MDCC go on an Audax

Audax UK is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling association in the UK.  Today a group of 16 from the club (Dave D, Sarah & son Sam, Gurpal, Steve, Mike & friend, Simon G, Simon S, Mark R, Mark W, Rob I, Rob O'K, Hewan, Deane, Gary) ventured out on a wonderfully sunny day to experience one of the organisation's shorter events, the 10 Thames Bridges 110km.

As might be expected from the title this event transverses the Thames 10 times, 6 times upstream from Maidenhead before a cafe stop at Dinton Pastures and then 4 more crossings downstream.  The MDCC group made up a sizeable proportion of the 55 who set off from Jenners Cafe at 9:00 and then quickly crossed Maidenhead Bridge before passing through the new estate of very expensive houses on the South Bucks side of the river.

The sizeable peloton soon split into groups as it wound past Cliveden to cross Cookham and Marlow bridges and then up Frieth hill.  Most successfully found the turning to Marlow Common, although some carried on further up the hill for a more circuitous route.  Through the woods at Hambledon, a group of us stopped as Mark R mended a flat back tyre.  We then made our way down to the fourth crossing at Hambleden Weir where we caught up with some of the rest of the group as they waited for the lock gates to shut.

Making our way to Henley we were surprised to encounter many cyclists travelling in the opposite direction.  We soon discovered we had come across the Three Counties Cycle Ride for the first of many times today.  At Henley some were tempted to follow a diversion towards a Lettle Willy (some locals had had fun altering a sign towards a Little Welly obstacle race).  Instead we turned left for further climbing in the Chilterns before coming back over Sonning Bridge towards the cafe stop at Dinton Pastures.

A cafe was available at this half-way point, but it was noticeable how pit-stop strategies varied.  Mike and Rob O'K's early group discovered that audaxes discourage those who ride too fast by arriving before the control was open and then decided to go on to find a less crowded cafe at Moss End.  Gurpal decided on a quick stop and was soon back on the road, some went for just coffee and cake, others for more substantial meals while Sarah arranged for her husband support crew to order for her in advance to avoid the queue.

The second half setting off across to Windsor was flatter and familiar to those of us who rode out to Fernygrove Cafe a couple of weeks ago.  Having passed Henley and seeing it being set up ready for the imminent Royal Regatta and early signs of preparation for Royal Ascot, in contrast we saw the end of the sporting event in Windsor Great Park as we approached a large number of horses (in their very large horse boxes) being driven away from the Royal Polo grounds.  Down the hill to Old Windsor saw us criss-cross the Thames 3 more times at Datchet, Windsor and Eton.  Havng passed another Berkshire sporting venue at Dorney Lake there was a turning to the 10th and last crossing, an overgrown cycle way adjacent to the M4.  Audax rules mean that you do not strictly have to follow the exact route of the ride as long as you pass all the control points.  This meant there was the option to avoid this route by carrying onto the A4 and passing over the more pleasant Maidenhead Bridge again, whilst purists could endure the noisy motorway bridge to complete the full set of 10 different bridges.

Back at the finish we enjoyed ice creams in the sun, while many exhausted riders successfully hid their disappointment at hearing the news that the 600km Audax ride that Sarah and I are doing in a couple of weeks time was sold out. 

Some then repaired to the Thames Riviera Hotel for a few bears before heading home. 

Arriving back at Jenner's with finishing times ranging between 1:45 and 3:45, everyone finished safely within the time limit including Sarah and 15 year old Sam who were delayed on their homeward leg having had to swap saddles.  Well done to everyone for finishing in very hot conditions today especially Simon S, Steve and Sam for whom this was their longest ever rides. 

For those who missed it or want to repeat the experience there is another 100km Audax that goes out with the same start and finish point to Theale and Pangbourne in 4 weeks time on July 1st.  There are also 50km and 200km rides on the same day for those who wish a shorter trip or wish to take Audax to the next level (there is almost no limit to how far you can go on Audax rides!).