On Sunday just gone I completed the Audax Populaire Hengist’s Hills. My eighth Audax of 2014. Just over 100km with 1750m of climbing. It’s included in the rides qualifying for the Grimpeurs de Sud award and is the second of such rides I have completed this year.
Map My Ride have a cool function that creates course videos of uploaded routes using Google Earth. Here’s one of the route I found before riding it myself –
The weather was perfect. Clear and sunny with little if any wind. First time out this autumn when my fingers felt the cold for the first few miles. On the way to the start I noticed a very slight frost on some of the fields. Another first of the season.
Arrived in plenty of time. Usual chit-chat, coffee and biscuits as we waited for the start time at 10.00 am to come around. All very relaxed and low key as I have found is the Audax way. I took this picture at the control by Bredgar Village Hall just before the off.
We returned to this point twice during the ride as it was the manned control and then finished here at the end. Tim Ford the organiser was an affable chap. His missus was in the kitchen sorting the refreshments. Plenty of grub to eat and tea to drink each time we passed by. Big thanks to them both for the work they put into making this ride as enjoyable and friendly as it was.
I was one of the last to start as I had messed around trying to get a video of all the other riders as they set off, I reckon between thirty to forty in all. I failed in that task as my phone refused to play nicely. I started off riding pretty slow but soon found I was comfortable shifting along at a brisk pace. Knowing the roads on the first section also helped.
As I neared the control point for the first time I spied a group of four riders whose jerseys I recognised among those that had set of quickly from the start. I realised that they were the leaders. That was that then. I set out to catch up. I soon did as they were at the control checking in just as I arrived. A slice of cake and a cold drink and I was ready to do the off with them.
The second loop I hammered it. I got in front and held the lead place for a good while. I took a wrong turn. Although I quickly corrected myself as I came back on course the other four riders were on me. I rode with them for a short while but seeming as I had it in my legs I sped up a bit and was soon riding on my own again. Not very sociable I know but I had a feeling I would not be finishing on my own.
Sure enough after a couple more wrong turns and swift corrections, at about ten km from the control they were with me again. We rode together for this final stretch until the last km when three of us gave it our all and made it a sprint towards the end! All great fun, a friendly unspoken challenge and in good spirits. I was third in by about ten seconds or so. Colin and Sefi beat me to it and good for them for doing so.
Ten minutes later we were off on our way for the last thirty km. For this last section four of us pretty much stuck together until we reached Hollingbourne Hill which is about eight km from the finish. It was here that I got dropped. I kept going but just could not keep up the pace of the other three as they climbed the hill and I was left grinding it out on my own. There’s a certain justice in that I guess. I found I could live with it though by reminding myself that my Tricross with the Schwalbe Marathon Tours I was riding on (40mm tyres at 950g a piece) was probably (definitely!) a lot heavier with more rolling resistance than they were pushing with their 25mm tyres on rando and road bikes. Whatever! It made me feel better about it anyway.
Once at the top I quickly got back up to speed and was at the finish about ten minutes later just a few minutes after they got there or so they told me. Congratulations all round followed by home-made vegetable chilli and elderflower cordial washed down with a hot sweet cup of tea.
Thanks given to Tim and his missus. Handshakes and farewells and I was off again for the twelve-mile ride home up and down some of the hills that were on the first section of the route. Lovely job. I shall do it again next year.
Learning from the ride? Cold green tea with a couple of sugars and a good pinch of salt works miracles at curing cramps and holding of their return. I had a litre water bottle and prepared the brew the night before. I drink a lot of green tea and have found it’s a great fix to have on rides. First time I have put salt in it though. It will be something I do again for sure. KT tape supporting the Achilles was a very good idea as well. No problems at all with either of them. I had been a bit worried as I’d been feeling the odd twinge and had noticed a slight swelling in one after a few rides in the week or two leading up this Audax. Certainly feel fine today.