Monday 10 December 2012

Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches 200k Audax (Dec 2012)

Last weekend saw me complete the Kings, Castles, Priests and Churches audax. This was a 202k Black Sheep event that I have ridden at least one time before. This time around, I had the company of Aid, Chris and Ron. What was more – I rode using Slinky, my new cycle machine. The map below demonstrates the basic route.

The event started in Tewkesbury, with the official off time being 8 a.m, though riders were ‘allowed’ to start at 7.30 a.m if they preferred. My gang and I were just 4 of 36 riders to start this event. The organiser (Mark Rigby aka Black Sheep) gave us all these bright day/night glow strip things that could be snapped around an arm or leg (or bars and bag in my case) just before we set off. I wonder if he was expecting us to get lost or something?

It was a good start, just light enough to not require lights and not freezing or raining either. The past few days and weeks had seen awful weather and freezing conditions. The roads were wet, but Slinky was equipped with new mud-guards that Chris had fitted the night before. The new guards meant I had to remove my new front tyre (grrr) as a 700 x 23/25 tyre was too fat for said guards. My trusty, gimpy looking 700 x 23 yellow tyre had pride of place back on the front wheel.

I felt a little redundant on this ride as I usually  navigate. Chris and Ron navigated this time. Ron used GPS and Chris used both GPS and a traditional route sheet (mine) that he had placed in his funky home-made route sheet holder. I was not navigating as my route sheet holder had not yet been placed on my new bars.

My new bars (Easton AC 70’s) were great. They were able to offer numerous hand positions and felt comfy and awesome. The top of the bars are flat and my palms felt comfortable resting there. Because the bars were flat though, it meant that there was less room for all my gadgets. I had placed my speedo and Lezyne light on the bars but there was not room for my Ay-Up lights or my route sheet holder. Maybe a GPS unit on the bar stem would free up a little room?!

As Chris and Ron were navigating, I didn’t pay too much attention to where we were or where we were going. Ron and Chris would cycle ahead and Aid and I would follow. The first stretch passed okay with no major issues, concerns or things of note, except Aid’s bag. Aid was carrying a huge back pack full of water, gels, chocolates and goodness knows what else. Am convinced he will not carry the same again! Our first stretch took us to Bromyard. Our ‘usual’ café in Bromyard (the one that serves a hot curry) was packed full of cyclists so we ate at another just opposite. We all ate beans on toast (proper audax food) with egg for good measure. This was swiftly washed down with a cup of tea.
 The next proper control was in Ludlow. We stopped just outside the castle but didn’t stop to eat as the café was busy and Ron and Chris were keen to bounce this control. I ate one of Chris’s flap jack’s though and wow, they were his best yet! Whilst Chris and Ron went in search of a cash-point I chatted with Mary. Mary often cycles 200k events and we had caught her at this control – she had started the event at 7.30 a.m.
 Since I was not navigating, place names just came and went and remembering my adventure has proved a little difficult. Hills followed the Ludlow control, that’s for sure. I think Aid wished he didn’t have his big bag and I bet he had hoped we ate at the last control. None of the hills were overly steep but they did drag on a while. Ron’s wheel (or hub) was making funny sounds throughout and it would only be a matter of time before his wheel collapsed. Aid and I had a sneaky chocolate bar (from his bag!) when Ron stopped to inspect his wheel one time. The graph below represents the hilliness of the ride.
Ron had much misfortune. At one point in the ride an elderly gentleman with white mutton chops (looking a little Santa like) reversed into Ron (acting a little Satan like) and knocked him off his bike. The OAP then preceded to reverse into a vehicle and appeared oblivious to it all.

A little misfortune befell upon us all. A bridge had been washed away in the menace floods that hit this part of the country a short while back. This meant we all had to get muddy feet and cross over a man-made causeway. This was like something from the Bear Bones adventure. We all found this fun really, though a certain few 'others' complained big time (refer to YACF forum).
If my memory serves correct, we reached the penultimate control just as it was getting dark. We were in a lovely cafe called 'The Chocolate Box' in Kington. We all ate different foods, I chose a plough-mans lunch. This lunch of mine was peculiar in that it was vegetarian. The waitress kindly gave me extra baps too which she made a point of showing to all. After much eating we were off.
The next stretch took us to Wormlow Tump, which was such an excellent place name. Cycling in the dark freaked me out a little. We had spotted ice earlier and loose tarmac was difficult to pedal over and now it was dark too! Am sure we all took precautions - my brakes were held tight on the steeper descents. Just before the control, Chris was faffing with his lights, so Ron and Aid carried on whilst I waited for Chris to fix his issues. Once fixed, Chris and I reached said control and awarded ourselves with chocomilk. Poor Aid and Ron never found control and went without!

Chris and I were not sure how far ahead Aid and Ron were and just as we were discussing this we found them. Because they missed control, they stopped to take a photo of a pub for POP purposes. Once a four again we sped off. This last section was not as demanding as the earlier ones and am sure our pace picked up. Ron's wheel was not sounding good. Am not sure how but just before the end, we were down to 3 - Aid had gotten a second wind and sped off. I thought Aid was going to pip us all to the post, but he didn't. Aid waited for us all to rejoin and then we reached the arrivee as a group of four. As Ron turned the last corner, his wheel collapsed. We were the last guys back (I blame Chris ;) ) but we all made it within the cut off time and were pleased with our efforts. 202k cycled, 2 AUK points awarded, 1.75 AAA points awarded and a pat on the back!

ps No one liked my cycling sense of fashion...

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