This article was drafted in September 2018, just after the adventure. To find out more about the Evesham Wheelers audaxes, see https://eveshamwheelers.org.uk/events/audax/
I found out about Neil Robinson’s new ‘Tramping the Two Loop’ event while researching for my plan to crack Randonneur 1000. A new event, but from the mind of a very experienced routesmith who has furnished the Evesham Wheelers and other riders with great quality courses for many years. My only quandary was how to get to the start – a tidy 130km from my own front door – so I had to get creative.
If you’ve not heard of ‘WarmShowers’, it’s an online community of cycle tourists and sympathisers, who offer support with riders all over the world, from Montana to Islamabad. Thinking this was kind of a tour, I got in touch with tandem globetrotters Kirsty and Marcus via the very easy to use map, who operate a delightful and quiet campsite called the Orchard Getaway, a short ride from the start point, asking if they had free space for a one night stay before I moved on to do this thing called a ‘brevet’ the next morning. What happened next was a bit of a shock.
Not only did they pop me a message back saying yes, they had in fact heard of Audax (and organise the annual Barry’s Jaeger Bomb brevet), and that I would be welcome to have supper with them on arrival. They would also lend me a tent to save me dragging one up on the bike (score!). I was completely new to WarmShowers but with bags packed up with food, clothes, spares and a sleeping bag I jumped on the bike on a Saturday morning and made tracks for Evesham.
During a lunch stop I checked my phone and found two things in my inbox – firstly, a confirmation that I was still welcome, and secondly an invitation to an open air production of Twelfth Night by a cast of three that evening. Arriving at 1800 I left the bike next to a pitched tent complete with air mattress and bed linen, we had a quick (but very tasty) BBQ supper with the family and some friendly dogs, before taking a hamper of cider and cheesecake to a balmy evening of superb Elizabethan comedy by the Second Best Bed theatre company. I don’t even remember getting into my borrowed pneumatic scratcher.
Next morning the alarm goes off – I strip the bed linen, leave Marcus’s borrowed sandals and t shirt with the sheets (even for an outdoor play a jersey and SPDs are a bit gauche) and trundled to the Two Loops start. I still managed to be late for the 0800 kick off and skidded in with my saddlebags groaning with the weight of the camping stuff as everyone else was getting headed.
Dumping the nonessentials in the HQ (manned all day by very helpful volunteers) and wolfing down some breakfast pastries, I jumped back on the Boardman and before long was at the first control in Barnt Green. One of my hosts, Marcus – who was doing the 100 km ride on his fixed with an 0900 start – had already caught me as I was making my exit from the caf which was a nice surprise. He overtook me a little later, spinning away on his spry looking machine.
Rolling back in to the Honeybourne HQ for a delicious lunch, I was informed loop two would be a bit more testing. And it was – Dover’s Hill, a national hill climb championship course, is a classic English ascent that certainly had me hauling up on the handlebars, which creaked in protest with every turn of the cranks. My time of 11:47 doesn’t compare well with the champions, who average under 4 minutes.
The randonneurs rolled into Banbury, which’s receipt control offered a good excuse for an ice cream and some good solid scran. With the sun now starting to go down, and temperatures thankfully cooling off, the rest of the ride was a comparatively gentle spin. Only a handful of easy going undulations were between us and arrivée, to which I pulled in at just gone 1935. After thanking Neil and the helpers, I made my way to Evesham and got the train home.
If you’re interested in WarmShowers, have a look at the website or search #warmshowers on social media to get an idea of the kinds of adventures it’s let cycle tourists go on since 1993. This definitely won’t be my last, but it’ll be a hard act to follow!
For information about the Orchard Getaway, visit http://www.orchardgetaway.co.uk or search @orchardgetaway on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.