the 19th century." An organiser designs a course, with checkpoints that are generally welcoming cafés, village halls and pubs that put on suitable food." Really it's all about the cake, and beans on toast! Generally events are 200-600km or even 1000km. The audaxer needs to complete the audax in the specified time that is usually measured at around 15km/h. However, stopping and break down times need to be allowed for so really you need to ride around 20 km/h. They are relaxed, audaxers are a friendly bunch and not turning up with the latest kit or team clothing is the norm. There are also many "beginner" audax (plural of audax is also audax) of around 100km. Extra "points" are scored for audax with more than 1000m ascent too. There is the fun of getting your brevet card stamped and answering questions at various points to make sure you didn't shave off a few km or miss a hill out! After all, you are only cheating yourself.

I kicked off with the Jack and Grace Cotton Audax on Saturday 23rd January 2016. Last year was horrendous apparently. Ice rink, and many fell and at least one friend broke bones. Many were very wary but weather was a dry and balmy for January, temperatures almost in double figures.

I knew some members of my club (BRCC) were riding, and their friends but I decided to drive up to Aztec West as I hadn't done enough miles to cycle up to North Bristol and back and guarantee to get round the 100km, like most did. I had had a new Garmin GPS for Christmas so route finding on my own was to be a test to see if I could be properly self sufficient.

I unloaded my bike, and went to check in and get my brevet card. My phone rang and it turns out Pete and Andre had just arrived, and I went along with them, initially on the main road north but quickly ducking off to the quiet lanes of South Gloucestershire. Through Olveston and the first control (aka quiz question) was at Littleton.  Through Berkeley where there is a fabulous tea shop that was hard to ride past but our stop for refreshments was at the pub in Epney that had efficiently made several choices of rolls and steaming mugs of tea and coffee. Pete and I were a little slower than the others and Pete entertained me saying where all the black ice was last year, who fell off where and stories of the other years he had ridden the Jack and Grace.

Then we looped back down towards Stonehouse, skirting Gloucester, and up and down the vicious lumpy bits on the edge of the Cotswolds through Stichcombe and . The Farmer's Table at Tortworth was tea and cake stop and we had just 20km more to go when disaster struck. Poor Pete had two punctures in quick succession and we used both inner tubes and gas cannisters we were carrying. Unfortunately the tyre exploded in Pete's face and the shock was horrible. Fortunately Pete was unharmed and only a little deafer than before but he had to abandon and we phoned Andre who kindly came to pick him up whilst I went on to find the Old Swan at Almondsbury for my final stamp and then got a  little lost in the urban jungle of Aztec West to find the car at the starting point. A great day out, great company, thanks Pete,sorry it ended a bit rubbish for you!
Pete mending his second puncture, seconds later his tyre  exploded. Thankfully he survived to tell the tale.

Sat 23rd January 100km Jack and Grace Cotton Memorial Audax 104km to blow away the winter cobwebs from North Bristol and the Severn Vale

COMPLETED 109km Ascent 906m Fiona

Given that Audax is all about the cake and some cycling to burn off the calories, and given the awesome stories I had heard the next 100km several of us entered was The Flapjack Audax on Sunday 14th February 2016 that started from Chippenham and was a big loop round the southern Cotswolds. Again we were very fortunate with the weather. Andre kindly gave Pete and I a lift and we arrived in Chippenham to start at 9am. We headed off into the wolds and rewarded with refreshments of flapjack and cake at Brinkworth at only 28km. Today was bad luck day for Andre, his gearing gave up the ghost, pretty bad as it had just come back from a full service. Fortunately he and his bike got a lift back to the start and Pete and I continued planning to catch the train home later.

We clocked up Kemble and then Siddington and I must have been annoying as we used to live in the area, but I didn't know the cycling back lanes and connections to familiar places in an unfamiliar direction. Crossing roads I did know Id realise where I was every now and then. My sense of direction is awful! Thank goodness for Pete's directional instincts. Again he had ridden the event before so had many interesting tales of years gone past. Spectacular scenery of course and we rocked up in Sherston for the perfect audax meal of beans on toast. The organisation is incredible, all volunteers. We had paid an entry fee of £7 I think that included route and free refreshments aka masses of cake and flapjack and beans on toast. On reaching a control we had our card stamped and were given a raffle ticket and before we found a bench seat our beans on toast was delivered by a smiling waiter. More tea and flapjack. Perfect fuel.
Audax Lunch Beans on Toast Perfect!
The last bit of the route was idyllic, if a little hilly. I have never been to Castle Coombe before. after a little bit more sweat and the odd rude word we came into the finish to be met by Andre. The heroic guy had driven back home and then driven back out to give us a lift home so we didn't have to wait for chugging Sunday Train services. What a guy!

Sun 14th February 100km Flapjack Audax Circular route looping north from Chippenham in Wilts through the Cotswolds, eating more cake than calories burned!

COMPLETED 102km Ascent 631m Fiona

Question is am I prepared for The Big One. 150km Gospel Pass Audax in March, rumour has it that it usually snows on this one being the highest road pass in Wales.

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