Asparagus and Strawberries (400km, 2015)

So… I didn’t really have a plan beyond keep riding until the finish without sleep. Totally failed that one!

As per everyone else had a startlingly good ride to Halesworth, first time I have threatened a time limit. Met a couple of nice people on the way, Mr X on new Cannondale Synapse Disc and Colin L the ‘mounts man’ on his Moulton. Rode a behind Wilkyboy on Brompton for a bit. I’ve become a little blase about bikes now, but still, feck me, a brompton Nic?

Mucked about in Halesworth – went to the nice cafe but the man in front bought the last gluten-free tart (I am a coeliac) so had to go back to Co-op to buy GF bread and so on. Terrible waste of time.
On account of not planning to sleep I was on my lightweight carbon bike with a minimal setup.

That came in handy on the Acle -> Wells leg where I jumped on the back of a paceline of club riders for the first half of the leg. Now I did appreciate the ride, but got a bit bored. Riding along in a group not saying hello to anyone, or talking, just staring at a lycra buttocks in front… dull. And of course the strong man would do a turn at 28kph and everyone would slighty die and then they’d all slow back down to 23kph. I really never ever ever want to do that for 400km. Somewhat predictably, despite their higher overall speed I finished at exactly the same time as some of these chaps much later in the day.

Anyway, Wells. Last year had a curry so was expecting the same (again, gluten free needed) but it was closed. So had to find something else. The ‘Sands’ reteraunt was helpful but the meal took a while and I had to watch everyone I was travelling with ride away while waiting for my meal… oh well, another loooooong stop.

Finally set off on my own on the leg down to Barton Mills. I was much slower by now, but managed to chip away. My new exposure Strada light made a real difference here – people actually dipped their lights – progress! I have a newish Brooks which was beginning to bite a bit and that stretch not a favourite at that time of night (not late enough). At Barton Mills was still feeling bearable and stocked up on snacks, had a coffee, looked at all the Audax Tableaux (‘Defeat’, ‘Weariness’, ‘Slumber’) before setting off again.

Ahhhh, that’s better, no traffic to Newmarket and Saffron Walden. Still on steady progress, not really catching anyone, but not getting cought eighter. Quick word to Colin before he put down for a nap at SW, grappled with the machines and off again. Really feeling the tiredness now, but still ticking along as the dawn began to kick in. Lovely country this, I remember enjoying it last year too, despite the hills.

At the top of the Stour valley I was really getting wobbly. Passed a bus shelter and… it looked inviting. This was a first! I lay down on the hard bench and slept solid for 30 minutes. As the sun was up I didn’t get too cold. Somehow sleeping on a solid bench had straightened out my posture. There it was, my first acquaintance with an Audax hotel. Do I get a badge for that?!

Up and down the final hills and feeling ok now. Brooks had somehow got comfortable again. Passed Wilkyboy and Fidgetbuzz, then bent Tony who later had ‘a spell’ and into Manningtree just before 7am. I slept in the car for an hour and half, then went back to cafe to say hello to Tippers and Tom, but everyone was somewhat preoccupied with Tony and I was parked illegally in the railway car park (you have to buy a whole day ticket?!?!) so I left quickly and drove home, where I slept again. You know how that goes!

Lessons – I spent A LOT of time phaffing around. Mostly due to trying to find Gluten free food (always a pain). According to strava I was five seconds under 18 hours riding but took 23 hours overall. Hmmm…. next time I am going to put the stupidly large Neson longflap back on my bike and take more food to cut down mucking about, at least on the first control or two. Other lesson… I like riding Audax on a light carbon bike. Well, it was comfortable enough with the handmade wheels on it and quite a lot less like riding spaghetti than my current steel bike.
Still, my third ever 400…. they are hard aren’t they? Next up – flatlands…. I’ll be taking a bivy bag for that one I think!

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