25th June 2016
Thanks to Andy for this weeks blog.
Mike was unable to join us, so it was Lara and I who set off ridiculously early this week to take part in our first ‘Audax’, the ‘Gwent Gambol’, a 100km jaunt round the quiet lanes and beautiful countryside of Gwent. For the uninitiated, an Audax involves self-navigation with a map, instructions, and a ‘Brevet’ card, on which you answer questions and collect tokens to verify your progress. Herein lies the first challenge, remembering to take your reading glasses and the directions. It was a challenge that I failed.
Lara had at least managed to load the route on her phone, and was therefore in charge of navigation. It was, however, the blind (metaphorically) leading the blind (literally). Still, we set off from the start point in Usk under sunny skies and in good spirits at 8.00am sharp. A couple of turns successfully navigated we began to relax, setting a good pace, pausing only briefly to take in the magnificent scenery around Celtic Manor. Everything was going well; although not necessarily in the right direction. We were miles off course. And the only way to get back on course was to climb the 17% hill that the ‘nice lady from Google’ directed us to, which as Lara found, without a 1st gear, can be quite a challenge.
The beautiful countryside gave way to the somewhat less salubrious streets of Ringland as we found a shortcut to get us back on track to finally get to the first check-point at Redwick. Our chances of finding the way to the next checkpoint were not good, but for the fortunate meeting we had with Steve and Elin, fellow participants and ace navigators, who kindly offered us the opportunity to tag along with them.
The next check-point, at Chepstow station, gave us our first cafe stop and a chance to refuel, before the long climb up the Wye Valley. The spectacular scenery by Tintern Abbey was followed by a tricky slog up to Trellech, at which point the long lost sun gave way to a cloudburst of biblical proportions. Fast descending into the stinging and almost horizontal rain, with only one eye half open, is probably not the safest thing to do, and I was glad of my disk brakes, but we made it safely down to Monmouth, the next check-point and a chance to dry out and warm up with more coffee and cake.
The last leg was back to Usk, with only one final bit of information to collect. We missed the sign for this, however, requiring Steve and I to double back to collect it, and then the final stretch to the finishing line. Approaching Usk Lara helpfully pointed out that she knew where we were, and that she could take a turn on the front. 100 yards later we were at the finish line, for a well-deserved bacon sandwich and a final coffee, all as part of our £5 entry. Good value, huge fun, and a great chance to meet some really nice folks.
Special thanks to Steve and Elin for their good company and navigational skills; both Lara and I confessing to each other on the way back to Cardiff that we would have never found the way around without them. Thanks also to Richard for organising the event. It was a great day out and if you get the chance to do an Audax you should. Just don’t leave your glasses and the directions at home.
With only 82 days to go until our September riding challenge from North to South Wales we have set up a couple of giving pages and if you would like to support us the pages can be accessed via the following links:
Andy is raising funds for the MS Society and his Just giving page can be accessed via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andy-Lloyd10
I (Mike) am raising funds for Mind and my Virgin Money Giving page can be accessed via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MikeShevyn
All donations to either Andy or myself are appreciated and you will be helping two very worthy causes.
Look out for more cycling adventures in our next blog ………………….