Mad Jacks

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Audax, Cycling
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been avoiding this Audax ride for years. It’s a bit of a local classic, a bit of a monster and very, very hilly. This was the year for it to be done. The original plan was to do it on the Trike but a broken axle put pay to that. The backup plan was to do it on my trusty road bike. Last week, however, last week I discovered that the front derailleur had broken. No problem I though, a quick browse of my friendly on-line bicycle spare-part retailer discovered a part that was almost but not exactly what I wanted. It could be delivered that week, I could fit it and Robert is my father’s brother: a working bike. If only life was that simple, the part arrived on Friday and this meant some frenzied activity in a very cold shed in the back garden. Eventually it was fitted, it was then I discovered that the changer was also in a bad way. There was no way that my friendly on-line bicycle spare-part retailer could deliver me the part in time. It was time for plan C: The mountain bike. It was big and heavy with knobbly tyres; at least I could fix one out of three. It was very late and very cold by the time everything was prepared.

I woke up to porridge, snow and a flat front tyre, one of these one could be fixed with the spare tube. I could do nothing about the snow. I harboured thoughts about going back to bed, but stupidly fought them off. I was going to cycle; all I needed to do was get me and my bike to the start. It was a beautiful yet horrendous drive down to Hailsham. The snow over the Ashdown forest added a wonderful white blanket over the land but made the roads slippery and greasy, by the time I got to the start the sleet had given way to rain. I could see that this had the potential to be a really miserable ride.

After tea and chat we were on our way to Battle, I watched as the fast boys disappeared into the distance after the first traffic lights, normally I would be hanging onto their coat tails for quite a way but the mountain bike but pay to that. Mad Jacks is about hills, there is about 2500 meters of climbing over the course of 125km. That is a lot. The trip to Battle along muddy and ill maintained roads was just a taste of what was to come. A felt quite smug having big thick tyres and a vast array of gears as I caught up with a group on road bikes, in their lowest gear, standing in the saddle and pushing the peddles for all they were worth. I, on the other hand was sitting comfortably and still had cogs to spare. There were punctures all over the place and at least one broken chain in that first section. However, my smugness was rewarded with a wobbly back wheel. I’d forgotten to tighten up the quick release properly last night whilst changing tires. Smugness comes before a fall apparently.

They talk to me you know

Cup Cakes, Thousands of them

The café control was lovely. It was called Scarlet’s and boy did they go to town on the scarlet theme. At least they sold hot chocolate and cake in cyclist sized qualities, I had the feeling I’d be needed a lot of cake on this ride, I was going to be out for a long time. The first loop was over to Burwash. It took in a lot of going up, but there was a fair few fast down bits as well, I had the sneaking suspicion that I would be going slowly back up the fast down hills on the way back, that one thought made them a lot less enjoyable. There was a control a Burwash after which I failed to notice the correct turning, which was marked by a huge pub, and added a few more uphill miles to the route before deciding I was lost. A quick double back found the correct route and a few cyclists that I recognised, oh and another hill. I was amazed that there was one person doing the route on fixed. That way is the way of madness. After climbing those fast down hills, with all the grace of a hippopotamus we cruised back to Battle and the rather pink café.

Such a relief

Loo of the year!

The rain had gone and the sun weakly shone in the blue sky. It was a welcome start to the next loop to Fairlight and back. Fairlight is a big hill, and after all the climbing we had done today, not a welcome addition to the day. I dragged myself onwards and upwards taking full advantage of all the gears my now filthy bike had to offer. A the top I was rewarded with a visit to the Loo of the year 2013. It’s not every day that happens. Now all we had to do was get back to Battle. The skies had started darkening and there was a threat of nastiness in the air. The chances of staying dry were not good. We made our way back to battle but my legs were getting heavy, a sure sign that I was running out of food. About now would have been a good time to eat the banana that I had left in the car. The last few miles to the café were a struggle but the promise of a hot milky drink and baked products kept me going. There was a children’s party going on when I got there, I looked a bit like the beast from the moor as I was covering in mud and stuff that had been thrown up by the wheels of the bikes in front. The children looked a little perturbed as I lumbered into the café to order my body weight in cupcakes. If I was to get to the end I needed this.

Eat Me! Eat Me!

A cyclists delight

The last section went by in a blur, there were ups, downs, mud and some hail but eventually after 8 hours of turning the peddles I got back to Hailsham. I was convinced that I was somewhere near the back so was very surprised to find that I was well within the first third home. Amazed I celebrated with a hot chocolate that looked like an ice cream and a blueberry muffin the size of my head.

I do not have to do this ride again.


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