Willy Warmer 208km audax

Cycle 208km. Willy Warmer audax (208km) __ HR138(162). total climb 1570m

208km: 8h07 (inc. 32 min stopped). climb 1570m

It’d been looking frosty and icy the last few mornings, but Friday had dawned dry (if cold) so I saw no reason not to ride this audax on Saturday. Chris Smith had agreed to come along, so it was good to have some company.

Driving to his house to pick Chris up (after I’d scraped the ice off the car), I was caught in  a brief snowstorm – very brief, it’s only a 5 minute drive! Not promising. However it seemed a fraction warmer in Chalfont St Giles. There were some regular faces at the village hall – Rocco gave me a big welcome, I’d not crossed paths with him in a couple of years, and Swarm_Catcher and Steve Abraham were present and correct. I wondered whether Steve had ridden overnight from Milton Keynes. [EDIT: yes, he had!]

We set off into a light drizzle, a bit of a theme for the first few hours, and I was wary of the road conditions and less than happy to push on so with Chris we sat into the Chris Beynon-led peloton until Marlow had passed where I felt more confident in the road and keen to press on. I had a slight miscalculation of the route on the way into and out of Henley, but we were soon through and heading to Pangbourne. We met a patch of ice or two around Cane End but it was nothing too bad, just enough to make us wary of our wheels. In Pangbourne I nipped into the Lou La Belle cafe to collect my sticker (Chris had paid for a route sheet but wasn’t too concerned about validation), and as I was struggling to get my gloves back on, the bunch we’d left behind in Marlow arrived.

I went through a bit of a bad patch on the way to Lambourne, although this might just have been a combination of the hills and the slight headwind we were facing at this point. Chris seemed to  be riding a bit easier than me though, especially up the hills – the “Berkshire Alps” (he’s about 61kg wringing wet, and his winter bike is a carbon fibre Trek with mudguards squeezed onto it). I just plodded on through and once we’d turned at Lambourne we picked up a bit of welcome tailwind. My front tyre went soft along here, so it was time for my 5th practice at changing a tube in the last fortnight. A tiny flint was the culprit. It was quickly fixed and we were soon on our way to the Tutti Pole Cafe. The controller here thankfully fitted Chris’s stereoypical audax profile, sporting a beard. It wasn’t someone I recognized.

The rest of the ride was fairly straightforward, save for the numerous potholes we had to avoid (and occasionally crash through). The GPS was a godsend with route decisions and apart from a slight lock-up on the way out of Hungerford, it behaved impeccably. After a nice tailwind run past Aldermarston there was a bit of sustained headwind on the way into Winnersh and I did a fair chunk of the work here, dragging Chris’s tiny frame behind me. Once we were into the twistier bit through Bray, past the Holyport Village Hall (HQ for the Python RT road race) and on to Gerrard’s Cross, things were more even again.

We rolled into the community centre arriveé a little after 3:30pm for tea and doughnuts, not my quickest time for a calendared 200k, but there were quite a few info controls and a puncture to delay us today. I was still very pleased with the ride, glad that we’d taken a bit of a chance on the weather, and much more comfortable in effort than the Poor Student 200k a few weeks back. Quite surprised to find later on my HRM that it’s not much less hillier that the Poor Student – the back end of this route feels pretty benign.