The Upper Thames in its current format has been running since 2004 (though there was an earlier, one-off, version). There was a gap in the calendar for rides qualifying for "Randonneur Round the Year" in November, so this event was slotted in. While there are now plenty of November events in the calendar, this event is well-established, with large entry fields. As it is always on the Saturday closest to November 5th, the slower riders have traditionally been entertained to firework displays in the latter stages.
This is a 212km / 133 mile ride, and requires considerable stamina. Daylight hours are getting short (most riders finish in the dark) and the weather in November is likely to be cold and/or wet. Entrants are expected to be experienced cyclists, familiar with riding this distance, and able to carry out routine simple repairs should they be needed. Wet roads over the Chilterns are notorious for flints, so it is wise to carry several spare inner tubes and the means to deploy them. Lights are essential. There is no mechanical support on the ride, and no roadside event signage.
This event is not a race. Please avoid doing anything that could spoil the event - be courteous to all those you meet on the ride (including drivers, horse riders and pedestrians) and act as an ambassador for audax and cycling generally.
Because the roads are likely to be wet, and in places muddy, I request (but do not demand) that all riders have mudguards fitted. This is not for following riders' comfort (you can always ride further back!) but to try to avoid antagonising the cafes on whom we depend for controls. Muddy riders are unlikely to be welcome.
As with most of the country, the state of repair of the roads can best be described as poor. Riders should not assume that any lack of comment about road surface in the routesheet means that the surface is good. It is the responsibility of all riders to take suitable care.
If this is your first audax experience, you may find Notes for Audax novices helpful
The 2017 event will be on 4th November 2017 starting at 0730. (see section below "riding the event as a permanent" if that date doesn't suit)
This event starts and finishes at Cholsey, in South Oxfordshire. At 212km it is a bit overdistance but this is to use minor roads rather than some fairly busy A roads. The absolute shortest distance between the controls is pretty much exactly 200km, and under AUK rules you are free to ride the shortest route if you don't mind backtracking, and using the fast and busy A41 and A44. As it passes over the Chilterns and the fringes of the Cotswolds the route is not flat, but with less than 2000m of climbing it is not particularly hilly by audax standards.
From Cholsey the route goes up the Chiltern escarpment to Stoke Row (where look out for the Maharaja's Well - BBC article), then skirts the edge of Henley, along the Assendon Valley then up and over to Christmas Common and Watlington. The route then has a relatively flat interlude, skirting Wheatley to the tea-room at the Waterperry garden centre. Soon after Waterperry the lumpiness starts again, taking riders through Long Crendon, out to an info control at Ashendon, on via Bicester, and then through some pretty North Cotswold villages to Chipping Norton where riders stop at the Old Mill Cafe. Riders then travel south through rolling country to cross the Windrush Valley at Minster Lovell, then on to Brize Norton (it's pretty much all flat now), Bampton, Stanford in the Vale, the Hanneys, Steventon and skirt south of Didcot back to Cholsey.
Apart from the Cafe controls at Waterperry and Chipping Norton where there will be someone to greet you and stamp your brevet card, there are also Information controls at Dunsden Green (near Henley), Christmas Common, Ashendon and Stanford-in-the-Vale.
There will be snacks at the start, and hot food available at the finish, all included in the entry fee. You will be responsible for feeding yourself during the event. The controls at Waterperry and Chipping Norton (approx 1/3 and 2/3 of the way round) provide a range of food and drink (a wider range at CN than at W). There are plenty of shops on the route where snacks may be purchased - these are marked on the routesheet.
While the Old Mill at Chipping Norton is well set up to handle large numbers fairly quickly, it does get very busy during "normal" lunchtime, so faster riders arriving before 2 may wish to eat elsewhere (though in fairness all of the alternatives are equally likely to be busy!) There are other cafes - No 24 on the left of the main street, just before Crown and Cushion, a Cafe Nero behind the town hall next to Co-Op and Beales, and a small cafe on the right just after the point where you turn off the A44 as it swings right towards Evesham. There is also a Sainsburys (not a cafe, but sandwiches and drinks next to entrance) on the inside of the A44 corner, numerous pubs and a fish and chip shop.
There is a thread about the event on yACF which gives some comments by riders on the event.
Any queries about this event should be directed to the organiser, Phil Dyson, on 01491 651284
Entries are open, at AUK calendar page. On-line entry is available (with payment via PayPal). It will be possible to enter on the day, but note that (a) the entry fee will be £10, (b) may cause you to start later than the main field as my priority will be to those who entered in advance, and (c) while I always order what I expect to be enough Brevet cards, I cannot guarantee to have spares on the day.
The start control
The start is in the Cholsey Scout Hall. The control will open at about 0645, and hot & cold drinks, toast, biscuits and bananas will be available. Those who have entered in advance will find their brevet card on the table opposite the entrance. There is no need to register - if your card is taken I assume you have started. On-the-day entrants will find a registration table near the entrance. The event starts at 0730, in order to maximise daylight riding. The start control will remain open until about 0800 to allow for late arrivals.
How to get there
Cholsey is between Reading and Oxford, just south of Wallingford and east of Didcot. For those that need instructions, go to the AUK calendar page (link above), click on the map and then enter your starting point for full driving instructions. Note also the paragraph below about rail services.
Cars cannot be parked all day at the start location, because there are other organisations using the site while you are away. Ample parking is provided about 300yds away, and will be signposted on the day. Please park tidily, and remember that local residents will likely still be asleep! Cars must not be parked in the pub car park - this can be used for drop-off only.
Where to stay
There are a few hotels (but not cheap ones) and B&Bs in the Wallingford area in this accommodation link. Look for postcodes OX10 8.. or 9.. There is also a YHA hostel at Streatley, about 7km from the start. The nearest Travelodge is at Reading M4 services, 23km away. There is a Premier Inn at the A34 junction with the A4130 at Milton, W of Didcot, 13km away.
Cholsey station (about 1.5km from event HQ) is served by trains from London, Reading and Oxford. From Paddington the 0527 will get you to Cholsey at 0714. This is the 0656 from Reading. Look for stopping trains to Oxford. The 0550 train from Paddington (0622 from Reading would get you to Didcot at 0637, with plenty of time to ride the 8.5km to the event HQ, but note that this train probably needs to be booked for cycles. The 0642 from Oxford (0701 Didcot) gets to Cholsey at 0706. Instructions to the start from Cholsey station (and indeed from Didcot station) are in the route cover notes (Word document at the foot of these notes). Don't worry if your train is delayed (or cancelled) - the start control will remain open for at least half an hour after the official start.
Return trains to Reading and London, or to Oxford, are every half hour until late evening.
Riding the event as a permanent
Unfortunately because of the use of info controls on this route, it is not available as a conventional audax permanent. However, it can be ridden as a GPS DIY. If you live in the South-east, and Paul Stewart is your perm organiser, you can simplify the entry process by telling Paul on the entry form you are entering "DIYSE Brevet 3470". You do not need to specify route details as Paul has them on file.. Alternatively, the list of controls is Cholsey (SU590868); Dunsden Green (SU739772) @ 22k; Christmas Common (SU715933) @ 45k; Waterperry (SP628064) @ 69k; Ashendon (SP704140) @ 88k; Chipping Norton (SP313270) @ 139k; Stanford in the Vale (SU340930) @ 178k; Cholsey (SU590868) @ 212k. I would be interested to hear from anyone riding this as a perm, but I don't expect payment.
The gpx Track below was created in MemoryMap software, and edited in Garmin's Mapsource, The Track comprises 445 Trackpoints (in a single track segment), and 7 Waypoints showing the location of the 2 controls, 4 info controls and arrivee. Anyone using this gpx file should satisfy themselves, in advance of the event, that the track displays correctly on whichever GPS device they use. The organiser makes no warranty beyond stating that the track follows the route described in the Routesheet faithfully.
The Routesheet is saved in Excel 97/2003 format to make it as accessible as possible, but check the page layout on your printer before you print it. Users who don't want or need to reformat the routesheet may prefer the pdf file.
The cover notes and routesheet are best printed by downloading the files (the down arrow on the right) rather than just clicking on the file name, which may give unexpected formatting problems. The gpx file must similarly be downloaded using the down arrow - clicking the file name will not work..
The files below refer to the 2016 event and may be changed before November 2017