Saturday 17 Nov 2012 saw Chris and I complete our first ever Dinner Dart. This was an audax event with a few twists. We were required to cycle a minimum distance of 200k starting from anywhere and finish at the Metropole Hotel in Llandindod Wells for the annual AUK dinner! We could start at anytime and choose whether to ride Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Any adventure that finishes with a feast has always appealed to me!
Preparation was not too difficult. Chris and I cycled little before the event (I did a quick lap of the Deer Route with Ron in the week, but that was all) and readied our bikes in the usual way. Chris fitted panniers to his bike and also this funny looking 'Scott oiler' thing. The Scott thing is a device to keep the chain lubed whilst on the move - by pressing a lever, oil is released over one of the jockey wheels and a 'lot of folk who have got one, swear by them'. I had to create the route before hand and send the chosen controls and map to the organiser (Sheila Simpson) before the event. With my poor navigational skills and the like, I was surprised Chris trusted me with such a task. Google maps was used to help create the route and the controls were as follows: Studley (start) - Bidford-on-Avon - Worcester - Tenbury Wells - Hay-on-Wye - Talybont-on-Usk - Llandrindod Wells (finish). Studley was the obvious start because that's where I live and Tenbury Wells the finish because that's where the dinner was! The created route came out at 203k! (We planned not to follow the Google map instructions fully, but cycle part of Mark Rigby's 'Rough Diamond' route between some controls).
We started on the Saturday at about 7 o'clock on a dark, wet and cold day. The rain was pouring but luckily was not too heavy. We were suitably rested and my dear wife SJ had fuelled us with pasta the night before. We went to Tesco Express in Studley village for our first proof of passage (POP) where I purchased a bottle of water. I realised I had forgotten my glasses so we headed home again. After this initial false start we set off again and wow, the rain had stopped. I would like to report that we reached the first control without incident, but that wasn't correct. Early during this audax I had navigational issues and added about 10k before reaching the first control in Bidford. I think I took us on a circular route, but hey, I avoided the dual carriageway! We both purchased a cheap naff looking chocolate energy bar for our POP, but wow, this bar was delicious! Bonus!
Our trip to Worcester was pleasant. My head space was filled with my courting months with SJ as I cycled along the same roads I used to drive to see her. SJ and I had a lovely date one time in Spetchley and snogged on the Spetchley Bridge. On that occasion we took Cody Menace through Spetchley Gardens where an old lady gave poor Cody a telling off. I repeated some of these stories with Chris and we stopped here to take pictures of said bridge.
Just past the bridge we stopped again - Chris had to repair a puncture. This puncture was from the night before! On the night before, Chris was pumping his tyre and BANG, we both heard the tube pop. The tyre remained pumped though because the tube blew so hard that it was caught between tyre and rim and remarkably kept pressure. Bizarre! Once this tube was removed we saw just how big the hole blown in it was - quite! After this quick fix we headed on and reached Worcester.
For POP purposes I went to the post office and purchased a black jack and a fruit salad - the poor post office worker had to write me out a receipt for the grand total of 4p! We had originally planned to stop here for breakfast but decided to bounce this control and speed along to Tenbury. We were behind schedule due to puncture menace and navigational issues.
Nice trek into Tenbury Wells. Reached this control from a different direction to what we had planned but this worked well. Must have been a good section because we appeared to make up time here. After stopping for a while at Burford Garden Centre (where we ate rosemary and squash soup, carrot cake and washed this down with tea and coke) we were only 15 minutes behind schedule.
Cycled to Hay following different roads to my usual jaunts - largely because navigation had gone wonky again. These new roads were nice enough though and no real menace was encountered. The entry into Hay-on-Wye avoided the big sign stating 'town of books' and also avoided the short steep climb I had become accustomed to. We still had a short steep climb, but a different one. The stop at this control was relatively short. I purchased a funky post card for POP using the tourist information centre (who will happily stamp brevet cards - note to self for future).
The cycle to Talybont was a long stretch. The photo's prove we were having fun and spirits were high! Was slightly disappointed that the troll was missing from the troll bridge that we crossed coming out of Hay. Last time we crossed that bridge, the troll supplied us with rock! Oh well, at least we didn't have to pay the troll charge. We were hoping that we didn't have to light up before reaching control but this wasn't the case. It got dark pretty quick but before we knew it we were racing down a super descent followed by a tight switchback and then awesomely we were at the control. We stopped at the White Hart pub in Talybont-on-Usk. We had some hot chocolate to warm our cockles and then decided (after a little thought) to eat a 'quick food' snack of pasty and chips. Mmm delicious!
Leaving Talybont, we both felt pretty great - the last section to navigate and then dinner! As is so often things went wonky big time and quick time. For starters the road was very muddy. I didn't have mudguards and my front brakes kept getting clogged with mud. The quick food seemed to have a good effect on Chris - he started cycling stretches quick time speedy style! Sadly, I was following Chris quick time speedy style but we were going in the wrong direction! We cycled in the wrong direction for a long stretch and added a few hours and many k's to our ride. When we noticed our error we were both a tad dis-heartened. Not to worry, we turned around and cycled on and on but at a slower pace. Navigating became more difficult and we would have to stop frequently to make sure we were on track. This last stretch involved quite a push and hills of 10% and 16% had to be climbed before a ring twitching 25% descent followed. Slight rain started to hamper things a little too. However, we reached LLandindod Wells and stopped at a garage to get a final POP. I think time-wise we had just made it (14 hours on 200k audax). The garage staff informed us that the Metropole Hotel (the arrivee) was just up the road. We sped up and up and up the road and then woo hoo - we reached the Metropole! We had (luckily perhaps) missed the AUK meeting and (sadly) the AUK dinner. However, the hotel was very obliging and served Chris and I our well deserved 3 course meal in another classy room of the hotel. I ate salmon, Welsh lamb and crumble. We crossed paths with audax officials before crashing out and they were more than happy to sign my brevet card without being strict on any minimum speed. Nice. The pictures below clearly show how we both felt (and looked) after completing a 200k dinner dart!
So, how would we both feel after completing a 200k back to back event? Read the next blog instalment 'After Dinner Dart' to find out! :)
Cycled 245k to complete the Dinner Dart.
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