Friday, 11 April 2014

Stevenage Start of Summertime 200km Audax

Sunday 30th March  a very different year of riding began. 2014 isn't a year like last, a year where I sat focused on my turbos watching all the other cyclist pass my house in the glorious sunshine. Where a whole year focused on just one event, an event that changed the way I now look at my riding, an event so hard I just don't have the time and inclination to work to that level. I won't be riding the National road race championships this year.
Soooo here I am Audaxing instead. We've picked the Start of Summertime 200km because it's not too far away and supposed to be flat....more on that later. I say I'm here, but I'm also with Fraser and Keith whom I've ridden Audax with before. And here also are Gail, Steve and Ross, Audax virgins and also about to embark on their longest rides.
We have an 8.15am start, and the weathers fair with a slight tailwind for the out bound ride. With our Brevet cards collected we mass for the start. We're seen off by the Mayor (whatever happened to funny hats and Ermine?) So anyway we're on our way, 207km to go.
We were already on the towns outskirts so it's not long before we are rolling along country lanes. It's nippy, but riding through the villages with a tailwind is sweet. Before we even get to settle for the journey we come to our first checkpoint at Reed (about 22km) The checkpoint is also host to a motorcycle rally, the place is full with just about every two wheeled machine imaginable.

The next checkpoint is Thaxsted at 55km. We set off chased by the gentle breeze. This is the life, this is what it's all about, just a few of the words we share. It's hard to write about rolling along in such pleasant surroundings, where forward momentum is far greater than the little effort you're putting in, but if you ride a bike you've probably had days like these. We reach Thaxsted in good time. After getting our Brevet cards stamped we allow time for food, drink and some photos.
Our next stop is Lavenham, 50kms away and the turnaround point at just over 100kms. The six of us cruise the section, swapping position to chat and let each other see our smug faces. Lavenham appears very soon. This is our designated lunch stop. We park up our bikes on the square, get our Brevets cards stamped and file into the National Trust restaurant. We have a pleasant lunch, but six people ordering food causes our planned forty five minute stop turn into one and a half hours! Still the sun is shinning when we set off for the 50km plus return to Thaxsted. Although returning to Thaxsted for our forth checkpoint, we are taking a far more Southerly route. The roads and terrain have changed now, very narrow and slightly raised, almost Belgian like with heavily plowed fields either side and the wind that was once our friend is now blowing in our faces. Progress is slowed, banter is reduced, but spirits are lifted when we hit a new stunning village time and time again. We're relieved when we see Thaxsted again. We had thought we'd gone off course, but upon arrival we are kilometre perfect. It's funny how the road seems long when you think you're lost. After we load up on road food we set off for our last checkpoint before the finish. We set off for Hare Street at 185kms, just 30kms away. A relief or so we think after what seemed the longest section. However this far south of our outward journey the terrain is very different. Flat open fast roads have become leafy undulating ones. It's actually very tiring. Thankfully Hare Street is close by compared to the other sections. Hare Street is nicely placed just as the terrain settles down. The final checkpoint is delightful,  deckchairs tea and home made cake. We don't think we'd get back out of the deck chairs so give them a miss. Although the thought of becoming resident on the manicured lawn is strong we have to move on.

20kms to go. Each depart from a checkpoint seems to start with a hill just to get the café legs turning, this one is no exception, still it's a short run back to the finish and we are coming across more and more riders. I make a bit of a tit of myself during the navigation, bringing the ride to a halt when I think I've led us all to a footpath, but its a bridleway and a chance to play at being De Vlaeminck for a few seconds. We're almost home now and the organisers have put us on the red routes which is a fun and safe way to end the ride. We roll into the finish at dusk for the handover of our Brevet cards.
That was a pleasing little ride, all went well, no issues and good preparation for next weeks 300km Audax to the New Forrest.

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