Yesterday’s ride was my first audax (300km), which I completed with my friend Tzvetie! The route was a diamond shaped one starting from Tewkesbury and heading north east towards Evesham, then north west passing Worcester and then all the way to Tenbury Wells, then south west into Wales and the Usk valley, then south east and over River Severn and finally north east through Gloucester and back to Tewkesbury. A very nice route with beautiful views especially in Wales towards Brecon Beacons and though many wonderful picturesque villages. The elevation profile was not particularly hilly, it was mostly undulating with just a couple of long 4-5% hills which allow you to settle into a pace. A big thank you should go to Mark Rigby for organizing this beautiful event and for cooking food for us both at the start and finish!
Here are my thoughts about yesterday’s experience. There were checkpoints and stops roughly at three of the four corners of the diamond (north, west, south but not east as it was too early in the ride) which divided the ride into four parts. We did the first part at a conservative pace which was good for saving some energy and then started picking up the pace in the second part which was also the hardest one as there was a constant headwind and it was quite undulating (it was also the most scenic part). The only part of the ride that I felt my legs to be really tired and heavy was the first half of the third part (after the second stop) which again included some long drags, for example a 2 mile hill at 5% gradient which normally wouldn’t be that hard but after 120 miles of riding it felt very tough. Fortunately, after a quick stop at a convenience store close to Chepstow and a bit of refuelling, my legs felt a lot better and all the stiffness in the muscles disappeared. We were also very fortunate to catch up with three very nice fellow riders, who were happy to allow us to use their navigational skills (I was really worried about navigating through Gloucester as it looked quite complicated on the map) and so the five of us finished together quite comfortably.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a very hard ride mainly because of the sheer time on the saddle but at no point was I thinking that I needed to stop immediately, or that I couldn’t go on; I believe this was because of eating a lot on a very regular basis throughout the ride, and even eating a bit extra at the times that I felt that I was running low on energy. Moreover, I was generally comfortable on the bike and at the end of the ride I didn’t have any aches and pains on my back or neck, just the general tiredness and stiffness of my legs (and left hand due to gripping the handlebars like mad on a couple of off-road segments). I am very pleased about that and I am sure this is entirely due to the bike fit I did with Bike Dynamics last Wednesday. I only had some pain on my right ankle, probably due to the recent change in cleat positioning.
A lesson that I learned yesterday is to always bring lights in longer rides, even if you think you won’t need them. I fortunately did (although reluctantly) and I did use them for around 1 hour towards the end. Another lesson was that I may need a bigger saddle bag, especially if the weather requires currying a proper rain jacket. Yesterday I used an Ortlieb micro saddle bag which is a brilliant and very practical bag, but small for this kind of rides. I was lucky that the forecast (which was spot on) predicted just brief light showers so I survived with just my Rapha Gillet which doesn’t take much space. I really hope that the weather on the day of the challenge will be good, but you never know so a bigger saddle bag may be a necessary purchase.
Please don’t forget that all this is in preparation for the Rapha Manchester to London Challenge, which I am doing in support of Ambitious about Autism. I would be enormously grateful for any donations through my fundraising page!