Jim made his own way to Poynton for the 9 o’clock start to this 400k ride. Syd picked me up at 7.30 and off we went on a beautiful morning. On arrival we prepped our bikes, picked up our Brevet cards and with Jim, went for a pre-ride coffee. As we sat in the sun and relaxed Jim fiddled with his chain doing his usual pre-ride mechanics (Was this an omen?). Time for the grand depart, sixty riders took to the streets of Poynton. Bugger! We hadn’t finished our teas and coffees – Mad dash and last on the road again! No thoughts about the turn-around in Holyhead just the pleasure of a decent day and the ride ahead. Somewhere in my head I opted to think of the outward leg as a ride to the start of a Holyhead event. Don’t ask why I haven’t a clue.
Syd, Jim and I were joined by Pete Hammond, on his 72” fixed wheel (Obviously models himself on Dave Fearon), Dave Jackson, on his trike and a few other riders. We made good time through the lanes and there was plenty of banter – Audaxers are a daft but friendly lot. Through Davenham and Hartford ( Even though I hadn’t allowed Syd to forget my helmet this time) to the first control at Shotton – it always seems strange driving thirty-odd miles early in the morning only to ride past where you live. Jim was having trouble with chain slippage on some of the slight ramps so he only had the big chain ring. When we started up Bag Lane there was a quite a clunk and Jim shouted “I’ll see you at later,” he had snapped his chain. When we reached the top, the other riders carried on, we waited. After several minutes, Syd decided to go back down to see if he could help only to see Jim grinding his way up.
We pressed on at a fair pace and caught our companions – just before the Greenway and first control. Most of the ride along the Greenway was incident free. Then I decided to make my claim for the Wobbly Wheel! I was distracted momentarily and caught my bars on the metal frame of one of those squeeze type barriers. This threw me to the right, I fell heavily on my back and arse and was winded. Jim being nearly first aid trained applied pressure on my lungs to ensure I didn’t get up to soon. Only problem being I could hardly breathe! As I lay on my side my fellow riders held up score cards after first showing some concern. If you don’t ride them you can’t fall off. A few minutes to recover, with several slices of Battenburg, a brew and banana, we moved on.
We didn’t stop in Shotton but pushed on to St Asaph. There was a brief struggle through the bank holiday traffic, especially Dave on his trike. However, a couple of turns and we were back in cycling country. This is where we met our first ‘proper’ climb, Halkyn mountain. It was a bit ‘iffy’ in places, particularly where it steepened and was still damp, causing rear wheels to spin. Here, “Fixie” Pete and Jim found the going tough. Jim’s chain gave him plenty of trouble, which must have been irritating to say the least, and Pete is more easily persuaded to use Shanks’s Pony than the legendary Fearon.
We “dined” at St Asaph on the usual cyclist fayre. Syd might dispute this as he had cold beans, a summer delicacy in Wales I believe. From St Asaph, we pressed on through Abergele to Rhos-on-Sea. On our way out of town Becky, a young female rider with Macclesfield Wheelers, joined us. This is how it is on Audax rides. There’s fluidity in the way riders meet and ride with each other. Quite a bit of this leg was on cycle paths along the sea front. The crowds of people making the most of the sunshine slowed our progress and probably thought we were a bunch of nutters.
Through Conwy and our second climb, the Synchnant Pass. Again, we each tackled the climb in our own way. Jim really had a rough time climbing this one stuck in a bigger gear than Pete. Must say ‘Chapeau to Jim’, I’m sure none of us would relish such a climb on the ‘big’ ring. We regrouped at the top and took a moment to recover and take in the absolutely stunning views of Snowdonia and coast. The descent of the pass was magical – high speed with panoramic views. What more could a cyclist want?
We travelled through Bangor to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, passing over the Pont Britannia Bridge. We were in need of a quick stop for a drink and the loo so decided to pull into a garage. As it happened, there were a couple of riders up the road, Jim had gone into time trialling mode and was in pursuit. As we turned in, Jim was several hundred metres ahead of us and unfortunately, couldn’t hear our shouts. This was last we saw of him except for brief exchange as we sat outside eating a chip supper at 8.30pm in Valley. Jim decided to go alone, we wished him a safe trip.
Re-fuelled and Brevet signed, we set off on our return, or in my mind the 200 I had ridden to the start of. In Llanfair PG we lit up and put on our night attire ( layers and relective not PJs). From here, and most of the way back, I would have been Syd’s shadow but there was no daylight so it can’t count! We approached the old Menai Bridge, resplendent in its floodlights as was Conway Castle later. We left the island to the sound of a fireworks display. Becky suggested that this was because Pete Hammond was leaving Anglesey – if you’d met Pete you’d laugh too. It wasn’t easy on the cycleways in the dark. The first one was narrow, had twists, turns, lumps, bumps and a covering of rim deep sand which brought Becky to an abrupt halt. Pete had a minor mishap when he rode into a gateway as opposed to the right-hand turn – no damage done but instead, more giggling. Syd commented how riding these sections in the dark was a bit disorientating. Approaching Conwy Becky said she felt a bit wobbly. Shortly after, she bumped into the wall of one of the ninety-degree bends. Thankfully, she was OK but again it highlights the different aspects of night riding. We pressed towards Abergele, only stopping half-way up a sharp drag when Pete said he was getting the bonk. You wouldn’t believe how the thought of a 24 hour Mc Donald’s keeps you going. At 2:30am we were too early for breakfast! I wanted pancakes but had to settle for a chicken wrap. Sorry Woody didn’t realise that I could get the forum at McD’s otherwise I would have replied.
Next leg was mind numbing even for an experienced empty boxer like me, long stretches, often straight and cold for May. Temps dropped to 0.5°C. The point where I knew the ride was in the bag but wasn’t finished, always a bit of a downer. However, the dawn chorus and atmospheric mist hanging over, and by, water were good for the soul as was the feeling of nearing familiar territory. It was daylight when we arrived at Hapsford. This was a longer comfort break and some of us took the opportunity for a ‘power’ nap. It’s something else watching Audax riders. One minute snoring like the proverbial troopers and the next ready to roll, causing novices Becky and Syd to panic.
The last leg went through Helsby, Frodsham, over the hills of Sutton Weaver, Preston Brook, Appleton and Ashley on our way to Wilmslow. By now there were a few tired legs and wilting cyclist on the road but the energy still flowed, buoyed by the on-coming feeling of accomplishment and another challenge overcome. At the finish we handed over our completed cards, congratulated each other, exchanged a bit more lively banter over a last cup of coffee together and recalled some of our humorous moments.
We heard Jim had well and truly whooped us on the time front and were pleased to hear he had managed to complete the challenge, a monster feat given his limited gear selection, and a ride in the true spirit of audax.
He might have a few words to add
I’d like to say that Syd and I had a quiet drive home but Syd didn’t stop talking and I couldn’t stop snoring.