Monday 20 January 2014

The Willy Warmer 2014

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.”
― Desmond Tutu (or so a YACF member would have me believe)

This week was centred along single-speedin’. Not exactly sure why but my buddy Chris suggested we ride an audax event using single-speed machines. Chris had already decided what the event would be, it would be the first audax he ever entered, ‘The Willy Warmer’ – a 200k event that started and finished in Chalfont St Peter. I rode this event with Chris, on a geared bike, back in 2011 for purposes on PBP qualification. Sadly, we got lost and ran out of time so said event could not be used as a qualifying ride. Hmmm. Neither Chris or I have ever ridden a calendar event using a single-speed machine and neither of us have cycled 200k on such a machine either. Hmmm. The saddle on my single-speed bike is rather uncomfortable too. Hmmm. On the plus side, last year we cycled the ‘St Crispin’s Day Night Ride’, a 100 mile affair with me on a single-speed and Chris using just one gear. So, we have 1 gear and this challenge was Chris’s idea! Find out later in this blog post how well we fared (or otherwise).

My first couple of rides this week were both local routes using my single-speed MTB. I would have rather used the single-speed road bike but was not able as Lin had taken said bike to London. (Lin had delivered tree’s, new furniture, BBQ etc early in the week and had room to take my bike back with her, ready for pending event mentioned above. Big thank’s to Lin for hard work, charity and such like). Both trips were solo affairs and on both rides a little off-roading was involved which resulted in me having a mud splattered face. If the weather had not have been so naff I might have used my geared road bike. At time of writing am a little miffed that the majority of my mates have put in way more miles than me this year.

The next ride cycled was the ‘Willy Warmer event’! It started in the kinda expected, usual disastrous style - Chris had a blow out and we were (nearly) the last to leave. I was initially riding around at the start waiting for Chris and folk commented that my bike looked like a disco. My bike was disco looking because it was fitted with a flashing blue wire wrapped around the frame (which Chris had gotten me for Christmas) and a Chinese wheel writer (that Lin had gotten me) on the rear wheel which flashed many colours. Cheers guys. Once Chris had done with his faffing we realised we weren't the only ones in a spot of bother - was saw another cyclist pushing his bike back to the start with mashed up wheel rim.
Chris faffing at the start
Our GPX route tracks were difficult to follow from the off because they were plotted by 'points' rather than real roads, so our Garmin's were following straight lines and had no 'left' or 'right' cues. Chris commented that it was 'my job' to navigate, I replied stating that 'the rules had changed' because we were riding 'single-speed' which was his idea! My single-speed machine had no map holder on the bars either. To be fair, Chris did a mighty fine job of navigating. (Last time we cycled this event, with no GPX, we got seriously lost and spent 14 hours plus attempting to navigate the event). The actual route we cycled is presented below.
The Willy Warmer, 216k
It was dark, but brightening when we left Chalfont St Peter and we only had to contend with a light drizzle weather-wise. We had 2 little climbs to beat within the first 40k but these weren't really difficult and we both felt kinda elite riding our single-speed machines. We had an info control at the 35k mark which asked the colour of the local School's logo, which was a badger. I would have answered black and white but oh no, the answer was 'burgundy' as that was the background colour. Have you ever seen a burgundy badger?! The next control was a proper sit-down-and-eat control in Pangbourne. We had the usual audax staple diet - yup, you got it - beans and toast (and egg) with a cup of tea.

Leaving Pangbourne we headed for Hungerford. This was great cycling as we passed through the 'Valley of the Race Horse' and had some great scenic views. This also meant we had a big climb (the biggest on this event) around the Lambourne area. We climbed with relative ease and felt somewhat heroic being on single-speed machines and all. A profile of the hilliness is presented below.
Hilliness profile of The Willy Warmer
I didn't take any photo's of the beautiful scenery despite having lots of opportunity all the way to Hungerford. Once in Hungerford, I recalled an occasion when I cycled an audax event and a 'random' photographer asked to photograph me for his '365' random faces project. It only seems right I add a photo here that was taken somewhere on route. This 'deer old friend' was also encountered on the first occasion we rode this event.
Our deer old friend
We stopped and ate well at the Hungerford control. Soup, roll and carrot cake to be exact. Oh, and lots of tea. Just before leaving the control, we got chatting to a number of cyclists but there were 2 particular cyclists who we kept crossing from here on right until the finish. We didn't recall their names but just because we're both silly, we named them. The one chap we called 'Mr Arbuckle' and the other 'Mr Orangephile'. 

It must have been somewhere near the last control (possibly nearer the Pangbourne control) that we had to negotiate some rapids. This wasn't actually as bad as it sounds - a bridge for pedestrians had been erected to cross the river. There was some flooding on route though.
Chris ensuring safe passage across the rapids
Not long after leaving Hungerford, we were passed by Mr's A and O, who called 'see you later'. Can't post why we were not happy at being over-taken but suffice to say, we were not. Please note, audax cycling is a non-competitive sport. We chased and within a few minutes we had placed ourselves ahead of Mr's A and O again. We were pleased with this, especially considering they were both on geared bikes. For the most part, from here until the control at Winnersh we were mostly ahead but it was very much like cat and mouse. Have no idea whether they were chasing us when we were ahead but that matters not. We tended to find that these guys would overtake us on the long descents but we would power past them on the climbs. It had gotten dark again during this stage, so once again my bike was lit up like a disco. Our friends, Mr's A and O, provided us with the answers to the info controls.

The control at Winnersh was closing up as we had gotten there but were still pleased to serve us tea's and coffee. We had a nice stop here, sat outside catching up with Mr's A and O and generally talking cycling related nonsense. A big shout out to the cafe girl who donated me a camelbak lid for a topless bottle back at home. She said a number of folk had left bottles behind. We also snacked on Chris's home-made sarnies before the final push.

Mr A and Mr O were ahead of us on leaving this penultimate control. We didn't spot them for so many K but once we reached these services that then followed a fast descent, we spotted them. Chris momentarily stopped 'educating' me (about all his folk and family who lived here and there on route) and we chased this pair. We cycled fast and hard until our legs could spin the cranks around no faster. Chase, chase, chase and woo hoo, we caught and overtook them! Our hearts were beating fast, our lungs had worked hard and oh no, would you believe it - a big hill now faced us. We gritted our teeth and climbed. Chris said he felt sick, this was probably because he was zigzagging his way to the top! We both reached the top feeling great for our efforts and now knew there was going to be no way Mr A or O would pass us again. We felt mighty, like super-hero's with an ego boost. The last few K to the finish flew by quickly. Before we knew it, we reached the arrivee! Yay, job done! A 200k affair cycled on a single-speed machine in about 12 hours. We really did feel good and it was nice to not come in last (there were about 14 people behind us). The start of this ride was really unfinished business and now we had settled that score!

Cycled 276k this week. My yearly distance now stands at 513k.

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