It has a route, a time limit, a start, and a finish, but it’s not a race or a sportive…what is it?
It's an Audax.
Since I started looking at longer and longer rides I have always had an eye on Audax as maybe not my main source of events, but definitely as a means of getting in some good long rides and exploring routes I would normally never have chance to ride.
The events are relatively low key on the whole attracting a hundred or so riders. There are bigger events like the London – Edinburgh – London and Paris – Brest – Paris, but on the whole it’s a more relaxed affair. The entry fees are modest, usually somewhere in the region of £5, which in this day and age of liability and blame which has driven other events fees through the roof to cover insurances, etc is a very small sum of money.
The principal is very simple: the routes are long distance which Audax UK classifies as generally over 200km. You navigate via route card or GPS. You visit controls, which may be someone part of the organization, to stamp your brevet card or simply purchasing a good and retaining a time stamped receipt from a specified town. And there are many awards to aim for in relation to distance of events ridden, cumulative distances, and cumulative climbing. It’s a beautifully simple system.
Audax is Latin for ‘bold’ and those that were among the riders at my first Audax experience could certainly be described as bold.
My first Audax was to be the 200km ride ‘When I'm 64’, so named as it was ridden on or near the birthday of race organizer Nigel Hall.
The start was the small village of Aldborough St John and registration, as I imagine is common amongst most Audax events, was conducted in the village hall. At registration, a quick look at the bikes outside and the riders inside I quickly made obvious the disparity between the people at this event and those at my more typical race-orientated affairs. There was very little form over function, people's attire and bikes were all very purposeful, and on the whole looked to have seen many an Audax mile.
The day's weather was best described as consistently poor. We rolled out at 8AM into rain and on the whole it would stay that way for the day. On occasion it stopped raining, but only as it was snowing!
I was amazed at the initial pace as we barreled along wet roads with everyone settling into the days ride and getting to know one another.
After only 16 miles I punctured and had to stop. I had been slightly off route with the front guys as they were avoiding poor condition back roads (minor detours are acceptable) so after fixing my puncture I was forced to cut back across on to the official route and allow my GPS to earn its keep.
I was only riding for another 12 miles or so before the first control. All the day's controls were ‘Free’ indicating no set control, simply purchase something and retain the receipt as proof you were there. In this case it was a Tesco filling station and I met up with riders from the Hambleton Road Club. Leaving the filling station I stayed with these riders and would do so for the rest of the day.
Having good company and conversation was the order of the day as the poor weather robbed us mostly of the magnificent views of this part of the country. Plus, having six wet riders storm a café on a Saturday lunchtime is slightly less embarrassing to the individual than venturing in on your own and being the only wet cyclist there.
As it turned out the guys I was riding with on the whole had ridden many Audax events so were an excellent source of info as to what to use and which events to ride.
I managed to take no photographs during the day so have to thank Paul John Manacourt for letting me use his images. I think the following shot captures the day: cold riders huddled outside a convenience store after collecting their control receipts around the halfway point.
.. and the Warbird taking a well-deserved rest on a railing
We finished the ride in the dark. It took near 12 hours start to finish but was a hugely enjoyable day and I left with a massive respect for these very tough, Audax riders.
I have decided to try and complete a Super Randonneur this year which is comprised of a 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km ride so the first one is down only three more to go!
Thanks again to Nigel Hall for this excellent event and the guys from Hambleton RC for the good company for the day.
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UK born and bred, Paul Errington came to riding bikes as a hobby, which soon evolved into an all-consuming passion. Riding fulfills a desire to challenge himself and explore adversity. An endurance bike rider above all else, the ever-progressive sport keeps him enthused. Every day on a bike is a good day. shoestring-racing.blogspot.com