By Roland Karthaus
Adam Vincent and I set off with 120 riders from Chalfont st Peter at 6am. It was a cold but beautiful start, rolling along country lanes – a few gentle climbs. There was a light tailwind and we did about 30kph till we hit the first control point at Woodstock social club. True audax style there was a full cooked breakfast awaiting. We stopped for 15 minutes before pushing on to the Cotswolds. The route was like a tour of the quaintsvilles – chocolate box villages one after another. slightly stiffer climbs until Tewkesbury free control – we had to collect a timed receipt from any shop. Greggs did the job for us with a quick cheese and bacon croissant. Next up was an info control – take note of the initials on a war memorial. Then we hit Yat’s rock – an absolutely brutal climb – I was wishing for a granny gear – inching my way up what seemed like an endless climb. Up until then I’d been feeling pretty comfortable but by now it was about 25 degrees and the climb really took it out of me.
We limped into the Tutshill control, with 215km done at about 2pm. Lunch was laid on and that sorted us out. I fixed a slow puncture and we set off again, crossing the Severn bridge around 3pm. The last control before the finish at Lambourn was 100k away and this was the toughest section – lumpy with some nice flat sections, but everything was aching by then. About halfway I had a second puncture, then a third. Only then did I realise my rim tape had slipped exposing the spoke holes which were causing the punctures. Useless lightweight rim tape – fortunately a passing rider had some electrical tape to cover the holes and I could sort it but that cost us an hour. All day it had been flawless weather and as the sun was dropping the light was stunningly beautiful. The route is an old audax route and was almost entirely backroads. We were struggling by now but ground on to Lambourn where another much needed meal was served. We set off on the final 90km at 9pm in the dark with big lights and batteries. The temperature had dropped dramatically, but there was barely any wind and a beautiful clear sky. A couple of stiff climbs then we descended into the Thames Valley and tapped out 30km in an hour up to a small climb back into Chalfont. We were stamped in at 12.59 am – about 1 hour after our target time but I put that down to punctures.
Audaxers are insistent that it’s not a race – there’s a maximum time of 27 hours but mainly it’s about getting round and sharing the experience. Having said that we were somewhere in the top 30-40 out of 120. The fastest was about 14 hours – 5 hours faster than us. The network of volunteers who manned the controls and served food – all included in the 20 quid fee – really put sportives to shame and gave it a great sense of community.
So next up is a 600km audax – we’ll probably stop in the middle of that one but it’s totally achievable.