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The Audax Diaries: The Poor Student
January 10th, 2011
I must have first become aware of Paris-Brest-Paris over ten years ago. My initial - ignorant and unconsidered - response would have been to dismiss it as “too far, too slow”. At the time I was preoccupied with going as fast as possible on a bicycle. Yet PBP doesn’t reward youthful impetuosity, a broader perspective is required just to consider the thing. The quad-annual Paris-Brest-Paris is the oldest continually run cycling event held on open roads, its bare statistics are stark; 1200km with a 90 hour time limit. To even be considered for entry a rider needs to complete a Super Randonneur series of 200, 300, 400 and 600km rides between January and May.
Following the 24-hour time trial exploits of Graeme Raeburn and Ultan Coyle over the last couple of years (respectively the heads of product design and our graphic design) sideways glances were exchanged last year and gentle “what-ifs” developed into a broad resolve and to attempt to enter the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris.
Which led me to January 8th 2011 and the “Poor Student”; a 200km audax which rolls through a sizable chunk of the Cotswolds - a quintessential and beautiful part of England. I grew up in the middle of the Cotswolds and have watched it change immeasurably; thankfully the rolling hills and the golden stone retain their appeal.
Hauling my reluctant frame from my London bed at 4.50am, I checked the pavement to be greeted by dancing streetlight reflecting back at me from puddles fractured by torrential rain. I met my soaked comrade, Ultan, at Paddington and we went through the futile process of trying to dry clothing on a train that truculently proceeded to breakdown before it had left the station. A precarious totter across the concourse on cleats led to another train that got us to Oxford.
We met our friends Anton and Ross from La Fuga and set off into a stiff headwind. I hate headwinds, they’re like riding up a hill blindfolded. However, buoyed by completion of my Festive 500, I sat on the front with Ultan catching up with news of other Christmas festivities.
© Anton Blackie
To prove completion of the audax route we had to collect receipts from a couple of control towns, the first after 60 odd km being Malmesbury. Cake was shoveled down and tea went into the bidon (recommended). Moving on we passed through Cirencester before meeting the hills at Compton Abdale, slowing us down and picking at the first loose threads of insecurity which began to develop into a hole as we descended to the second control at Chipping Camden.
By this point Anton had blown, muttering under his breath about getting over the hill to Moreton before the effects of the can of coke he’d inhaled wore off. The wily Ross Muir helped raise spirits with a bag of Jelly Babies that provided the necessary energy to take us into Oxford; Ultan drove us the whole way in. Given that he’d ridden on the front all day to finish riding tempo at 40kph towing us all home was remarkable, especially considering he’d not touched his bike in the best part of a month and didn’t eat breakfast (precocious tosser).
© Anton Blackie
Cycling has never lost the ability to delight me; it’s multi-faceted nature being one of many aspects that appeal. The Audax community was friendly, open and engaging. I was immediately struck by how uncluttered and pure their cycling enjoyment was, no power meters, no slaves to heartrate, nor to weight weenieism. Writing this two days after an event that’s caused me to reconsider how far I think “far” is and clutching an ice pack on to my knee, I’ll be glad just to make it to the start line of PBP.
- RT @IonaNiDhalaigh: Yahhh mountain jersey in the bag!!! Nice one @mike_cuming!!! @raphacondor http://t.co/GrGqSL0Kgl
- RT @CondorWarehouse: Nice to see the @raphacondor JLT team bike on display @campagnolosrl HQ with so many top pro teams http://t.co/5CgE0tY…
- RT @anpostras: GC after Stage 4: Bialoblocki,, McConvey, Guldhammer, Handley, Pelletier-Roy, Hunal, Simon Yates, Fodor, Roger Aiken, Archbo…
- Spare a thought for @Porterelliott who punctured out of the yellow jersey group, when will he get some luck!
- Took the @anpostras on today. Didn't quite pull it off. @RichHandley90 4th on GC and @mike_cuming in the KoM jersey.
- Tour series update from Stoke up on the site http://t.co/aVdcnGnkOX
- RT @elstopbanana: Here's Kristian House @raphacondor at last night's @TourSeries picture by Sue Howlett Great racing! @SoTCityCouncil http:…
- RT @sticky_bottle: Meant to say, to be eligible for the @raphacondor team car compeition you have to be a stickybottle twitter follower!
- RT @sticky_bottle: OK folks; nice morning for it. To win a day in the Rapha Condor JLT team car on the Rás last stage, Sunday, just retweet…
- Third team overall for the Men in Black at Stoke last night in the @TourSeries