All morning we seemed to be late leaving. I'd intended to set off at 7, so we'd arrive in plenty of time and Harry and I would be able to say hello to our fellow-audaxing-chums. As it turned out we didn't leave until gone quarter to 8, so we arrived on the cusp of the half-an-hour-before-you're-due-to-leave audax politeness threshold.
Having sorted our brevet cards, assembled the bikes, gone to loo, and what-not we managed to miss the start. We were missing gloves, or sunglasses, or something. I say "we", but of course I mean "my children".
A few kilometres in, we had to stop for Daniel to take one of his pairs of gloves off. I don't blame him, it was turning out pretty warm. A little while later, tandem stoker Harry contrived to somehow catch the outside of ankle in the chain. Captaining, I didn't see what happened, but I felt something and then listened to his wail build up over the course of twenty seconds or so.
Sitting on the side of the road, crying for his Mum, he just wanted to go home. Daniel and I gently pointed out we were 18km into the ride and the only way home was to cycle back to the car. After several minutes, he was calmed down enough to agree to ride on the control. The Wonder 50's control is less that half way, so we only had about 4km to go.
This was, by his reckoning and even conceding that this time last year all he had to was sit and eat sandwiches, Harry's third audax. He'd greeted organizer Mike like an old pal and generally swanned around like he owned the place. (Some might argue this is his default mode.) Even before we reached the control, his confidence began to return and once there he confided that "we can't let Daniel down". The control was at a pub in Long Buckby, and we spent altogether too long discussing pool tables, skittle alleys, dart boards, and other traditional pub entertainments.
Happily the return section was absent such excitement. We rode on, anticipating the long pull into Haselbech where, last year, I'd had to hop off and Harry had refused to leave the bike asking if I couldn't just cycle. How far was it? How steep was it really? Could we, would we manage.
Yeah, course we did, but it is a long pull from the very lowest point of the ride up and up to the highest. It's not especially steep, but it does just seem to go on and on. Harry and I on the tandem were never going to have any trouble, so the pressure was slightly on Daniel. He dropped down through the gears and twiddled his way up like a champ. Top stuff.
The hill crowned, the ride to the finished is lovely. It would have been very easy to inadvertently ride the tandem away from Daniel, so I'd let him set the pace most of the way. Now he was, while not complaining of tiredness, noticeably slowing. I set a slightly quicker pace and asked Daniel to take our wheel. It almost worked. Harry kept trying to kick on, while Daniel was nervous of tucking up tight. Nonetheless we did make better time, and eventually rolled in to record a time of three and a half hours.
After a good slice of cake all around, I settled down for a cup of tea while the chaps, already restless, played french cricket. As I was about to start loading the car, a photographer from a local paper turned up. He couldn't stay long, but had unfortunately arrived at almost exactly the wrong time. We were the only cyclist there, and the earliest any of the 100km riders would be back was 20 minutes distant. As he was about to give up and be content with the three of us, two guys on the 100 arrived almost spot on the minimum time. Rapidly he posed us, them on the right, us on the left, ladies with cakes to the rear, and Mike with stopwatch kneeling at the front. It was, of course, a complete fabrication but it was an amusing close to the outing.