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Audaxing With BCC: Fast Times in the High Weald

Audaxing With BCC: Fast Times in the High Weald

Audaxing With BCC: Fast Times in the High Weald

Saturday, 7th May 2022. With rain overnight, it was a humid start at the registration, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. While BCC has a strong contingent across the UK Audax events, Rob’s inaugural event brought the colours out in force, and other London clubs – while represented – were positively blurred out. 

The parcours for the ‘Fast Times in the High Weald’ was a daunting one: 200km with 3200m+ of ascent is certainly nothing to sniff at and would be a real AAA point earner for those that complete it successfully. Despite Rob’s potentially punishing route, the start list included a refreshingly large proportion of first-timers to the audax game, and what a way to start!

 

 

Rolling out of London through Crystal Palace we headed for Sevenoaks, following the rain as we went and using the looming clouds as our guide towards the inevitable elevation pain. The roads were slick, but the temperature was perfect for riding as we left the Big Smoke behind, making good progress towards Knells where we were met with some stunning scenery as the sun made an appearance. With the first information checkpoint down there was still a long way to go, but nothing quite replicates the sort of camaraderie created by 30+ cyclists simultaneously jotting down the details of a street sign while trying not to choke on a banana. We rode on.

 

 

In inimitable audax style, the only stamped control of the day was hosted at a village hall in Bells Yew Green, complete with a serving hatch of endless cups of coffee for the stream of riders already showing the strain of the elevation profile. Though only 80km in, the challenging climbs and wet roads were already taking their toll, and the repair stand out front was just as popular as the porcelain throne within! Nevertheless, we soldiered on. With our sights set, the pack strode towards Battle, cutting across a quintessentially English countryside landscape that would have been twee if it were not for the punishing gradients.

 

(photo credit: Adrian Downie)

 

Leaving Battle felt more like heading into it: storm clouds loomed ominously overhead, and as they sank into the woodland the condensation didn't so much produce rain as simply drench any object in reach instantaneously. Slick road surfaces curtailed any hope of picking up the average speed on descents, dropping the expected arrival time like a stone, and the wet tarmac heralded the arrival of the puncture fairy, halting progress again and again. Once we hit Ashdown Forest we were relieved of the slick surfaces, however, they were replaced by exposed roads and demoralising headwinds. Groups split and reformed in new configurations as riders were briefly broken, but found their second winds among new compatriots. The struggle against the headwind and the harsh gradients was a tough one, but we soon found reprieve in the exceptional views across the gorse-stricken hillsides – not to mention the euro-smooth asphalt on the sweeping descents towards Hartfield.

 

 

The Applegreen garage in Uckfield, sitting perfectly on the route, was a popular stop for receipt collection. Bemused passers-by visibly questioned how a fossil-fuel vendor could have ended up with this crowd of haggard-looking cyclists strewn Da Vinci style across its forecourt. While these fuel companies aren’t exactly our favourite businesses, they do usually have a functioning coffee machine and something solid to lean against!

It might sound like the worst of it was over, however, Rob’s knee-busting route had a sting in the tail. BCC veterans were all too familiar with what was to come: Ide Hill, for the last info control, bore an arrow-straight path through the Kent countryside – quite the opposite of what the doctor ordered after 9 hours on the move! Saving the best until last [best being a relative term here], just as the home stretch came into view, so did Hogtrough Hill. With 180km in the legs, every rider did at least feel the luxury of being able to take it as easy as possible guilt-free, and as a South Hills classic it felt only right that a BC tough-cookie ride should end its ascending here. 

 

(photo credit: Adrian Downie)

(photo credit: Adrian Downie)

 

In the afterglow of Cobblemonster, Herne Hill Velodrome feels as much like home to BC as the shop itself. Rolling down through Dulwich Park to Burbage Road was undoubtedly completed on autopilot for 99% of the field, and swinging that final right turn towards the track revealed the BC gazebo waiting for us at the finish. It was smiles all round as some stayed for pizza and others headed home for a well earned rest, each with another challenging but epic ride under the belt. 

 

Chapeau to those who rode, and we hope to see you on our next adventure!

 

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