Well, I did it. The Audax ride that is. Without further ado, here’s what happened….
The morning of the 7th December started with my alarm going off at 5am. Ugh. It was dark, damp but not raining and although I had to get to Cardiff by 6.30, I took the dog out for a walk first. A quick cup of tea and some breakfast and then I loaded the bike on the car, got changed into my kit and made sure I had all my bits and bobs ready. A quick check of the clock and it was time to hit the road. Destination was a coffee shop in Cardiff to meet up with the other
nutters riders I was going to do the Audax with. When I arrived all the others were there and I made my introductions as I didnt know everyone. All of my companions for the day belong to Monmouthshire Wheelers so I was an honorary member for the day 🙂
A quick hop from the coffee shop to the starting point of the Audax and it was still dark. A group of steely eyed, experienced riders congregated around the start and then we turned up! We picked up our Brevet cards, some last minute instructions from the organisers and suddenly it was time to get going. A quick photo opportunity presented itself, so we obliged. Looking round we realised that all the other riders had set off so we quickly donned helmets and set off too. Although not a race, an Audax ride does need a good pace to ensure that a sensible finish time is posted with minimum and maximum average speeds indicated by the organisers.
Winding our way through the quiet streets of Cardiff we soon hit the outer suburbs and before long were riding through Newport. So far so good. Light began to creep into the sky as we cruised through Newport and into the Monmouthshire countryside. 30 miles seemed to flow by easily and by around 9.30 we found ourselves at the first checkpoint on the outskirts of Chepstow. Being a garden centre with a restaurant we opted for a quick breakfast and cup of coffee 🙂 At the same time we got our Brevet card stamped at till to prove we had reached this first checkpoint (45km point).
Setting off again, we then wound our way through the fabulous Wye Valley, legs turning, eyes turned toward the front, a steady pace being maintained. The next checkpoint was in Monmouth itself where 40 riders descended upon a petrol station to get their Brevet cards stamped in one big knot of lycra! A quick opportunity to pick up a few snacks also presented itself. This second checkpoint represented the 74km point or just over a third of the total ride distance. Good progress and all still relatively fresh!
Next we rode on towards Abergavenny along undulating country lanes with the sun peeping out from behind the clouds. It was almost warm and certainly better than we hoped for in the middle of December! As we approached Abergavenny the mountains of the Brecon Beacons began to rise up around and behind this lovely Welsh market town. We arrived in Abergavenny and proceeded to the Tourist Information Centre to get the Brevet cards stamped which confirmed we had reached the halfway point (101km). Some of the riders (not our group) elected to take lunch there but we pressed on as we knew there was another garden centre restaurant at the next checkpoint. We pushed the pace a little to ensure we could take a good break for lunch when we stopped. As it turned out we arrived at the 4th checkpoint around 1.30 so lunch was definitely on the menu!
The Red Door Deli is a lovely little restaurant situated within Millbrook Garden Centre on the outskirts of Monmouth. It also happens to be well known to the Monmouthshire Wheelers riders as its a favourite stop for them on many of their rides. A hearty lunch was had by all and well deserved. All our group of riders were doing well and all felt able to keep going. No mean feat at this point in the ride as we had been going for 6 hours and covered 124km. All too soon it was time to start off again and having had a really good break for lunch, there were heavy legs and much blowing of cheeks.
A hard climb up to Trellech came next, the main climb of the ride but all made it up without too many problems. From this point on it was mainly flat or slightly downhill sections to come so all the riders were quite heartened. The skies started to darken and it was quite surprising that early evening was encroaching. We had one more checkpoint to make before starting the last section of the ride. The temperature started to drop as we rode through my village (it was a little tempting to stop here but I steeled myself against this thought!) and through the backlanes on the way back to Newport. At the 174km mark we completed the last checkpoint (a test about finding a signpost and being able to read it in the complete dark) and pushed on towards the last bit of the ride.
As we approached Newport, a light drizzle started which never really became full rain but stayed with us for the rest of the ride. Tired legs slowed, squinting eyes probed the road ahead for the turns we needed but we kept on. As we approached Cardiff we felt happy that the last few miles we ahead of us. The traffic became heavier and we all had to concentrate on the road, each other, the rain and the route. Several times we made wrong turns before realising and doubling back. We were tired. At last we saw the start/finish point ahead and with muted cheers we rode triumphantly to complete this, our first Audax.
202 km and 8 and a half hours of riding (with a couple of hours of stops on top) had seen us meander all around Monmouthshire with a couple of sections to and from Cardiff thrown in. We handed in our Brevet cards to get verified, partook of a few celebratory sandwiches and had a quick few words with some of the other finishers. It was 6.30 and time to take weary legs home. We said goodbye to each other and headed off in a convoy of cars, all eager to get home and have a long hot soak and a big big meal.
A really really good day and one I would love to do again, maybe even longer next time 😉