29 April 2012

Ride report: The Cheese Toastie 200 Audax

On the weekend after our France and Belgium cycle tour I had another early alarm...5:30 am and I found myself trying to get out of bed and catch a 6:40 am train out to Crawley, near Gatwick airport.

I had entered the Cheese Toastie a few days earlier, kind of unexpectedly. No more entries were available for the Elenydd ride in Wales. Lucy was away on holidays, so I thought I would sign up for another 200 km event to keep my fitness levels up . This event was also organised by "El Supremo", so plenty of food and support were to be expected. And not a particularly hilly ride this was, in theory.

Got to the start just after 7:45 am, where a few other machacas were getting ready for the off. 11 of us had registered for this ride, although only 10 started it. The route Dave had planned for us was as follows, split in four different stages of 75, 55, 50 and 25 km each approximately.

With fresh legs, the first leg went by very quickly. I joined a couple of Bromley-based riders shortly after the start, and rode with them for the remaining of the ride. Incidentally, I had ridden with one of them in our Veteran Car run to Brighton, back in November. This was good, as I always enjoy riding in company especially on long rides. Also, I was not quite sure that I had plotted the route correctly on the gps from the routesheet, as it sometimes it is not obvious to follow it on the screen (although, it really is once on the road!)

With Mike and Steve, the London riders, we made good progress on our way to Pyecombe, where we would finish stage 1. Earlier on we had one Info control, which are strategically located points to make sure that you do not cheat and shortcut the route. After that, we sped up towards Pyemcobe, where, on top of serving as a control, Dave was turning out cheese toasties (thus the name of the ride!) on his portable gas-oven. Other British delicacies were on offer, such as cheese and onion fritters, pork pies, and saussages. Knowing that I have a sensitive stomach, I opted for the cheese toastie and other sweet stuff. It still surprises me how good value this rides are, for £7.5 you get plenty of drink/food at three feeds. And Dave gets up at 3 am to get all this food ready for us. Hats off to him. Having discovered audaxes, I doubt I will ever enter another type of organised ride unless it is not for profit.The atmosphere was great, with plenty of riders doing the 100 km also on the day.

Cheese toasties feed stop, 75 km into the ride
Audaxes are also good to spot some good bike-porn. This time I saw a very interesting bike that at first thought it was a Moulton, but which then, with the help of other rider, decided that it was home-made.

Is it a Moulton or is it not?
Fed and hydrated, we set off along the bottom of the South Downs. Here the roads were beautiful but rather bumpy. We went past two of the famous climbs in the area: Ditchling Deacon and Devil's Dyke, which for the first time ever, I did not climb on the day. After this, some bits of busy roads followed. This is one of the disadvantages of riding someone else's routes.

We made good progress here as well, and I completed another 100 km in well under 4 hours, keeping up a moving average of >27 km/h. Everything was going great and I had good feelings. Midhurst was the next control, where we did the Audax thing and went for some garage food to obtain a receipt as proof of passage.

Forested areas in the vicinity of Midhurst
After Midhurst, we had another bit of main road, and then off again to the lanes. Towards the end of this leg I started to feel pretty knackered, and could not really keep up with the other guys. Although I suggested they go ahead, they decided to stick together, which I really appreciated. I am not sure what went wrong here. I had a sore knee pretty much all the way, which I believe it was due to the seatpost being higher than normal. After I adjusted it, it seemed to get a bit better, but the pain continued for the rest of the ride, although it was not too bad. Also, we kept an average that was a little above of what I am used to, which may have also had an impact after 150 km into the ride. And lastly, the food. I normally stuff my face with a hearty breakfast in the morning, and keep eating every 30-45 min. But today I had rushed it and did not get much food in. Also, I was feeling very hungry and the bananas and chocolates did not seem to calm that down. Despite the feed in Pyecombe (at 10:30 am!) I had not had any proper food in a while, and I was feeling it. Lesson learnt.

Luckily for me, the guys were in the front pretty much all the time, which made it easier to keep pedalling at a reasonable speed. Despite my bad feelings and hanger, I was still averaging over 25 km/h. But I truly needed some food.

One of the things I like about cycling in Britain is the cake eating culture. Cycling gives you "cake points". If you ride with Brits, they will always stop for cake and coffe somewhere during the ride. And so we did this time. Two cakes and a sugary coffee and we were off for the last, easiest stage.

Only 24 km separated us from the finish. I had recovered a bit, but Mike and Steve were still impossing a brisk pace which I sometimes struggled to follow. The roads were undulating all the way, but every single bump looked like a proper hill now. I used the granny ring a lot today, also because of the pain in the knee. In less than 1 hour we were back in Pease Pottage, where Dave and his helpers were waiting with yet more food and drink.

I had a great day out. The route was pretty good, although it would have been even better with less of the busy roads in Stage 2 and 3. Some other memories of the day:

  • Weather held up, not a single drop of rain, and reasonable temperatures. I much rather have 10C and clouds than 30C and sun like we had in some of the summer rides.
  • Plenty of dead animals on the road: rabbits, foxes, squirrels, badgers, even one owl. 
  • Great companions, Mike and Steve. Really like the camaraderie and friendlyness of these rides.
  • Interesting chats with the organiser and helpers upon arrival. They were all pretty experienced riders themselves and were only too happy to share their knowledge of the long-distance cycling culture. Adivice such as "if you go for a kip while riding, make sure you point your bike to the direction you need to keep going after you wake up". It seems that many riders go for a nap, then carry on riding in the opposite direction for miles. 
  • No stomach problems today, although knee was unhappy
  • My fastest ever 200 ride, in just over 9 hours including stops. 7h and 53 min moving average, despite my tiredness and funny knee. 
  • Forested areas in the South, really nice roads and feeling of remotness.
All in all, a very good ride with the usual super catering from "El Supremo". Other audax organisers charged you nearly the same amount and do not provide anything other than the brevet card, so I wonder how this happens?

Now looking forward to our Green & Yellow Fields this coming Friday, a ride with a midnight start and 300 km.

The stats were as shown below

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