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UK Cyclist: Long-distance and leisure cycling in the South-west and elsewhere

With contributions from various riders.

At the finish, Shawn had a look of quiet satisfaction on his face as he contemplated the list of DNFs.  The fact that he, the organiser, was one of them seemed not to bother him at all.  Pedals and Steve were both nursing painful knees and vowing never to ride fixed again.  The rest of us were sitting round the table, quietly chatting or semi-comatose, according to taste.


Several people had come back for a second attempt, having been thwarted the first time:-

Keith Smallwood rode a steady and methodical event, worrying when he got ahead of his schedule.  Anne Learmonth meticulously prepared for the ride with photocopied and marked maps for each section.  These she discarded one by one at controls.  At least one helper thought she had forgotten the map and pursued her with it.  Dave Lewis struggled with a bad stomach on the first part.  He managed to survive that and recovered to finish comfortably within time.  Dave Pilbeam chugged steadily round, determined to finish this time, which he did.

Annemarie Manley arrived  to help at the Axminster control some little time after it opened:-

The only person I missed was fast man Jason .  The fixed twins, with smiling Duncan and Secretary Ian were still feeding their faces.  Next to arrive was our only lady entrant, in very good form.  She only stopped to eat, and was soon on the road again, into the dark night, chasing Ian to Tor Hole.  After her was a  suffering Dave Lewis and Mr Happy, Andy Lander Stow.  He was reported only to have continued because he had left his mobile phone behind and so had no means of calling the broom wagon.

Keith was followed by Devon points chaser, Dave Stevens, with Bournemouth man Brian Callow.  Brian was on only his fifth Audax event —  the previous four being the entire Wessex SR series.  Ignorance is bliss!  Dave Pilbeam looked pretty shot away, but apparently he always does on long rides.  Chris Avery seemed fresh as a daisy, but even daisies need their sleep, and Chris later struggled to wake up.

Richard Harding looked like a man who had another 550km to ride.  Dai Harris seemed to be a very happy man abroad.  Another foreign visitor, Jamie Batey, from Scotland, looked like he'd seen a ghost.
One man arrived determined not to continue, but disappeared before I could offer a lift back to Poole.  Others failed to show, including Shawn (apparently going very well despite going off his own route), and Peter 'repugnant' Marshall.

Peter had managed to unship his chain and mangle the rear changer on a hill start.  He still feels that it should be possible to complete the Crackpot on a recumbent trike.  He has a couple of years to think about it.

So what did Annemarie mean about "Mr Happy"?  Here is Andy:-

I found that the proposition of packing it in was getting more inviting as the first day dragged on.  Stubbornness, dogged determination, stupidity, insanity, and a basic refusal to understand the situation that I found myself in:  These are the prime attributes that helped me to complete a really hard ride. Would I do it again — YES — even if my selective memory only seems to let me recall the good time (just the one — finishing).

The camaraderie was very touching and I would like to thank all those that rode with me or allowed me to ride with them.

Pedals said at the end of the ride, 'You could have ridden with us if you weren't so unsociable.'
This is the greatest compliment ever paid to me.  For Pedals to believe that I could have stayed with him, Duncan, and Steve — WOW!

Nobody had told Jason Clarke that the minimum speed had been relaxed since last time, and he was hammering round, feeding on the move from plastic bags of custard.  The controllers had to be very patient in coaxing intelligent replies from him.  Mark and Sandra ran the Thornbury control:-

Mark:  We expected the first rider at 3:30am, according to his schedule, but he DNSed.  Ho hum.  Got up at 4:30 because we were so worried we'd miss someone.  Three hours later, great to see the first rider, then a trickle of frazzled randonneurs.  I realised what a terrible state I must have been in over most weekends for the last three years — frightening.  Little or no ability to speak or think until fed and watered.  Immensely chuffed that our home cooking was appreciated.  All riders ridiculously cheerful, with inevitable tales of mislaid routes, gratuitous hill and unhelpful weather.  See you in 2000!

Sandra:  Well I'll gladly run a control again, but I am never riding the Crackpot, not for any number of AAA points.  Great to see old friends, disappointing to miss those who had to pack.  A little humbling to see the mental and physical strength of riders who, having already ridden 600km, set off for more than 24hrs riding.  Only problem we had was keeping an eye out for randonneurs sneaking out without paying — he knows who he is!!

Whoops!  I don't think I'll live that one down in a hurry.

Dave Stevens wrote an article for the local press.  A few extracts here:-

...From the lanes that run along the foothills of the Quantocks, the riders emerge on to a main road, deserted at this time of early morning. The swish of tyres and the whine of dynamos are the only sounds as they make the most of this chance to cover a few miles at speed...

...Through Somerset villages made of the soft, warm looking ham stone and on to Ham Street and an information control.  But just where is it?  And where are we?  A local points us in the right direction...

...Jamie should have kept his helmet on as he managed to crack his head on a low beam in the café at Zeal.  Luckily, no real damage was done to either beam or head...

...The finish is in sight, cycles are propped here and there on the lawn.  You look to see whose bike you recognise...

...riders whom you may not have seen since the start three days earlier, but have only been a few miles in front or behind you on the road share the unique atmosphere...

"I've got a few ideas for next time."  Said Shawn.

Thanks from all the entrants to the controllers, and, of course, Jean Shaw, champion helper.



Long-distance cycling under AUK rules is often (though inaccurately) referred to as audaxing. Mudguards are not required for any of these events. Use whatever bike suits you. If you don't want to follow a routesheet then download the GPS file. You will need to be fit and self-sufficient. Most of these events, especially the longer ones, are hard. You should be an experienced cyclist with both fitness and stamina. There is a minimum speed of 15kph for all the events of 200km and above. Don't worry about the maximum speed of 30kph, you won't get near it. Prepare your bike and yourself carefully for any of these events. If you do all the distances, you become an Exeter Wheelers Super Randonneur.

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