Windsor Chester Windsor - 600 AUDAX BRM - AUG 2014 - (a very strange affair)

My long distance cycling buddy
It was privilege to be part of this ride, which historically was Britain's first ever 600k event held in 1976 allowing British riders to qualify for entry into the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris 1200k,event.
The route had been modified from the original to avoid main roads that have now become too hazardous for cyclists. With controls placed at Eynsham, Chipping Campden, Belbroughton, Muxton, Chester, Upton Magna, and Chalgrove the route took in the very best of rural Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Cheshire.
Although I've become reasonably comfortable in completing 300km rides, I purposefully avoiding any sort of training beyond 300km.  So it was a true adventure in the sense that as I set off from Windsor with the other 70 odd riders, I was not entirely certain if the outcome would be a success.
The outbound 300km to Chester was a blast, aware of all of the pitfalls that can scupper a long ride, I arrived at the control in reasonable shape.  At one point during the final run towards Chester I thought that maybe I was more tired than I felt when I shouted "frogs!" for the group to avoid a mass amphibious road crossing.  It was later confirmed that I wasn't hallucinating and that there was indeed a nocturnal frog road crossing activity.  However to later find this photograph of me asleep in the Chester control with other riders and a teddy bear does confirm the fact that night riding can be a very strange affair indeed.
a very strange affair...
After an hours sleep at Chester I ventured out in the early hours to press on to Upton Magna where the main "sleeping control" was based.  Like all the controls along the route Upton Magna was manned by a team of unpaid volunteers saints who cared for the riders every need.  Along with endless supplies of hot home made food there are also "hot" beds which are allocated with supreme efficiency with one rider in, one rider out, with a predetermined wake up call.  I still had time on the meter when I woke at early dawn to the strangely comforting chorus of snores, farts and general delirium of mad cyclists.

Getting back on the bike was not as nearly as painful as I'd expected, but exactly as I had expected it began to rain in biblical proportions.  My extravagance earlier in the year in buying the best in full waterproofs was now justified and I couldn't help feeling a hint of smugness sympathetic when I witnessed those who were experiencing the misery of the incredible abrasive properties of wet lycra on a wet leather saddle.

The final stages back to Windsor were a slog, but the rain stopped for long enough to pack the goretex away and the AUK gods took more pity and provided an astonishing tailwind up and over the Cotswolds into the familiar terrain of South Oxfordshire.  My back tyre had become prolapsed following a reckless descent on a rutted road and was the only thing that threatened to prevent me from finishing within the 40 hour time limit.  A fellow rider at Chalgrove, had given me his tyre repair boot in a typical act of selfless Audax generosity, but by now my arms felt they had lost the strength to effect any sort of repair, so I offered a quick prayer to Saint Vittoria and promised that I would forever buy her tyres, if only this one did not let me down.  And it didn't.
Arrivée at Chester - 38hrs 20 mins





With sincere thanks to Keith Harrison and Sue Gatehouse for organising this ride, all of the "saints", all fellow riders and Audax UK
The Route - Click here for more detail