This week saw me complete 'The Poor Student' 200k permanent audax. I had cycled this event at least once before (as a permanent) and possibly as a calendar event too. Despite cycling this event before, it was not how I remembered.
My memory told me that this ride had a nasty section of hills around the middle of the route. For this reason (plus added convenience of beaing nearer home) I chose to start and finish this audax from the Chipping Camden control – ie cycle section 3 first. At silly o’clock in the morning I set sail from Chipping Camden wanting to take full advantage of daylight. It was a cold and bitter start, about -5C. I expected hills, but none appeared save a little climb after passing through Draycott Village. None of this stage looked familiar until I reached the control at Peartree Services in Oxford. Experienced a few navigation issues before I reached the control because I didn’t study my route sheet beforehand. Where it stated ‘2x mini-rbt, sp Oxford’, I took it to mean ‘cycle over 2 mini roundabouts sign-posted Oxford’ rather than ‘take second exit sign-posted Oxford’. There does not appear to be a universally accepted way to write a route sheet and all organisers use a slightly different language. Am hoping my ordered Garmin 800 will help with said issues. When the control came into sight I had to battle with busy traffic at the Peartree roundabout (despite following cycletrack) to actually reach the control. When I finally reached the control it was about 9 a.m. Sadly there was no Mc Donalds or Burger King for breakfast purposes - instead I settled for a KFC. Chicken and chips didn’t seem quite right at this early hour but fuel and proof of passage (POP) was required. The KFC was washed down with a ‘medium’ cup of tea from Starbucks, this ‘medium’ tea was pint sized!
Leaving the control at Oxford was nice – the sun was shining bright now and this part of the route looked familiar. The route took me right through Oxford Town Centre (I think) and passed through Queen Street – a pedestrian only area. Again, I didn’t study the route sheet beforehand and cycled right through Queen Street until this bloke (dressed like a mayor) shouted ‘don’t be an idiot, get off your bike, this is a pedestrian only area’. Last time I cycled through here I had no such problem – I later found out (was written on bottom of route sheet) that this area is only a pedestrian area from 10 a.m. Following the Queen Street menace I cycled up Cumnor Hill which wasn’t such a hill really. After the hill, I headed for Appleton and the route didn’t look familiar at all until I reached the control in Malmesbury. For whatever reason I didn’t find my bike behaving as well as she usually does (and especially during this section) – I had a creak coming from ‘goodness knows where’, my saddle dropped and the tyres were rubbing against the mud-guards. On a brighter note, my front mech was working fine! Navigating became an issue again too – I got my left and right mixed up at least once, made similar roundabout errors like earlier and could not find a sign post pointing to Garsden. I ended up going off course about 10k and passed through a place called Brinkworth. For once I didn’t mind going off route, as Brinkworth was ‘The Longest Village in England’ and made a good photo stop.
Whilst taking said photo an apache helicopter flew overhead too. Awesome! Found my way to Malmesbury and stopped at the Summer Café for POP purposes. I had tomato soup at this control but it was nasty! The soup wasn’t really soup at all, it was (I believe) pulverised chopped tomatoes. Malmesbury itself was pretty and deserving of a photograph.
Again, the final section didn’t look familiar. I cycled along long country lanes that seemed to stretch for miles. Many horses, cows, sheep and birds could be seen along the way. At one point I saw a Mad March Hare running along a deserted field with its big ears standing upright in the air. Once I reached signs for C. Abdale and Salperton the route became tough. It was here that big hills had to be climbed (no AAA points though) and fast descents navigated. In my perceived wisdom, I saved the hardest section till last. Ouch, these hills hurt. I dread to think what the hills in ‘The Dean’ are going to be like in a few days time. I think the pain made me lose concentration as I didn’t pass through Salperton Park because I didn’t find it! I really needed that Garmin! Not sure where I went off route but I was soon back on track. The final few kilometres were great – all the menace ascents had been and gone and a fast descent took me back down to Chipping Camden, the arrivee! This was a great ride despite me feeling more tired than usual. I cycled a total of 214k (12k off route) in 11 hours and 1 minute. Yay, a successfully completed 200k at last!
Completed my desired kilometres for the week (200k). My yearly total now stands at 1,032 miles (just 68 miles under target). Next week I hope to cycle 'The Dean', which should bring my yearly mileage above target!