Tag Archives: audax

Scotti and the Skog

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The Bike Butler wanted to keep his Randonneur Round the Year going, just in case his 205km L’Eroica didn’t pass muster. I simply needed to feed the mileater diary as, due to bad weather and a rather good-looking Italian virus keeping me off the bike, it was getting rather peckish. Work miles simply weren’t enough to meet the diary’s voracious appetite. So it was decided that we’d ride the 100km Emitemmus Desrever as an Extended Calendar Event (ECE). We live roughly 50km from the start, so there and back plus event added up to 200km.

What we hadn’t planned on were the weather gods getting together to produce some really exceptional weather. Casper the Little While Moulton was cleaned and fettled ready to ride. However, given the forecast for big (and I mean BIG) winds and large rain plus the existing mega-skog factor and assorted leaf chutney in the lanes, I decided a change of steed was a must.

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Following a nano-second of thought, the most suitable steed in the stable had to be Scotti the mountain bike. At 14kg (he’s a tiny bit more but doesn’t like to own up), this bike was certainly going to glue itself to the road, no matter the strength of any side winds. 26” wheels shod with a Big Apple rear and a Nimbus Flak Jacket front were going to be surefooted on skoggy and pothole-infested lanes. With the Alfine 11 hub, puddles would have to be lakes before Scotti couldn’t splash through. And the final clincher, the dyno-hub would provide unlimited light for our return, given that the clocks had just gone back and the wind would be in our face. The only worry was; was I up to peddling Scotti for 200km? His longest ride ever was just over 100km, so this would be double-bubble.

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The ride out to the start was perfect. The rain had stopped and the wind was at our backs. The wind-assisted pace meant we arrived somewhat earlier than intended. However, that gave us the chance to enjoy the pre-ride ambience, admire the massed carbon bling and watch the well-oiled machine of Stevenage CTC volunteers ensuring riders were at the start line on time and with their brevet cards in their back pockets.

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Our group E started at 10:20 which was great as it meant we got to start with WilkyBoy, a little-wheeled AUK friend who was riding (as usual) his Brompton. He’d recently completed London Edinburgh London on it. He did a double-take on seeing that my wheels had grown from 20” to 26” (not full sized yet though!). The group sped off into the lanes to the first of three check points. The GPS track was perfect and Scottie, though not the fastest bike on two wheels, weaved through the hazard-filled lanes perfectly and seemed to sneak past quite a bit of carbon bling.

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Lunch at Saffron Walden (2nd check point) was very welcome with great service from the Mocha Café. Onto the final check point of the ride and the promise of WI caik! Would it be in the same league as Cheltenham WI caik? And the answer was ‘yes’. Fuelled by a rather wonderful slice of Victoria sponge, the last 25km to the arrivee into a rather large headwind was almost OK.

A quick cup of coffee and a chat to bhoot (tandem) and RideHard (with his uni-pedalled fixed wheel) and we were a-wheel again for the final 50km home into the headwind. Local knowledge, imparted to me by my Dad when I first stated cycling with the Marlboro AC, was invaluable. With the Bike Butler on fixed for the first time in many years and the weight of Scotti becoming a little bit noticeable, the reasonably flat route home was just what tired legs needed.

The Emitemmus Desrever in either its straight BP format, or as an ECE, is I think aStevenage5 perfect and very worthwhile ride for autumn. The organisation is brilliant and the route hits the spot; hilly enough to be interesting but not so hilly as to be disheartening. Since I first rode this as one of my very early brevets in 1997 as Summer Time Reversed, it has certainly grown but despite the numbers, it never feels manic and the controls/ volunteers always seem to be able to cope with the volume of riders. 

Pedal On UK – A Welcome Change of Pace

Pedal On8Back in 2012, with the Olympics just about on my door step, my preferred involvement was ‘hands on’ rather than buying a ticket and going to watch one of the events. Sustrans provided just the right opportunity, firstly by asking for volunteer Active Travel Champions from within the NHS (my employer) and then asking those volunteers if they would like to support BikeBuddies with their led rides to the Olympic events in London, including the Olympic Park. I volunteered for both as I love using my bike as transport as well as for leisure and formerly for racing. I particularly liked the idea of trying to get more people cycling and walking to work as I’ve personally found it of great benefit to my physical and mental well-being as well as my wallet.

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Leading the rides to various London Olympic sites was a lot of fun and enabled me to meet up with both Sustrans volunteers outside my immediate area and members of the public. The routes we used, particularly to the Olympic Park used quite back roads and Sustrans routes, so were a delight to ride thanks to the careful and meticulous planning / route testing of Lynne from BikeBuddies. It also unexpectedly provided an excellent opportunity to see the Olympics at first hand; the cycling time trial.

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Post 2012 and a change in work location; Charing Cross Hospital to West Middlesex Hospital I continued with being an Active Travel Champion. I’m not too sure if I have made a particularly big impact on people’s travel habits as the NHS is a slow moving organisation that is set in its ways. However, when I do get the chance to encourage people to walk or cycle to work I’m happy to chat and provide encouragement. As a result one colleague is now walking as part of his work travel a couple of times a week.

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Much to my surprise, I was invited to be part of the London Pedal On, which I happily accepted as it sounded like a great event to be involved in. It would also provide a welcome change of pace from the long distance riding that I was already planned, including London Edinburgh London 1400km brevet, which would be ridden just shy of two weeks before Pedal On. The promise of a mini urban adventure mainly on cycle routes clinched the deal.

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An unexpected spin-off of being part of Pedal On is to be asked to be a Ride Reporter for the London leg of the event. I’d been reluctant to ‘do’ the blog, Twitter and Flicker ‘thing’ back in 2012. But with the encouragement of the Bike Butler, it’s something that I’ve come to enjoy. The only problem has been that you can’t write a blog and spend lots of hours a-wheel at the same time. Thankfully the Ride Reporting will be done real-time, so a perfect fit with the riding.

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The London leg of Pedal On UK departs from the Victoria Park (Bonner Gate) on Friday 16th August 2013, 07:00 to 12:00. There are events for members of the public as well as the pre-arranged riding group. If you have time to come along, please do.

Kilometers Rich; Time Poor

 After last years trials and tribulations caused by a combination of getting sick and unknowingly wearing out my very essential orthotics, it’s been good to feel fit and healthy again. It wasn’t until a month or so ago, that I realised what an impact my soggy and ride weary carbon fibre orthotics had been making. They were the main reason for the back issues that I had suffered in Portugal and Australia. The new springy carbon fibre orthotics that were installed in November, had by May worked their magic. Riding up big hills now didn’t involve extended conversations with granny and the big ring on Casper again became the ring of preference for riding on flat and undulating ground. Riding became a joy again and resulted in lots of kilometres accumulating, but leaving me time poor for activities outside of turning the pedals and going to work. Hence the miles eater diary has been regularly fed but the blog has been on a rather low word diet.

Thus far the planned big rides have all worked out, even if the Israeli 1,000km brevet involved a nail biting finish with only 10 minutes to spare at the arrivee. The campaign to complete the Aigle d’Or has also been successful, with the final 1,900 audax kilometres being bagged in France and an autumn pizza party to look forward to with the Alsace 67 audax group. To keep things balanced, there is a second ACF R5000 award to claim. I’ve also taken Casper to meet the joys of the Welsh mountains on the Bryan Chapman 600 rando (my 9th edition). It was a splendid weekend a-wheel and I’m quite sure we’ll be back.

Next on the menu is London Edinburgh London, which starts Sunday 28th July from Loughton, nr London. This will be my 3rd edition. Through no particular planning each edition has been ridden on a different bike, a Robert’s steel frame then an Enigma titanium frame. For this edition it will be Casper the Little White Moulton. There is no pre-planned schedule for this ride. Like all of my long brevets, I’m using the turn up and see how it goes approach. Riding like this has so far always produced a memorable and unexpected adventure within the structure of a randonnee. Hopefully the one thing missing from this LEL will be ‘weather’, particularly rain or cold, which have graced both previous LELs in unprecedented quantities.

As we speak, Casper the Little White Moulton and the Co-Pilot are poised to commence the next brevet adventure.

Half Wheeling – The 2013 Easter Arrow

The Fleche Velocio was created by Audax Club Parisien and forms part of their Randonneur 5000 award. Other countries introduced local versions to qualify for the same award, Audax Australia’s Opperman All Day Trial, RUSA’s Fleche-USA and AUK’s Easter Arrow. They are all inspired by the origins of ACP as an audax club, rather than the randonneur club that ACP later became. An audax brevet, in the strict sense, is where a group led by a captain rides together over a planned route to a predetermined schedule.

For the Easter Arrow, between 3 and 5 machines (a tandem is 1 machine) ride a pre-determined route within 24 hours and at least 3 machines must finish for the brevet to be validated. At least 360km must be ridden in the 24 hours with at least 25km covered in the last 2 hours. Aiming for more than 360km is fine and some teams endeavour to better the best distance for their country.  A team’s brevet distance can vary by 20% up or down on the day, provided at least 360km. The ride can start anywhere but finishes at a predetermined location or ‘concentration’. In the UK, the event finishes in York.

Dave (aka The Bike Butler) pulled together, via YACF, a team of little wheelers starting their Arrow from Hertfordshire. The team went by the name ‘Heroes on the Half-Wheel’ and included Adam (akin) on an Airnimal, Rimas (zigzag) on a single speed Dahon, Dave (LWaB) on a TSR and me (HK) on Casper the little White Moulton. We rolled out of Watford Junction at 10am on Good Friday which, given the challenges that lay ahead, should have really been Bad Friday.

Start photo

Everything started smoothly enough. The wind was kindly over the first 50km to Thame and the sun even shone from time to time.  Out of Thame and swinging right to the next checkpoint at Olney; the wind was in our faces. It would remain thus for virtually all of the ride, blowing at a persistent 13mph.

The first indication that Mr Google Maps, who had assisted in planning our route, wasn’t exactly trustworthy came when we were sent down a brief but Roubaix-like section of Sustrans Route 54. Confidence in Mr Google Maps was restored as his route though Milton Keynes ‘Red Routes’ was not only faultless but quiet and exceedingly pleasant, though a little time-consuming.

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After a swift coffee and supermarket stop, the team rolled out of Olney. Then the challenges started.  Suddenly the Airnimal decided to have a bad rear wheel moment and break a spoke which it cunningly used to break the Campag chain. As none of us had a 10sp connector link, Adam thought his ride was over. Having a former professional mechanic on the team (the Bike Butler) ensured that the wheel was quickly trued and the chain mended; strictly against the manufacturer’s instructions.

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The team was back, half-wheeling their way to the next check point at Spalding via snow-edged lanes and a gourmet dinner stop at Peterborough. Dave decided that spending an hour or so holed up in the toilet would be a good way to rest up. We had thought about sending in a couple of search parties but instead waited for him to emerge, somewhat lighter.

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Leaving Spalding and heading into the Fens, the toughest part of the ride began. To begin with, the only challenge was the bitter temperature, which would freeze everyone’s feed bottles until daylight returned. Then Mr Google Maps decided a bit of midnight frozen bridlepath orienteering was in order. The team took to their feet, pushing the bikes for what seemed like forever until the bridge to cross the dyke appeared; a good 3km later than promised. Thankfully, after the bridge was crossed, the team were able to easily get back on route. Frosted and icy lanes still had to be navigated before the next checkpoint, Gonerby Services.

The team finally made Gonerby at stupid o’clock in the morning with another team already ensconced. It turned out that Mr Ferry’s Reading team had become Arrow abandonneurs and would be proceeding to York by train. Getting the little wheels to York in time was now out of the question but some swift calculations were made on the back of a KitKat wrapper.

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As time is miles, the little wheels tore themselves away from the warmth of the services to head out into the cold, cruel world for a fairly flat but freezing leg to Lincoln. If Lincoln was gained no later than 6am, completing the minimum official distance of 360km by the 24th hour was possible. The real distance on the road would be noticeably more, of course. Legs and little wheels whirred into action again.

The team headed out of Lincoln 24 hour Services just after 6am. The weather gods still had one more delight to share with us. Light snow, which thankfully was pesky but unable to settle.  The next milestone was to make the Scunthorpe checkpoint by 8am (the 22nd hour).  The team kept tired legs turning and, little wheels whizzing, arrived at Scunthorpe after the appointed hour.

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The Airnimal was clearly still unhappy with the world and broke another rear spoke just before Scunthorpe.  Dave swiftly trued the wheel again and the team commenced the last hour and a half of riding which would hopefully give enough time to arrive at Goole for ACP minimum official distance.

The team toiled in the lanes hugging the Trent River with the wind sometimes giving a helping hand from time to time (and about time too), by being on our backs rather than in our face.  We sprinted thorough Swinethorpe, which gave us just enough time to cross the Goole prime sign as the 24th hour struck and 363 official kilometres completed (about 390km in reality).

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After a late breakfast in Goole, it was time to ride the last 40-odd km to York where trains awaited to take the team home. Happily only 1 broken spoke and a couple of snow flurries to cope with during those couple of extra hours.

Arriving in York at 1 o’clock, Rimas, Dave and myself had enough time to exchange some banter with the teams sill in the pub, quaffing ale and downing hard-earned food. It turned out that only about half the teams that had started out the previous day had made it to York. I can’t remember a harder Arrow, even the 2009 one where we had to abandon due to snow wasn’t this tough.

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Mile Eater Diary – March 2012

March started with the weather gods suffering from some kind of delusion. They clearly thought it was April rather than March, so provided nearly two weeks of glorious sunshine and soft kindly breezes. However, in the run up to Easter, someone switched the sun off and it was back to the chilly temperatures of winter, accompanied on occasion with endless grey skies.

The Bike Butler had installed Scottie’s Alfine 11 speed hub and it was time to put this new and exciting technology (to me) to the test. The first spin to collect some groceries showed lots of promise, once you got used to a little more weight at the rear of the bike than with the old dérailleur set up. Working my way through MG’s utilitiare challenge meant that Scottie was called upon to perform more day-to-day tasks, including riding to work and eventually pulling the Gecko trailer fully loaded with groceries. He excelled at it, with his lovely new range of hub gears. Having now ridden him enough kms, Scottie is again a firm favourite for utility tasks, including commuting.

The first event in March was the South Bucks Chiltern Hills Brevet. Organiser Terry Lister, ensured that he didn’t get caught out under the trades description act with the ride constantly winding up and over the Chiltern Hills for 200km in glorious sunshine. The South Bucks DA did an excellent job of providing tea, cakes and savoury delights for many hungry cyclists on both the 200km and 100km as they passed in and out of the HQ in Great Kingshall.

Then a change of pace with the Man of Kent 200km. It declined to play in the Kentish hills, but instead found, for the most part, flat roads to ride on. The bunch set off in chilly, foggy conditions but donning arm and leg warmers with the hope of better things to come when the sun came out. Alas, this didn’t occur, but the pesky headwind turned into a marvellously helpful tailwind to gently push riders to the arrivee.

The now cold weather followed me and the Bike Butler through the Chunnel and over to Paris for a Union des Audax Francais brevet. This is a group brevet at a scheduled pace of 22.5kph with defined breaks, including lunch, and led by appointed riders. The event started and finished at St Remy Les Chevreuse on the outskirts of Paris and wandered along gently rolling D roads, returning on schedule at 7pm with 200km on the computer.

In things to look forward to, there is Casper the Little White Moulton’s return from his surgery at ‘The Hall’. Plus going over to Queensland, Oz for my first rando Dirt Ride. The Bike Butler and I will also be doing the Beaches and Beyond 1000km rando that Frank Papp created before dying from a collision with a kangaroo whilst training for last year’s PBP.

And last but not least, my Rapha Festive 500 patch arrived. Well worth the effort of putting in the kms over the Christmas period and lots of fun following fellow festive 500 participants on Twitter and Strava. Something to put in the diary for this year.

Mile Eater Diary – February 2012

As January quietly slipped into February the weather gods kept to their commitment to provide temperatures that where akin to those found in a freezer. Not daunted I continued to pedal; hermetically sealed in my club mega windblocker jacket along with plenty of merino wool and windblocker cycle longs. Just as I was approaching the weekly minimum 400km target the weather gods did the dastardly deed and spent a whole Sunday depositing loads of nasty cold white stuff on the ground. I was left looking out of the window admiring the fine whiteness of the outside world for the next 7 days. The only respite came when I was able to sneak 12km down to Sainsbugs and back on the Brompton in between top up snow fall.

Thankfully, the weather gods got fed up with their little game and allowed the weather to fine up and purposeful cycling to recommence. The improvement in the weather was so good that a near perfect day was provided for the Reading Kennett Valley Run 200km randonnee. The peloton contained many of the ‘usual suspects’, including YACF’s Lyrca Man and RideHard in search of their February Randonneur Round the Year award ride. The controls at Hungerford and Bratton were as usual excellent, both cafes happily coping with a mega influx of hungry cyclists. Mick Simmons and his team did a fantastic job at the arrivee providing a warm welcome and a great post ride feast.

The Bike Hub app is great, particularly for navigating around central London. The best bit being that it knows all the cycle paths and cut-troughs that only a local rider would know. However, when it decides to have one of its bad bike Sat Nav days, things get not only interesting but very, very frustrating. Riding the Brompton to my new place of work with the Bike Hub navigating (as and when it felt like it) provided some unexpected but interesting urban adventures. The route is now safely logged in my brain’s navigation SIM card, so no more suffering from the vagaries of Mr Bike Hub. Although, having tried other bike Sat Nav Apps, this is the best one by far and keeps improving all the time.

The Bike Butler sourced and installed the most fantastic pair of pedals onto the Brompton. The Wellgo plug-in pedals allow you the luxury to choose either SPDs or flat pedals but when folding the Brompton, the pedals aren’t in the way as they simply pull out and then plug in when you are ready to ride again. Having thoroughly tested them in and around town, including on Gypsy Bugs Utilitaire challenge, they get big ‘thumbs up’.

In ’ things to look forward to’, the spoke elves finally visited Chez Brevet Bird as February faded into March with the necessary spokes for the Alfine 11 speed hub and it’s rim. So once the bike butler has knitted the spokes with the hub and rim, the first spin on Scotti avec Alfine isn’t too far way. Also, I still need to check out if the ‘Remede du Randonneur’ works that I was recently given!

Mile Eater Diary – January 2012

After January 2010, it was like getting an extended Christmas present with the perfect winter cycling weather that January 2011 presented. Knowing that the weather gods can give with one hand and then take back as quickly with the other, utilizing the good weather a-wheel was a must.

A first was scored, by riding the calendar version of the Poor Student 200km randonnee event from Oxford. It is a ride that is usually cursed with cold and icy conditions. This edition was positively balmy. The route is simple but effective with intermediate controls at Malmesbury and Chipping Campden. It was a chance to meet up with numerous friends, many chasing the AUK Randonneur Round the Year award. This included from the YACF forum Lycraman, having successfully completed his first in 2010 and RideHard who is aiming to obtain his first.

Unbelievably, the good weather continued and made the Willy Warmer 200km another fine day a-wheel. This is an excellent winter ride mainly on good A and B roads, with not too many secret squirrel info controls, so even in bad years it is usually rideable. The organisation as always was excellent, so a big thumbs up to Paul Stewart from the Willesden.

The weather gods were of course bound to change their minds and retract the good weather. The super freezy elves were let loose on just about the last week in January. A good day meant that its zenith at high noon reached a heady 4C. The only upside to the cold spell was little or no humidity. This translated as little or no risk of ice, so grumbling about the Sahara like conditions created by the spread but unused road salt seemed a little out of order. I closed the month with over double the mileage tally of January 2010, keeping quest to reach 200,000 recorded miles by the close of play this year on target.

In ‘things to look forward to’, my new Alfine 11 speed hub arrived. This is to re-new the rear wheel that I wore out on my Scott MTB in December after many years of faithful service over countless miles. I’m now just waiting on spokes, rims and my tame bike butler to put it all together and I can go out for a test ride.

2011 Mile Eater Diary Round-up

As ever, when the final tally for the year is totalled, you always wish it was a bit more. However, with a desperate January and February from unforeseen things like flu, complaining that 13,377 miles isn’t enough would be churlish.

Miles a-wheel of course usually equate to great memories and wonderful adventures. Within the 2011 mileage, there are heaps of both and plenty of rides with new and old cycling friends. To pick out one outstanding memory / adventure would be tough. Vying for top spot would be the inaugural Texas Stampede Rando 1200, my first ride on Casper ‘the little white Moulton’ and PBP Audax and PBP Randonneur. The two memories that stand out most are from the PBPs. The first is the unscheduled all night chase on PBP Audax with Dave Minter and  Yves, (a French rider) to get back to the peloton; achieved but with an uncomfortably close margin. The second is my last night of PBP Rando, riding with Edwin Hargreaves (on trike) to Mortagne-au-Perche trying to chase down Jim Hopper (also on trike). Although we failed in this mission, we had a party riding up hill and down, pulling back endless tail lights.

Being lucky enough to ride three international 1200s in one year ensured I met up with lots of old friends from around the world. It also gave me the opportunity to make new friends, including people that I had only ‘met’ via Twitter and blogs, such as the Daily Randonneur tandem team, Mary Gersema (Gypsy Bug) and Edward Felker. Following their escapades in the virtual reality world of the web is even better for knowing the real people.

The mileage year ended with an unforeseen splash, when Dave pointed me in the direction of the Rapha 500 challenge. With the Twitter, blogs and Strava all going, I rapidly got wrapped up in collecting kilometres and would up with a surplice at close of play. However, with the brief to collect photos and write about the week, the whole project was given an added edge that I really enjoyed.

Looking forward to 2012, there is plenty of milestones and targets out there. If the mileage gods smile kindly on me, I should hopefully reach 200,000 this December. I’ve been logging my miles since January 1999, so this will be a magic way point in my quest to become a member of the 300,000 mile club. Hopefully there will also be travel a-wheel with old friends in the UK and overseas and plenty of new friends to be found. There is also the challenge of capturing a whole 12 months a-wheel on ‘digital film’ via Flickr and Instagram, which although started late in 2011, has been a fantastic way of keeping an image diary to go along with the recorded miles.

Casper the little white Moulton’s first kms

Between the wonderful expertise of Dan Farrell and his crew at Moulton building the frame and Dave Minter bolting on the components, Casper is now a complete and rideable machine.  Next step, road testing to put him through his paces and check that nothing vital was going to jump ship during PBP audax and rando.

As with all bikes, there are a few things mechanical that on the work stand are fine but, on the road, needed tweaking.  These were found and resolved on a pleasant 100km ride over to friends.

Casper on route≠64

Then came the main tests.  Firstly a 200km DIY ride from Oxfordshire, over to the Cotswolds, then through the Chilterns to home.  Then to really check that nothing was going to work loose on the roads of France, a 100km ride using the Sustrans paths of Hertfordshire (route 64), much of it off road.

Casper performed brilliantly throughout the various roads, hills and paths of the first 400km.  He was quick along the flat, descended like a demon, cornered on tramlines and figured he might just be Pantani when going up hills!

Casper

After only a few rides a-wheel, Casper is challenging the beloved Robbie (my Roberts S&S coupled bike) as my favourite stead out of the one or perhaps many I have to choose from.

Ladies First

UAF audaxes have ride captains, chosen by the ride organiser.   The purpose of the ride captains (the Centenaire du Tourmalet had four) is to lead the peloton of up to 150 riders at a 22.5 kph average, to ensure the scheduled stop times in controls are met and to get as close as possible to 100% homologations for the ride.  From time to time, the ride captains invite riders as ‘guests’ to assist at the front of the peloton, considered a bit of an honour.

I’ll be a ride captain for the second session of PBP Audax 2011.  Few women have done this and to date no english-speaking riders.  So while it is brilliant to be chosen, it also comes with a scary amount of responsibility.

Regular ride updates will be made during the ride, so watch the Twitter space on The Brevet Bird from the 7th to 11th August 2011.

For further information on PBP Audax go to http://www.audax-uaf.com/cyclo/pages/PBP2011large.htm