Sunday, 30 October 2011

30 Oct: Emitremmus audax

Gareth writes: An ‘Extended Calendar Event’ is an award that Audax UK offers to encourage people to cycle to and from events instead of driving. The idea is that you treat your ride to the start and back from the finish like stages of an audax, with controls and time limits and so forth, and you get the points for the extra distance you do. In particular, you can turn a 100 km ride (which doesn’t get any points) into a 200 km ride (which does).

So when I noticed that it was just over 50 km from home to the start of the ‘Emitremmus’ (a 100 km audax from Stevenage), I thought I’d give it a go, even though it meant setting out at 07:00 to get to Stevenage for the 10:00 start.

This morning I had a really convincing dream in which I woke up to discover that my alarm clock had stopped working and I had overslept, and that anyway it was pouring with rain. Clearly my subconscious didn’t want to go cycling.

The hill by Royston golf course, early morning.

I took the A10 direct to Royston (it’s pretty quiet early on a Sunday), and then up the hill by the golf course to Therfield, and down through Kelshall, Sandon, Cromer, and Walkern (this bit become quite familiar as I cycled it three times). It was slow going with the wind in the south-west, but I got to the Sailing Centre at Fairlands Valley Park with twenty minutes to spare.

More cyclists than you can shake a stick at.

An unusual machine, near Aston.

I haven’t seen so many cyclists since the Skyride last year—there were more than 300 names on the entry list just for the 100 km ride (there was also a 68 km ‘Lite’ version), and a huge queue of people signing up on the day. The organization was very smooth, with volunteers stamping cards at all the controls. The Old Swan Tea Shop at Hare Street had set up a stall selling cups of tea, doughnuts and bananas, and the Women’s Institute were selling cakes at Therfield.

The Old Swan Tea Shop set up a stall selling cups of tea and doughnuts.

I thought that with so many cyclists on the roads I’d be able to find someone going at the same speed as me, but somehow it didn’t work out that way because of all the hills. If I could keep up with someone on the downhills, then I’d lose them on the uphills, and if they could keep up with me on the uphills, then they’d burn me off on the downhills. But I did manage to draft a group from Sudbury CC for a few miles.

On the B1037 near Chrishall.

It was nice to see the cycle paths of Stevenage—there’s a network of separated cycle paths along the majority of the main roads, with grade-separated junctions. A bit confusing for the visitor because of complete lack of signage, but it’d be great if you lived there. (So why is the modal share of cycling so dismal?)

Near Great Chishill.

As I left Stevenage for the ride home, it was getting chilly and there was a gentle rain. Since I was retracing part of the route, I met some of the tail-enders coming the other way. The time limit for the 100 km ride was a very generous eight hours, so none of them would have been in much danger of being out of time. The very last rider was a poor chap walking his bike up the steep bit between Kelshall and Sandon in the gathering gloom with a rainy 22 km to go. I hope he made it.

I was pretty tired on the way back—I’m not sure I’ve ever climbed Chapel Hill so slowly. But every journey comes to an end, and I was home at 18:25, having cycled 214 km (133 miles). Wildlife spotted: a pair of red kites, a pair of muntjacs, and a vole.

View Emitremmus 100 km audax in a larger map


  1. You certainly like a challenge Gareth ;-) Did look out for you (& Conrad) at the start, but so many other cyclists - some really great bikes too! Feel a bit wimpish 'only' doing 100k!

  2. No need to feel wimpish: it was a tough route, with one hill after another all the way round, and a strong wind too. I hope you enjoyed it!