Upper Thames Audax 2015

November 8, 2015

A very wet and windy edition for the 2015 Upper Thames Audax.

We rolled out at 7:30 and almost immediately the drizzle started. I found I was quickly overtaken by most of the field on the first leg down to the info control at Dunsden Green. No doubt everybody was feeling perky and enjoying the tailwind. I figured I’d hold back a bit as the long stretch west would be tough into the wind. The rain had picked up and there was tons of debris on the lanes. Just when I was thinking that I hadn’t passed too many people fixing punctures, I heard pfft, pfft, ppft coming from from my front wheel. Typical.

The climb up to the Christmas Common info control was uneventful but we had to make a detour around Little Milton. Apparently a driver had taken down a light pole so the road was closed. At around this point the rain became so heavy that it caused my Garmin screen to lock. Lucky I was on the map page as I couldn’t scroll left or right. Being stuck on an info page would’ve been less than useful. I was completely drenched by the time I got to the first control at Waterperry Gardens but was still warm so didn’t feel too uncomfortable. Other riders looked very miserable as they shivered in the car park, soaked through.

We started to feel the effects of the headwind when we turned north west at the next info control but it was only when we headed west after Bicester that it got really tough. The rain was heavy and the windy was gusty so I just put my head down and ground into it, being careful not to push too much over my threshold. This strategy seemed to work as I wound in a few riders and quite quickly found myself at the control in Chipping Norton. The rain had stopped but the run south from there was just as tough as we were now heading straight into the wind. At times I needed the 34×28 just to get up some fairly minor bumps. Again, I just put my head down and ground it out. Probably, at this point, holding back in the first leg began to pay dividends as I could stay up around my threshold and keep pushing into the wind. The last info control was a relief as we turned east and could finally enjoy a tailwind for the 30 km run in to the finish.

My stats for the day:

  • 216 km
  • 9:12 moving time
  • 1,756 metres elevation gain
  • 203 watts normalised power

I’m a bit sceptical as to how accurate the power reading is as my Stages meter was having trouble in the rain. At times it was registering nothing and at others it said I was pushing over 10,000 watts. My 5 second second peak for this ride was apparently 2,415 watts. If only it had come down to sprint!

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Upper Thames Audax

November 2, 2014

My third successive year riding this event and my slowest so far. Started at 7:30 and finished at 17:00, so not a bad overall time but only 35 mins of this was spent stopped. Barely enough time to grab a ham and cheese sandwich in Bicester and cup of coffee in Bampton (I bounced both controls).

Lots of punctures, particularly early in the ride but my Continental Grand Prix GTs were excellent, as ever. I’ll switch to Four Seasons soon but not sure whether to switch back to GTs or 4000s IIs next spring. The GTs are super reliable but the 4000s IIs are supposed to be faster.

The weather was unusually excellent during the ride with no rain, a temp around 13ºC and only a moderate headwind on the westerly and southerly legs. It has been far worse in the past.

I’m experimenting with eating non-energy products during my rides in preparation for PBP and found Soreen Malt Loaf and Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts to be excellent. My slowness was almost certainly not due to switching to “real food” but rather two weeks of next to no riding and a summer of barely any intensity work. Carrying enough energy food isn’t an option for PBP so I’m going to have to get used to eating only what I can buy at controls and convenience stores along the route. Any tips?

My first structured block of training since March starts next week. The plan is to do tempo intervals (2 x 20min) on Tuesdays, aerobic threshold intervals (2 x 30min) on Thursdays, 90min recovery rides on Wednesdays and Fridays and end the week with a four to six hour endurance ride on Saturdays.

Next event: South Bucks Winter Warmer on Dec 6

Ride stats

  • 212km with 1,550m elation gain (7.3m/km)
  • 8:54 moving time (23.8 km/h)
  • 9:30 total time

Some excellent pictures by Andy Oxon on Flickr here.

Bordeaux-Paris 2014

February 19, 2013

Bordeaux-Paris 2014

First held in 1891, Bordeaux-Paris was one of the longest professional bike races, covering around 560 km (350 miles) – more than twice most one-day races. The last professional edition was held in 1988 but in May 2014, the event is being resurrected as a 600 km (370 mile) sportive.

There is next to no detail on the event’s site (yet) but I’ve been able to dig up a little info from various sources online:

  • Starts on Friday, May 30 next year, from downtown Bordeaux
  • First 15-20 km will be neutralised
  • Groups will then form as riders of similar speeds stick together
  • Around 100 motorcycles will protect the groups
  • The will be five controls (every 100-ish kms)
  • Elevation gain will be 4,000-4,500 m
  • Finish will be south of Paris
  • Entries will open May 2013
  • Cost is expected to be €100-200
  • Will need a medical certificate

Three categories

  • Less than 26 hours
  • Less than 36 hours
  • Less than 60 hours

Features

  • 1,500 cyclists (50% foreign)
  • Live GPS tracking
  • Fixed and mobile security
  • Transport to Bordeaux
  • Accommodation packages
  • Mechanical assistance
  • Five controls

This will probably be my first 600 so I figure it will be safer to enter the 36-hour category and plan for a short pre-dawn nap. The training for a 600 is supposed to be fairly similar to that for a 200, at least according to Burke and Pavelka’s Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling, so should be perfectly manageable. I guess this event will also be a major stepping stone towards my first Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015…

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The ride started at Little Kimble, Buckinghamshire, went south to Whitchurch in Hampshire, across to Alton and then back up the start via Henley-on-Thames. The route was mostly on fairly quite lanes with a few sections on main roads but they weren’t too busy. The only exception was the A321 into and the A4155 out of Henley-on-Thames where the drivers were particularly impatient. This section wasn’t originally part of the main route but had to be added due to road closures following the recent flooding.

There wasn’t much ice in the lanes but we were extra careful on downhills and shady corners. After all, it only takes one patch to ruin a ride. A couple of the lanes were a little slushy in places and the private lane to Blounce House was very muddy but nothing too troubling.

As you can see for the elevation profile above, it was a little lumpy but total elevation gain was only around 1,600 metres so not too taxing.

There were six controls in total, three “proof of passage” and three info. We spent far too long at the first two controls and, when combined with three puncture stops and numerous pee stops, it meant the last ninety-ish minutes were ridden after sunset – not ideal. We made it back the finish with only ten minutes before the hourly train back towards London so raced off rather than stay and enjoy some of the warm food and drinks provided by the organiser. This is why I love Audax rides and it was a shame to pass it up. Next year…

Full ride details on Strava here.

It was quite a chilly ride with the temperature averaging only 3° but good clothing choices meant I was perfectly comfortable. Seeing as you asked, I had a pair of lightweight merino wool glove liners under SealSkinz All Weather Cycle Gloves so my hands were fine. Perhaps what helped was that my core was kept warm by a sleeveless Under Armour synthetic base, a long sleeved Helly Hansen merino base, a Windtex winter jacket and a windproof gilet. My feet were in DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks and Northwave winter boots and I had a wool hat from Prendas on under my helmet and a buff protecting my neck. Legs were fine with regular Santini bib shorts and a pair of Pearl Izumi tights.

That’s it for organised rides for this year. I’m planning to ride the Willy Warmer on Jan 19 so it will be back to regular Saturday club rides and the infinite fun that is indoor roller and turbo sessions until then.

Upper Thames Audax

November 5, 2012

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What a stunning day for a ride. Three of us from the club braved the cold and had an excellent, if exhausting, spin around the route. We saw some wonderful countryside, went past a few magnificent houses and got home in a fairly reasonable time.

Ride stats on Strava here.