Audax is special – I don’t know if it is my age or what, but the concept appeals more and more. There’s several reasons for that and I will explain; it has something to do with the DIY, garden fete, trellis table Englishness of it all – I like the fact that it requires some effort to enter and validation is done through a brevet card, controls and info controls, receipts from bits purchased at local corner shops and bits of paper passed between human hands and through the postal system. It’s accessible, inclusive and egalitarian. And I really like that it seems to have a language all of it’s own.
There’s nothing wrong with Sportives, but it is a cold and consumer driven thing in contrast to Audax. Sportive: ‘click’ add to cart, ‘click’ checkout and pay your £20-£80 entry and turn up on the day… SMASH out a gold time and tell your brave story to your colleague at work on the Monday, who frankly was only being polite when they asked ‘did you have a good weekend’ – it’s charmless. Of course you can pay on line for entry to a local Audax, but the price in comparison is a fraction of the cost, and there’s a name of an individual, with their address and details – you can see where your money goes. It’s personable, amenable and charming. And you can leave your beards and sandals prejudice and stereotypes at the door, because in my experience nothing could be further from the current image of Audax.
2015 was a year spent mostly away from the bike, other than a few stolen hours here and there and a couple of rides entertained with friends. Racing was thin on the ground and fitness suffered as a result – work and home life does that to you sometimes. As I sit here contemplating what to do about 2016, as most people will be doing on New Year’s Eve I suspect, I’m looking around for a challenge that will be just the right side of challenging, won’t be too costly and won’t mean I have to travel miles in a car just to get to the start line. Dirty Reiver Gravel CX Race aside (more on that in another blog) I hit upon the Brevet Des Grimpeurs Du Sud award.
My good friend Gavin took on the Grimpeurs Du Sud this year and I managed to join him for a couple of the events, having paid my £7 entry fee through AudaxUK, and enjoyed them immensely. Grimpeurs Du Sud is like an award offshoot of the Audax AAA (Audax Altitude Award) – it gets a bit complicated as the AAA seems to be a part of a bigger picture of qualifying rides and other awards offered by AudaxUK, with other links across the Continent and International qualifiers and events so I will try my best to boil it down to something understandable.
Brevet Des Grimpeurs Du Sud exists as an “A Local Award for Local People “the most wanted badge in the South”” – The award is available to anybody who completes 5 rides of 100km or over eligible for AAA points starting in the counties of Essex, Herts, Bucks, Surrey, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent and Greater London within the same calendar year (from 1st Jan to 31st Dec; not the AUK calendar year).
Since many qualifying rides start, more or less, at the end of my road this already checks the ‘keep it local’ goal that I was looking for (work and family life dictate and are a priority as always) – in fact I think I can complete the award and not have to use a car or any other means of transport other than my bike to get to the starting line – the challenge is in the events themselves with the amount of climbing involved and offering the benefit of getting to know my local area a little more.
Of course there are challenges within the award challenge itself adding a real sense of humour to the organisation, including:
O: Grimpeur d’Or. 10 eligible events ridden in the same year.
R: GdSRTY. 12 eligible events completed in consecutive months.
F: 5 eligible events ridden on fixed-wheel.
S: Super Randonneur (200, 300, 400, 600km) in eligible rides
V: Grimpeur du Vectis; 5 Isle of Wight eligible rides.
T: 5 eligible rides ridden on tandem
B : 5 rides completed on Bike Shaped Object (eg £79 Halfords bike)
I haven’t decided what award to aim for just yet, I quite like the idea of riding fixed gear but since I don’t currently own a fixed gear bike this may be out of scope for 2016, but Grimpeur d’Or is certainly achievable I think, it’ll just take a bit of organisation on my part.
I have already entered the first two local events on the calendar: Hills and Mills on 30th January 2016 and The Mad Jack’s ride on 27th February – both of which I have previously ridden, but they are really great rides and surprisingly difficult as early season tests.
This isn’t really a part of any resolutions, 2016 will pan out as it sees fit as the year usually does, but I’ll keep you updated with a regular blog of my Grimpeurs Du Sud experiences here.
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