Audax Spotting – but not as you know it
You’re right, ‘Audax-cious’ is a funny word. It is in fact a combination of two very genuine words: ‘Audax’ and ‘Audacious!’ The latter you know as a way of rising to a challenge. The former is an organised cycling event where people prove themselves to be ‘Audax’ (audacious) by covering as many miles as possible in one day. And for one winter day, the Baroudeurs were mad enough to sign up to.
As people will tell you, the original Audax was created for cycling gladiators to demonstrate their ability to ride far in a day. Anything from 200, 300, 400, 500 and even 600KM’s. Whenever you hear ‘Audax’ expect a very, very, v-e-r-y long ride. If you’re feeling nauseous, this is normal; Audax isn’t for the faint hearted. So why do it?
Take a glance at your popular cycling press and eurosport channels, and you’ll find everything you need to know about CX, the Spring Classics and the GT’s painted with the same ‘glamorous’ brushstrokes. Closer to home, cycling attracts the gritty adrenaline rush of crit-racing, track, gravel, beach and MTB, to name a few, but what of Audax? Don’t get me wrong, we all adore the diversity in cycling, but the Audax, for the most part, remains a mystery.
Perhaps because it isn’t a race against anyone, but yourself and the sun is the reason we do it. Maybe it’s because Audax’s are set in the middle of nowhere, and as you journey, turn out to be some kind of cycling paradise. I honestly don’t know.
But a friend showed me the ‘Audaxspotting’ statement, and I have to agree, it’s about ‘choosing life.’ The Audax life.
It all sounds very cool, until it starts raining
Seeing Alex at ‘crazy o’clock’ encourages me that this is going to be another adventure to look forward to. The bikes are safely tucked under the rugs and we’re off. The rest of the neighbourhood sleeps safe and warm this morning.
We drive to a set location organised by Audax UK. The organisation that governs and puts these routes together. As we leave the cityscape, the country reveals a lush and vibrant landscape that wouldn’t look out of place from a Tolken story, but then it starts to rain. I often forget that we’re not on the mainland, and that we are blessed by rainfall. Some would say exceedingly blessed.
The sun-less country
The friendly welcome, clear directions, and large parking area set a good first impression. Alex and I set up, and we’re soon accompanied by Ben and Paola, and a growing number of cyclists. The anxiousness is soon replaced with an audax-ious solidarity.
From a distance a lone building stands out with its lights; leading travellers to safety like a lighthouse on a rugged shore. Inside life is stirring. Breakfast and tea is available and a representative of the Audax UK greets us at the door. Behind the kitchen is a lady refilling the refreshments, and we thankfully put our cold hands around a warm mug of tea.
Outside people are throwing a leg over an array of fine bicycles. Smiles are exchanged amongst the riders. Spouses with their children bid a fond farewell to loved ones, and my first Audax begins.
Where’s your sense of adventure?
As we set off, I realise I’m too close to the familiar. The commute, the landmarks, and those potholes of London, that may be a nightmare to some, but for me, bring a warped source of comfort. Here on the otherhand, with unknown roads, it’s an altogether different experience. The only thing to reassure me are my friends and their navigational prowess. Sure enough, the trusted maps are pulled out and good ‘ol fashioned reading works wonders.
We agree to do this together; without too much worry about the clock. The only parameter is the sunset and our ability to keep on rolling. That is until our mudguards decide to slow us down. We try to reassure ourselves that we’re prepared for any eventuality, but the truth is, there’s only so much you can do.
It’s our first pitstop and I’ve reached my mileage threshold. I consume as much as I am able, and spend the rest of the precious moments of rest taking in the sights. The grey clouds are replaced with candy floss and we are surrounded by happy people riding well used bicycles.
Continental English Cuisine
We press on just a little bit. We get lost, but it’s not a bad thing. The roads are quiet, the tarmac is smooth, and the locals, friendly. Fellow travellers point us in the right direction and although we’re doubling back on ourselves, it’s the worth the time-travel. It’s funny how easy it is to forget to consume on a ride. There’s so much in the land to distract you, that you forget to eat. We take a moment to dine al fresco; talk, and have a laugh.
I don’t know where we are, but there hasn’t been a car or cyclist for an hour and I’m beginning to feel like it’s time to head home.
Choose Audax, Choose Life, Choose Nightfall
I passed mileage threshold about 100KM back, and now the sun is setting. My friends seem to roll further away with ease, and for the life of me, I believe I see dinosaur tracks everywhere. My companions tell me to hush and that they’re only potholes. Once again the Town Hall guides us with it’s lone light back to the safety of it’s shelter. We are rewarded with our cards completely stamped, and another cup of tea.
Audax is growing in ‘quiet’ popularity. The lingo and lack of publicity still masks it in mystery, but with the growing appeal to test yourself, Audax is set to become the true ‘final frontier’. A method of seeing how far and how deep you can go, without necessarily the test of it being a race. All that being said, at this stage of my cycling life, I don’t think I’d want to do an Audax on my own. Going far with friends makes it all the more worth celebrating.
You can discover more with Audax UK