The Severn Across 400 - April 2011

A second 400 in two weeks.  The Easter Arrow 400 'doesn't count'.  Would you believe that?  I mean, would you believe that I'm beginning to think like that.  When I first did audax rides, the points and award system meant nothing to me.  It was the excellent routes and company I was looking for.  But now, with having to qualify for PBP, it matters whether rides 'count' or not, and the Easter Arrow didn't.  Still, 4 points will be awarded and I have a small desire to reach 50 points this season,.  It occurred to me during LEL year, that, if I had registered all rides I would have got close to 50 points.  So in PBP year, I thought I should make that happen.  It might be a once in a lifetime achievement.  50 points mean 5000km in audaxes above 200km.  It is not massive compared with what 'mileeaters' do, but you wouldn't achieve 50 points without some planning and understanding from the people around you.

Looking forward to cycling through the wonderful countryside again.  I love the ride, it is a bigger loop of the Dean 300.  And with an excellent stop at the Turkish Aslan cafe in Chepstow, I'll treat it as two 200s.

Severn Across 400 route - going anticlockwise
A massive tailwind (24km/h) is forecast for Saturday.  Shame we'll have to turn around at Chepstow.  My strategy is to take it easy and enjoy it.  Still, if I could get to Membury Services by midnight, that would be even better.  Then I can have a couple of hours rest, before finishing the last 100km or so.  Finishing within 24 hours, again, would be great, but I'm not going for it.  You can follow me on twitter (swarm_catcher #audaxuk).

York Easter Arrow 2011

It is unusual to find the words 'team' and 'winner' in the world of audaxing.  The competitive aspect of this event is weak.  The team captain needs to submit the estimated distance to be covered beforehand, so assuming all goes to plan, the winner can be predetermined.  The team aspect can't be faked though!

The rules, and history of the event, are here: Easter Arrow rules (do read about the 'the three elements that make up the spirit of the Flèche'!).  Teams of 3 to 5 riders start within a 24 hour riding distance from York.  The team covering the longest distance 'wins'.  An 'arrow' is cycled towards the 'bull's eye' that is York.  I was visualising the event more as a crystal formation phenomenon.  The teams being satellite crystals formed by the team members' journey towards the captain's designated start location.  All over the country the satellite crystals send out a branch towards York, when the overall crystal takes shape.  As teams arrive in York, the satellite crystals and branches disappear, until the last team arrives, and then ... the crystal is gone.

York, "a symbolic place to meet with like-minded cyclists".
Our captain Arabella was a natural. She brought the team together, did the admin work, produced an excellent route, guided us onto the correct path if there was any doubt, a gentle 'are we ready to go again?', 'let's have a warm-up stop', 'do you need a hand with that puncture', but never 'we must keep going', or 'we shouldn't stop here', or 'we need to speed up'.  No, we certainly didn't need to speed up!  With wonderful sunny weather and a tailwind, we were making good progress.  In fact we got a little ahead of ourselves and had to watch out for the '2 hour rule', or is it the '22 hour rule'?  That time coincided with a cold spell, and we were all getting the dozies.  This wasn't planned, but we did it in style, and went into a hotel.

Captain Arabella and Thing2 discussing tandems
As we set off again for the last leg, it was mostly Thing2 who lead from the front, which Arabella and I appreciated. Many thanks to Arabella and Thing2, for organising, leading, the company, creating the spirit of the Flèche.

The time in daylight was pure pleasure: lovely lanes such as below, villages such as Cavendish, buildings such as March Town Hall, cathedrals such as Lincoln, bridges such Humber, birdsong such as skylark, stops such as Tesco 24 hour ... eh, oh no.

The route was wonderful! I love cycling on those lanes.
The Easter Arrow is worth doing just for the arrival.  It was great meeting up for breakfast.  Nobody is in a rush to get home. And CrinklyLion's cake-fest was amazing!  I suggested I would only take half a slice so that everyone can have a bit. 'No', she said, 'I have four more cakes, and cupcakes, in my pannier!'.   Having such a generous cake sharing person around, certainly helped the ambience!

Cake and cupcakes at the Punchbowl York
Other thoughts:
  • Making my way to Arabella's house from the station in Ipswich, battling against a wave of Norwich supporters, high on a 5-1 win, trying to catch the last train.
  • Arabella pointing out a Sleaford landmark although I was in denial about having gone through Sleaford on the north leg of LEL  Sleaford on the way south had been more memorable because of the hail!
  • Taking nearly all of the photos 'on the move'.
  • I pushed 'DNS' thoughts out of my mind all the way to 8AM Friday morning.  Any inclines caused my heart rate to rocket, but fortunately, the route was flatter than 'De Polders'.  On Sunday, my cold continued where it left off at 8AM Friday morning.  
  • Loads of yellow rape seed fields
  • Met up with friends after the Arrow, and cycled past the Minster on Sunday.  The sound of the bells was great.
Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky