Beasts and mini-beasts from the East might have swathed the country in snow, but as the first day of Spring arrived I grabbed my chance to get a joyful 200km audax under my belt. The Randonneur-Round-the-Year treadmill has been a tough taskmaster, requiring me to tick the monthly long distance box whatever the weather. However, the reward has been days like this: when I wouldn’t have gone out but have been surprised with beautiful day and one of my fastest 200km rides. One of the principles of audax in the UK is making a commitment to ride and then audaciously riding whatever happens, so the cancellation of an event due to poor weather is a rare thing. The 2018 ‘Yorkshire Gallop’ was cancelled – and I’m so grateful. I’ve ridden that event in the snow before and it was extremely tough. Instead, three days later, I’m riding a gorgeous DIY audax.
Back in December 2017 I rode a ‘Winter Tailwind‘ route on main roads, from Durham to Hull. I decided to give this another go, but tweaked the route slightly to make it even faster, so I caught the train to Durham and set off at 08:30 from the railway station. The route isn’t the most scenic or exciting, it takes the A177 from Durham through Coxhoe and Sedgefield south to Stockton-on-Tees before switching to the A135 to Yarm. After Yarm, I turn west and take the B1264, B1263 and B6271 to Catterick. The next section follows the A1 service road (A6055 and A168) all the way south to Walshford before wiggling east through Hunsingore and Cattal to Tadcaster. After a brief flirt with the A162 before joining the narrow lanes through Cawood to Selby, the route joins the A63 to Howden and finishes with the B1230 back to Brough. On the grand scale of the ride this is effectively a Durham to Hull ride.
I had packed my saddlebag cautiously; with extra gloves, a spare baselayer, a rain cape and a raincoat. I didn’t want to get caught out at the end of the ride with the sun going down and feeling increasingly cold. I had a spell of rain between Catterick and Rainton, but once that passed and the sun came out the temperature climbed and was soon up to 10oC. I stripped back some of the layers I was wearing and felt the warmth of the sun and this lasted almost the whole way home. It was a revelation to be riding in the warmth, I felt so much stronger than I had for months. It wasn’t particularly windy, and I did have a couple of sections heading into what wind there was, but mainly I had the prevailing wind in my favour. I’m told this isn’t cheating…
…and if it really isn’t cheating then I really want to encourage cyclists to experience this at least once. Pick a sunny day, with a bit of a breeze… catch and train as far as you can comfortably cycle, and then enjoy the ride home. Cycling doesn’t have to be all about suffering. Cycling doesn’t all have to be about pushing yourself harder than you’ve done before. Sure, that has its place, but once in a while treat yourself to the equivalent of a day-long downhill excursion.