Sunday, 25 September 2011

An Introduction to Audax

The misty, murky world of the Audax.  For many, it conjures up images of old men, beards, steel bikes with names of past great frame builders, panniers, tandems, massive saddle bags, leather shoes and sandwiches in foil.

The reality is that Audaxing is attracting a new audience of disillusioned sportive riders appealed by it's grass roots organisation, low entry-fees and non-competitive nature.  This year I haven't ridden one sportive, primary reason being they I can ride 100 miles on a bike anytime and don't need to spend thirty quid for the privilege. 

The major sportives in the North West (Cheshire Cat/Manchester 100) have thousands of riders on them, many of whom are not used to riding in groups, the feed stops are busy and - in some instances - the waits to even start are too long.  I have one sportive exception to this - Polocini - who limit entries, keep their prices low and provide decent food and organisation.

So, what is an Audax?  Well, the best explanation is here, which our cycling club secretary produced.  Link to the club website can be found here: -

"Wikipedia defines an Audax as "...a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion.

Think of an Audax as a cross between orienteering and a Sportive. You have a set route to follow, defined on a cue sheet or as a GPX file, with control points to prove that you've been to key places. Without direction arrows to follow you have to complete the course within set maxmium and minimum speeds. An Audax is not a race, it's a personal cycling challenge!

Audax UK oversees the running of events in the UK, and, using a system of timed checkpoints, and they validate and record every successful ride. Rides build up from 100km with structured goals and awards for distance and altitude climbed."

So, there you have it.  A pre-determined route, enthusiastic and experienced cyclists, decent grub and much lower entry prices.  As an example, the entry fee for our North Cheshire Clarion club Audax today was £6.00.  The route was 75 miles long, around 2.5k of climbing, had fabulous home cooked food on departure and arrival back at the event HQ.  Two cafe stops were en route, where you pay as normal for anything you have.  Just take a look at the cake selection below!
North Cheshire Clarion Audax Cake Table
I clicked 102 miles today.  Basically I rode up to the event HQ & back (16 miles), did an unexpected 11 miles de-tour to Wilmslow - mid Audax - when I missed a turn, plus the event 75 miles.  I didn't eat at the cafe stops, I skipped the first one and just filled water bottles at the second one, so as I hit about 80 miles, I was starting to feel hungry.  Jumping on the wheels of a group, I got a gel down me and dug in to get back to the HQ, upon which I scoffed this absolutely wonderful plate of food.  Cheese pie, beans, egg and toast, followed by coffee and walnut cake.  Boy, did that taste good!

Food I had on arriving back - champion!
The route included a couple of stiff climbs today.  The Wizard was the leg wake-up moment, but very doable.  Then we went out in the Peaks over Macclesfield way and you can see from the route, how steep the climb was out around the thirty five mile point.  Plenty of panting going up those I can tell you, but on the plus side, some great descents too.  Weather was drizzly, however we didn't get rained on, but there was plenty of wind around which made the going tough at times.

An example of our control card used today.

Today was my first Audax and I have to say, the club set one hell of a benchmark.  Organisation, food, route planning from start to finish was first class.  Big thanks to Andrew Williams, a fellow club member, who put a great deal of work into making it happen.  All for six quid - wow.  No wonder lots of the guys in the club are doing them regularly.

Riding home, I took the chance to get my bike cleaned at the local hand car wash.  These guys normally clean my car, they were sat with no customers, so I whizzed in and they did the business for three quid.  Arriving home, bike went straight back into it's stand, with no cleaning needed.  Result, as it was filthy!

Got the local car hand wash to clean my bike!
Today was my second successive century on back to back Sundays and September will probably be one of my better mileage months.  My cardio fitness seems to be getting back now, all down to the miles, only thing is it takes me about three days to get over it!

A final thought goes out to Simon Richardson MBE who was joining us for today's ride, prior to his major collision.  Climbing up those steep climbs, I needed every ounce of energy to haul myself up.  Simon does those climbs using power from one leg.  Just consider that for a moment.  In fact, next time you're out, try cycling with one leg for a sustained period of time and see how long you last.  Incredible athlete.

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up. I do love Audaxes and the wide spectrum of cyclist types you see on them. And the wide spectrum of cakes, too. ;-)