There are no winners…but instead, everyone is a winner.
Audax is not a race. Some guys and girls ride a bit faster and some are better organised…the challenge is to get to the finish within the time limit.
Having said that, as our large group blazed a trail northwards beyond the gravitational pull of the M25, through Roydon, Hunsdon, Much Hadham and Puckeridge…aided by a strong tailwind and the last decent sunshine we would see for a few days…The Wattmeister struggled to restrain himself from hubristic urges to push on.
Two guys from Leeds Mercury were doing a sterling job of towing our peloton towards the first control point at St.Ives…105 kms into the ride.
In these situations, it is only fair to contribute, so Alex, TW and Ben did their turns from Shepreth to beyond Haslingfield which included the first serious little climb of Chapel Hill…we were rewarded with a welcome ‘thank you’ from one of the Leeds riders before a bit group of Spanish riders….clad in orange lycra… injected some spicy ‘pimento’ into proceedings…chopping us up into fragments of what was once a whole meandering collective.
We regrouped, and arrived in St. Ives control for food, drink and mini debrief.
The next leg of 67 kms passed in a blur. Still aided by the benign zephyr, our threesome stomped through Raveley and Upwood before dropping down to the pancake flat, dead straight arrow of a road to Crowland via Whittlesey and Thorney.
Exhilarating, exuberant and exultant…the only real disappointment was that we were going so fast that we couldn’t engineer a visit to the fantastic Not Just Café in Whittlesey. If you ever find yourself with (daytime) hunger pangs in this part of the Fens, then give it a try.
After Crowland, which for some reason has beguiled The Wattmeister….the old fool….the route uses Welland Bank and Cradge Bank to find a back way into Spalding, control town number 2 at 180kms.
After a couple of bowls of delicious lentil stew, (or maybe it was chicken curry, or maybe it was both), a few cups of tea, a delicate readjustment of the nether regions and seeing to a plethora of other minor necessities, like remembering to reset the Garmin, change the route sheet, put on armwarmers etc. etc., the intrepid trio set off for control number 3, at Louth, some 83 kms distant in north east Lincolnshire.
Daylight surrendered its tenancy to dusk as we romped through Pinchbeck, Gosberton, Kirton, Frampton Fen and Gypsey Bridge. Catching and then joined by two young lads…Lou? and A. N. Other….they injected even more pace on the rollicking road to Mareham le Fen….which signalled the end of 100kms of unbroken contourless terrain.
At this point, 25 kms from Louth, it was clear that we had missed a mighty rainstorm. Deep puddles and running water reflected the slate grey sky. We passed several riders in full rain gear. After Horncastle, where, in ordinary circumstances, The Wattmeister would have stopped for a pizza…a chinese…and a kebab, we followed Green Lane to Hemingby….I mention it in particular as its course is dead straight, up a gentle hill, and it transports you painlessly into the Lincolnshire Wolds…a bucolic paradise of tiny lanes, rolling hills and quaint villages like Raithby, Scamblesby and Cawkwell. If I am reincarnated as a hobbit…then this will be my domain.
After dispatching the steep slopes of Red Hill….(but what a lie! it nearly unseated The Wattmeister!)…we arrived at Louth at 10.45 p.m…245 kms in 9.75 hours for a shower, change of kit, feed, 4 hours sleep, feed and move on at 5.30 a.m….except sleep was hard to come by what with all the farting and snoring….
for which The Wattmeister can only apologise.