To say a few words about the event first; Audaxing is long distance bicycle riding within a set time-frame. It is not racing. Riders have to navigate their way to a series of control points and collect evidence of being there, the control points ensure that a minimum distance is covered. When they return, their Brevet Card (which is where they document their journey) is checked and validated. Each rider's accomplishment will be recorded in the Audax UK records and on the website, but whether you are first back, or last back, if you complete within the time you are a winner. The goal is the distance, not the time. Distances are measured in kilometers and start at 50km, then 100km, then 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km... and beyond to 1200km for Paris-Brest-Paris and 1400km for London-Edinburgh-London.
The aspects of audaxing which have made this such a great way to join a mass participation event, are hospitality and camaraderie. The routes themselves are lovingly put together by riders who know the roads and cycle them regularly. The routes are checked and checked again, and a route sheet (series of instructions) are painstakingly assembled with turn-by-turn instructions and distances.
I spoke to the Parochial Church Council of St Francis of Assisi Church and explained about audaxing and about offering hospitality. One of gifts the church can offer to the world is hospitality. Hospitality and great baking. So not only did St Francis of Assisi Church offer the support and encouragement for this endeavour, the community came together and baked a wonderful selection of sweet and savoury food to offer to the tired riders on their return. The camaraderie happens out on the road, when people choose to cycle together and keep each other company. As there is no race, stopping to help someone else fix a puncture will not spoil the enjoyment of the event. In fact, for many the overcoming of adversity as a group creates experiences and stories which can be shared later.
We ran three events on the same day; the 200km riders set off at 7am. The 100km and 50km riders set off at 10:30am. This ensured that the 100km riders would meet up with the 200km riders at the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. We had 112 registrations, 9 of whom paid extra to register on the start line.
- 25 riders for the Ralph Cross 200km, 23 started and only 1 abandoned.
- 60 riders for the Keep to the Roads!, 52 started and only 4 abandoned.
- 27 riders for the Tees and Cake, 22 started and no one abandoned.
I hope those who were too ill to start on the day get well soon. I would like to thank all the riders for coming along. Everyone was courteous, happy and smiling. The feeling I had seeing the early riders set off into the dawn was nice, it felt like a proper audax - chilly start and a sense of purpose pervading the riders at the beginning of a daunting ride. At 10:30am I was overwhelmed, it brought tears to my eyes to see just how many people had come along to ride the 100km and 50km events. The car park at All Saints Academy was packed with riders. So with the words, "That's it, you're off. Good luck, God speed and God bless." I sent them out into North Yorkshire. It was a beautiful sunny day.
I would like to thank everyone who came along, and note the support of all the great cycling clubs who joined in:
- Stockton Wheelers
- Cleveland Wheelers
- Ingleby Barwick Wheelers and Friends
- Hambleton Road Club
- Audax Ecosse
- Tees Valley Riders
- Witham Wheelers
- Peak Audax
- Darlington Cycle Club
- Houghton Cycle Club
- Achieve-Skinnergate Racing
Without the enthusiasm of everyone who rode yesterday the event wouldn't have happened. I was overwhelmed by the turnout of the VC167 riders, all very experienced audaxers and organisers who run numerous events around the north of the UK. It was nice to be able to give back to Aiden Hedley, who had put so much effort into the Thirsk Control for London-Edinburgh-London this year.
Riders came from a long distance with registrations from Liverpool, Nottingham, Dunfermline, Rochdale and everywhere in between. The group of cyclists closely associated with St Francis of Assisi Church all turned out to ride as well - thank you to the Ingleby Barwick Wheelers for taking on some distances and hills you've not done before. This is not a race, but with a maximum speed limit of 30kph, getting round first was noticeable, Matty Cooper of Achieve-Skinngergate Racing is a Category 2 racer, and obviously doesn't associate 'riding-a-bicycle' with 'stopping-for-a-rest'. Not only was he the first rider back on the 200km event, he extended the ride with the loony climb from Street - this young man looked shattered when he got back - I pity the racers he'll face in his next ride.
I'd also like to thank everyone who promoted this event, online with road.cc, facebook, yacf.co.uk, mtbe.co.uk, CTC and British Cycling. For the local bike shops who put adverts up, Skinngergate Cycles, Westbrook, Blackhawk, Stockton Running and Cycling, Yarm Cycles. Thank you to Cafe #5 and Suggitts for putting posters up. Thank you to Peter Riddle of British Cycling for letting me put postcards in the goodie bags of the Velo29 Sportive riders.
I have said that this was a collaborative effort, and there are so many people to thank. Robertson's, the owners of All Saints Academy supported us by providing their buildings, the toilets, showers, car parking, tables, chairs, tea-urn and with a team of friendly and helpful caretakers who rotated on shifts from 6am to 9pm, ever ready to make the facilities perfect. Thank you. Also thank you to everyone who came along to talk to others, to Stephen Bell for including the Keep to the Roads! in the CTC run list for this day and for being around to share the joy with returning riders. Thank you for all the photographers out snapping images to share - and to the Gazette for sending a photographer and for the interviewer who patiently listened to me explaining why the church wanted to offer this blessing. Thank you.
This photograph contains only a small selection of the gifts offered by the church community of St Francis of Assisi in Ingleby Barwick, and of family and friends. I was blessed with a never ending turnover of friends helping serve and welcome riders all day long, we had around ten people on duty all afternoon - many more than shown in this photograph! Thank you to everyone who served, tidied, provided security of the bicycles (while riders relaxed), worked on the check-out in the morning and check-in during the afternoon. The cakes on show are also only a fraction of those provided. We in the church will be eating cake for weeks to come. Everything was home baked, with some people baking for the first time in years and really enjoying the experience. I felt blessed by the gifts of work from the church, from friends and from family and I can't say thank you enough. There was also the 'onerous' task of spending three hours at the Lion Inn stamping brevet cards which was done by Stephen McNeal and Jonathan Prescott. Thank you to my Mum and my sisters; Suzanne for riding and Caroline for helping so graciously; Caroline even traveled up from London to support me, and my Mum for her baking; they aren't even part of the church here, they came along to support me and I deeply appreciate it.
Not least I want to thank my family. Carol, Katherine and Edward. The background organisation was done in my spare time, taking my time from them instead of from work. I think I spent the equivalent of 2 weeks full time employment in the planning and preparation for this... and it's not over yet. I have the post ride admin to clear up, the riders to get validated and their Brevet Cards, medals and badges to return.
I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to three very special people who believed in me and supported me without complaint. To Nigel Hall, who mentored me through the process of running my first audax, and who came over to Ingleby Barwick to teach me the rules, the organisation and to give me the tips and tricks I needed to succeed. He told me that I would over-cater. Newbies always over-cater. You were right - wasn't it wonderful! To Stephen McNeal, who was with me on this whole journey. We rode the routes together, he provided the GPX files, he tirelessly promoted the events, he worked with Jonathan Prescott at the Lion Inn Control and was a constant source of enthusiasm and encouragement. And to Carol, my wife. Thank you. My partner and collaborator. You seamlessly and quietly fill the gaps in my organisation and smoothed the chaos left in my wake. I thought this was going to be easy - but without you it would have been a disaster! Thank you.
So I set out to give something back to the Audax Community. I set out to invite the church to be a blessing with the gift of hospitality. God richly blessed us yesterday, the weather was perfect, everyone had a good time, there were no reported incidents or accidents. Those who gave also received. Bakers talked about how much they had enjoyed making cakes and pies. Riders gave up their day to go on a bicycle ride and were blessed with a tough but beautiful experience. And I was blessed. I was blessed by God to have so many generous and supportive friends and family. Thanks be to God for the St Francis of Assisi Audax.