Another audax I’d not done before so I was looking forward to this one. After a week of fairly still weather, with some sun, the weekend turned up blowing a gale and overcast. After fighting the wind time-trialling on Saturday, Sunday had a very stiff WNW wind gusting powerfully.
The start was very similar to a few audaxes I’ve been on recently – a large and fast peloton forming driven along at pace by the usual suspects from Calder Clarion (amongst others). With the wind behind we made good time for twenty or so miles, even though heading upwards. After Macclesfield we hit the first real hills of the Peak District and riders began to fall away. I found myself at the front with a Calder guy as we reached the first peak, but we were caught on the descents by a smaller group. The next climb would take us 7 miles or so to the top of Mam Tor, and a guy from Derby Mercury set a fast pace, gradually dropping people one by one, until at the end there was just him and me. As I crested Mam Tor I got a brief taste of the power of the wind at that height before descending into Edale and the first cafe stop.
The route turned south and dropped down to Hartington – at this point the cafe stop had split everyone so I was on my own, and would remain so for the majority of the remainder of the ride. At Hartington we turned into the wind and started a long, slow, painful climb on exposed moors. After 7 miles of being battered backwards, and climbing to nearly 1600ft, I was mentally and physically exhausted. The wind was so strong that when head-on I was down to 5mph. When the road turned and it was side-on I was struggling to stay up. I’ve never been so happy to reach the peak of a hill at the Mermaid Pub and start to descend, but even then I needed to pedal and take care as the wind whipped around. The next stop at Tittesworth reservoir I ate an energy bar but I should have eaten more, as I would find out later.
The next 40 miles into the wind were just a case of struggling through, although as we got lower and into the valleys the wind wasn’t as bad. At Old Ma’s in Tattenhall I was struggling with the tell-tale signs of not having taken on enough food. I ate something there and then headed off for the final 15 mile stretch, riding with a guy from Liverpool. After about 5 miles the food must have kicked in because I felt better and the final few miles were quite enjoyable. All in all, one of the toughest rides I’ve done.
Ride Stats : 129 miles in 8hrs 27m at 15.2mph average. 8536ft of ascent, 5804kcals energy used. Average HR 136bpm.