When Dave Mc suggested running a 200km audax in March, he didn't expect quite so many Orwell members to be eager to flay themselves so early in the year. 32 members signed on, including the ever-prolific Billy Parker, who provides us with an excellent account of the day below!

 

Orwell 200 Audax

Billy Parker

Any distance over 100k in early March seemed to me to be unnecessary, uncalled for, foolhardy, futile and most importantly beyond my physical capacity, my mental capability or comprehension.

All of the above are hereby withdrawn in their entirety and replaced with worthwhile, challenging, rewarding and surprisingly manageable (weather, wind direction and fellow cyclists’ company dependant of course).

Add to this the superb organisational skills of Dave McLoughlin, Jenny Sheridan and Dave Tansey, together with the exceptional goodwill and support of the Orwell members and you have yourself (I believe) the first ever March Orwell Audax 200.

For those who, like me a short few years ago, are not sure as to the meaning of Audax, a brief description is perhaps in order: 

Audax is a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit and without any formal support. It is non-competitive and success in an event is measured by its completion. Audax has its origins in Italian endurance sports of the late 19th century (“Audax” is a Latin adjective meaning bold or daring. I expect “audacious” is also a derivative of the word) There are two forms of Audax: the original group-riding style, Euraudax and the free-paced style usually known as Randonneuring, as in the Orwell Randonee. There are control points along the way where you get your Brevet Card signed and you must reach these within certain specified time slots. 

An Audax event can be any long distance but is generally 200k or more .The big daddy is the Paris Brest Paris which is 1200k with a time limit of 80 hours, held every 4 years. Dave competed in this in 2011 and finished in 56 hours! To qualify for the PBP you have to have completed a certain minimum number of events ranging from 200k to 600k. Dave is competing again this August and so is organizing a number of Audaxs to coincide with his own qualification schedule. 

And so to this Orwell Audax. It took place on Sunday 8th March, leaving Joe Daly’s at 7am where 32 Orwell members and 28 fellow travellers (and owners of the most interesting leather saddles and hugely varying and ingenious saddle bags) had gathered from 6.30 to sign on, to collect their shiny and perfectly protected in a plastic bag yellow Brevet Card together with laminated map, to sup tea and coffee courtesy of Jenny and to listen attentively to Dave outline the 200k route.

A route which would take us in a north westerly direction through Lexlip, Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield and Kinnegad, slowly veering west/south west to Kilbeggan, due south to Tullamore and an easterly run home via Portarlington, Monasterevin, Kildare, the Curragh, Kilteel, Rathcoole and back to Joe Dalys.   With a fresh west/north west wind, we had the perfect direction as we battled into it when we were at our strongest on the way out and had the benefit of it in our backs as we turned for home. The forecast, unbelievably, was for no rain and some sunshine. Equally unbelievably and mercifully, it proved accurate.

Unexpectedly, nature called me as Dave was giving his talk and on my return to what I believed would be the final preparations before we departed, the shop had emptied. I glimpsed the last few cyclists flashing past the front door, through the traffic lights and zipping off up towards Churchtown. I looked around with mild alarm as I had planned to have the benefit of a group for at least the first 50k or even 100k. There were a handful remaining - Derek, Eileen, and a few other non Orwell participants. We smiled at each other, bade farewell to Dave and Jenny and headed off, myself, Derek and Eileen, blinking lights dangling from our saddle bags, at a gentle but steady pace, and in keeping with the true spirit of Audax. 

With just the 3 of us it was going to be a very long day, especially into that strong headwind. Thus we were relieved to reach the first control point in Lexlip and find a large Orwell group just pulling away and assorted others still getting cards signed. Rob Tully was casually supping a coffee at the side of the road and kindly waited for us. 


Billy and Rob enjoying their coffee

The very large Orwell group that left Joe Dalys had sped to Leixlip and then split into two groups, a very fast race pace squad (led by the rocket Ken O’Neill) and a very marginally less speedy crew organised and drilled by the irrepressible Gerard Coffey. Ensuring that there was also visible on the road a respectably more modest, gentile and leisurely velocity, there was myself, Derek, Eileen and Rob (his act of kindness in joining us a reflection of his generous nature and not his cycling ability as he would have been well able to stay with the faster groups). Anyway, we 4 pressed on into the wind, at one point joining a larger non Orwell group of about 10 riders. Near Enfield I looked around and realised that we were reduced back to 4 with Derek and others having stopped for toilet breaks and a fine gentleman, Seamus O’Dowd, sporting a bushy moustache and a cunning crossbar satchel, making up our fourth, him having completed a 200k Audax the previous day in Middleton! 

A flurry of waving hands got our attention near Kinnegad. It was Gerard’s group on a coffee break. We were tempted to join them but we were in a good steady cycling rhythm and were mentally prepared to have our break at the half way mark in Kilbeggan, which was the location of the second control point. 

I cannot recall much of the town of Kilbeggan as I was just delighted to reach Jenny’s vehicle in the petrol station, get the Brevet Card signed, head to the shop for food and coffee and flop into a seat. As I was half way through my delicious roll and surprisingly good latte, Gerard’s group swept into the forecourt, got their cards signed, beckoned us to join them (declined) and swept out again. A F1 style pit stop. 

Our vintage car style stop, on the other hand, was most pleasant and welcome as was the progressive and very perceptible change in wind direction that marked the arrival of our easterly homeward leg. Invigorated by the break and the column of moving air in our backs, our speed increased and we skimmed along the smooth roads of Offaly into Kildare and onto our final control point in Monasterevin. Another fine stop and we once again encountered Gerard’s group as they polished off bowls of soup and plates of sandwiches having got their cards signed by the waiting and ever supportive Dave Tansey. They mounted their waiting steeds and vanished as we sat down for food and a rest. Derek joined us having suffered a puncture along the way.  

The final leg home comprised a group of some 8 riders but as we got closer to the county line the speed increased and one by one brave men and women were dropped. Rob led the charge, having patiently kept a very steady, and for him modest pace all day. Eileen and I watched the group fly through Athgarvan ahead of us and never saw them again. We elected to enjoy the evening sunshine as we crossed into Dublin County at an easy pace although I cannot say that I got much enjoyment from the rolling terrain of Punchestown and Kilteel as my tiring legs reminded me that this was only March. 

We arrived back at Joe Dalys at 4.45pm, in time to meet Diarmuid, Gerry and a few others ambling back from Uncle Toms having had a few pints. The most welcome and tasty food and drinks again supplied by Jenny were laid out in the shop and Dave very kindly kept watch on our bikes as we too headed for a well-deserved drink.

All in all a fantastic day out and a very successful first ever Orwell Audax. While long distance cycling is generally the preserve of a steady and unremarkable pace, some of our finest Orwell cyclists disproved this in spectacular fashion averaging speeds which I could not even hope to achieve on a motorbike.  Donning or indeed doffing of the chapeau to you all.

For those of you who have a need to know these details, the total distance was 208k; elevation around 1000 meters, Kens group average speed 30kph; Gerard's group average 28.5 and 25/26 the rest of the field.

Dave chose a very clever and sensible route for this time of year, flat, fast and good road surfaces all the way and he brilliantly predicted the wind direction. Thanks again Dave and also a warm thank you to Jenny and Dave Tansey. No doubt a good few converts to the world of Audaxing.

Below is a table of Audax points from last year. As you can see Orwell were just outside the medals. Audax Ireland will never be beaten but a second or third place finish is entirely feasible this year. Following the completion last Sunday by 30 Orwell members (6000 kilometres) and some earlier events,  last year’s tally has already been reached, with more events to come. The Mick Byrne 200 is a popular sportive in May run by Sorrento Cycling Club however it is also an Audax and so if anyone is planning to participate this year I would urge you to ride it as an Audax rather than a sportive (it counts for both in the Leisure Competition, with the Sportive being 5 points and the Audax being 10 points).

Club Dist
Audax Ireland 88320
Lakeside Wheelers 8700
De Ronde Van Cork 7800
Orwell Wheelers 6400
IMBRC 6200
Ballina CC 5920
Wolftrap CC 5440
Cumann Rothaiochta Chorcha Duibhne 4800
Shannonside CC 4790
St Tiernans 4500

 


 

It's a sign of Dave Mc's dedication to the club that once he finished sorting out the send off for the Audax, he took himself to Corkagh Park for the youth sessions there. A huge thanks to him for organising the audax series this year, and of course to Jen Sheridan and Dave T for manning the controls. Don't forget - there's a 300km event happening at the end of the month. Check out here or forum thread for more details!

Finally, we leave you with a great clip of the day compiled by Aishling O'Connor:

 

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