Anthony and I have been considering doing a 400km audax for a while now, and we picked Mike Wigleys Llanfairblahblahblah 400 permanent (which is actually listed as 412km). We decided to start on Good Friday as it would give a long weekend to recover – and we’ve been tracking the weather in the days up to the ride. On thursday night the weather suggested it would be dry with showers so we decided to go on Friday morning.
Setting off from Poynton in good spirits we soon discovered that there was a strong wind blowing directly in our faces as we headed West. The first 40 or so miles were through our traditional club run routes before we turned on a cycle path heading through Chester. I have to say I’m not a big fan of cycle paths – they are generally poorly surfaced and progression tends to be slower than roads. They’re also quite boring – at least this one was – very straight and uninteresting scenery. They are, however, much safer and we reached the first café at Shotton. The less said about Shotton the better – not exactly salubrious surroundings at all. In fact much of the next 20 miles was pretty horrible urban cycling, punctuated with Citreon Saxo bellends buzzing us.
We then joined another cycle path – cycle path 5 – which criss-crosses the A55 and means we didn’t have to worry about traffic too much. It’s better in some parts than others, and can be confusing to follow on GPS but it does keep you off the dual carriageway. We went up and over an enormous mountain – not what the legs ordered after battling a headwind for 50-odd miles and then a precarious descent in the wind and the rain through to Abergele. We stopped for an evening meal at Tides café and bistro on a caravan park, by which time it was starting to rain. By the time we set off again it was a fairly persistent drizzle and we carried on through Conway, which I haven’t visited since I was a child, and then over another sharp hump and we passed the Menai bridge. By now we had the lights on and we headed to Pont Britannia and crossed into Anglesey.
The headwind was getting stronger and sapping our strength, and the night closed in and we were riding in pitch blackness whilst getting soaked. We stopped at a petrol station in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerybhwyrchwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and had a coffee and a snack before pushing onto to Holyhead.
We arrived at KFC in Holyhead just as it was closing at 10pm, but the kind lady let us in and served us, and allowed us to sit until 11pm when the drive-through closed. Despite a couple of wobbles about continuing, and the fact that we were knackered, we set off on the home journey.
The wind had subsided but was behind us so we made quicker progress in the pitch black. My chinese army searchlight was fantastic, as opposed to Anthony’s keyring torch, which saw him blind if he dropped off my wheel at all (“I’m blind Dec, I’m blind!”)
This time we crossed the Menai bridge and made a few stops at 24hr garages between Conway and Abergele. Riding through the night is a great experience, with just the local hoodies in their Saxo’s to worry about, and the occasional drunk, but generally the roads are empty and progress can be brisk. At about 1-30am we passed a nightclubby in the middle of nowhere and soon after I heard the telltale hissing of my front tyre as it started to deflate. Maybe it was some glass from the club but by the time it was flat we were in the middle of a pitch black road and I was worried about being able to change the tyre in the dark. However, in the distance there was a single house with a single streetlight outside it, so I changed the tyre under that. I’d like to say I did it quickly and efficiently but after so long riding my brain wasn’t functioning properly, and my fingers were freezing as my waterproof gloves were now very damp.
I was also offering badly from the saddle on my Canyon – it’s now clear that it doesn’t suit me so I guess I’ll be replacing that soon as it was agony at times and I couldn’t get comfortable, meaning any kind of rhythm was difficult.
We passed through Conway again and Rhuddlan, took a break on a bench and popped some ProPlus, and eventually made it back into England. As the day dawned we now found ourselves on dual carriageways (albeit empty) and the heavens opened again, and by the time we pulled into McDonald’s at Cheshire Oaks we were drenched and tired beyond belief. After breakfast we heaved ourselves back onto the bikes, tired, wet and cold and yes, miserable. As we passed through Frodsham the drags there were absolutely leg and morale sapping and eventually we made it into Cheshire and as we were passing Martin’s house he popped out of the door and invited us in. It was lovely to get a hot brew and warm our feet – cheers Martin, much appreciated – before the final stretch via Lymm, Wilmslow and back to Poynton, where we could be found sat on benches outside the co-op, mere husks of the men who had set off 26 hours earlier.
Thank you to Anthony.
My backside is killing me, my legs are aching, my back, shoulders and arms are aching. Never again.
Ride stats : 258 miles in 17hrs 59m @ 14.3mph. 10,113ft of ascent, average HR 127bpm and 11,473kcalories used