Sunday 12 August 2012

A Rough Diamond (300k audax)

Saturday saw me complete another 300k audax. This audax was named 'A Rough Diamond' and was a Black Sheep Event. This was the fourth running of this event (but the first time I had participated) and as the name suggests, the route was roughly diamond shaped. The route is presented below.
The event did not score any AAA (or 'hilly') points but contained a few lumps none-the-less. A chart demonstrating the 'lumps' is presented below.
The event started in Tewkesbury. About 40 cyclists met at the start point and the event organiser 'Mark Rigby', was to complete this audax too. We set off, after eating some banana's, at 6 a.m. I had already eaten some Weetabix and felt suitably fuelled up. It was warm at this silly hour but the sun was struggling to shine bright as there was a thick haze all around. Up until the first information control, we cycled as a large peleton. I knew a number of faces from previous audax adventures, though there was a number of new faces here too. Bikey Mikey (a well known audax figure) was cycling this event, I had seen him just 2 weeks back on the '3Coasts 600'. Amongst the new faces was this chap from Canada. Mr Canada was quite alarmed to see a rabbit run across the road, and then commented in Canada that they have to look out for moose, elk and bears! Lovely country lanes were followed to information control and continued through Pershore, Wadborough and continued to Worcester.

Worcester proved interesting, I didn't expect the route to pass through here. Better yet, the route went over the 'space bridge' that SJ and I (sometimes Cody too) used to run for SJ's marathon training. My thoughts were with SJ the whole time I was in Worcester. SJ used to live in Worcester and we had so many great dates here and, I digress ... Bikey Mikey became peleton leader in Worcester and took us through lots of cycle only places that I'm sure were not on our route sheet instructions. After passing through a number of alleys and the like we were back on the road and headed towards Martley. From Martley followed a long section that led to Tenbury Wells. This long section was quite hilly - not a major steep hill but a long up-hill stretch all the same. Followed by some super swift descents! Before too long I had reached the first 'proper' control - Burford Garden Centre.

I wanted my staple audax diet at this control - beans on toast, but there wasn't any! I settled for scrambled eggs on toast (and I ate some fruit loaf earlier when we were stopped at a railway crossing). This was washed down with a cup of tea. Mark Rigby (aka Mr BlackSheep) came in after me and looked a bit worse for wear. This was to be Mark's 10th SR series and am pleased to inform he has become an Ultra SR!

Left Burford control with a chap called Paul. Paul was a great guy and I cycled with him for remainder of event. Paul had cycled this route before as a solo effort, raising money for a child with cancer. Monies raised by Paul were put to good effect and the child had the treatments necessary. The weather was hotting up during this stage and the route was very pretty. Fantastic scenery, was good to marvel at God's creation. We passed through Shobdon, Lyonshall and Eardisley and then I recognised where we were - on route to Hay. Another chap 'Eddie', a young medic had joined us on this section and said he was going to cycle to Cardiff immediately after event. Once in Hay we passed over a toll bridge (having to pay 10p), Eddie paying my fare.
Very pretty bridge crossed over a beautiful river and we continued on our way to Llanigon, Talgarth and eventually Talybont-on-Usk. The control we stopped at was the White Hart pub. I had stopped here on a previous audax and remember trying to dry gloves and socks on the open fire as the heavens had opened big time. The weather now was superb, a truly awesome summer day. Camel burgers were on the menu but opted for a chili con carne dish with rice and poppadom instead. Spicy but tasty and washed down with a coke. After fuelling up, Paul, Eddie and I were off.
Eddie had stopped almost straight away and said he was going to fix a puncture. He admitted he was struggling earlier (gone out too fast) and this didn't surprise me as he was carrying a type of ruck sack. Eddie didn't want us to stop, so on we went. We never saw Eddie again - I wonder if he packed and went to Cardiff from here rather than finishing event? This stage was 100k long and was initially quite difficult. We cycled to Abergavenny and being in Wales, hills were expected. We had a long slow climb up to this lines of trees in the distance. We passed through this tree line, the trees provided a nice cool shadow from the sun and then whoosh - we were going down-hill! A super descent that just licked the miles away. After licking away 40 or so K, we decided to stop (100k without a break in hot weather was just too much). We stopped at a local Spa store where I purchased 2 bottles of Drench and much chocolate. I took this opportunity to apply more sun-block too, which SJ had gotten me.
Then we were off once more and headed to Chepstow then passed over one of my favourite bridges - the Severn Bridge (or Old Severn Bridge). Have cycled over this bridge many times during LEJOG and audax events. Paul informed that this bridge doesn't actually pass over the Severn and said it passed over the River Wye.
Once over the bridge we followed lovely lanes that passed through Littleton and Kington and led to a place called Hill. I was expecting a hill in Hill, but there was no real ascent. Neither did we find any ham in Ham. Spotted a few berks in Berkely however! Reached the control, a cafe, and it was closed. No bother, we went to the pub opposite. I forget the name of the pub, but they served me a lovely bowl of soup within no time. Delicious!
Two other cyclists joined us for the final leg - Nigel and some other guy whose name I never got. This section involved a bit of cross country as we had to navigate a stretch of towpath up until Splatt Bridge (what an awesome name). Back on the road and we were down to three, 'other guy' was missing. We followed yet more lovely roads that passed through Frampton-on-Severn and then we had to navigate more towpath again. These towpaths made for a rough ride but were safely navigated up until the towpath closure. This closure was unexpected and now we had to rely on Paul's local knowledge. As if by magic, Mr Other Guy popped up (he had taken diversions to avoid towpath). Mr Other Guy provided the lead we needed to get back on track and we followed him until we saw signs for Tewkesbury. Once on the A38, Nigel appeared to kick into action and sped along at quite a pace. I was grateful for this long, speedy pull. After a while, I took to the front and with renewed motivation myself sped along at quite a pace, pulling Nigel and Paul. Am not sure what happened to Mr Other guy. We reached the arrivee in good time (less than 15 hours) and it was still light! What a fantastic ride and a great day out. The arrivee was Mark Rigby's abode and his wife, Mrs BlackSheep provided us with tea, toast and beans. Perfect ending to a great day!

Cycled a total of 202.02 k (187 miles), at an average speed of 24.2 kph (15 mph) and a maximum speed of 64.2 kph (39.9 mph).

Weekly totals: Cycled 313 miles.


  1. Impressive...that you make 300k sound so easy!
    I'm happy with about 100k...well done mate!

  2. Great write up.I did the permanent version on my own last year.took me over 18 hours.
    ps old Severn Bridge crosses both Wye and Severn rivers.


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