Monday, February 05, 2018

You know what they say about winter miles: Jack and Grace Cotton 100km Memorial Audax - Saturday January 25th 2018

I need to get the party started for 2018, far too few audax last year so I set out to book the traditional January "one in the bag" audax, but I'm too late. All sold out. We are added to the waiting list and we're delighted to get places during the preceding week, and the weather looked good. I use the Royal "we" loosely as I am not so sure about Steve, I think he is just humouring me. Last weekend was an utter washout with no riding or golfing. I rode Jack and Grace Cotton Memorial Audax 2016 as one of my first two years ago. "The One with the exploding inner tube." That was the start of the "I heart cycling 2016 Challenge" year.

The J&G in 2016 was the first of 12 monthly Strava Gran Fondos of 100km+ that year. Last year I kept up the tradition, so suitably my 25th in a row is the one I started with as I have not done my Strava Gran Fondo yet this month. It seems I am committed for another year now.

I was invited to a 50th birthday party at Bristol Harbourside on Friday night. I went to my spin class, but not core, as I had to be at work an hour early at midday. Race to work on my bike, stand up for 5 hours which always creases my back. Ride home. That's 22km of utility cycling plus a spin class today.

I was only going to have a couple of cocktails and be home early, a few more than a couple granted, but I did go home on the bus not my bike. Not quite as daft as I look.

I pulled some kit together and get into bed just after midnight. An hour later I am woken by a sharp searing pain in the side of my left kneecap. The good one, not the ten year old replaced right knee that I normally nurture. I couldn't sleep, the dragging pain was whichever way I lay. About 4am I got up and gulped two slow release ibuprofen down and a few pints of water. I probably slept an hour, but was awake again before the alarm. Steve thought he was going to get out of going out in the rain and wind.

I hobbled downstairs and gingerly rode round the block. By the time I came back inside I had decided it would be worth testing for 10km. Dragged the husband out of bed and ate the obligatory porridge with blueberries. I really hate porridge but it's passable with blueberries and de rigeur on ride days.

The bikes were strapped to the car roof and off we went to Filton/Aztec West. Start times are between 8.30 and 9.30 we were on time. Here is the route:

The weather was not the best. Strong south westerly winds and drizzling. Steve hasn't ridden a bike for more than commuting since Greece last September.

We pottered off at 9, me feeling a little hungover and my knee a wee bit sore. As the day wore on my knee totally stopped hurting. Really strange.

We flew up to the first info control at Littleton on Severn (time of the last service at the church), and then the second at Berkeley (weight limit displayed at the bank). Info controls are self certifying, making sure you don't cut corners on the route.
Berkeley Information Control Gathering
Bananas were consumed. We flew past Slimbridge (birds galore) and the fields got flatter and the boggy bits more and more evident from the recent heavy rain. The first control was at Epney at the Anchor Inn. A traditional riverside pub. They had organisational skills. Made up ham, cheese and bacon baguettes and lashings of tea and coffee. Our brevet cards were stamped with flamingos and back on the bikes for the slightly longer second lumpier half, into the wind.

We were thrilled to have averaged 25km/hr to Epney, excellent speed for us and Steve is enjoying it.

The next bit is a little built up round Quedgley to the south of Gloucester, at one point I'm leading out a train and follow my Garmin down a turn that turns into a muddy path and a sprung loaded gate to cross the main railway line. Only Steve follows me, everyone else keeps going and we emerge from our boggy detour, after waiting for a real train before dashing across the tracks, seeing blinking bike lights disappearing in front. We knuckle down and catch up by Stonehouse. Now we're on familiar roads from when we lived in the Stroud area. The bike path crosses the main A46 at Stonehouse but the lights for bike crossing take hours to change.

It's getting wetter, the road surfaces deteriorate further and we're all covered in mud, even with mudguards. A proper good audax! The haul up from Dursley and it is quite a trek onto Tortworth Farm cafe where we are very much looking forward to excellent cake and steaming mugs of tea.

Two nasty hills, that I had forgotten about, and we are rewarded with the best sausage roll ever (I am not a sausage roll fan generally) and a huge gooey piece of millionaires shortbread at Tortworth Farm Cafe. The odd crumb is pictured below.
Yum
Calling in the reinforcements
Mucky Ducks
Am I too late to the party?
The reward for a long haul to the second control was less than 20km to the Arrivée at The Swan pub back in Almondsbury. It was a very very long 20km into the wind and rain, we had to sit outside at Tortworth so hadn't warmed up. Steve was suffering, but he was riding brilliantly considering he had no training, which isn't really very sensible! We do make it and a very welcome Thatchers cider awaits and it's not dark! After very pleasant chatting with fellow audaxers we pedal the last couple of kilometres back to the car and even washed our bikes of all that grime.
Arrivée at The Swan in Almondsbury
Jack and Grace Brevet Card 2018


It was good we got round given Steve had done no cycling of any distance in 4 months. Our speed dropped from 25km/hr for the first half to just 21km/hr at the end. Headwind.

The following day I went on the club ride to Weston and bagged a second 100km for January. much wiser to cycle into the headwind for the first half of a ride!

Unintentionally I have bagged my biggest cycling week in over 12 months 281km in total with Mon-Fri utility and commuting cycling. Not bad for a gunky January week, and the fact my knee was in agony on Friday night! Winter miles = summer smiles, I have been told.


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