31 January 2012

Ride Report: Tea and Biscuits 100 audax

On Sunday, we rode our first audax of 2012 (and only our second audax ever!). It was the Tea and Biscuits 100, organized by Dave 'El Supremo' Hudson, the same organizer as our first audax, so we had an idea of what to expect.

Having ridden 100km last weekend I knew that I'd be physically capable of doing the distance, so I was just hoping to be able to complete it comfortably and without too much misery! Luckily, this proved to be an achievable goal.

We woke up before 6am to make our train out to Guildford and cycled though London in the dark. At the station in London we encountered a few other audaxers but many more drunk people waiting to get home from their nights out in London -- who seemed bewildered and bemused by our presence in lycra and hi-viz.

We reached the start point at Newlands Corner about 30 minutes before the start time, giving us plenty of time for a hot drink and some light breakfast. We marveled at how many other people could convince themselves to come out for a ride on a cold January day--it was 2 degrees at the start (36 F) and was forecasted to go up to about 5 (41 F). 115 people had signed up for the ride (entry only cost £1) but the organizers weren't sure how many would start. It seemed like quite a few though!

Brave souls ready to battle the cold!

At 9:00 we headed off, not in a mass start, but we ended up in a big group pretty quickly due to the traffic lights in Guildford town centre. Newlands Corner is at the top of a hill which meant an absolutely miserable freezing cold descent three times throughout the day (at the start, after we had looped back there for the halfway stop, and at the end of the day when we headed back to the train station), all of which came after we were thoroughly cooled off from standing around at the feed station. But thankfully that was pretty much the only miserable thing about the day.

The first half of the ride was a loop, with a checkpoint strategically placed in a pub parking lot. For this part of the route many of the riders were in a large, loosely formed group. It would break up a bit on the hills but then tend to re-form again. We tried to stick to other groups for most of the first half of the ride and were largely successful until some hills at the end. We were on bigger roads than Alberto and I normally ride on, but it was still rather early on a Sunday morning so the traffic wasn't too bad until our approach to Newlands Corner for the halfway stop. We arrived at the bottom of the aforementioned hill at about 11am, just in time for everyone who was headed to the Newlands Corner carpark to spend a day in the Surrey Hills. I had to take the hill pretty slowly, and the traffic was not particularly respectful. Still, we made it to the halfway stop without incident and in good time.

Newlands Corner is also popular with walkers and mountain bikers.

After a brief snack we decided to head out again before we got too cold. This would be a basic out-and-back route to Billingshurst, and we cycled most of it alone, the field having spread out quite a bit by then. After our second freezing descent of the day, we hit the hill heading out of Shere towards Ewhurst. The road was relatively quiet, which was lucky because I had to take it really slowly! It wasn't particularly steep, but just seemed to go on forever. This did give me a chance to practice getting out of the saddle and pedaling though, which is pretty much a prerequisite for me learning to get better at hills this year. The hard work was rewarded by a long, fun descent and also a spot of sunshine! We cycled on to Billingshurst where we had an information control (there is a specific question on the brevet card which can in theory only be answered if you have actually been to the place in question - such as identifying some information that is on a road sign there). After a quick banana we turned around to retrace our steps back to the finish at Newlands Corner.

A great sign we spotted en route.
I hate to say this, but it was such a great feeling to pass a large group of cyclists who were still headed in the direction of Billingshurst as we headed back to the finish. It meant that we (hopefully) would not be the last finishers, a big improvement over last year's 200 when we finished about 2 hours behind the rest of the field! The long, fun downhill turned into a pretty arduous uphill on the way back, and I had to stop and rest a few times, but eventually made it all the way up without walking. This was the route we took at the very end of our audax last time around, only everything looked so different in the daylight. I don't blame myself for having to walk up that hill after having cycled nearly 200km already back in September--it was tough!

Anyway, we again cycled up the final hill to Newlands Corner to get our brevet cards stamped one final time. I told Alberto to go ahead and get his card stamped when he reached the top -- he says he only beat me by about five minutes but we'll find out the truth when our brevet cards are returned! We only waited around for a few minutes at the finish in order to make the 2:59 train back to London.

All in all, a great January's day out on the bikes! We finished in about 5 hours 30 minutes (including stopping time), with a moving average of 21.4kph (around 13.5 mph). Our overall average was close to 20 kph -- we only had 30 minutes of stopping time, mainly due to it being so cold! Alberto reached a max speed of 57 kph and I reached 53 kph.

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