Saturday 31 May 2014

Cheltenham Severn & Estuary Audax (AC) & other short stories

Only last week, I equipped ‘Jenny’ my commute bicycle with some DT Swiss quick release skewers and put correct sized tubes in my saddlebag. Not sure whether this was good ‘forward thinking’ or a way to ‘jinx’ myself. Either way, Jenny suffered her first puncture on the next trip she took out. This trip was my usual commute to work. I got to work ok, it was only during a work break that I noticed Jenny had a flat. Could not find the cause of said puncture, so just replaced tube. Removing the wheel from this single-speed bike was a little menace as the chain had little give (to get it off the teeth) and the chain tensioner screw ‘things’ were a new addition that I was not accustomed with. Jenny made it back home ok and tyre remained inflated.

My next adventure was a 200k audax.  This was the ‘Cheltenham Severn & Estuary 200’ permanent audax organised by Steve Poulton. I cycled this event back in 2012 but this time around there were a few big differences. First off, I rode solo this time. Cousin Aid had had previously cycled this event with me. Secondly, I used a different bike. Previous trip used my Focus Cayo which has now been converted to a single speed bike. This time around, I used ‘Slinky’, my Specialized Roubaix S-Works SL3 (would not have completed this route on a single-speed)! Thirdly, I rode in an anti-clockwise direction this time. Oh, and the weather was pants this time too!
Just like the first time I cycled this event, I set off from Cheltenham. The skies were grey and visibility was quite poor. Thankfully the temperature was fine. It wasn’t long before the rain started though which was a trifle menace. I bounced the first control in Coleford and continued on my way not really stopping until I was outside of England. Once I reached Wales, I stopped to take a photo of what I believed was Monmouth Castle. I took this photo whilst stood on a bridge over the River Wye. At one end of bridge was a welcome to Wales sign and the other a welcome to England – I guess I was stood on no-mans land?! Just after bridge was my first sit-down-and-eat control, a lovely ‘spoons pub. I treated myself to a full English breakfast. I was hoping to dry off in this pub, it was a shame this didn’t happen.
Monmouth Castle
Other side of bridge
Leaving Chepstow, I passed Bulwark, which reminded me of the BCM 600k audax I completed a few years back. The BCM is a truly tough but classic event that every hardened audaxer should complete! Ha! This section was awesome as 2 big fat bridges were crossed. These bridges were the Severn followed by the Avonmouth. 
Crossing the Severn
View from the Avonmouth Bridge
I always get a buzz out of cycling over these enormous feats of engineering. The Avonmouth Bridge was great as 100’s of cars could be seen parked neatly as I cycled over bridge. A little further on, same cars were passed (within feet) on cycle track as it passed factories. 
The very same cars
This section was nice and relatively flat and fast. Reaching the control in Portishead, made me think about Portishead (the band). Thinking about Portishead (the band), made me think about work as my current work place has a sign very similar to Portishead’s third album. How bizarre!
Portishead 'Third'
The Axis (my work place)
Only a short stage of about 20km took me to the next control in Chew Magna. Was pleased this stage was short as Naish Hill took some climbing and got me out of puff! I visited the P.O. here and used an official stamp for control purposes.

Next stage was shorter still at only 12k!  Similar story, big hill! Stopped at Tesco’s here for much needed refuelling (or was that the next control?)

Can’t recall an awful lot about the stage between Keynsham and Wotton-under-Edge. This was probably because I was tired and cycling in some nasty wet weather. Only chose to cycle this event to keep my RRtY award going.

Final stage led back to Cheltenham, obviously. I often thought when driving to Stroud (to start the ‘stroud 5 Valleys’ audax), how it might feel cycling the big ascent up to Painswick. What I hadn’t realised was that I already knew! Aid and I cycled this on our adventure in 2012. Chapeu to us both! – that was some big hill! Nice thing this time around was the fact that I had a tasty descent to the finish! I was real pleased to finish this event as I was soaked right through and had a full days cycling.
GPX route
Am not sure which way around the Cheltenham Severn & Estuary is most desirable. Both routes are hilly (despite no AAA points being awarded) with some 2000 plus metres of climbing. I guess the clockwise version gets the major climbing out of the way early on when legs are fresh. Definitely better to ride this event in good weather. The speedy descents had to be taken quite slow as my brakes were not stopping well in the wet weather. Maybe I should ride the clockwise version again this year and compare notes. Anyone interested?!
Hilliness profile of Cheltenham Severn & Estuary 200k Audax
Completed my cycling for the week with another to work and back commute. This felt quite tough on my tired audax legs but I’m glad I cycled it anyway. Just to be different, I took a more road (less cycle way) route home. In all cycled 326 this week. Total distance cycled this year is now 3,701k.

Whilst reading the news this week, I stumbled across the following headline: 'Wearing a bike helmet is useless'.  Essentially, a leading neurosurgeon claims they've done little to help crash patients he’s treated. The article claims motorists drive closer to those wearing helmets as they seem safer. In another article I read that motorists give more room to cyclists with long hair, believing they are female. Not sure of the truths contained within these stories and would like readers comments. The first article can be read in full here: For what it's worth, I wear a helmet. I know only too well how fragile one's head is and how delicate 'head-space' is. I'll do whatever I can to protect the wonders inside my head!
Thank You for reading my blog!

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