The Redemption Ride
Two Leaf Clover Audax – August 2016
By Tim Harrison as published in Arrivee Magazine winter 2016
In August 2015 I entered the Tour of the Hills Audax in Surrey along with my eldest daughter, Sophie, her friend Joe and my son Jack. We rode as a group and it was the first time I have ever failed to finish an Audax due to running out of time at the Control halfway around the course. The blame for this lies squarely on the shoulders of Jack who despite what he claimed had done no training whatsoever and simply did not have the energy to complete the course. Being a reasonably kind father I congratulated him on the effort he made to get as far as we did and said no more. However, sibling rivalry meant that he didn’t hear the last of this episode from his big sister and to my certain knowledge since that event he has shunned cycling and ridden a bike only once, covering less than 15 kilometres.
So when the plan was made to enter a local Audax – the Two Leaf Clover, 110k Audax on 6/8/2016 it categorically did not include Jack. It did however involve, Sophie who has completed a few Audaxes, her friends Sarah who had no idea what an Audax was and Joe, fresh from the Prudential 100 ride. They would travel down from London to join myself and my two regular cycling partners Tom and Phil. Sophie and her friends have several things in common, they are all young, fit, regular cyclists who also commute around London on “Boris Bikes”, runners and gym members – who actually go to the gym. Tom, Phil and myself are middle aged, not in the best of shape and can find hills something of a challenge – on the plus side we can navigate without GPS. To make the day more relaxed for us the plan was to have a barbecue for my London guests the evening before and let the drink flow very freely indeed.
Liquid carb loading in preparation for the Audax.
I needn’t have bothered planning to take the edge off them as Saturday lunchtime saw Sophie, her friends and Jack (back home in between University and work) in the local pub, followed by drinks in the garden and later on a wine and beer laden barbecue. Late in the evening the sibling rivalry began again quickly turning into bullying as we all piled in. Jack took the bait and fell into the trap ending up committing to ride the next day. He does not have a bike so I made some hasty adjustments to my winter bike, which whilst a touch too large would do.
The next day I felt much worse for the night before, having forgotten that the plan was to ply my guests with alcohol and not myself. They on the other hand were bright and breezy and raring to go and to my surprise Jack was also up and ready. Ready to slay his demons!
The Two Leaf Clover Audax is a great event, run by the Evesham Wheelers Cycling Club and is one of three distances that take place on the same day. The club also run a 50k event, which attracts some new riders to Audax and entrants right across the age range from children to the very mature, plus a 200k event – The Four Leaf Clover. There are no commercial controls as each ride loops back to the start/finish at the Village Hall, so the 110k once in the middle and the 200k twice. This does mean that to feed and manage everyone they use an army of volunteers who work throughout the day starting very early and finishing late, bringing out a continual flow of both hot and cold things to eat. With a low entry fee and entries on the day accepted, not to mention quiet roads and great routes its one not to miss (I have previously completed both the 200k and 110k events – not on the same day).
The added bonus this time was with a halfway point back at the start and being close to home we could ditch anyone who wasn’t going to make it around!
Jack, Tom, Joe, Tim, Phil, Sarah and Sophie before the off
We started off well, following a big Evesham Wheeler club contingency, which made navigation particularly easy and created a superb wind break. We almost coasted the first twenty or so miles as there was also a decent tail wind. It was only at the first hill that we lost the group and became the Family and Friends Seven. Most of the hills are in the first half of the ride and non could really be called significant but for Tom they required a lot more effort. I should mention that he suffers with a heart condition, a painful knee joint following a serious injury some years ago and a recent operation to try and remedy it, topped off with acute toothache a few days earlier requiring tooth extraction and root canal work. Actually just turning up was a result and I fully expected him to retire, with good reason, at the half way point.
Going down the hills he throws caution to the wind and I make sure I brief everyone not to get in his way. He records a speed of 49.7 mph down one descent, the rest of us apply the brakes.
At the halfway point we are ahead of time by over an hour and non of the group want to quit. The Village Hall is buzzing with activity as some of the 50k riders are completing their ride and the 200k riders are coming in for their first break or maybe even second for the ultra quick ones. Food and drink keeps magically appearing. We are gently moved on as we start looking too comfortable and start the next loop.
With flatter terrain and the end in sight the younger ones start to play having a few sprints here and there with inevitably Joe being the fastest despite his chain never having seen oil, Sophie and Jack continue their rivalry whilst Sarah and Phil just power on. We pick up a few lone riders and continue on with good humour and no moaning to the very end.
My day is made not just by drawing a line under a year of recriminations between two of my children but also by meeting Idai Makaya who happens to be taking his second break on the 200k event on his ElliptiGO bike. I had just read his Arrivee article on Land’s End to John O’Groats and had been deeply impressed and was very glad to note that on this occasion he seemed to know exactly where he was and what and why he was doing here.
I had great company for the day, Sophie banked another Brevet card, Sarah was introduced to the joys of Audax riding, Jack buried his demons and shut us up, Joe had fun and Tom, Phil and myself managed to maintain our dignity finishing comfortably with the group. Results all round.