Cycle 330km – The Dean Audax

Cycle 330km, inc. The Dean 310km audax (12h00, inc. 27min stopped), HR130(161), ascent 3100m

Oxford -> Stow __________ 44.3km (27.6km/h) __ HR133(158) asc. 445m
Stow -> Newent __________ 61.7km (28.5km/h) __ HR141(161) asc. 442m
Newent -> Chepstow ______ 49.3km (25.6km/h) __ HR134(158) asc. 709m
Chepstow -> Malmesbury __ 49.7km (27.1km/h) __ HR127(155) asc. 547m
Malmesbury -> Membury ___ 54.2km (25.8km/h) _ HR123(150) asc. 628m
Membury -> Oxford _______ 50.5km (27.4km/h) _ HR119(139) asc. 263m

Route: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/267258

My alarm went off at 5am, time for a quick cup of coffee and some toast. I got changed into my cycling gear and then I was off out the front door for a relaxed cycle to Peartree park-and-ride for the start of the event. Another rider caught me at the lights at the bottom of St Giles, and asked if I was riding The Dean. He’d come from Abingdon. We rode together up the Woodstock road, although he ruined my relaxed feel by half-wheeling me all the way there!

At the start I bumped into Andy W, who I used to share a house with many years ago. He was admiring my Solidlight dynamo light, and told me he’d wanted one himself, only to find out that the chap had stopped making them. I was surprised to find this out, but apparently he’s still providing backup for the ones he’s already sold. Good news, as I was thinking about a new cable and mounting bracket.

There was a slowish start to the ride (at two minutes past the hour), which suited me – I was not in a great mood for a long ride and feeling a bit tired from the recent weeks hard training. We had a good group leaving Oxford, and a tandem took up the pace-making early on, although once things got a bit hilly it dropped behind. I took my share of pace making, and soon enough we had just five or six riders left. We had a little shower here, but it was only annoying, and not worth stopping to put a jacket on for. On a sharp climb before Stow we split up – I was taking it easy and let the others forge on ahead, catching them again at the garage in Stow. “Bouncing” that control, I got ahead of the others and took a faster, flatter, but longer route to Bishops Cleeve, arriving in Newent in reasonable shape. Colin Bezant and a VC167 rider turned up just as I was leaving.

I found the hills through the Forest of Dean as testing as ever, and always seemed to get a car stuck behind me up the steepest, narrowest ones. I took it easy on the descent into Chepstow – a few drops of rain were falling on the newly-laid tarmac and it looked slippery. Rolling into the Tesco petrol station I was surprised to find the same VC167 rider already there, tucking into his sandwich lunch, without having overtaken me on the road! He introduced himself as Bob (I think?), and told me he’d taken a different route (the published route is “only advisory”, after all) via Taynton, a village he said that Dave (El Supremo) Hudson uses as a base for his 1000km event. I made a mental note to search for better routes to Chepstow later.

Just as I was leaving the garage, another rider from the early fast group rolled in, and simultaneously the heavens opened. Looking skywards, I could see that it was only a shower, so I pressed on uphill out of Chepstow. As I crossed the Severn Bridge it was bouncing down and I got soaked. I thought it’d ease up quickly, there was sunshine all around but where I was, but the prevailing wind was now with me and the cloud and I rode in that shower for half an hour. Even when it’d finally overtaken me I was still crossing the tail of it as the route criss-crossed Avon, eventually escaping the rain as I slowed for the climbs of Broad Town and Hackpen Hill. I was starting to feel a bit done in by this stage – my maximum heart rate on the very steepest climbs was down to about 150, always a sign of fatigue – but realised I’d not had any caffeine since leaving home, so at Membury Services I got myself a coke and perked up a little bit after that. My racing saddle was also starting to get a bit uncomfortable – I’m not used to such long hours on the bike yet, and maybe I need to dig out another saddle for these long efforts.

There was a fantastic fast desecent to Wantage, and then an easy last few miles through Appleton to Oxford and Peartree Services, where I collected my last receipt, texted Jules to let her know I was on my way and tootled home across town in the dusk.

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