The Monmouthshire Meander and my first Audax

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.

The start!

The start!

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!

Yours truly at the Red Door Deli

Yours truly at the Red Door Deli

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.

The riders in at the back on the left!

The riders in formation…me at the back on the left!

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.

Audax Ride Dec 7th 2013

A really really good day and one I would love to do again, maybe even longer next time 😉


About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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12 Responses to The Monmouthshire Meander and my first Audax

  1. Matt C says:

    Nice one, well done.
    Good to see that tea shops can still figure prominently in a long ride :))

  2. Congratulations! Those distances just sound astronomical to me, I’ve only a short wee ride in and out of work and couldn’t imagine sitting in the saddle for that length of time. Definitely something to be proud of.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      thanks BBF

      Like any activity there is a “wall” that you have to go through. With long distance cycling as long as you are fit and cycle regularly, that wall in in your mind. Dont think of the overall distance, think of and aim for small chunks of time or specific landmarks. Tea/cake shops are good, mountains and towns also good 🙂

  3. AndrewGills says:

    That’s a quick 200. Well done. I usually ride them in 9:30 – 12:00 depending on the weather and route.

    Is it usual to get 40 riders for an Audax there? Or was that an exception? The most I’ve seen on a 200 here was about 15 riders but it’s not uncommon to get just 3-5 to a ride.

    Glad you had fun on the ride 😀 . Looking forward to reading your next ride report

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Andrew,

      I asked re the numbers and for this ride it was up on last year (30 in 2012). Looking at the Audax results pages for the UK, there are 200’s rides that well exceed the 40 mark for riders but does depend on weather and time of year.

      re the speed, we were in a group so there was shelter and drafting to help plus we consciously set a reasonable steady pace. When I am on my own doing long distances I tend to push too hard in the middle and end up suffering at the end. For this ride, the pace was perfect and I had enough in my legs to have gone on and done more. This has encouraged me to look at doing some 300 and 400’s next year in the spring. I wouldnt do more than 200 in the winter because of the extra risk with rain/snow, cold and lack of daylight hours.

      Next scheduled Audax is Feb….Gospel Pass 150km. Highest mountain pass/road in Wales 🙂

  4. PhilR says:

    Great stuff, These long rides are so much better in a group not just for the company/banter but also the reletive rest you get when not on the front. Well done a fantastic achievement & you must be mad if you’re looking at a longer one 😀

    • backpackbrewer says:

      yeah, it was good to ride in a group for definite and did help. Normally I beast myself on a long ride….

      I have seen a cracking 400km ride next May that goes from Chepstow across mid South Wales to Aberaeron on the West Coast.


  5. Robin says:

    Well done. Good training for our Dartmoor yomp 😉

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