Monday 10 September 2012

Mr Pickwick goes to Hay in a day (206k audax, Sept 2012)

Saturday saw me complete the 'Mr Pickwick goes to Hay in a day' audax. This was the 4th year running of this event, but the second time I had entered and completed it. Ron and I completed this event during 2010 in beautiful weather and our faces were printed in Arrivee magazine. This year, I cycled with Ron again and we took Chris Hodge out for the day too.

The route can be seen on the map below. Basically the ride followed two large arcs - the one passing the South of Hereford, the other passing the North. Mostly lanes, minor roads and B roads were followed though there were a few menace A roads here and there.
No hilly (AAA) points were awarded on this ride. That's not to say this adventure wasn't hilly. There was a fair few ascents to battle (climbing nearly a total of 2,000 metres). The picture below shows the general profile.
27 cyclists took part on this epic adventure, the youngest of which being only 13 years old. Every cyclist finished within the time limit too - one rider finishing with just minutes to spare. Another rider, Aid Payne, was unable to start due to work and family commitments plus a major case of man flu. Let's hope this blog entry has made him feel a wee bit better.
Chris, Ron and I readied our cycles at the Council Offices car park. This took a little longer than usual as we had removed all wheels to enable us to fit said bikes in Ron's wagon. Once the bikes were set up we headed to the start, which was the Royal Hop Pole Pub, a few metres away.
The start was unusual in that most Black Sheep events start from the car park where we readied our bikes. Popular demand (apparently) caused the start place to be moved to the pub. Made little odds to me - at 8 a.m as planned, we were off. The start was cold and wet and misty. Visibility was very poor due to this thick layer of mist which stuck around for about 3 hours. I had originally planned to ride sleeveless as Michael Fish's buddy's had promised hot weather in the high 20's. The mist caused my glasses to steam up, my helmet to drip and my shorts to feel soggy. Normal pretty views were blocked from sight. I took a little comfort in watching the line of brightly coloured cycle tops follow one another. This bright line didn't last too long either - we were with Ron and he was eager to be at the front of the line. After cycling about 35 or so K, I was in familiar territory. I had cycled these same roads a few weeks back during other audax events. This was great news as I remembered zooming past a lovely quirky house before entering Hoarwithy - this time I was able to stop and take a photo!
After Hoarwithy came a short sharp ascent followed by a swift descent. The mist was still hanging about but I was able to spot the control at the 50k mark. I had safely navigated to the control! Ron had cycled past it because his GPS did not detail control points. Chris was ambivalent and had a general lack of faith in my navigating. We stopped and ate much carrot cake. Beans on toast was not an option, this was a Londis shop and not a cafe.

Stage 2 was a very easy to navigate stage that led to Hay-on-Wye. Essentially we just cycled straight crossing over one cross roads. I had cycled to Hay a few times recently and could have taken a more rural option. We followed the route sheet and made good time. Ron had made himself a captain and was forcing Chris and I to join with him and take turns to pull and tow. This pull-tow phenomena enabled us to zoom along at a speedy pace and cover much ground. At the last climb into Hay, Chris and I had reverted to chatting nonsense and watched Ron's competitive edge kick in and we saw him race a couple of others to the control point. I think Ron won, but I joked that he was beaten. We reached the control at 11:40 a.m, just 21 minutes after the control had opened. We stopped here, just for a breather really, and decided to carry on and stop for lunch in Bromyard.

Stage 3 was my favourite stage. This was the stage that led to Bromyard. The thick mist had vanished by now and we were cycling nice rural roads which offered great countryside views all around. It wasn't long before we encountered the infamous troll bridge in Whitney-on-Wye.
I have crossed this bridge on a few occasions before and each time have been harassed by a troll to pay the troll fee for continued passage. Contrary to popular belief, bridge trolls work a job share system. I have proof of this, as each time I cross said bridge, I pay the fare and take a sneaky photo of the troll. The troll working this shift was the nicest troll I had encountered to date. After Chris had paid the fare for us all to cross (10p each), the troll smiled for a photo and handed out rocks! How cool was that?! Not sure if we should take candy from a troll, but we did all the same.
After safely crossing the bridge we continued on our journey. We had big smiles on our faces and rock in our mouths. For safety reasons, Chris wanted to stop and inspect the rock we were eating (to ensure no foul play by the troll). The rock was lettered, it read 'Whitney-on-Wye Troll Bridge'. How cool was that?!
This candy provided us with the energy required to go searching for an old oak tree. Not that too much energy was required, mind you, the oak tree was huge. The oak tree was ancient and has been recorded in the Domesday Book. The event organiser (Mark Rigby) informed that 'even 1,000 years ago, the tree was recorded as being of considerable size, and considered an asset of the village'. With a keen eye, we spotted the tree.
We decided to stop here and inspect the tree. Ron had heard rumours about magic trees and pots of gold. There was no gold inside the tree, but there was plenty of room for us 3 cyclists (plus bikes I reckon).
Once inside the tree we kinda underwent some psychedelic type trip. I remember swirling, dancing and bright colours. And then, as if by magic, the tree spat Chris out and tried to swallow Ron and I.
Wow, what an experience that was. Chris was spat out. Ron was far out. Someone commented 'Tim, you're out of your tree', I replied 'that's not my tree man'. With us all together once more, we continued on our adventure. We were getting hungry now, no lunch inside yet and it was way past lunch time. Once we had seen signs for Bromyard we were real happy and knew a lunch was waiting for us there.

Bromyard was reached at about 2:50 p.m and as can be imagined we were all 'Hank Marvin'. Ron and I had stopped at the Flowerdew's cafe in 2010 and ate the World's Hottest Curry. We wanted to do the same today and coaxed Chris to try the same. A delicious curry was served and soon devoured but it lacked the hotness from previous servings. A look out of the window informed us it was time to go. Bromyard had been taken over by lots of weird, wonderful, strange and peculiar peoples. This included a bunch of Black Orcs, which everyone knows means trouble.
The final stage was the longest and stretched for 66k. Am pleased to inform that we cycled this stage without any mishap or menace, save Chris and Ron having to keep re-lubing their chains (we do not rate muc-off dry lube, however, muc-off wet lube has worked fine). We reached the arrivee in good time and before it had started to get real dark. We clocked into the arrivee, the Royal Hop Pole pub at 6:44 p.m, woo hoo, job done! We completed these epic 206 kilometres in 10 hours and 44 minutes. We then ate and drank to excess and recounted our experiences...

Weekly totals: Cycled 263 miles.

1 comment:

  1. Great 'trip' by the sound of it...that tree certainly sounds 'mystical'


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