Audax

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Audax bikes outside the café

I’ve not done an audax for some time but I have noticed that I’m getting a lot of hits to this site looking for specific audaxes.  I’m sure visitors already know this but all my audax rides are tagged, so you can click on the menu to the top right of this screen, scroll down to the tags section which is under my Instagram pics, and then select “audax”.  Alternatively, click on the following link for the same result

https://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com/category/audax/

I hope people find these useful although they aren’t meant to be detailed guides.  One of the main reasons I started writing this blog was because I knew I would forget rides and places I’d visited.  It’s been great fun reading some of the older posts again, and I hope they are in some way useful to others.

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London Edinburgh London – MadeGood Films Documentary

Readers of this blog will know that in 2013 I completed Audax UK’s London Edinburgh London ride.  It was a fantastic adventure and you can read about it here

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Summary

As I mentioned in the blog, there was a documentary film crew following several riders, including Steve from Saddleworth Clarion.  The official documentary will go on sale on 1st June 2016 for £7.99.

It’s a great film which really captures the trepidation leading up to it, the excitement of starting the event, and then the slow breakdown that occurs during hundreds of miles of riding with very little sleep.  I’m not on any commission but I’d encourage you to buy it if you are interested in endurance cycling or good documentary film making.  It’s definitely worth a watch if you are planning to ride LEL in 2017. It’s worth a watch if you aren’t. You may even enjoy the small cameo from my good self and Chris – we are available for other cycling related bookings!  Chapeau, MadeGood Films.

Spring into the Dales 2015

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Spring into the Dales was my first ever audax back in 2010, and I’ve ridden it a few times since then.  It’s a scenic route and I’ve been blessed with some lovely spring weather in the past.  Today, however, was not one of those days.  Due to a slight route issue I added a mile on and started at the back of the field.  The first few miles is a big climb out of Hebden Bridge up and over to Oxenhope, which allowed me to reel in the majority of the riders in front.  By the summit I was very hot in my five layers (yes 5!) but by the bottom of the descent I was cold again, and the intermittent drizzle had turned into something more persistent.  At the first control I put a 6th layer on in true Pablo style but by now was getting wetter and wetter, and colder and colder.  At the second control in Gargrave my first pair of waterproof gloves were soaked, so I put my second pair on (I’ve learned my lesson on audaxes many times!).  These were meant to last me until the cafe control at 58 miles but had given up the ghost within the hour, such was the rain.

The wind had been carrying me to this point but as I turned East I was subject to some vicious crosswinds, and then south directly into the face of it.  At Rossi’s in Keighley I was so cold I could barely get my phone and money out to buy the hot coffee and cake I desperately needed.  My third pair of gloves went on and I was back out into it with the final climb back up from Oxenhope over the tops to Hebden Bridge.  Gloves No. 3 proved about as waterproof as a tissue and within a couple of miles my hands were freezing.  The wind was gusting badly now, across and into me as I climbed up the hill.  At times it was downright dangerous and a couple of times I was nearly blown into the verge, despite leaning into it at a precarious angle.  Downhill was probably more scary and I don’t think I’ve come down that hill any slower.  Thankfully the wind receded along with the altitude and I got back to the HQ shivering with unfeeling fingers but happy to finish.  It was cheering to be greeted by Peter marking cards but I didn’t stay long as I wanted to get home and get into dry clothes.  Not my best day on a bike!

Stats : 72.3 miles in 5hrs 5mins and 16s at 14.2mph average.  5,484ft ascent (definitely more – Garmin doesn’t work well in the rain!), 3,251 kcal used.  Average HR 128bpm

Strava ride here

Newport 200k Audax 2015 – Sooo Cold!

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It turns out the weather forecast these days is pretty accurate.  Unfortunately.  It was freezing cold but the skies were clear when around 70 hardy souls set off from Cheadle.  Apparently 42 people did not start, which is unusual for hardy audaxers although perhaps sensible.

In true Pablo-stylee I was wearing 5 layers but it was still freezing, especially my fingers and toes.  In fact the temperature didn’t get above freezing as far as I could see and it was quite a nervy ride because of the ice on the verges and edge of the road.  After the first control at 30 miles or so it started to gently rain.  White rain.  Otherwise known as snow.  Riding due south directly into the teeth of the headwind, the snow was being blown hard into my face, and it stung. And stuck to my beard!  And it was getting worse, starting to stick to the fields and, worryingly, the road.  Luckily (!?) after 5 miles or so it turned to heavy rain.  By now my feet, encased in waterproof Sealskinz overshoes over Northwave Fahrenheit waterproof boots over Sealskinz waterproof socks, were soaking wet with icy water.  My hands, encased in Sealskinz waterproof extreme winter gloves, were also soaking wet with icy water, and I was slowly losing the feeling in them, and any coherent movement.

At the turn I didn’t bother with a cafe stop – I ate a couple of bars and headed north aided by the now stronger tailwind.  A change of gloves ave me another 20 miles of dry hands before the waterproofing failed and it was back to icy fingers.  By now the snow on the way down had properly stuck.  The fields were pure white, vision was difficult through a storm of snow, and the road was reduced to slushy tyre-tracks.  Worrying stuff.  But again, after a few miles it disappeared and it was just back to the rain.

I stopped at a service station shop in Middlewich and was that cold I couldn’t really move my fingers sufficiently enough to unzip my phone holder and get my money out.  Luckily, all the drivers queuing to pay for petrol were really cycle-friendly and understanding…

My fingers seem to have recovered several hours later, and I did notice that I still have the requisite number of toes, so that’s good.

Ride stats : 124 miles in 7hrs 23m at 16.8mph average.  2,612ft ascent, average HR 132bpm and 4,982kcals energy used

Strava ride here

Mere 200 2015

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After a few weeks of icy/snowy/miserable weather I was going a bit stir crazy inside on the turbo.  Whilst it’s a great tool for structured and focused training, it’s no substitute for being out and about on the bike.  With a break in the bad weather forecast, the Mere 200 looked like it would be a good opportunity to get some road miles in – my total so far in 2015 being the lowest since I started recording.  I was feeling a little trepidation as the last decent distance I’d done was at the start of November, with most everything else being about power and intensity I wasn’t sure if my legs would stand 128 miles.

I heard there was a record field, with entries closed at 120.  That’s probably due to both the popularity of cycling and audaxing at the moment, but perhaps also that this is a PBP year.  It was cold as we set off at 8am, but not unduly so, and the initial pace of the pack meant I warmed up quite nicely.  In fact the group went off really quickly, considering the first 60+ miles were into the wind.  For a while I sat in, taking it easy because the temperature was hovering around freezing and Cheshire roads are notorious for black ice.  Riding up the side of Tatton Park I was glad of the pack as it made a long and exposed road a bit easier.  A couple of times at the top of hills I found myself at or near the front, but soon got overtaken as I picked my way carefully along the lanes.  However I did manoeuvre myself to the front at Acton bridge so that as we approached Delamere forest I could get in and out of the control quickly.  I was glad I did as the queue quickly formed behind.

The section from Delamere to Malpas was essentially me and a small group riding hard into the headwind.  People were dropping off as the road went upwards and by the time we went through Malpas I was on my own with a couple of riders (Alan and Charlotte) who were both very strong.  The route takes a turn onto the A525 at a point 8 miles from Ellesmere.  It’s always a windy section and so we took turns to pull on the front to the eventual control.  This section has, in previous years, almost reduced Chris and I to tears with the strength of the wind but it didn’t feel that bad.  After a fuel stop at the garage (pun intended) we set off back towards the Raven café, where I had beans on toast and a large mug of tea.  Thankfully there were no signs of flooded lanes like in previous years so no wading was required!

Life was much easier on the way back with a bit of a tailwind, and progress was duly brisk.  A couple of information controls were all that stood in the way and it wasn’t long before we were close to home.  The temperature had increased from freezing in the morning to nearly 10 degrees, and for the most part the skies were clear.  It did start to cloud over and close in, and we finished with the slightest of drizzle but before it was fully dark at just after 4pm. A lovely day all in all.

It was great to get out and about after being stuck inside and I was pleased that whilst my average HR was below zone 1, I managed an average speed pushing 18mph.  I felt strong all day, especially into the wind.  This is a new feeling and I like it!

Ride stats : 128 miles in 7hrs 9m at 17.9mph average.  4,964ft ascent, 4,507kcals energy used.  Average HR 127bpm.

Strava ride here

Cheshire Safari Audax

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Last year I was due to ride the 200km version but a business trip to India put paid to that.  Apparently the roads were icy and so given my training plan I decided I’d do the later-starting and shorter 160km Safari this year, albeit rounding it up to 200km by riding there and back.  It was a chilly start as I rode through Manchester to the start at Cheadle, but the sky was clear and it looked like being a fine day.  Met Graeme at the start, plus Chris and then Pablo, Nikki and Michelle arrived late.  Plenty of other North Cheshire riders were milling around plus some familiar faces from the audax community.

I’d decided beforehand I’d ride at a pace that got me to the first cafe first to avoid the queues, and then back before I needed lights.  After riding with Chris at the front for a while the plan went slightly wrong when I got overtaken by everyone in Tatton Park after the bracket holding my mudguard on sheared off and the guard jammed between the stay and the wheel.  After trying to fix it for a few minutes it went in the bin.  Another stop to make sure nothing else was rubbing and I needed to ride hard to pick the group back up.  As I spotted the group in the distance I saw Pablo pull over to mess with his saddle.  I think it needed adjusting up to be level with the 38 spacers at the front. I left him to it and made my way past the group and then rode off the front through Frodsham and eventually picking up the leading few near the Eureka cafe, and I rode there with Ste from the club.

Fortified with beans on toast we set off back, the route taking us past Chester zoo.  I saw a camel.  The weather had turned out really nice – clear, crisp and not-too-cold.  After another brief stop for cake we arrived back at the HQ at around 3-20pm, which meant I made it home for about 4-15pm – job done.

Ride stats : 124 miles in 6hrs 59mins at 17.7mph average.  3,868ft ascent, 4,964kcals energy used.  Average HR 135bpm.

Strava ride here

Season of Mist 2014

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Season of Mist has 2.5 audax altitude award points so you know exactly what’s in store for you.  Today was a clear, cold and crisp morning – the type of autumn morning that is made for bike riding.

After the formalities of signing on and drinking coffee you are literally thrown into the first big climb of the day from the off.  Over a mile of climbing at 10% average, including a pavé section, up through Heptonstall to get the legs and lungs working.  I’d learned my lesson from previous rides so was near the front when we set off and when we hit the hill I made my way to the lead group.  This is where I first found my climbing legs have been damaged somewhat by a season of flat time trials.  Despite riding a PB time up the hill the lead group dropped me and rode away.

Apart from having to skirt the land that time forgot (Burnley) on the way out and way back, the route was pretty much all fantastic scenery and rural all the way.

Other notable climbs included Nick o’ Pendle and Waddington Fell.  I thought I’d give both a decent go but was some way off my best times, further driving home to me that I’m not the mountain goat I used to be.

I saw a few people from the audax scene that I’d not seen for a while, which was nice, but best of all was the weather.  I love riding on crisp, bright autumn days and it had warmed up enough to be comfortable.  At the end, I was more crawl than climb up the final hill to Widdup, and my legs were starting to cramp and ache.  You cannot help but love cycling on days like this – I had a brilliant day!

Ride stats : 62.5 miles in 4hrs 15mins at 14.7mph average.  7,622ft of ascent, 3,192kcals used, average HR 141bpm

Strava ride here 

Dales Delight 2014

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The Dales Delight audax is a fantastic rollercoaster ride through Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales, a bit of Cumbria and back again.  It’s the 3rd time I’ve done this and it never fails to disappoint as you are transported through some of the most stunning scenery in the country.  Even wet and cold weather didn’t put a dampener on things.

It has some absolutely leg-shattering climbs too.  If you discount the “rolling” start (audax code for hilly) then the first real climb comes after a descent under a Settle-Carlisle viaduct, down a valley and back up the Coal Road – starts off steep and keeps going!

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Viaduct

Then there’s the climb over Swaledale after the first control – something I’d forgotten about and which is another long and challenging climb, starting steep and then flattening but still going up.  The descent into Thwaite to the second control is not the best of the day but still exhilarating enough.

From the control it’s straight up Buttertubs North side – which I’m told is opposite to the Tour de France route.

The descent is fast and furious – and check out the cyclist coming up the other side at 04:17 – I don’t know who was more surprised, him or me!

Past the farmers fields advertising parking space for when the Tour comes and into Hawes, the route is then out and up Fleet Moss.  This is a challenging climb because the wind whistles down and you can see it in the distance, mentally challenging you and sapping the will from your legs

The descent from Fleet Moss takes you onto one of my favourite roads in the country, running alongside the Ribble I think.

After Litton, there is one more big climb – in the rain and wind – note the old style 1 in 6 sign at the start!

Followed by a difficult and dodgy descent!

Ride Stats : 126 miles in 8hrs 10mins at 15.4mph average.  Total ascent 10,067ft, energy used 5,240kcals.  Average HR 130bpm

Strava ride here

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World’s End Audax 2014

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For once, in addition to the usual fine hospitality and fantastic food, John managed to organise a ride with good weather.  I must say that it took most of us by surprise and we all got a bit giddy and rode to the first checkpoint in record time.  This despite the local council’s best efforts to scupper fast progress by resurfacing long stretches of road by simply dumping gravel on it, as appears to be the fashion these days.  More on road re-surfacing later.

Following the first control the next section of merit was to follow the canal path into Chester, although I simply stopped for a bar and a chat with Nephi, and a bit of a watch of the rowing club practising effortlessly on the water.

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As I’d stopped most of the audax had continued on so I rode along solo until the road started to kick up and then slowly, in small clumps, I caught and passed them until I found myself back at the front and on my own.  I was expecting the climb up to World’s End to be tougher into the wind but it was fine, and there at the top was the Van of Delights waiting with sandwiches and cakes, most importantly the famous rockie road.

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From the van there was a bit of a slog into the wind over the moor but then a lovely fast descent through the forest and down the Ford at the bottom.  The last two times I’ve ridden across – this time I took no chances and carried my bike over the stepping stones.

Beautiful country lanes weaved up and down following a stream until it opened into the Llangollen Panorama.

A final stop for coffee and then it was a relatively flat and fast ride back across Cheshire.  Of course, it being a John ride, there had to be some off-road bridleway.  Coming out of this and onto the road the council were out dumping gravel.  It turns out that they apply a layer of sticky tar first, which stuck to my tyres, along with the gravel, and decelerated me alarmingly!  After I’d picked them all off it was, sore knee aside, relatively plain riding back to the finish at John’s.  A brilliant day.

Ride stats : 132 miles in 7hrs 59mins at 16.5mph average.  6,458ft ascent, 4,628kcals energy used.  Average HR 122bpm.

Strava ride here

NB – photos and videos via GoPro Hero 3+