10 March 2013

Murphy's Law on the Shaftesbury Spring 200

We hadn't registered for the Shaftesbury Spring 200, but it had been in our heads as a good possible first 200 for me this year. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience on Up the Uts last year, and this ride was another one of those that starts from the cycling club bungalows in Saffron Walden and visits laney Essex at its best.

Come Friday night, I was still uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to ride it. The forecast was for rain and temperatures below 7C, I had had a long and somewhat stressful week at work, and we had lots of chores to do at home. I wasn't sure I was quite up for 200km in these circumstances, but since the ride loops back to the HQ after 100km Alberto tried to convince me that we could always pack after 100km. I remained unconvinced, I was exhausted, and I went to bed before Alberto had even finished prepping the bikes.

At 5:50am Alberto nudged me and asked me if I wanted to ride. I said no, but somehow a minute later I was out of bed and layering up in lycra ready for the ride.

It turned out that we had only ten minutes to get dressed and leave the house if were to make our train. We did the best we could, and were making good time until we took a wrong turn on the way to the station and ended up adding about five minutes onto our journey which we did not have to spare.

No matter, we bought tickets for the next train which would still get us there in okay time, just not much time to eat at the 'ut. We loaded our bikes onto the train only to be told that bikes were not allowed on this train. The train was empty and there was plenty of space for the bikes, but we were forced to remove our bikes from it and wait for the next one that would take bikes, which would mean getting to the start about 20 minutes after start time.

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We managed to set off about 30 minutes behind the rest of the pack, which we thought we had a chance of making up. It was mainly disappointing because we love the atmosphere of these audaxes and it was sad not to be a part of that.

So we set off trying to make up some time, until about 10km into the ride I got a flat tire. My first ever on an audax. The road conditions were not great (we had not heeded the organiser's warnings that skinny tires were not recommended!) but it turned out my flat was not to do with any sharp objects. It's possible there was too much air in the tires or else the tube was just very old, but either way there was a split in the tube.

We changed the tire but realised this was probably the end of our hopes of catching the peloton.

We carried on until the tea rooms at Stisted, where there were still plenty of riders having tea and cakes. We couldn't tell whether they were on the 200 like us or on the rides of shorter distances. We found another guy who had started even later than us and had managed to catch us just as we pulled into Stisted. Chatted with him over cakes and then rode with him a for  bit as we headed back to HQ, before his pace became too much for me (even though he was on fixed!).

Stisted Tea Rooms (photo from last year's Up the Uts when the skies were a bit friendlier!)
I was still feeling quite good at this point and mulled over the idea of doing the full 200, but as we pushed the pace a bit and as the hours added up, I started to question the wisdom of that. My feet had taken longer than normal to get to their frigid state (feet strategy today: thinner (polyester) winter socks, Sealskinz waterproof socks, and thin plasticy overshoes), but they were there now. I wasn't at my limit, but I could feel that I would reach it before another 100km were up. I told Alberto that I planned to head back to London after 100km but that he could carry on if he wanted.

We reached the HQ after 104km and enjoyed some of the yummiest, best value food I've had on an audax. As with last year's Up the Uts, there is something about cyclists cooking for cyclists that transforms the food into exactly what you didn't even know you needed.

We warmed up a bit and Alberto considered his options. Eventually we decided we just had too much to do in London so we headed back toghether to the station. I suppose Murphy's Law might be a bit extreme, but it certainly was not the most successful day we've had on the bike.

Still, it was great to get some kms in the legs as it is really time for me to start ramping up for another season of audaxes and touring. If only the weather would start to cooperate we'd be in business.


  1. Yes, a late start does take you out of a lot of the audax atmosphere - a shame. Good to meet you at the cafe - and sorry that you decided not to do the second half of the ride. There were some nice spots, and some really peaceful moments especially as dusk fell.

  2. Dusk is always my favourite time when doing long audaxes. It's all those glorious sunsets on two wheels that make audaxing very special (if not a bit foolish, sometimes!). Hopefully we'll get one of those on the Dean!

  3. I used to suffer from ice block feet whilst wearing cycle specific winter socks (woolie boolie c/w seal skins) and Specialised Defroster boots. But since I moved over to 5.10 Impact boots with my thermal trekking socks, I no longer suffer when the temperature is around freezing. Admittedly you cannot clip-in with 5.10’s but function over form is what I say in the winter – particularly on longer wet winter rides.