The Chirk 200 Audax is a qualifying event for the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur. So as well as being a decent audax it was also pretty popular too. This was the first Audax I’ve done that did not have a formal HQ and nice food before and after – Brevet cards were picked up from the back of a van in a car park in Poynton! Having suggested to Anthony that we meet at 7-45am for an 8am start he decided 7-30am would be better. He turned up bang on time at 7-50am, although in mitigation he was still ill and suffering, having had the week off work. More on that later. Chatting to a guy from Saddleworth Clarion it appeared his buddy hadn’t factored in the clocks going forward as he was nowhere to be seen and not answering the phone! As it was, Anthony and I were one of the last to leave the car park, setting off fifteen minutes late.
The route was a very familiar one, taking us through many back lanes that we use for club runs, and interestingly, putting us on the route of the Cheshire Cat for a good chunk of the ride. We headed southwest, the weather pretty overcast and a bit chilly. Although this is about as flat a long ride as you can get there were still the odd cheeky hill in there.
We’d started reeling in riders as we moved up the field but the first cafe stop came along before we knew, and a welcome (free) cup of coffee and a bacon butty! As we set off again we carried on at a decent pace catching and passing our fellow audaxers, Anthony coping admirably in his weakened state. Every time we passed we got a friendly acknowledgement or a jokey remark – far from some of the surliness you encounter on the sportives. It wasn’t long before the road signs started doubling up with unfathomable letters suggesting that we were in Wales! About 10 miles out from the second cafe stop we almost sub-consciously upped the pace again, catching and passing rider after rider, including a guy hauling a very heavy looking tricycle up a hill. When we arrived at the second cafe in Chirk it was very familiar – the cafe we’d stopped at last year on the Llangollen Panorama audax. Our plan had worked and we were at the front of the queue, got a seat and were served our beans on toast in a couple of minutes. Brilliant! We exchanged a few words with a maniac doing the ride on a fixie and a couple of guys from Southport CC – these rides are really friendly and sociable.
Leaving Chirk we had the only real climbs as we looped back on ourselves and headed northeast. The sun was pushing through now making it a lovely day for cycling. We found ourselves on the route of the Cheshire Cat but heading the other way. Hundreds of riders must have passed us but we didn’t see any of the North Cheshire Clarion riders who were taking part. And many of the miserable sportive riders didn’t even acknowledge our waves or hello’s. Must have been the 40+ quid it had cost them. Smug in the knowledge that our ride had cost us a fiver we pushed on riding familiar club run lanes until we hit the ice cream farm and stop number 3.
Cake and coffee fuelled we were on the home stretch, passing the psychological 100 miles mark and then counting the miles down. A lot of this is in your head but Anthony was really struggling with his cold, and things like your back, neck and, bizarrely, elbows start to ache.
As we arrived back at the car park there were a surprisingly large number of cars still there, showing that we must have been somewhere near the front – not bad considering we set off at the back, as per usual.
Special mention again for Anthony, who battled round and completed the ride. Exceptional effort.
Ride stats : 130 miles in 8 hrs 15mins @ 15.7mph average. 3668ft of ascent, average HR of 130bpm and 5689 kcals used