An update from Alex Peeke, with thanks…
After a very slow start to the season, the Welwyn Veteran Audax section at last got a 200km brevet under their belts for 2018. The London Ditchling Devil which goes from Wimbledon to Brighton and back is a ride that attracts a rather different field to many audaxes. First of all, I was only one of about 5 riders out of 400 with mudguards, secondly more than 50% were under the age of 40 (I hope they had a parental consent form) and thirdly, unless I was mistaken and they were just beardless men, there was a larger proportion of women than usual.
We have done this ride before and it stays in our memory as the day that Adrian Trott was forced to emulate Tom Dumoulin and I don’t mean by averaging 500 watts up Ditchling Beacon. Last time we rode 50km to the start but this year we didn’t feel up to that so opted to get the train – or so we thought. After GTR had intervened and cancelled all the trains to London at the last minute we got to the start in Dave’s battle bus just a few minutes late.
The day started warm and sunny and got progressively warmer and sunnier until the end when the natural rotation of the earth meant it became less sunny. In other words, it was as perfect a day for cycling as you could ask for. The route quickly left the suburbs of south London and crossed the north downs. With fresh legs they didn’t trouble anyone and before we knew it we were at the first control providing coffee and bacon sandwiches. The next section had us ascending the south downs twice, first up Ditchling Beacon and then up what I consider the far better climb of Devils Dyke. Ditchling is one of those climbs that people talk about because lots of non-cyclists walk up it every year on the London to Brighton run. It’s actually a pretty steady climb of around 6%, mostly in the shade and with beautiful views. It really is nothing to fear unless you are being forced to race up it. Needless to say, Dave took the GPM points and the leader’s black jersey which is why he is the only one not in club kit in the photos.
The next control was the main event of the day, a pasta lunch in the controllers garden. They say long distance cycling is really about being able to eat well and I would invite you to observe the technique shown by David Scott, Andrew Brown and Julian King. The sheer determination to stuff their faces, the economy of effort of the low elbow-lift and the incredible jaw capacity shows you why they have been able to achieve the long-distance feats they have. I would encourage the young aspiring audaxers to emulate this. In one photo you can even see David’s jersey unzipped to the waist to ensure nothing obstructs the ability of his stomach to expand.
The rest of the ride passed without too much incident. We stopped again for tea and cake, had to climb over Coombe Lane which stings a bit with 180km in the legs and had a spirited ride along the flat roads through the Surrey urban sprawl. We eventually arrived 10 hrs after the start in the Rose of York pub for some isotonic refreshment. You can’t beat a full day of cycling in the sunshine with great friends; in the absence of the latter it was pleasant enough with David, Julian and Andrew.