"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
EVANS Sportive DIY Audax - 18 October 2020 - South Gloucestershire
In an epic failure of planning, I chose this route from Ride With GPS expecting it to be a hilly road route. It was called the EVANS Sportive and had 1000m of climbing in 40km. I was aiming to ride a 100km DIY with AAA points so I submitted my plan as 2 laps of the 40km plus a flattish 12km each way from the start/finish (depart/arrivee) in Chipping Sodbury. The DIY guy, Tony, politely informed me that repeating laps is not really the way to ride an Audax and advised me to do one lap in reverse so it became more of an out-and-back. I duly complied - well, as closely as I could.
The ride up to Sodbury went at a steady pace on cool, clear morning, still in near-darkness. Once I'd started the GPS in Sodbury I started heading towards the GPX route I had loaded, aiming to meet it at the official start point of Kingswood. I stopped to snap the sunrise just before Wickwar - this crashed my GPS app so I decided to take no more photos! I restarted the app and had a red line to follow again.
Problems started within one km of the start when the route (which I was riding in reverse first time round) took me down a bridleway towards a farmhouse, then into a field. I asked a dog walker for directions to Nind Lane, the next recognisable road on the route, and he was very helpful. I had to ride way off route to get there and lift the bike over a couple of styles in muddy field corners, but I assumed this was just an anomaly and I'd soon be back on the lanes. Those lanes did materialise and I started to climb, towards Wootton, then found the red line leading me up a very steep and muddy footpath. The penny dropped - I had picked a mountain bike sportive route! OK - what to do next? Soldier on using the nearest road route I could find? Try and ride the mud on a road bike? Give up? Well in the end option 1 was the only one that would give me a chance of nailing the DIY requirements and picking up the points. It meant I might struggle to make my 2pm meet with Kokila in Sodbury and I had no idea how far I would actually have to ride to shadow the trails and hit all my pre-arranged controls, but at least I was in with a chance of success. I whipped off one glove and played around with the Bike GPX app on my phone to work out a lane route - something I would repeat seemingly endless times over the next few hours!
The muddy trail led to the top of a lane called Blackquarries Hill, with the route then descending on the lane, so my only decent option was to find the bottom of Blackquarries and ride up and back down again. Not your obvious Audax behaviour but it was the nearest on-road equivalent to what my route had lined up for me. I meandered through hilly residential streets on the edge of Wootton and found the lane I wanted - then hauled myself up. It was absolutely on the limit - this must be a 20+ percenter for much of its length. No joke, I was pretty wasted after that first climb - the situation not helped by the nagging thought that I would have to do this again in around 100km's time, with nearly 2000m of climbing in my legs.
Descending Blackquarries was nervy and slow - my rim brakes were only just adequate. Mostly the road was dry but on one or two damp, well-shaded patches (it was buried in thick woodland for much of the climb) I had to loosen my grip on the brakes and let it go to avoid skidding. Finally I was back down to earth and ready to plot a course for the next one. It came soon enough in the shape of Coombe Hill - another case of riding a long and steep road equivalent to the trail route. So the day wore on - long and hard climbs, endless map-check-stops, hours passing with very few kms clocking up. After 2 hours on the loop I had made only a small dent in my 40km which was disheartening, but I just kept on keeping on and a couple of flattish stretches allowed me to get on track for a sub-3 hour lap. The end of the route had more serious climbs, real beasts, as you'd expect with 1000m climb in only 40km of road. I think I actually rode two 45-50km laps by the time I'd made a road-route instead of the mixed road-and-trail the sportive was supposed to be, and I am really not sure how much I climbed, but it seemed like one of my hilliest rides ever, on a par with the Cambrian 100k series.
Once back at Kingswood I u-turned in the middle of the village, finished off my food and headed back in the reverse direction, hoping a shop would appear at some stage. I had vague memories of passing a couple on the climbs. The first part of lap 2 was testing and finished me off, so I needed sustenance fast. Fortunately on the edge of Dursley a co-op appeared like Shangrila out of the Himalayan mists, and I staggered in to buy a frappuccino and some food - a cinammon bun I think it was. It brought me back from the dead and I nailed the return journey, with all its mental and physical challenges on the hills around Tresham and Newark Park, to arrive back at the foot of Blackquarries. It loomed large in my mind as I approached it - I was unsure whether or not I would make it up, and equally nervous about the descent now I was fatigued, but both challenges were overcome by my tired quads and brain and I found myself cruising back to Sodbury arriving at half past two.
I submitted the route thinking it would be too far off my proposed course to qualify as a DIY, but Tony gave it the thumbs up and what had felt like a bit of a failure became a DIY success. 118km and around 2400m of very steep ascent (almost in wheelspin territory on several occasions) and scary descent. A lesson learnt when it comes to route choice too!
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