"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Over the Mendips July 2019
With 11 rides down and one to go to complete the "AAARty" series I found myself devoid of free weekends, but then the idea sprang into my mind that I could get this 60k done after work. That blew my mind slightly as I usually set a day aside for an Audax, even a relatively short one, but it was the only way to go and I quite fancied the idea of racing against the daylight to get home before nightfall.
When 1st July came around I was able to exit work at around 4:15 with approx 100k of riding ahead of me. First up was the ride to Chew Magna, not much over 10k of undulating roads with the usual mix of farm and commute traffic but nothing too heavy, then I checked in at the Co-Op for a receipt to mark the start of the Audax itself. They assured me they'd be open until 10 so I had more than enough time to finish without having to get creative with my proof-of-finish. Past the lakes I felt cool but OK in the kit I'd brought, travelling light without arm or leg warmers as the forecast was warm all evening. Harptree Hill was a great workout, coming the other way was a traffic jam stuck behind a hay trailer and I was squeezed by a couple more of those belting along the top of the Mendips on the way to Wells. The landscape was dry but still lush and green, as it's not so long ago we had our June Monsoon. By sheer luck all my recent rides and races have been in the dry though, which is nice!
I rode hard to Wells, using the tri bars when the breeze dropped enough, and that effort kept me warm even as I descended the steep drop down to Wells on the Old Bristol Road. I stayed only long enough to get an ATM slip and eat bars/gels then I was on the road to Wookey Hole - the whole route is now very familiar but still charming. Ebbor Gorge was hard but I had the wonderful views through the gateways out towards Glastonbury as my reward and equally awesome vistas of the Mendips as I got higher. Priddy was sleepy and ancient as usual and the road to the info control at Charterhouse Crossroads seemed as long as ever. By this stage I was thinking I might break 3 hours for the ride for the first time so I stayed focussed and worked hard on the flats. On the downhills I took it easy - as usual - and the brakes were working harder than the pedals.
In Cheddar it was another quick turnaround and then I was racing up the Gorge under the Pinnacles, through the Narrows, then up and out on to the long drag.
After the descent of Harptree Hill I felt a breeze at my back and got some serious pace up along past the lake - with a thigh-bruising effort I got to Chew Stoke in good time and made it to the Arrivee with about 3 mins to spare. Job done! At the third attempt I'd completed the AAA Round the Year challenge!!
I rewarded myself with a Wispa Gold from the Co-Op and sat on a bench thinking about my options for getting home. There's a choice of long, flat A road, mega hills through Dundry, the drag through Keynsham...eventually I went for an unknown road through Norton Hawkfield. There were lovely views of Maes Knoll and the fields on the slopes began to turn a luscious shade of green in the evening light. It was all getting numinous.
There were endless climbs around East Dundry and Dundry then a breathtaking view across the whole of Bristol as I descended into Withywood. I felt a surge of gratitude from my heart to the heart of Bristol. After that it was just a case of ticking off landmarks that I see every day on my ride to work but they seemed extra special at the end of a 12 month cycling challenge - St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol Bridge, St Werburghs Church, the Concorde Way, then home.
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