The Good: A wonderful 200km ride though pretty Essex villages in great company, where Wendy bags her first PBP qualifier.
The Bad: A tiresome and annoying westerly wind
Ugley: The curiously named village of Essex, where the Event HQ was located. Also reputed to be once home to the Ugley Womens Institute!
The cast –
Jim and Wendy Mears,
Jim and Wendy Mears,
The Audax was called “Up the Uts” and it had two objectives to satisfy. One, to prove that Essex is not flat. Two, to celebrate the historical cycling huts built on the outskirts of Ugley. It more than exceed in achieving both its objectives.
The small network of cycling huts at Ugley is a famous part of East London’s cycling archaeology. Hence the cockney pronunciation of ‘uts. The ‘uts were built just after the war on land donated by a Mrs Curtis. She used to run a B&B in the area for cyclist’s coming out to race on some of the fast time trial courses during the 1950’s. A condition of the donation was that the land must be used for sporting purposes. Though ownership of some of the ‘uts has moved out of cycling hands, several remain in the ownership of clubs such as the Shaftesbury CC, Lea Valley CC, Crest CC, Easterly CC, Crest CC.
Today’s Audax was being run out of the Comrades CC’s hut, a very cosy and comfortable example of the breed. When we arrived, the Comrades CC catering corp were going at full throttle and remained so through out the long day. Mega low prices and practically instant service reflected on the expensive and poor service we get from some of our commercial cafes.
The ride it self took the form of three loops out from the Comrades ‘ut. The first loop was one of the longest, cruising through Castle Hedingham, Stisted and Thaxted. Any change of direction that remotely pointed west was reward by a blast of headwind. The deafening noise of the wind tired you mentally as much as in the leg department. After 113 kms we were back in the Comrades ‘ut enjoying Beans on Toast and buns. The Willesden asserted our grip on the event as we began to consolidate our position at the rear of the pack.
Marky-Parky Brooking was fully prepared for possible arctic conditions, with daytime temperatures predicted to plunge down to as low as 10c. He sported the entire range of Willesden kit. On top of a base layer he has the traditional Willesden bottle green top, whose historical and delicate threads were protected by an outer layer of standard issue WCC lime green kit. Further insulation was provided by layers 4 to 6, consisting of the WCC Stripey Audax kit, a red Track top and a waterproof jacket. Layers 7 and 8, (a second waterproof and reflective jacket), oozed out of Mark’s saddle bag in case he should feel parky later.
The next loop was 43km loop to Clavering and Manuden before returning to the ‘ut, where another round of Apple pie and beans on toast was called for. The homely warmth and plentiful supply of food saw Jim crack. He sat out the last night time loop in one of the comfy sofas available. I was also tempted.
True to our race strategy were now accelerating effortlessly into last place as we set out on the last loop. This took in some wonderfully named villages such as Stocking Pelham, Furneux Pelham and Wendens Ambo. An unexpected and nasty pothole in the last 20KM almost caused Mark to unship. The impact punctured his front wheel and twisted his handlebars down. Mark’s feet, knees and elbows took the brunt of the impact. The stoppage for repairs, rubbing sore bits and taking photos of the pothole ensured we were now in our coveted last position.
We returned to the Club ‘ut with about 30 minutes to spare, to we enjoyed one last round of apple pie and custard.
In a repeat of the Poor Student 200 and the Willy Warmer 200, we returned to the car park to find that our cars were the only ones remaining. It’s a gift we have!