Muswell Hill Peloton sent a reduced team of randonneurs to participate in the 2015 edition of the 206 kms Poor Student audax.
Wild Bill, Pistol, SavilleRowAlex, Admiral and The Wattmeister pitched up at Pear Tree car park, situated north of the A40 near Oxford, at 08:00 a.m 0n Saturday 3rd January. The teeming, icy rain was bound to make this a character building ride….just as it was the previous year.
After some nervous faffing around, 4 of the intrepid quintet set off 25 minutes after the main group of about 80 riders. Pistol and Alex immediately decided to make up for lost time, and so the concept of audax pursuit was initiated.
What with the rain, the surface water and the spray from eachother’s tyres, it was not long before our waterproof membranes were overworked and splattered with mud. A group of…how shall I say it?…younger men overtook us (even later starters)….briefly….before we united to form a speedy division, as well drilled as the Red Devils, only on bikes.
We zoomed through Finstock, Leafield and Shipton before the rise to Lyneham Ridge split the group. RE-forming on the descent, Charlton, Kingham, Evenlode and Addlestrop remained where they had always been, while we absorbed the beauty of their surrounding on our march to Chipping Campden, at 60 kms into the ride.
The long, steep climb out of Chipping should have warmed us up, but by the time we crested the summit en route to Temple Guiting, The Wattmeister could only wonder at how it was possible to cycle another 130 kms with fingers like blocks of ice. Pistol, Alex and Wild Bill were in the same boat, in fact, it was raining so hard a boat would have been apposite.
Pistol and Alex upped the pace, leaving The Wattmeister and Wild Bill to soldier on in quiet harmony through the Compton Abdale Alps and down the ancient Whiteway into Cirencester town. Miraculously, although the temperature reached its maximum of 3 degrees C at this point, some warmth and circulation had returned to TW’s frozen digits, which allowed for easier gear changes and even some braking.
By Malmesbury at 125 kms, Wild Bill and TW were committed to riding together to the finish. The route took in a couple of draggy climbs up to Blunsden and Highworth, but nothing too dramatic for the two Anciens.
After a swift(ish) final 40 kms, they arrived back at the start, or at the finish even, in a very respectable 9 hours and 32 minutes. Pistol and Alex had loitered in Malmesbury for afternoon tea, but stormed home over the final 80 kms and turned up 30 minutes after, and Admiral completed the 100% success rate a little time later.
Tough conditions, some testing climbs and plenty to challenge the aspiring randonneur.
A week later, in extremely blustery conditions, and top notch group of speedsters, average Functional Threshold Power 256.5 watts, assembled for the Regents Park Rocket Ride.
A brave choice of deep section wheels by The Lion King and The Wattmeister, gave the upper body and arms a surprisingly robust workout as they struggled to keep their Giant Propels upright. Doc, BigMig, Iron Mike, Pistol, DeL, Killer Kay and Wolf made up the peloton numbers.
The Lion King was unselfish on the front of the group, there was a distinct reluctance to take turns into the gusty westerly wind along the north edge of the Outer Circle. An injection of pace from a strong outside rider sealed the fate of some members of the squad as Muswell Hill Peloton fought to hold his wheel.
Approaching the final few hundred metres, the lead out itself felt like a sprint with Lion King returning from the ranks of the ex-sprinters to gain a worthy win over Wolf.