For those of you who read my last post, Driven by Targets, you will know that following last year's abject failure to achieve the objectives, I have decided to become even less competitive and just pootle around. However a friend, a keen audaxer, has set himself the target to complete 10 Baby Audaxes ( 100km or less ) this year and after many discussions in a local coffee shop he persuaded me to join him on the first one, the Leicester Forest Cycling Club's Rutland and Beyond Audax.. A gentle introduction with some beautiful scenery he said.
The weather forecast promised arctic weather and high NE winds, with the winds having the cruel capability to alter direction dependent upon the cyclists heading.
In the event my friend decided that the combination of zero temperatures, high winds, and a very early start made staying in bed at home a preferable option, leaving me to attempt a solo ride with the aid of my trusty garmin and an old fashioned bit of paper with writing on it .. I eschewed maps as I can never read them properly, but more of navigational issues later.
I have joined Derby Mercury RC this last year, not with the intent of cycling with them, far out of my league but just to help out as a gofer at events, and I mentioned that I was undertaking this event. This inspired Team Mercury to also have a go and so Mark, Debbie, Phil and Nigel, the Mercury Marvels, entered.. For this foolhardy crew, a mere 100km was not worth getting out of bed for and so they decided to ride both to and from the event to raise a more respectable 200km ride. In order to assist them they had recruited two sacrificial lambs in Mark and Sarah from Cycle Derby to act as their lead out team.
And so, around 160 cyclists converged on Ride HQ at 08-15
I had a plan. Not to be put off by all these fit young people and to ride at my own pace. I know I dont climb well and there were plenty of climbs on the course so I had stocked up with my home made malt loaf and flapjcks and a bottle full of fluid to lessen the risk of dying completely on some far forgotten hill. Eat little and often was my moto.
And so, positioning myself at the rear of the peleton we set off and encountered the first climb after 800m. It became apparent that perhaps I am not the world's worst climber as some seemed to start suffering already, indeed quite a few people never managed to complete the course.
Navigation is another skill I lack and as I approached Rutland Water a couple of riders in front of me whom I had caught up, suddenly veered off left against all the advice of my Garmin! It was then I discovered that not all riders out on a Sunday morning cycling around Rutland Water are neccessarily in the audax. And so to the first Control Point
Lots of people came over to chat to me, but it seems it was not my scintillating wit they were interested in, but my Mercian Vincitore Special.
The Mercury Marvels had stormed past me on the hill into Rutland Water, resplendent in their kit, my Mercury jersey was well covered in multiple layers so as not to degrade the image and also I needed layers to keep warm.
Loving numbers, I had flipped through the garmin screens, a big mistake! From here on in my turn by turn instructions vanished and I had to resort to following cyclists butts ( not always a pretty sight ) or when alone relying upon the cue sheet with its original Egyptian Hieroglyphics
The hills kept on coming and I was beginning to wish that I had chosen a Shimano Groupset instead of the Campagnolo as that would have allowed a much lower bottom gear (30/29 is my lowest ) and though I rarely engaged that bottom gear I did at times envy the people twirling away on the steepest climbs.
There is a reward from the hills though. At one point the view into the valley with the viaduct stretching out across the peaks is a marvellous sight. It was around here that I saw a large red kite flying low in the sky espying out the young lambs as a potential lunch..or perhaps he was waiting for me to fall.
Just prior to the third control point is The Hill, a leg sapping lung busting monster for an OAP. I was determined not to let it beat me and though my brain was telling me to get off and push, my inner self would not relent, and indeed I passed another couple of riders on this climb.
For those who reached the check point and cafe early there was plenty of food
Some even were treated to a Valentine Lunch!
However by the time I arrived the place was packed with sunday tourists and stifling hot with wait times up to 45 minutes...so a gel, a piece of malt loaf and I soldiered on
The last section was probably the toughest for me, the wind was horrendous and the terrain very exposed...but I made it!!
For those who like statistics the Strava Ride is here
To give an indication of how I coped, my normal ' Suffer Score '; for my T-Shop Pootles is around 50...this ride was 388 .... I have never been tis close to the edge before
But did I enjoy it? Yes
Did I feel a sense of achievement ? Yes
Would I do another Audax ? Well.......