Friday 27 February 2015

Snowdrops and such like

Saturday was a great start to my week (in 2015, all my weeks start on Saturday). This was the day that I completed the Snowdrop Audax for the 4th time (I think). The Snowdrop Express (as it's actual full title) is a great event and the first audax event I ever cycled back in 2010. Each time I have cycled the event, I have used a different bike. This year was the exception, I cycled a bike I had previously used (my 'best' bike). Original plans were to cycle my newly built up retro Raleigh but fear put pay to that (refer to last post). I did do things a little differently this year though - I rode to the start and cycled home at the finish. I ECE'd the event! This was the first (and probably last) ECE I had ever completed. This is what the Audax UK website has to say about ECE'sThe Extended Calendar Events or ECE allows riders to combine  a DIY Perm with a Calendar event to develop an extended personal event recognised by AUK Awards.
ECEs grew out of a desire to encourage riders to ride to/from events Calendar events to promote long distance riding generally and provide more flexibility to the AUK Calendar of events. The ECE scheme means that if you live, say,  50km from a 200km Calendar event HQ, you can ride out and back from home and claim the day as a 300km outing counting towards award schemes including RRTY and the AUK Randonneur awards.
ECEs are very flexible, so if you wanted to make your 200km Calendar into a 600km outing by riding 100km out then 300km back, or turn a 100km BP Calendar into a 200km BR, that’s fine too. You still have to ride the whole way but at least now you can have some company from other riders by being part of the calendar event. It all helps!
The regulations and process for planning ECE routes are similar to DIY Perms except the distance must scale the Calendar event up to a recognised BR distance of 200km and multiples of 100km thereafter. Alas only the nominal distance of the Calendar event counts, so if your 200km Calendar event is actually 215km ‘on the road’, alas only the 200km will count towards your ECE total.
The Calendar event and the linked ECE are recorded separately, the Calendar event being  recorded in the normal way including AAA points and championship points, whilst the ECE Permanent is recorded as a permanent event with 1 point awarded for each additional eligible 100km ridden. So a 100km BP + 100km ECE Perm will be awarded 0 calendar points + 2 perm points, a 200km BR + 100km ECE Perm will be awarded 2 calendar points + 1 perm point, and so on.

I created my Snowdrop 'There' route using 'Ridewithgps' and created a roughly 60k adventure that used Bidford as an immediate control between my address and the calendar event start. I allowed myself 3 hours thinking this would allow a leisurely trek. How wrong was I?! Not long after starting off, I turned around and headed home as I had forgotten my waterproof shorts (the predicted weather did not look good). Once off again, all fine until I reached Alcester. In Alcester, my route took me through a cycle only lane (more like a bridle path) to head towards Bidford. I knew a better way but followed this path until I came out near the dual carriageway. As dodgy as I believe such carriageways are, I took it anyway (was quiet being so early).  A quick ATM stop in Bidford and then headed towards Hartlebury. This was a pretty much fine route from here cycling along very pretty country lanes. During this trek I spotted snowdrops and much wildlife including rabbit, fox and a yellow tit (as well as road kill badger). My bike felt awesome and I was using new pedals and a new saddle. At one junction, as is usual for me, I got lost around another tangled cycle network. This was a real menace and lost me much time. After much menace, I was back on track and racing my way towards the official start of the Snowdrop.
Snowdrop ECE (There)
I reached the start, just as riders were leaving (phew, that was close), which was a first for me. Missed the opportunity to get a photo of the group start like I had done on previous years. I saw my mates Jamie, Toll and Trev and suggested I'd catch them up. Ron, Andy, Dave, John and Grif had kindly waited for me. I went I got both my brevet cards stamped and then I was off on the Snowdrop Express. I was the last of 172 people to start this event.
Card stamping (stolen pic from FaceBook)
How I would have loved a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich! Too late, 60k in my legs and a further 40k plus before we reached the first control. Cycling was relatively easy in such a large group but boy, I was so hungry! Mark Rigby was the controller at Upton which was nice. The jam and toast was super nice too! As I got to the control, Andy, Toll and Trev were just leaving - this phenomena continued throughout the whole event, right up to the finish!
All morning the weather was fine (thought Jamie et al had experienced snow when they set out). It was nice to chat, cycle and chat some more with different friends. The stop at Evesham was welcome but I dearly missed my wife and Lunar who were waiting here for me last year. After an over-indulgent feed, we set off for the final section.

This year Pig Hill (aka Phil's Hill) was missed out (due to road works) and I'm sure this is why Phil Brown bailed out?! Still think it's not the toughest hill though - the first hill out of Evesham is the killer one. Just prior to finish, the heavens opened just a little and a showering of hail came down. So, all in all, a lovely day for cycling. Dave kinda forced me to race along for the last 10 minutes but this was cut short as I bumped into Jamie et al who were now leaving the event! After a quick chat, I reached the finish and was rewarded with a sausage sandwich and a can of coke for my efforts. 170 people finished the event with 3 over the cut-off time.
The Snowdrop Express
At the finish I was offered lifts home by various folk. I wasn't (really) tempted. I knew I had another 60k to go (about 3 hours cycling) but this was necessary to complete my ECE and get the 2 (un-necessary) AUK points. I really enjoyed my cycle home and it was nice to cycle solo and just pedal at my own leisurely pace. By the time I reached home it was dark but still relatively early (about 7 p.m.) I had cycled about 250k in about 13 hours and felt just fine.
Snowdrop ECE (and Back)
During the event(s) above, I was able to further test my new Brooks Cambium C17 saddle and my new PD - A600 pedals. Both worked great. My mini review is presented below.
The Brooks Cambium C17 saddle was largely awesome. Stunning looks and beautiful colour (natural). Very comfy and flexed just right. Some say a heavy price tag for a rubber saddle, though this saddle sells for double, not triple figures (about £78 from I actually preferred this saddle to my leather Brooks! The only negative I found was that the saddle squeaked a little. As the rubber flexed it sounded like the springs on an old bed mattress. All in all, a great saddle - my favourite to date!
My Shimano PD A600 pedals were great too. A nice light weight pedal that was a great move from Look back into the world of SPD. I found these pedals sat further away from the crank arms which was great as my overshoes would no longer rub. The platform helped (but did not completely alleviate) relieve pressure around the foot and helped eliminate 'hot foot'. The only negative was that the pedals were single sided (but so were my look pedals). These pedals weren't the cheapest, but a fraction of the price of Look Keo carbon SPD's.

Skipping didn't happen this week, but I managed to run on 2 occasions. My 2 runs were identical and I ran from Bournville along the towpath into work - about 6.5k. I have ran this route 3 times to date and each time it has taken me 33 minutes.

Finished the week with my usual to work and back cycle commute. Strangely, the towpath seemed shorter on my runs. How nice would my Genesis bike be with a Brooks saddle.....

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