A Grand Day Out – VC 167 AUK National 400 2014

Nat 400 logo v2Friday Tea time. The Co-pilot expressed worry as we pedalled off on DaisyB to meet the Bike Butler to travel up to the AUK National 400km brevet. For captain confidence this was a little unusual. ‘Why’ I asked, ’cause it’s ten years since we’ve done this plus we didn’t have a third wheel in tow back then’. At 10am the following day we would find out if the Co-pilots worries true or just pre event tandem nerves.

Saturday morning dawned fine and sunny. McNasty style my saddle and pedals were installed on the back half of Rufus. The Co-pilot inspected Rufus’ rather wonderful toast rack bag and climbed in declaring that there was even a special pocket for him to sit in. Result. To complete pre brevet preparations Aidan and I took Rufus for a spin around the start car park. All was well, we could keep all three wheels attached to the ground and turn splendid circles in both directions.

At 10am on the dot the AUK peloton of round about 60 riders rolled out of the start and and straight onto a bike path. Rufus squeezed through the width restricters with just enough to spare. Off the bike path and onto the open road. All three wheels spun merrily and we sped off to the first control.

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The first control was at Ripon Spar Gardens. We were greeted by our controllers, Keith and Anne Benton, who have notched up 5 PBPs each. The cafe did us proud with a never ending stream of filled rolls and cakes. It was also our first taste of Yorkshire le Tour fever, with a half knitted bike; I’d never thought of using battenberg cake as pedals! Once we were refuelled it was time to head to the next control at Sedbergh.

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With the sun on our backs and the Bike Butler glued to our rear axle we rode along tour de France roads, which were decorated with tour bunting and yellow bikes of all shapes and sizes. We decided we liked the knitted jersey bunting the best. At the Sedbergh control we were welcomed by Steve’s team, which consisted of Kat, Lindsey, BOABlets #3 & 4 plus Steve’s guide dog. Kat and Lindsey and made and baked a spread of excellent food. Steve’s guide dog gave riders a swift leg wash with his tongue – how many rides do you get that type of service on!

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A-wheel again and our next stop would be Rosley control at 237km and new territory for both Aidan and me as we would then both be on our longest tandem trike ride ever.

The weather forecast had indicated some light rain. However, with a goodly sized group of randonneurs to pester the rain gods decided that they could do better than that and provided multiple hours of good quality medium to heavy rain. Rufus put a splendid show of his own on, as synchronised fountains of rain poured off his back wheels.

The Rosley control was another oasis of fine food and TLC. Bike parking was provided in doors and even Rufus managed to squeeze himself in. Amply repasted, we set off into the rain and dark to make our way to the sleep control at Slaggyford. Nigel, our route maestro provided an excellent night route over to Slaggyford on good quality roads that had a nice lack of technical challenges for those on ‘special’ machines.

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On arrival at Slaggyford, we were in yet another randonneurs four star oasis. Lots of familiar faces greeted us, with Julian checking us in and a whole host of helpers including AUK membership secretary – Mike W, Heather, an outstanding LEL lead controller and Daemon, AUKs very own film maker. Following yet more excellent food, it was decided that the luxury of multiple hours of sleep could be had. We would rise at 4am and depart about 4:30 am. This would allow for the rain to pass over but also that well known lady, Dawn to great us as we rode over Yad Moss.

Both the scenery and the food on this ride just kept surpassing it’s self. The control chefs had brewed perfect porridge accompanied by tinned peaches for breakfast. Before departure, a Blue Peter moment was had as Roger’s blanket was cunningly turned into two chest warmers by Aidan (he did have permission sir!) Suitably refreshed, attired warmly and refuelled it was time to get pedalling again.

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If you want a smooth ride over the Alston pave at the start of the Yad Moss climb, go by tandem trike. Rufus, ably driven by Aiden provided the smoothest passaged I’ve ever had on this climb. Yad Moss didn’t disappoint. As we climbed the clouds lifted and the sun came out providing a panorama of never ending views. The decent down to Middleton in Teesdale was a series of fast straights and swishing curves and sneaky hair pins. Once in Middleton, a swift break for malt loaf was had and we were on our way again. We would cover about 10km of classic London Edinburgh London route, including the wooden bridge, before we branched off to our control.

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Our perception of the next 40km to our final control at Aldbough was that we were in plod mode. However, the GPS track hotly denied this and in fact we were keeping a very respectable pace. On arrival at the control we were greeted by Dick McT. Then that infamous duo of Kat and Lindsey were baking and cooking again along with the brilliantly helpful BOABlets. Freshly made muffins, with our without chocolate perfectly complimented the usual breakfast fare.

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With only 35km left to the arrivee we set off into a day that was warming up very nicely. We caught up with a couple of solos. Each time they were greeted by the Bike Butler to ‘hop on’ which they did, giving Rufus his own petit tail of riders, attached to his rear axel by you know who.

After such a splendid weekend a-wheel it seemed a bit of a shame to end it by turning in to the arrivee. But unfortunately normal like beckoned and it had to be done.

I’d like to thank Nigel and AndyC, who headed up the organising team of VC167 and friends. They provided an excellent route and administration. Another big thank you goes to all the control helpers, with out whom this event wouldn’t have been the first class experience it became for all of the riders. The TLC we received at every control was the icing on the cake. For me it was a real blast from the past, as this was just how National 400s used to be in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The next AUK National 400 is already in planning for 2015, an event that needs to go on the must not be missed list.

Photos on Flickr

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