The Audax Diaries: The Dean

WORDS: *Anton Blackie* | PHOTOS: *Wig Worland*

With the 200km Poor Student completed in January, the second instalment of the route to Paris-Brest bore down on us. Any 300km ride is likely to be a good challenge, but in March a 300km can be a lot worse! For The Dean, the day would become a series of learning curves, mentally, physically and mechanically.

The day dawned without us. Not a bad way for it to begin you may say. But when the ride begins at 6am, it really is a requirement to be up before dawn. We set off from Pear Tree Park and Ride in Oxford a little late. Clearly, any peloton that had managed to work an alarm clock was already a good few km’s down the road.

The ride took us away from Oxford, retracing the route that the Poor Student had brought us back into town. After some mechanical issues through the Cotswolds we pressed on through the Forest of Dean to Chepstow. Riding with great company always makes the journey a little easier and with the added scenery and sunshine James and Ultan appeared to have no qualms about setting the pace…

On a ride such as this fuel is key. You can’t put petrol in a diesel engine which, unfortunately, is precisely what I achieved. James and Ultan, after a correct refuel at a service station in Chepstow, turned on the “Sport Mode” and with more horsepower disappeared up the road.

Highlights (and mental lowlights) were still to come. James described the kilometres from the Somerset Monument to Marlborough as like a Paul Nash painting. While he was clearly reaping the rewards of such, my teeth and handlebars were becoming more and more acquainted.

By the time we reached the services over the M4, light was beginning to fade. Crossing the downs and into the Vale of the White Horse and I was back on home territory. With Ultan on the front, I gave directions from second wheel as we hammered it through the lanes of rural Oxfordshire, before plummeting down the one last hill to Oxford.

And there it was, 300km completed. There is little better than an all-day ride with friends, enjoying the beautiful isle we inhabit.

Anton, James Fairbank, Graeme Raeburn, Phil Deeker and Ultan Coyle, Rapha’s P-B-P team, will ride the 600km _Brian Chapman_ next week. Report to follow.