I am still drafting this blog
This is not my first Audax 600km, what makes it different is the time allowance. I know that my fat belly would play a key role in my success! I wanted to be home late evening so that I could have a shower and a little food before jumping onto my bed when I returned. This meant that I had to start at 4am, which was fine for me as I love early starts or overnight rides. In terms of equipment, I did not pack anything new, but I did increase the number of energy gels to 15. I sometimes suffer from not being able to eat solid foods and I did not want this to stop me.
Hilderstone to Prees Heath (52km: 32miles): This is a section I know well as I often use this route to head for Wales or the Cheshire Plains (See A Place Called Hope for photos and write up). I made good time along this section as there are only to hills which slow you down. I stopped at the Prees Heath truck stop and had beans on toast and a cup of tea (£4.20). However, there is a 24hr petrol station a few meters down the road.
Prees Heath to Middlewich (103km: 64miles): This leg is very pleasant and offers views of the Cheshire plains and no significant climbing which meant I was able to make good time. There are cafes and a 24hr petrol station Middlewich along the way should you caught short. St Michael and All Angels Church is on the cross-road and I have been told that it is very nice inside.
Middlewich to Poynton (136km: 84miles): For those of you who have done other Peak Audax rides these roads will be familiar to you especially the section between Middlewich and Poynton. Arriving at Poynton I had opted for Costa Coffee as they had a toilet even though Greggs is cheaper. I sat outside under the shade of the tree drinking my coffee and eating a tuna bake trying to zone out two ladies complaining about their friend’s behaviour. This was my last stop before my leg over the pennies.
Poynton to Park Head (187km: 116miles): Although the route takes you through built-up areas it was not that bad, although it felt like the Saddleworth climb was a long time coming. Along the way, you pass the Stockport Hydro Project which is worth a quick look. I stopped here to change to my summer cycling top as I was starting to get a little warm. When you reach the Saddleworth climb it is long, consistent, not as excessively steep as I thought it was going to be. I anticipated that I would struggle the combination of the sun and the exertion of the climb and which was true as by the time arrived at Park Head I had sunburnt my head. I am assuming that the suncream had sweated out of my skin as I climbed from Poynton. The result of which was heatstroke, which I was to suffer with overnight.
The views are of a typical moorland landscape and to be honest I could be in the White Peak by the Cat and Fiddle Inn. The descent is long and in places fast so tuck in and enjoy the ride to the Coop and 24hr petrol station at Park Head.
Park Head to Goole (254km: 157miles): Following the main road (A635) which is wide and does offer a one-meter wide strip of tarmac, in places, which can be used to move out of the main flow of traffic. Be careful at night as there are both large objects (tyres, car body parts etc…) and sharp objects (glass and reinforcing wire for car tyres). Although this road feels like you are climbing all the way it is a fast road so try to hang onto your speed. I was plodding along and without too much effort and I was able to cycle with a local group of rides whilst chatting to them. I was averaging about 18mph.
This main road gives way to smaller roads and country lanes as you grow nearer to Goole. Take a minute when you pass through the longest village in Yorkshire (Sykehouse). There is a bench area by the information board. I did notice that the church is set at an angle from the road, I am not sure if this was by design or by the environment, either way, it seems a little different to me. Finally arrived at McD’s (£5.85) and I had a rest here before moving on, I was starting to feel ill from the side effects of the heatstroke.
Goole to Gainsborough (352km: 218miles): The section across to the Humber bridge (298km: 185miles) seemed to take an age and there is a section of gravel which I was not expecting so it took me a few minutes to make sure that I was following the route correctly. There are a couple of petrol stations along the route but the one I stopped at (Morrisons) closed at 11pm. When I reached the bridge, I ended up carrying my bike up the steps as I missed the ramped pathway, I do this every time! Crossing the bridge was fairly uneventful as it was very dark, and I could not see anything when I looked over the bridge rails except the buoy’s flashing lights. Either way, this was a landmark in my ride as I had passed halfway.
Climb up and over to Gainsborough
Looking for a bus shelter with a bench – sun stroke – drunk on a bike
Gainsborough to Boston (442km: 274miles):
Gainsborough, every time I go I imagine that this town would be posh and inviting, ales it is just like another uninspiring town, at least there is a 24hr petrol station when I purchased items from.
The last road, fast and long but it was the run into the final turning and Boston.
Boston to Colsterworth (Grantham) (496km: 309miles):
Why is it that every road I cycle along in the Fens seem to have a slight upward incline and I never get the road which offers a slight downwards decline!
Saw some more dog size deer.
Evening the road was busy, it was fast if you are prepared to work to maintain your spread on the need little climb. I was able to regain time along this road which helped to mitigate my loses from my overnight issues. To be honest, I felt at home on this road, but the traffic was fast can get a little close when I traveled along it during the day.
Roadside diner – risk some solid food – 15mins of sleep
Colsterworth to Donington Services (552km: 342miles):
The road after the Colsterworth was much more urban and narrower but the traffic had reduced and there were far fewer trucks. To be honest, I do not remember much about this leg. I think I had switched off and I was just focused on making it Donington services and home.
It was along this section that I elected the Queen song, ‘fat bottom girls’ has the song of the day.
It was nice to be back on familiar roads as it said that I was home, well not quite. It was just a little matter of 40 more miles.
Donington Services to Uttoxeter (596km: 370miles):
Copy section from 400km ride
Insert riding with e-bikes and keeping up with them on the hills
Stopped at burger king for a cold drink and to prepare myself for the final 10 miles…. Which I knew would be brutal.
Uttoxeter to Hilderstone (614km: 381miles):
This is differently the second hardest section of the ride and is described as “a few irritating lumps”. I acknowledge that it was my last 10 miles but the irritating lumps just keep coming and they are fairly steep in places. The last irritating lump before Hilderstone, in my opinion, was the hardest along this section but once you are up this lump you are reward with a fast roll into Stone.
What I learnt: I need to do something about the heatstroke issue, but I am not sure how to tackle this without losing my belly fat. A little bit of reading may yield some useful information. The USB battery pack (???) which I have got me thought the 40hrs, but it had gone flat by the time I had arrived at Donington services. I also need more carrying space to store food and water which I purchase along the way. Currently, there is no free space when I start the ride (Orbit 2.7lt saddle bag, top tube bag 1.5lt) and I carry very little solid food with me as I prefer to buy food as I travel. One solution is to purchase a bigger under saddle bag or a midframe bag. I will have to give this some thought too.