Dash to Dunkery Audax march 2011

by Jeannie Fry

Jeannie Fry

Jeannie Fry

On 13th March two members of WCT, Mike Prior and Jeannie Fry, took part in the “Dash to Dunkery” audax bike event. This is a challenging 105k bike ride up and over the Quantocks and then up to the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon. It involves numerous climbs, (4629ft in total!) the most challenging being Elworthy Hill on the way out, and Cothelstone Hill on the way back. About 200 riders of all abilities took part, and ample tea and cakes were provided at the start, half way point (Dunkery Beacon) and finish, a la audax style.

The day started damp and overcast, but the sun soon shone through and afforded stunning views and great conditions for a ride of this nature. Having started participating in sportive events last year as part of my long distance triathlon training, I was keen to see what doing an audax was all about. I was not disappointed and it was my idea of a great day out in the country with friends and food!

I was urged by a fellow clubbie at the start to “get to the front” to avoid getting blocked on the first hill out of North Petherton, but stuck to my plan and stayed with a couple of Saturday riding partners, slightly apprehensive of what I had heard about the infamous climbs, having cycled to the start from Burnham, and knowing it would be a long morning. We soon got fairly close to the front and settled into a nice pace, which became scarey when we descended Cothelstone Hill. It was here that my one and only water bottle flew off my bike, together with my brand new carbon fibre bottle cage! I was hanging on to the handlebars petrified at this stage and no way was I stopping to pick it up!

The first major climb of Elworthy hill went well for me and I seemed to overtake quite a few riders, only to stop at the top to wait for the guys I was riding with. One had had a puncture. We regrouped and made good time to Dunkery, to see Mike flying down, chasing the leaders, as we climbed the last few kilometres to the tea and cake van. On the return trip, another puncture slowed us down again…..but the rest before climbing Cothelstone Hill on the way back was welcome. I have to admit this is one of the most challenging climbs I have ever done, but well worth the accomplishment as many were walking it, and after that it is downhill all the way to North Petherton and more cake!

Mike easily beat his time of last year, completing this challenging ride in under 4 hours. I did 4.25 ish, but forgot to go into the event headquarters straight away to get my card stamped, as I was so elated to have finished. This is an amazing winter training ride and with the right gearing it is achievable for anyone who loves their riding and wants to spend a great day out with like-minded people…..some say nutters!