11 March 2012

Ride report: Up the Uts 200km Audax

Yesterday we completed the Up the Uts 200km audax, only our second 200 ever and coming much earlier in the season than last year's. I have been anxiously anticipating this event ever since we signed up in January, knowing that if I could make it through comfortably then I could start to think about longer rides such as the Green and Yellow Fields 300 that we intend to ride in late April! The route consisted of three loops, two East of Ugley, and one West of it. They can be found by clicking on the links below:

Up the Uts stage 1 (108 km)
Up the Uts stage 2 (46 km)
Up the Uts stage 3 (49 km)

We were attracted to the ride because it was based out of the Comrades Cycling Club HQ, one of the famous 'Uts (Huts, but pronounced with an East London accent!) in Essex. The 'Uts are a group of bungalows belonging to different cycling clubs that have been around since the 50s, when the clubs were given land to build clubhouses on--the condition of the gift being that they could only be used for cycling clubs! We have been intrigued by this ever since hearing about it on a podcast of The Bike Show. We also thought, being Essex, that the route would be relatively flat, which it was, although not as flat as we imagined.

Comrades CC bungalow in background. Me looking weird in foreground.
At the start of the event we met up with Paul, a rider who had posted online looking for company on the ride as he didn't want to have to cycle alone in the dark (at our pace, the last hour and a half or so was ridden after sunset). We got our brevet cards stamped and enjoyed a hot drink inside the bungalow, and then headed out on the first 100km loop that would bring us back to the HQ, several info controls and a cafe control later.

Inside the club HQ
It was a really lovely day, with temperatures in the mid teens (upper 50s Fahrenheit) and patchy sunshine. We rode along the very quiet lanes of Essex and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. At the cafe control in Sisted we met Tom, the guy organizing the Green and Yellow Fields, so we're now very excited to do that ride! We fell in with these members of the Willesden Cycling Club for a little while, riding upright trikes:

Just before we reached the control at 109km into the ride I could feel the telltale hunger pangs and my first instinct was to push on as hard as possible to make it to the control and get some food... but I remembered from our previous 200 that you have to overcome the psychological tendency to treat each control as if it is the end of the ride -- if you sprint towards the end of each control you end up paying for it in the next stage! So I had some Haribo and kept an easy pace up -- we were back at HQ by about 2:00 and tucking into a bacon butty and warm apple pie with custard by about 2:05! I tell you there is something to be said about cyclists cooking for cyclists. The food was exactly what I needed, not to mention the outrageously cheap prices and the speed of service!

The cooks!
After lunch we headed back out into the lanes to do a 50km-ish loop. The field had gotten more spread out by then, and we only encountered a few other groups of cyclists out on the road. But we kept moving at a comfortable pace and before we knew it we were back at HQ again, having a quick snack from our own provisions and preparing for the night ride that we knew would come soon. We also had the disheartening experience of watching several riders finish the whole 200 while we were there resting, just 75% through. Those guys are machacas!

Los machacas riding the 200 (courtesy of PloddinPedro from YACF)
The last loop consisted mainly of B-roads rather than tiny lanes, which was probably good given the darkness. I think those roads are a bit faster, and the hills a bit gentler, which is exactly how you want it for the last stage of a 200. Although I could feel the miles in my legs, I had no trouble keeping up the pace we had set all day (a bit over 21kph) and could hardly believe it when we passed the final info control in Elsenham at 198km into the ride. Paul remarked that we were very close to finishing in under 11 hours, only for us to be stopped at the level crossing 500m up the road! After making it through that obstacle we sped back to the HQ and got our brevet cards stamped with exactly 11h! A big improvement from last year's 13:35.

Also on this ride I had the chance to try out my fancy new GPS, which Alberto says was necessary as a backup in case his ever fails, but I am starting to think was all part of his cunning plan of never having to wait for me at junctions again! I also rode for the first time with the handlebar bag that I won from Travelling Two before Christmas. More detailed reviews will follow after a few more rides but they both performed admirably over the 200km!

At the end of the ride with my new handlebar bag
All in all, a great ride, with a moving average of 21.2 kph and an overall average of 18.3 kph. I reached a max speed of 66kph which is a new record for me! Including our rides to and from the station we ended up with 235 km for the day.


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