Saturday 27 April 2013

Cheltenham, Cotswold & Thames 200

Only cycled twice this week. Both rides, however, were quite awesome. On each occasion I cycled with a good friend, who both coincidentally sported brand new bikes.

My first cycle was with Ron. We cycled an old route of mine that I liked to call 'The Urban Route'. This route is essentially a mix of on and off road cycling that makes use of lots of cycle lanes near and around my home village of Studley. For this ride, mountain bikes are considered a must. Ron's new bike was a Trek 29er and very nice it was indeed. The route is presented below:

On Friday, I hooked up with Chris and his lovely new bike (that he had recently built himself) and cycled the ‘Cheltenham, Cotswold & Thames 200’ event. This event was a permanent audax organised by Stephen Poulton. This route was considered to be a variation of the ‘Banbury Cross’ event.

Chris and I decided we would start (and finish) at the Chipping Camden control. This suited me as it was the control nearest to my domicile and would also mean that most of the hills would be tackled early on. We left Chipping Camden at around 9 a.m and were cycling on a nice spring day. As expected, we encountered a few hills during this stage – one almost straight away and the infamous Cleeve Hill too. Never mind the hills, we also had 2 super-fast descents where I reached a speed of over 70kph! This first stage was great and quite lanesy on the whole. On one of the lanes we passed a vegetable stand called 'Pauline's Veg’ which made me think of my dear mother. With Chris standing next to the stall it became ‘fruit and veg’!
It was during this stage too that Chris’s brand spanking new seat-post broke – it completely snapped in half. 
 Whether he rode without his saddle or not, I’ll leave to your imagination…

Once we hit Cheltenham we stopped for proof of passage (POP) purposes at a local newsagents. A fudge bar  receipt provided the necessary POP. It was here that Chris fixed his seat-post issue by fudge packing it! He used the fudge bar wrapper as a shim which worked very well. 
With issues fixed we continued on our way. Getting a little lost around Cheltenham before following roads that feature on the ‘Banbury Cross’ and climbing another hill to get out of Cheltenham. Once at the top of this hill, we were greeted by a rather funky bus stop shelter and then had a lovely descent all the way into Cirencester. 
We faffed about loads in Cirencester – first trying to find a suitable control and then at the control itself. The control staff at this cafĂ© we stopped at were ‘new’ and hence slow. My potato was over-priced. The toilet didn’t flush. Argh, on with the story…

Our route continued in favourable conditions, sunny and bright. We reached Faringdon in no time. Once in Faringdon, I figured we really were quite far out.
Next stop was Witney. We reached here pretty quick too – not surprising really, this stage was only 19k. The next stage was shorter still at 15k, so we only stopped here briefly to eat half an energy bar each. 

On route to the next control I could have sworn I was seeing double - it turned out to be a monkey clinging to a banana and not Chris after all!
We had a lovely stop once we reached Woodstock. I opted for tea cakes - yummers, it was delicious. Chris wasn’t so impressed with his bakewell tart.

The route to Brackley was awful. We spent much time on busy dual carriage-ways screaming with motorised traffic. We did the sensible thing and just sped along in single file at a fast pace until we reached the control. We stopped at the control and munched on Chris’s home-madeflap jacks before setting off on the final stage.

The final stage was similar to the first - nice lanesy roads and undulating in nature. The clouds we saw during this stage were impressive - all different shapes and sizes and colours too. Indeed, some clouds were pink, orange and red. One cloud was big and black and looked like it was throwing rain down. We managed, it appeared, to cycle all around this cloud without it inflicting heavy rain on us at all. A few drops of water hit us but nothing serious. We passed an interesting place name before it got dark and I was hoping Chris would pose for another photo - he wouldn't, so I had to oblige.
Shortly after this brief stop it started to get dark so we pressed on. We reached the arrivee in Chipping Campden feeling pretty great. This was a nice cycle and another great adventure. A map of our adventure is presented below:
Cycled a total of 233k this week. My LEL training target for the week was 300k but was not disappointed as last week I had cycled a 300k event. My total distance this year now stands at 3,283k.

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