Continuing my theme this year of doing some audaxes that I haven’t previously done, I thought I’d give the Ironbridge 200 a go, on the back of last week’s Full Monty 200 and the Northern Passage 200 earlier in the year. Now I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’d guessed that the ride involved a bridge of some sorts – probably one made of iron – and so it turned out. The HQ was in Congleton, being organised by the same nice people who do the Horseshoe Pass audax later in the year. Sunday was a very pleasant day, with a hint of warmth in the air (enough for the first shorts of the year) but very, very windy. The forecast 24mph southerly would be right in our faces from Congleton to Coalport, a crosswind to Wroxeter and then a tailwind home. If you’re going to have strong wind, that’s the way to have it.
I saw Henry, the organiser of the Full Monty, at the start, and as we departed he somehow ended up on the front of a large group of riders, straight into the headwind. After a few miles of everyone looking at their feet and not helping, I went to the front and took over. The two of us interchanged fairly regularly for the next few miles – and the next time I looked behind we had dropped the following group, apart from Neil, from North Cheshire Clarion, who stayed with us. The wind was strong but by sharing the load we made very good headway. There was a bit of a lumpy bit and I dropped the other two as we went over it. Henry got back on after the next long flat and we pushed on. Only at that point when I looked back there was no Neil to be seen.
We arrived at the first control and bought some food. As we were eating riders started to appear, including Phil from NCC. He hadn’t seen Neil so I’m not sure what happened to him at that point. As we left the garage, the main group rolled in – again with no Neil. Apparently he was at the cash machine but I didn’t see either of them again, and indeed we only saw two other riders during the rest of the day.
The next section down to Coalport was difficult. The wind was very strong and there were some long and open sections, making a very effective training ride, but hard work. We passed through Lilleshall (no sign of overpaid footballers), Sheriffhales and down to Coalport. It was lumpier than I expected but at least the hills provided some shelter from the wind. We were lucky enough with teh weather – only falling foul of a couple of brief(ish) showers of rain – not enough to warrant stopping and putting a jacket on for. At Coalport we turned West and headed into Ironbridge to look for food. Apparently Ironbridge markets itself as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. And it has an iron bridge.
We found a cafe/bakery which did both a coffee and a smashing array of freshly baked pies and pasties. Quote of the day came from the assistant. When I asked if they had a Cornish Pasty she just looked at me.
“No,” she replied. “We have Ironbridge Pasties.”
Suitably fortified with Ironbridge Pasty, we set off and were joined by another rider. I pushed on hard as I felt strong and it wasn’t long before we got to Wroxeter and the next information control. The wind was now behind us and so our pace picked up dramatically. On the way out we clocked 10 mile splits of 37:11, 38:58, 40:24, 41:49, 42:22 and 38:35. This gave an average speed of around 15mph. On the way back our similar split times were 32:13, 32:45, 29:35, 31:18, 31:44 and 33:08, or an average of around 18mph.
A final refuelling stop at Prees Heath saw the sun come out and despite a slight turn south back into the wind at the end, we finished first at around 4-45pm. It was one of those days where everything just felt strong, and I got in the zone, pushed hard and felt that burn in my legs. Brilliant training day for LEL and I was extremely pleased to be feeling so much better than a few weeks earlier at Chirk.
Ride stats : 128 miles in 7hrs 38m at 16.7mph average. 4,304ft climbing, energy used 6,168kcals at 138bpm average HR