I’ve caught the audax bug!

I recently joined Audax UK and now a whole world of obsession awaits me! I’ll never make a serious audaxer – I’m too fond of my sleep, but I’m hoping it will provide the motivation to try a few events further afield that I always mean to do but somehow never get round to. The trouble is I do rather suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder. I started off with the humble aim of a Brevet 500 – riding 5 100km events in one year. That is eminently doable, so much so that I’m already thinking of upgrading to the Brevet 1000 – 10 100k events. Then of course there is the minor matter of the Randonneur 500 award – 50k, 100k, 150k and 200k events in one year. Actually 200k is the big target. 100k events are really only for beginners, you can’t call yourself a proper audax rider, a randonneur, until you have ridden 200k. I’ve also sent for my Mileater diary – now I can be even more obsessive about how many miles I cycle in a year! The audax year began in October so last weekend I stuck my Audax sticker to my mudguard and set off on my first Audax Permanent Event ( or ‘perm’ to those in the know).

The Isle of Wight End to End is a 100k permanent Audax designed to be ridden from Yarmouth ferry terminal in the west to Bembridge at the eastern end and back. I started my ride from Godshill which is roughly in the middle and about 4 miles from home. If you have a GPS all you need do is submit your track to the organiser but I don’t (not yet! Xmas is coming, anyone got any views on an Etrex 20?) so I’m doing it the traditional way with a Brevet card and receipts. I do feel a bit of a plonker asking for a receipt for my 70p flapjack bar but I need it to confirm my start time. I tuck it away safely in a little plastic bag and head off towards Bembridge on muddy lanes. Its a beautiful sunny day but the north wind is almost gale force and its bitingly cold. My next control is the Lifeboat View cafe at Bembridge where I need to obtain another receipt and although its only 15 miles I wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea. I arrive at the seafront to find the wind blowing foam in my face and the cafe firmly closed. I take a couple of quick photos to confirm my arrival, abandon thoughts of tea and head for a nearby ATM to obtain another timed receipt.

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Bembridge Lifeboat Station

The route now turns north towards the chain ferry at East Cowes. I don’t particularly like this end of the island, its noticeably busier and the scenery is more suburban. I’m also heading directly into the wind and it feels as though I’m pedalling through porridge. I even stop a couple of times as I’m convinced my rear tyre is flat. It isn’t and I plod on arriving at the ferry slip just as the ramp is being lifted. This is a good excuse for tea and food so I settle down on a bench by the slipway only to jump up again hastily as a wave breaks over me! This is also an Information Control and I write down the necessary answer on my brevet card. The ferry runs a shuttle service so its not long until it clanks its way back again.

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Cowes chain ferry

On leaving Cowes my Audax credentials took a serious nose dive – I got lost! Following a route sheet on my home territory I got lost! In my defence I can only plead that I don’t often come to Cowes and that the route I was meant to follow was completely closed off with security fencing as they were replacing the gas main. I didn’t actually get lost, I just took a slightly longer route than I was meant to! The Cowes ferry always feels like the midpoint of an end to end or round the island ride. Actually its only about a third of the way but its the gateway to the much quieter and more scenic west of the island and always a psychological boost. For the first time in the ride I now had a tail wind and was flying towards Yarmouth but all changed when I got there as Yarmouth lies on the north coast and the wind was screaming in from the sea. It was quite scary, the wind was blowing me into the gutter but whenever a car passed it shielded me from the wind and I would bounce back out again! I visit another ATM to gain proof of passage, stuffing the receipt hastily into the bag in my pocket before it blows away. As I pass the marina the yachts’ rigging sounds like a demented version of the anvil chorus!

My next stop is the Needles Battery at the far western end of the island. Its a wild and windy spot at the best of times and I wouldn’t normally head up there on such a windy day. The car park is full of half term holiday makers and I weave my way amongst them, struggling not to be blown off the road on the final steep hairpins.

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I told you it was windy!

I hastily wrote down the answer to the Information Control before the nice long downhill stretch to Freshwater Bay and a welcome break in the shelter there. From now on it was all plain sailing along the southern coast which was fairly sheltered from the wind. I’d foolishly taken a flask but no water bottle and I made short work of the bottle of Lucozade Sport that I bought to get my final receipt on my return to Godshill. I have to admit that I found this ride very hard and my time was quite slow. When I did the Gridiron ride I felt that I could have happily carried on for another 20 miles or so to complete 200k. This time I didn’t want to carry on for another 20 yards! The ride I had just done is only the first half of the New Forest On and Off Shore 200k event in September. There was no way I could have done that today – my Randonneur ambitions will have to wait a while!