About a year ago the local audax organiser and coordinator Ian said to me “We could do with another 400km around here”. I commented that I had a well tried 400km route and he was welcome to use it. The route went up the N Devon coast, up the Bristol to Bath cycle path and of course over the loverly Severn Bridge
You can guess what happened next. Yes, I found myself running a 413km long distance cycling event.
These happenings have “controls” which are a combination of refreshment stop and checkpoint. At each control you must get a proof of passage.
A couple of different controls were suggested which seemed to make the route a bit shorter (it was over distance). Ian said he’d like to see it start at night, like the Paris-Brest-Paris. After a quick test ride of the route starting at 9:30pm it looked like arranging a start at 10:30pm would make sense. Organising bagpipes to make the start like the PBP proved impossible.
I decided to runit on the weekend nearest to the summer solstice. This should give a view of the sunrise at Glastonbury, a nice short night and hopefully good weather. It also gave a name – the “Avalon Sunrise 400”
I tried to sort out the starting venue. Initially I choose the village of Clayhidon in the Blackdown Hills because I knew it had a village hall. When I tried to book the hall however, about a year in advance it was already taken, by the local country and western club. Apparently they had a act traveling all the way up from Norfolk that was booked, so they couldn’t move or cancel for my benefit.
Then I investigated the nearby church hall. This was highly unsuitable however, with no cooking facilities and no toilet. Finally, I came up with a scheme of using the pub to start. I talked to the pub, the “Half Moon“. I have used the “Half Moon” for a number of years and the food there is pretty good. They also do proper beer. The landlady, Linda seemed keen and said that the pub would be a) open until midnight that night and b) they would be running a BBQ and having a band as it was an anniversary of them running the place.
I contacted people I knew in the area to get a set of helpers to stamp cards and encourage the riders on their way. My mother had just bought a house in Minehead so I roped her in to do a control there.
Because the “Avalon Sunrise 400” was new, long and because of the unusual start time, I thought I’d only get a handful of entries, maybe ten if I was fortunate.
A month before I topped the ten, and was cockahoop
A couple of weeks before I was on seventeen entries and ordered the Brevet Cards. These audax rides need official cards from AUK (the national audax club) to record the riders passage around the course control points. The cards are then validated by AUK and count for various international awards or qualifiers for other events. I ordered twenty seven cards to give ten spares. A few days after that I was over twenty entries then over twenty five. Then I had to order more cards, late. I was slightly concerned about the numbers being too high!
In the end there were thirty two entries and twenty five starters. The weather on the night was threatening rain, but it stayed dry and the next day too. The control at my mothers house went well. They were all through Minehead by 3am and she was surprised they ate all the cake.
Most of the riders were back before the following sunset, the last two at 1:30am Sunday morning
There were a few problems with the riders following the route sheet in the dark: the first corner looked like a T junction in the dark and so made about half the field get lost in the first mile….but the BBQ at the finish left most people with a positive feeling afterwards. Thank goodness for charred meat and beer.