Sunday, 8 March 2015

ElliptiGO - Audax Horsepower 200 ride report... The journey to PBP continues

This was my second 200k Audax ride of 2015 as PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) training continues [ridden on my ElliptiGO as always]. I'd already completed the required 200k PBP qualifier in January (Oxford Poor Student) so I was approaching this one as a training ride, before stepping up to 300k qualifying distance at the end of March. It was also a good fitness test to see if I'd improved, which I certainly hoped I had as my fitness was severely lacking a few months ago. Since then I've started commuting to work again at least once a week (85 mile round trip) and joined a gym getting in a 2-3 sessions a week.

The Horsepower 200 was a circular route starting and finishing in Dunmow, Essex via Snetterton in Norfolk and Newmarket. A great route that took in plenty of quiet country roads with good views, and more importantly good road surfaces. The surface makes such a difference on the ElliptiGO with the smaller 20" wheels and high rolling resistance so it was a real pleasure at times to scoot along with so little effort.

Horsepower 200 route
Horsepower 200 elevation profile 
It was a relatively flat course too with a few undulations but nothing serious as can be seen from the course elevation profile. So great planning from Audax organiser Tom Deakins who like so many others in Audax volunteer their time and services selflessly to manage and host Audax rides every single weekend of the year. A huge thank you to Tom and his team. 

For those readings this that maybe haven't come across Audax before, they are the long-distance cycling association in the UK established in 1976. AUK oversees the running of long-distance cycling events across the UK, and, using a system of timed checkpoints, validate and record every successful ride. Their website is which details every Audax ride that are usually less than £10 to enter and are organised by normal folk. They represent great value for money - far better value than your often over priced Sportives. The key difference with Audax is that the focus is on self-reliance and self-navigation so don't expect any fluorescent pink arrows or powergel packets littering the countryside. Instead riders are armed with a route description providing turn by turn instructions, and more common place now a GPX file(s) provided either by the RD or fellow riders which you can upload to a compatible GPS device to follow as you ride. My first Audax was Mille Cymru last June, and I plan to do many many more.

The Horsepower200 was definitely a ride of two halves. The weather was fine and sunny (probably the best of the year so far!) and Carl and I thoroughly enjoyed the first 100. 

Carl and I setting off from St Mary's Church, Dunmow
We could hardly believe how well things were going averaging 23kph (14.5mph) for the first 100k (that's pretty good for an ElliptiGO in case any cyclists are reading). We both felt great and importantly the effort we were putting in was minimal. We guessed we were benefiting from a tail-wind but we didn't know how strong it was until the turn-around point at half-way in Snetterton. Fuelled by 2 sausage rolls, a cappuccino and carrot cake we soon found out. 

Snetterton race track - the Big Shop cafe
As soon as we exited Snetterton race track and headed back south we were hit with a strong headwind from which there was little shelter or rest bite. In amongst the trees it calmed down a bit but that wouldn't last as we found ourselves back on the open plains of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. The scenery somewhat took our minds off it, and we upped our effort to try and maintain our average speed. It was quickly obvious that you really can't fight it especially on the ElliptiGO where you ride so upright. We remained focused and positive and moved forward abet a little slower.

After a very long and torturous straight drag up to Newmarket we hit the 150k (unmanned) control. Petrol stations are your best friend on Audax rides and this BP garage was no exception. One ice cream and Frijj milkshake later I was fuelled again and ready for the last 50k. We got our heads down and completed it with minimal fuss just in time to witness the sun set over a great day out.

Our total elapsed time was 10hr35m and moving time 9hr21m. I'm actually surprised that we were stationary for this long as we didn't waste any time at the controls. The pleasing thing was that our moving time was 1.5 hours quicker than the Poor Student 200 in January despite the headwind so as a fitness test I'm pleased with the result. But it has also shown me just how much more work and training there is still to do in the continued build up to PBP. But that's still 5 months away!

Next up is the Dean 300 on 28 March. This will be the first serious test with a cut-off time of 20 hours so a long ride which requires a completely different approach to the 200. Steady and efficient pacing will be far more important, as will proper food and clothing choice with a night section thrown in the mix. Fingers crossed for more sun but less wind! 

At the finish back in Dunmow.

With no photos taken of the ElliptiGO in action on this ride here's an artists impression!

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