I belong to Audax UK which is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling association in the UK.
AUK oversees the running of long-distance cycling events in the UK, and, using a system of timed checkpoints, validates and records every successful ride. There are many benefits of being involved with AUK. One of the main benefits for me is the inclusion in the AUK Awards structure. I am not interested in collecting the certificates, medals and badges but I do use the Awards as motivation.
I joined AUK in February 2013 and rode some local Calendar events as training for LEJOG. In June 2013 I had a look through the AAA website and identified 2 awards to chase. The first was AAARTY which involves riding an AAA event in any 12 consecutive months. AAA points are allocated to AUK events which are hilly enough at a rate of 1 point per thousand metres of climbing. Eligible events have a minimum amount of climb which varies with distance. I completed my 12th month in May. In doing so I also have 2 Quarter Century AAA awards and a triple AAA award.
The other award I decided to go for was RRTY or Randonneur Round the Year. This requires a ride of 200km or longer in any 12 consecutive months. I started this in July 2013. The rides in the winter months with poor weather and short days were very challenging. It took 3 attempts to manage the 200k in January. June was the 12th month and I have now completed RRTY.
I planned a 200km DIY validated by GPS. I decided I would try to get some AAA points by planning over 2800m of elevation which is the minimum amount of climb in a 200k route. Living in West Dorset there is no shortage of hills but it is possible to plan a route avoiding the worst of them. I planned my route to make sure I had enough of them.
I started out on a 200km on Monday but it rained and I was cold so a packed after 60km. The weather forecast for 5th June was better. The day before it rained a lot and I heard heavy rain overnight so I was pleasantly surprised to wake to a dry, bright morning.
I followed the Route of the Calendar Dorset Coast event as far as Raymonds Hill.
This is an especially scenic section of a scenic ride (scenic is an Audax euphemism for hilly) so a few hundred metres of climb were accumulated as I headed South back to the seaside at Seaton.
The last time I climbed out of Seaton over to Beer was when I was running the Grizzly in March. The climb out of Beer past the Caves is rewarded with lovely views before the very steep plunge down into Branscombe. I thought of the guys who had ridden up this hill towards the end of the Kernow 600 last weekend. Respect!
Branscombe is a lovely village nestled in a bowl close to sea level. The climb out towards the West is much more gentle than the descent from the East and I enjoyed the scenery and picturesque cottages.
Doreen’s Garden is open to the public if you like that sort of thing.
On the descent from Salcombe Regis I stopped to admire the view.
This also gave my rims an opportunity to cool down as this is one hill that I prefer to ride up rather than come down.
Sidmouth provided good opportunities for fuel in the way of a Spinach and Feta slice and an apple turnover. Suitably fortified I headed up Peak Hill which was a new one for me. It ranks as the 43rd hardest hill in Britain.
This puts it ahead of Dunkery Beacon and the Hardknott Pass according to difficulty. It is 1.5km long with 184m of climb. The average grade is 10.1% with a maximum of 20%. Maximum grade is contentious – but believe me – it was steep. There was a group of men at the top on their racing machines in matching lycra shaking hands at their achievement. And they had come up the easier way from Otterton!
The views to the West were superb but I was now concerned with getting going as the Garmin showed my average speed was under 15kph. I usually tick over around 20kph but the 1500m climb in the first 60km had taken its toll. Not to mention the significant headwind.
I headed off to Exmouth which was my next control and then headed North over Woodbury Common and all the way to Tiverton Parkway. I then followed the lovely Lowman Valley to Huntsman – such a beautiful lane to ride on a sunny afternoon. I got a bit lost in the loveliness of the Devon countryside and almost missed my next control at Bampton and had to double back a few kilometres. ( I had forgotten to bring the external battery pack for my Garmin 800 so I was conserving the battery by not displaying the map! It would be distressing if the battery packed in before the end of the ride – no GPS track – no validation).
The last time I rode from Bampton to Wiveliscombe was on May 11th in very different conditions.
On the Old Roads 300 it was cold wet and windy. Today it was quite splendid and I was making good progress. My average speed had gradually risen close to 18kph as I crossed into my third county of the day – Somerset.
The Spar at Wiveliscombe provided a sandwich and fluids and I continued riding strongly to Taunton. The Garmin was turned back on to map to negotiate my planned route through Taunton and soon I was heading South– into a stiff headwind – up to Staple Fitzpaine. The weather had clouded over but the Blackdown scenery was still splendid.
I had some respite from climbing until Ilminster, but there is a proper hill to climb before crossing the A30 and descending to Clapton. From here it’s tempting to think its all downhill back to the coast but of course it isn’t. There aren’t any ‘proper’ hills but the undulations continue and I know them all well as I cycle in this area a lot. I always enjoy the view from Bowood down across the Marshwood Vale to Charmouth.
As I sped down through Salway Ash I checked the Garmin and all was well with distance – already over 200km. Alas the elevation was showing 2786m – just under the required 2800m. So I did a detour on the way home to take in a couple of little ups to be sure of getting some AAA points! See what I mean about motivation!
I arrived home in good shape. It had been a successful ride. Later that evening I was too tired to take a walk to view the lovely sunset and was content to see it from the landing window!