(West London Cycling has the International ACP Code 160872 registered at Audax Club Parisien)
THE WEST LONDON TAKE ON LONG DISTANCE CYCLING
Audaxes are long-distance cycling challenges where participants attempt to ride lengthier rides (usually over 100km – sometimes over 1,000km!). Rides from 200km upwards score 1 Audax Point per 100km and hilly rides can also count towards Audax Altiitude Award (AAA) points. The points go towards the national trophies as well as various awards that riders can claim by riding the required combinations of events.
Riders can take part in events within the UK and overseas (like the famous Paris-Brest-Paris randonée and London-Edinburgh-London) as well as similar long distance epics including the Transcontinental Race.
Audax – The Basics
Audax is, basically, long distance cycling. Most countries call it randonneuring, or maybe a ride a brevet, whilst to continental riders audaxes are team rides, but you needn’t worry about that in the UK, here audaxing is not (usually) a team event.
Randonneuring/Audaxing in the UK is governed by Audax UK and by ACP (Audax Club Parisien) Internationally.
There are various types of event that classify as audaxes. The most common is a calendar event, which is basically like a sportive but without direction signs, feed stations or support cars… you need to be able to navigate yourself and fix punctures or mechanicals. In the event of a major mechanical you will need to make your own way home, so it’s not really for new cyclists. Nevertheless, if you’ve done a few club rides or sportives you should be OK and the audax community do tend to stop and help fellow riders.
To navigate, you are given a printed route sheet (usually by email these days but there also a few hard copies available at the start too). You will usually be given access to a GPX file to load in to your bike computer too. As you might expect, most people follow the route on their bike computer and after a few audaxes you might question the need for signs at sportives and the fact they bump up the cost of a sportive.
You will also be given a brevet card at the start which will have boxes that need completing for each ‘control’ on the route (bring a pen!). Controls are check points along the route to prove you did the course. There are different types of controls:
- Manned controls where your card is stamped by someone.
- Receipt controls where you buy something in a shop/cafe or use an ATM and provide a receipt showing the date, time and address.
- Info controls, where there is a question on your brevet card that you have to answer. Typically it will be something on a signpost, such as ‘how many miles to Henley?’, maybe, ‘does the church have a spire or tower?’ or something like the date on a building, name of a house, colour of a door or fence etc at a certain location.
- Secret controls, randomly set up without prior warning, but these are extremely rare and should be considered unlikely.
The route sheet will identify where the control is, but the bike computer will not. The questions for the info controls are on the Brevet Card, so you only get to see them on the day! It is important to be aware of the distance to each control from the route sheet and Brevet Card otherwise you risk cycling past them if you solely follow the GPX, which new riders may do.
Audax riders tend to equip their bikes with lights and mudguards, but this is less important for summer events of 200km or less when there is more daylight and, theoretically, less rain.
Events of 200km or more score one audax point per 100km. By either accumulating points or combinations of rides, a rider can qualify for various medals and awards. For example, complete five 100km rides in a season and the rider qualifies for the Brevet 500 badge and, moving up the awards, the Super Randonneur award requires a 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km ride all in one season. There are lots of other variations and details can be found on the Audax UK website.
There are championships too, for individuals, cycling clubs and CTC groups. The season runs from 30 September to 31 October each year and only Audax UK members are awarded points.
AAA points (Audax Altitude Award)
In addition, there are AAA points for hilly rides. To qualify, a ride must have sufficient ascent relative to its length so, for example, a 100km ride must have a minimum of 1,500m of ascent and a 200km ride at least 2,800m of ascent. Assuming that this ratio is met, 1 AAA point is awarded for each 1,000 metres ascent and, unlike Audax points, there are quarter and half points, so 1,500m would score 1.5 AAA points.
There are similar awards for AAA points as there are for audax points and it has championships too.
Joining Audax UK costs £23 for the first year and £18 for renewal years. Given that membership reduces the entry fee by £3 at each event, 8 events covers the initial cost and entitles the member to score points both for themselves and their club. In addition, there is a full colour quarterly magazine posted to members.
The big events are, notably, Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London, both held every four years, but there are other ‘monsters’ too. Paris-Brest-Paris is quite a special event and until you go to France and see it, you will probably have no idea how massive it is! A truly international event with riders from right across the globe. Certainly an event that anyone interested in long distance cycling should aspire to ride at least once in their life.
On the day
At the very least, take the sort of gear you’d take on a club ride such as a rain jacket, multi tool, tyre levers and spare inner tubes on a 200km ride. A few energy bars or flapjacks are a good idea too. You will notice that a lot of seasoned audaxers have large saddle bags, maybe panniers and racks, dynamos, large lights, mudguards etc. This is because they do both winter riding and overnight riding and, consequently, carry more provisions, clothing changes and tools etc. to suit those challenges. Just because they take the same bike on a summer 200km ride, doesn’t mean they use all that stuff! But do bring a pen for the info controls (betting shop pens are conveniently sized!).
Food and water
The secret to audaxing is to eat regularly so that you never crash and ‘bonk’. Hydration is equally important. Get those right and pace yourself sensibly and you’ll get around, it’s not a race. Bring two water bottles, some ‘bike food’ and maybe some gels.
Most UK audaxes have a minimum and maximum average speed of 15kph and 30kph. The controls will not count if you are too early or too late. In any event, most fast riders will be slowed by the controls enough to be under 30kph average overall and slow riders will usually make the cut off easily so long as they don’t suffer any major problems. Indeed, in many cases riders choose to stop and enjoy cafes etc along the way, usually referred to as ‘full value riders’ so that they use up most of the time limit. This breed of rider helps make audaxes very sociable and friendly events.
Are you up to it?
Most people who have ridden over 100km are likely to be capable of riding a 200km event so long as they don’t try to race and keep feeding along the way. Anyone used to club rides will fit in superbly, as these are very sociable and communal events, perhaps more so than sportives. If you’ve done sportives, the main difference you’ll notice is navigation, but you won’t be alone and make sure that you have the routesheet, so that if you do get lost, you will know where to ask directions for from a passing local!
Non Calendar Events
As well as Calendar Events it is possible to submit a route on a GPX file by email for a DIY-audax where you are the only rider. Once the route is accepted then you ride it, recording it on a GPX which you then submit by email and you are awarded the points accordingly for the recorded ride.
Another version of this is an ECE (Extended Calendar Event) where you basically ride to the start of a Calendar Event and ride home again in a similar way to entering a DIY, and the extra kilometres are added to the Calendar Event. So, by riding 50kms to the start of a 200km Calendar Event, then home again afterwards, it becomes a 300km event worth 3 Audax Points.
Finally, there are Permanent Events, which you can do at any time by entering online. The organiser will send you a Brevet Card, Route Sheet and GPX and you just ride it alone on the day of your choice.
Ordre Des Cols Durs
This is a bit of a quirky award that requires the rider to have crested at least 100,000 metres height in mountains of over 300m high. It’s not an intuitive thing, but it’s the height of the col that scores, not how much the rider climbed.
There are numerous awards, here are a few that might inspire:
- Randonneur Series – These range from the 500, requiring a 50KM, a 100km, 150km and 200km in one season (you can substitute longer events, say a 100km for a 50km event for example) upwards to the Randonneur 100,000
- Brevet Series – These awards can sometimes be accumulated over more than one season, and range from the BREVET 500 (5x 100k in one season) up to the Brevet 25,000 which can be attained over six seasons.
- End To End – Land’s End to John O’Groats (or vice versa) can be done as a 1,300km ride or 7x200km rides as a Permanent Event. The actual route you use is flexible though, like a DIY.
- Round The Year – A ride of at least 200km in every calendar month for 12 consecutive months
- Fixed Wheel Challenge And Super Fixed Wheel Award – a bit like Audax Points, but with a bonus equal to any AAA Points
- International Super Randonneur – like a UK Super Randonneur series (200km, 300km,400km and 600km in one season) but overseas.
- ACP Awards – These are organised by Audax Club Parisien
- AAA Awards – starting with the basic, 20 AAA Points over any time up to the 3×3 Award for 180 AAA Points over any time. There is a also Round The Year AAA award for over 12 months consecutive rides.
- Grimpeur de Sud – five Rides in a Calendar year scoring AAA Points, starting from London, the Home Counties (excluding Berkshire), Sussex Hampshire or Isle of Wight.
- LARS Award – a Super Randonneur series (200km, 300km,400km and 600km in one season) but in the London Area
Other local Audax information
The Thames valley Audax Site is here: http://www.thamesvalleyaudax.co.uk/
The Grimpeurs du Sud website is here: https://sites.google.com/site/grimpeursdusud/
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