Whitchurch Winter Wind Down 100K Audax
I joined AUK last year with the idea that it would encourage me to do more rides on the mainland but it hasn't really worked out like that. Instead I've ended up riding round and round the Isle of Wight chasing AAA points on DIY round the island rides. A change of scene was definitely called for and so Dennis was persuaded that he would like a day out in the South Downs while I rode from Catherington, north of Portsmouth, to Whitchurch and back. An early start was called for to catch the 7.00 am ferry but with a fine day forecast I sent off my online entry just before the entry closed with 100 riders.
It was a chilly morning and after an even chillier descent I was glad of the first climb and a chance to warm up. I soon found myself in a group of half a dozen or so similarly paced riders as the route rose and fell along quiet lanes. The Information Control (to make sure no one took a short cut) came quite early on while everyone was still bunched together. It was the name of a cottage at a junction. The cottage was easy to spot but the name was not as the sign was propped against the fence. An elderly lady was looking anxiously from an upstairs window, doubtless wondering why her house was surrounded by cyclists all peering round searching for something!
I continued to ride with a group all the way to the half way control in the pub car park in Whitchurch. Both the pub and the nearby cafe served food but I had my trusty flask and sandwiches and was soon back on my bike. The riders in front were now much speedier than me whereas the ones who rode at my pace were still eating lunch so I had the roads to myself. I may be a miserable, anti social, so and so, but I much preferred this to riding in a group, I could look around and enjoy the scenery rather than having to concentrate on the wheel in front of me. And splendid scenery it was too! Hampshire is a pretty county and the villages we passed through could grace any chocolate box lid. There were watercress beds and clear chalk streams but the highlight was the beech woods on top of the downs which were resplendent in their golden autumn colours. I paused at the top of Old Winchester Hill to take in the view (and get my breath back!). Its not particularly high but it does have a commanding view over the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately I had given my camera to Dennis at the start so no photos. I thought it might be all downhill from here to the finish but, of course, Catherington is on a hill. I'd forgotten about that chilly descent that started the day, it was a lot warmer climbing back up it!
Back at the hall there was a fine spread of sandwiches and cakes that went down a treat. It had been a cracking ride on virtually traffic free roads – that is one of the pleasures of Audax, sharing someone else's favourite route. 'Chapeau' to Ann Marshall who rode on the back of a tandem as she had a broken arm, that's dedication for you!