Bristol Double Avon "Permanent" 200k - I picked this event for May as I had no free Saturdays to get out and do a calendar Audax - this one passes close to my place and the organiser confirmed it was ok to ride out to the first control from home, then back home from the last control. That made the whole thing around 220 I'd guess but to be honest I didn't measure it. Permanents can be ridden solo or with friends so I invited Dave and Vilas to join me for the first section - from my house out through Thornbury to Gloucester. They both intended to turn back before the weather got rough in the early afternoon.
Leaving my place at 7am it was mild and we had a slight tailwind that strengthened as we went North - the A38 to Thornbury was very quiet for an A road and helped us make good time to control number 1 where I just got a receipt from the cashpoint in Thornbury High Street. The roads from then on were familiar as we wound through the lanes to the ancient town of Berkeley and then back on to the A38 to plough on towards Gloucester. Gloucester is kind of in the way when you are planning long routes from Bristol - it's hard to get either through it or round it without main roads so we found ourselves on a bit of a slog on the bypass before the relief of turning north towards Ledbury. We reached the second control in very good time - just a Post Office in Hartpury but they were well used to Audax riders and even put the kettle on for us. After that it was easy going on fast but quiet roads northwards and I realised how far we'd come when vistas over the Malverns opened up before us and I began to recognise the country, albeit from an unfamiliar angle.
Upton on Severn was our scenic turnaround point, we stopped for a drink but no food and carried straight on to Tewkesbury. This meant heading south and we were immediately riding into a headwind. Tewkesbury soon appeared and we were on 5 hours at roughly the half way point - well, it was around 105k. After a decent break we worked hard into the wind heading south on the A38 yet again and it was a relief to turn off it once again into the hilly roads around Cheltenham and the east side of Gloucester. Rain soon started and the fast start began to tell....a tough ride and it was telling on Dave a bit as he had no long rides behind him; as both he and Vilas had opted to stay with me this far they had no option but to grind it out back to Bristol. Stonehouse offered shelter in the form of a chip shop but we were pretty wet and didn't really warm up. It was survival mode from then on, long hours riding the ups and downs around Dursley and Wotton before Dave peeled off to take the flat route home and Vilas and I soldiered on to Sodbury. I should have eaten more in Sodbury but I felt thirsty and a bit delicate (in other words so tired I felt sick) so I only had a fruit smoothy - big mistake in hindsight. From Sodbury the route was easy on the Cycleway until Vilas turned off at Lawrence Hill leaving me to finish solo - in the end it was just under 12 hours and I think the main problem was this being my second 200 in the space of a week, with lots of work and little rest in between. Nice to do a ride with the lads though and satisfying to finish another 200 - 5 months down, 7 to go!
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