Saturday, 29 August 2009

29 Aug: Mildenhall 100km Audax

Ian D and I got up early and drove to Mildenhall for this annual event organised by Suffolk CTC as part of the Mildenhall Cycle Rally. We arrived at Mildenhall Upper School just after 8am for a 9am start giving us plenty of time to obtain our brevet card and eat breakfast with the campers in the school dining room.

We departed slightly early at 8.50am on a route that rook us south towards Worlington and Red Lodge. Although it was bright it was still quite cool, with a noticeable breeze pushing us along, though we soon warmed up and before long the day became warm and sunny.

This was my second Audax ride ever. For those unfamilar with this type of event, an Audax ride is not a race. You're given a route sheet which you follow at your own pace. There is a time limit but it's an undemanding one, and we were able to complete the course with hours to spare. There are checkpoints along the route where your "brevet cards" are signed or stamped.

After crossing the A11 the route shown on our route cards took us east to Herringswell and Tuddenham before turning south for a long loop to the south-east. At some point we were overtaken by a large group from the West Suffolk Wheelers, and I tagged on to the back, increasing my pace a little to keep up. This cheerful and sociable group remained my companions and pace-setters for the rest of the ride.

After skirting Bury St Edmunds (home base of the West Suffolk Wheelers) we continued south through the lovely intimate countryside that we occasionally visit on club day rides (most recently on 26th June). This took us through Hawstead and Stanningfield after which we joined the main road into the beautiful and historic town of Lavenham.

A few miles beyond Lavenham we arrived at the rather unbeautiful and non-historic Acton Place Industrial Estate, where we had our brevet cards signed before going into Wally's Cafe to order mugs of tea (and, in some cases, a large fried breakfast). By now it was about 11.15am, and with a tailwind I had averaged 16mph. Ian arrived about five minutes after I did.

After a half-hour break I spotted the West Suffolk Wheelers preparing to departed, and I did the same. From here our route turned west, into the wind which slowed us down considerably; I was glad to be able to shelter in the middle of a large pelaton.

Just south of Clare we reached another control point at about 12.30pm and paused briefly to enjoy the free squash and biscuits. Then we turned north towards Mildenhall, still over 20 miles away.

We rode through Clare and a series of villages familiar from club day rides: Poslingford, Stansfield, Denston, Wickambrook and Gazeley, where a sign said we were only 4 miles from Newmarket. We ignored the sign and continued north, back to Red Lodge and retraced our ourbound track to Mildenhall, where we arrived at 2.10pm;

By now the cycle rally was in full swing and I sat in the sun watching the grass track racing and eating my lunch.

After a short while Ian joined me, after having ridden the second half of the ride at a pace that had allowed him to appreciate the countyside in a way that perhaps I had not from my exhilarating vantage point in the middle of a fast-moving pelaton. Overall my moving average speed was 15.1 mph, over a total distance of 67 miles. No doubt this ride will be repeated next year; I'd happily recommend it.

View this GPS track on a larger map

If you'd like to try a 100km Audax, why not come along to the "Cambridge Randonee", organised by Cambridge CTC on Sunday 27th September. This departs from Hauxton Village Hall at 10am. Details on the Audax UK website or contact Simom Proven on 01223 719550. Advanced entry recommended; if not please arrive at least 30 mins early to register.

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