Saturday 12 May 2012

Cheltenham The Vale 100 (Permanent audax)

On Friday I completed another permanent audax. This was 'Cheltenham The Vale 100' audax and was a 100k (108k to be precise) ride, as the name suggests. Although this audax scored no AUK points and no AAA points, it was still a great ride that felt a longer distance than it was and sure enough contained a few  climbs. I completed this audax using Florence - my single speed bike. This was the first time I had ever cycled Florence on a route over 20 miles and the first audax completed without using a geared bike.

I did not start the route in Cheltenham, as suggested. Instead I started from the Alcester control. This control was chosen as it was only 4 miles from my house and prevented me having to leave any carbon foot print as I cycled to the start. It felt strange doing such a planned distance on a bike without a speedometer, gears and saddle bag. The 4 miles to the start were no real bother except it was raining just a little. I used a garage in Alcester as my first control and brought a fudge (using receipt) as proof of start.

The route followed beautiful country lanes almost from the start and skirted through Haselor where I often venture. Once out of Haselor I encountered the first hill, Croft Lane, heading towards Temple Grafton. This climb was only short but it was real steep, especially when using a single geared bike. I gritted my teeth and made the climb! Could feel my heart beating and pounding in my chest cavity. Lovely country lanes continued to take me down some super descents and eventually I hit Bidford, the second control. This was an information control (where I had to answer a question as proof of my passage). For those interested, the Bulls Head is the name of the pub next to the Post Office.  I was not tempted with a beer, so on I rolled. I went past the 'pikey caravan' that SJ, Cody and I found last week, so my thoughts were with them for a while. A nice long road took me through Honeybourne and into Broadway. I passed Saintbury and Fish Hill and managed to resist the temptation of climbing both these hills! I did not want to stop in Broadway and used the (optional) information control instead. Am sure the Horse & Hound pub on the High Street offer a very nice beer, but on I pushed.

From Broadway I set off off for Stanton and Stanway. These were 2 places I had not visited before. Very posh area, full of huge sand stone mansions, large grounds and the likes. These villages were quite nicely hidden away (off the main road to Winchcombe) and were stunning. A short steep climb was raced up to reach a war memorial where I hoped to answer the information control question. Unfortunately, the inscriptions on the memorial were too faded to read and I could not name the 3 countries. However, the information control gave a choice of questions to answer! I had to re-trace back down the hill (grr!) to the Church and take a look at the memorial seat. The memorial seat was remembering Frank Hughes, the Hon. Secretary, Stanway Flower Show! Amazing what one can learn on an audax trip. Re-climbed short steep hill and headed for Didbrook. A farmer stopped me here and said I shouldn't carry on as the road was blocked by a big flood about 2 feet deep and I would certainly get wet feet. I continued and found the farmer was right (see pic below). The farmer kindly told me an alternative way to rejoin the B4632 so I could continue my journey into Winchcombe, which was the next information control. The George pub opposite North Street was not yet open for food.
Left Winchcombe and headed for Cheltenham. This audax was advertised as 'fairly flat'. There was nothing fairly flat about Cleeve Hill at all. I think I have climbed this hill using all my other bikes and stopped to take a photo against the Winchcombe sign. Although not necessary, I took a photo of Florence against said sign too. This sign was towards the base of the hill. Gritting my teeth I started this climb and continued gritting until I made it to the top! Woo hoo, I conquered Cleeve Hill on a single speed bike! Okay, so I climbed the easier slope up Cleeve Hill (alternate anti-clockwise achieves the steeper approach) but so what?! I was then treated to a ring twitching descent all the way into Cheltenham, the next control. I purchased a bottle of water from a newsagents for my control proof. SJ and I visited the area I was now in just before PBP and purchased my Carradice bag.
Left Cheltenham and followed roads to Bredon. Before reaching Bredon my phone died (hence was no longer able to track my route by GPS) but not before I was able to send SJ a text. I passed an MOD building and could see loads of military vehicles cramming ware house like premises through open cracks in the doors. For a moment I questioned my security. Reached Pershore and purchased some peanut M&M's as control proof. I remembered how these M&M's had been a saving grace for Paul D on the Brevet Cymru audax last week!

Got lost leaving Pershore. I blame the event organiser (sorry Steve Poulton), as the route sheet stated 'leave Pershore SP Worcester'. It should have read 'leave Pershore SP Evesham'! I think I added an additional 10k making this error and the whole time I was in opposing direction had this feeling of 'this ain't right'. A fruit and vegetable store confirmed the error and put me back on track. Cycled new paths to Inkberrow passing through Pinvin, Naunton Beauchamp and Abberton. Stinkberrow (as I like to call it, because I'm silly) was the last information control. The Inkberrow sign clearly stated that it was twinned with Bray Sur Somme. Now back on familiar roads, I raced to Alcester - the arrivee. I used the same garage as control point and brought a chocolate bar for my proof receipt. I felt pleased to have completed this audax but was feeling a little whacked as I made my way home cycling a further 4 miles.

Once home, SJ noticed that I had sunburnt my legs. Oh the fun and dangers of audax cycling...

Official distance of audax was 107.4k but with my additional start and finish point (plus getting lost), I cycled more like 130k (80 miles).

1 comment:

  1. Found this blog after searching for details of this permanent. Was also hoping to do it on a fixie but do not think I have the legs for Cleeve Hill. Any suggestions for other 100km permanents in the area that are fixie friendly?


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