Last Sunday I cycled out past Garstang for the Fleet Moss Audax. Not too far but with the 214 km of the Audax this would end up with me cycling 264 km for the day. My last long ride before my big race. For those of you not familiar with an Audax, imagine a sportive but one where you have to navigate yourself. You’re given a route card and a Brevet, which you will have to either get stamped at various check points or answer a question. This is to ensure that you do the full distance, although you can chose your own route in between each check point if you wish. Audax’s are much cheaper to enter than a sportive, only £5.50 for members of Audax UK. They are also not races, so you set your own pace. Indeed some Audax rides will have a maximum speed of 30 km/h and if you go faster then a checkpoint might not yet be open.The profile for the Fleet Moss Audax. Lumpy is one word that could be used to describe it. Over 3000m of climbing.
I arrived in plenty of time, grabbed a coffee, checked my route card and waited for the off. Phil from Garstang cycling club was there, but he was going to be riding slower than me so that was the last I saw of him all day. At 7.30 am the 20-25 riders lined up for a photo before heading off.
We all headed off in one group, which soon split as we reached the first small climb of the day. I ended up riding with Allan and John, both from Ribchester riding their first Audax and as such they were expecting more people so that they wouldn’t get lost. Fortunately I knew most of the route and as an extra I had downloaded the TCX route file onto my Garmin, just in case. It wasn’t long before the three of us were over the Trough of Bowland and rolling towards Slaidburn. There was an info answer at 23 km that we missed, but we got our cards stamped at the cafe before heading up and over Cross of Greet into Bentham.
The route then went up Spout Lane, which John admitted he would have missed without me. The two others then set a quick pace on the main road towards Kirkby Lonsdale, leaving me behind. I wasn’t worried as I have found that the secret to surviving long rides is to go at your own pace, plus the others didn’t know where they were going. Past Devil’s Bridge we stopped in Barbon to write down the name of the pub before heading up Barbondale. The sun was shinning and the wind was behind us as we cycled through this fantastic valley. John and Allan had never cycled along here and were loving it. The sharp descent into Dent resulted in a blow out for John and after a quick change we stamped our cards at the cafe.
There aren’t any easy roads out of Dent although we were taking the slightly easier route by not going over the Coal Road. The long fast road into Hawes is always welcome, especially with a tailwind. We briefly stopped for another info point before making the decision not to stop until after Fleet Moss. The highest road in Yorkshire is a tough climb, but with a fierce head wind it was almost impossible. John made it look easy as he powered away from myself and Allan. The final section is the steepest but the view made it worthwhile.
The last section of Fleet Moss is the hardest, but the views from the top are magnificent. You’ll have to take my word for it as I’m a rubbish photographer.
The descent down through Oughtershaw and Langstrothdale was fast but tricky in places with more than a few pot holes. John was taking it easy as he was worried about another blow out, but we re-grouped and he took the lead on the main road into Kettlewell, following the road that the Tour will take this summer.
Kettlewell was full of people as we stopped in a nice cafe, although £7 for beans on toast and a cup of tea seems expensive to me. As well left the village we bumped into another cyclist also doing the Audax, who was buying an ice-cream. He declined our offer to ride with us as he was waiting for others.
We took the quiet road that runs parallel to the road that the Tour will take and if the sun is out the helicopter shots on the TV will look amazing. From Grassington we headed towards Gargrave for another card stamp and some Kendal mint cake. John hadn’t expected to be out so long, so he headed off home rather than getting a lift with Allan, but still managed to get lost apparently. Allan and I then kept each other going with another quick stop in Waddington to re-fill water bottles followed by another stop outside of Chipping to rest my feet. On long rides I sometimes suffer from `hot foot’ and the only thing to do is take my shoes off and massage my feet for a few minutes. Allan knew the way back to the start but kindly waited for me as the last few miles were mainly downhill.
Before we knew it we were rounding the corner back to the village hall. We were the first ones back as we handed in our Brevet cards and helped ourselves to sandwiches and more coffee. Allan then offered me a lift back to Lancaster, even though it was the opposite direction to where he was going. I thanked him but declined.
The only downside was when I got home and tried to upload my Garmin to Strava, half of the ride was missing. I had downloaded a TCX route file which isn’t totally compatible with a Garmin 500. If you use a TCX file without any extras, for example, turning notices, then it will work with a 500, but the file I used had plenty of extras, hence why some of it was missing. Next time I’ll create my own route file as I hate not being able to see it on Strava (sad isn’t it).
I don’t know our exact finishing time as I haven’t got my card back yet, but it was a great day out. Ribble Valley cycling club put on a fantastic event and John and Allan were a pleasure to ride with. I will definitely be back next year, and if it sounds a bit long there were also two shorter rides on the same day that leave a little bit later.