London Oxford London 200k Audax - 13th March
London Oxford London 200k Audax - 13th March
19 Mar 16
Sam Lipscombe reports on an epic day.
"Getting out the door in Ware at 5am in the darkness my other senses seemed heightened. Able to feel forecast predictions were correct for this time of day, around 0 o C I set off confidently, knowing I had extra layers tucked in my trusty Carradice between food stashes – I had chosen ASDA flapjack and granola bars for the day. From the suburban yellow streetlights that had penetrated the morning dew I could see a layer of white frost had formed over my gloves, the biting chill causing me to cycle a much higher pace than planned on my cycle to the start of the Audax in Ruislip. Rendezvousing with Matthew Robinson en route via Hatfield - he felt the need of an even higher pace than I had set out on to overcome the deep chill.
Arriving at the planned time of 7.20am we got the ticket number for our pre booked cooked breakfast and checked in to get our brevet card whilst the food was prepared. Mopping up the last of the bean sauce with the provided toast (great food and service, 6.5/10) we were outside and on our bikes as close to the start time as possible to avoid the chill. At 8am we were off and for the first 10 miles there were the indecisions that seem to happen on all Audax between myself and Matt on whether to stay with the group we’re in or drop off and find our own pace. Eventually a large group sped off leaving me, Matt and another cyclist named John whom had completed the Horsepower 200km Audax the day before. Initially planning to go straight on after getting our card stamped at the first control, by the time 60km had passed the bacon baps the Chinnor control had on offer were too good to miss, so, after a bap with lots of brown sauce (good quality bacon 7/10) we were on the road again. Though still a light mist the scenery was lovely with the sun working hard to get through. Similar to the sun Matt also worked hard to get through, taking to the front of our trio heading through the flat countryside towards Oxford into a headwind, although drafting behind him I was getting out of breath which you don’t want to be doing for too long on an all day ride but I was feeling good so persevered.
Rolling into Oxford we threaded seamlessly through the bustle of the city’s high street, the bright sunlight reflecting the grand limestone buildings permeating the many layers of cycling kit mixing with the warm feeling of reaching the half way point. Agreeing just a quick meal was wanted, upon getting our brevet cards stamped we continued straight on until spotting a fish and chip shop. Stopping not long after the control at the Mediterranean Fish Bar, fish and chips were ordered all round and whilst waiting for the order I attempted to barter offering to solve a Rubic's cube sitting next to the till in exchange for a discount and, though lots of praise was given, the meals were bought at retail price (friendly service but long wait for food to be cooked 6/10). Easing off at a very agreeable pace stomachs level with our ambition we were at the next control in Didcot before any sort of cycling formation could develop. The receipt of a quick dessert for control proof eaten in the afternoon sun we were off again wearing the least amount of layers needed all day. Not looking at the elevation data beforehand, it was time to pass back through the Chilterns. In stark contrast to the route towards Oxford where, if you looked hard enough, you would think the countryside fields and sky above them went on forever in parallel what could be seen ahead of us was nothing but land with a small bit of bright sky on top resembling a pint of Guinness, only a lot less palatable with this many miles in the legs (Crowmarsh to Cookley Green). Mind resembling the dark body of the pint, lactate the bitter taste; reaching the top matched the creamy head in both brightness and feeling. Agreeing how the view of the rolling countryside would be even better than it already is if there wasn’t the slight mist, we progressed on using the accrued potential energy on the potholed descent as a short break in pedalling. Minds still recovering, legs that never will; we cycled past the next control having to double back. Seeking comfort food in a warm pasty hoping a bottle of Lucazade would fill everything that seemed empty a lot more time was spent at this control than needed. Eventually rolling again we never did ease back up to normal pace for the rest of the ride.
Too early to be getting dark the light was fading but not from sunset another dark mass was approaching. Leaving most of what I had left on the hill before, I knew this would be a challenge. Attempting to hit the hill (Chinnor Hill) with some momentum I was already in my easiest gear before it started kicking up. Withdrawing from the world there was nothing but myself the, pedals and a few feet of road. This is why I like cycling. When faced with an impossible task everything else failing (mainly my legs!) I can use my mind to overcome the situation. There is a memory during this climb in a brief lapse of concentration on my own challenge where I looked up the hill and could see Jon leaning over the bike clearly trying to put power into the pedals but completely stationary somehow just balancing there. Returning to the challenge shutting off all but the parts of my mind controlling my legs, I breached the top averaging 50 cadence and 5.1mph. On the home straight now with just 2 more info controls before the finish. Enthusiastically agreeing on the suggestion to stop and turn our lights on in the hope I would somehow feel better afterwards, the trio of myself, Matt and Jon rode into the evening. With the light also went the noise of civilisation, cycling though a peaceful closed off lane amongst trees of Burnham beeches. The transition was gradual but obvious from the rural country lanes into the urban streets of London. It seemed as though we were returning to the start in both time and space in the way the streets got busier the further into Sunday evening we were getting, returning to the start, where it all began.
Getting to the finish control at 8.15am we bid our goodbyes to Jon and after a pleasant chat with organiser Tim Sollesse headed back to Ware, a quick stop in MC Donlads in between arriving at my home at 11.50pm."