Upper Thames


The start time is nominally set at 0730, the traditional start time for this event. However, if Covid restrictions limit group sizes (as they would have done in 2020 until lockdown2 forced cancellation) I shall operate a phased start, with riders starting in pre-arranged 10 minute intervals between 0700 and 0800, or later if numbers dictate. If this approach is necessary, riders will be given a start time which, if it is inconvenient or if riders want to ride with another rider with a different time, I will be happy to change start times provided there is space in the desired slot. The preparation for 2020 showed that this can be made to work quite easily. If we do need to have staggered starts I will contact all entrants individually with further detail. 

Also, if there are still Covid restrictions in place I will NOT accept entries on the day.

The Upper Thames in its current format has been running since 2004 (though there was an earlier, one-off, version and unfortunately the 2020 event had to be cancelled due to Covid lockdown). 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 first Saturday in November, the slower riders have traditionally been entertained to firework displays in the latter stages.

This is a 209km / 131 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 (3 or 4 is not too many!) 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 (they 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. Many roads, particularly in the Chilterns and Cotswolds, will be covered in leaf-fall, making the spotting of poor road surfaces more difficult. 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 2021 event will be on 6th November 2021 starting at 0730 (though see top of page in red).  
(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 209km 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, Charney Bassett, the Hanneys, Steventon and skirt south of Didcot back to Cholsey.
Apart from the Cafe controls at Waterperry and Chipping Norton, there are also Information controls at Dunsden Green (near Henley), Christmas Common, Ashendon and Charney Bassett. 
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 and 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.
I don't aim to make a profit on the event (it is budgeted to break even with about 70 entries), but the number of entries I typically get, plus the generosity of the riders on the day, means there is usually a healthy surplus. This is donated to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, who have received over £1000 from the event in the last three years. 
Any queries about this event should be directed to the organiser, Phil Dyson, on 01491 651284 or at phil at thamesvalleyaudax co.uk
Entries are open, at AUK calendar page. On-line entry is available (with payment via PayPal). If there are no Covid restrictions 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, which is behind the Red Lion pub in Wallingford Road, Cholsey. 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 0830 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. 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.. The YHA hostel at Streatley,is no longer available to individuals at weekends. 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. 
Rail services 
Note that train timetables are subject to change and disruption, especially by track-works. The notes that follow (updated 12/10/2019) are for guidance and should be checked before travel.
Cholsey station (about 1.5km from event HQ) is served by trains from London, Reading and Oxford. The 0525 from Paddington (0620 from Reading) will get you to Cholsey at 0638. Or the 0555 from Paddington (0655 from Reading) will get you to Cholsey station at 0713. Look for stopping trains to Didcot. The 0552 train from Paddington (0623 from Reading) would get you to Didcot at 0638, 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 0637 from Oxford (change to 0702 at Didcot) gets to Cholsey at 0707. 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. Though you'll need to catch up time by the first full control
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 12872" (note that this is a revised reference reflecting changes to the route in 2018). 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; Charney Bassett (SU379945) @ 178k; Cholsey (SU590868) @ 209k. 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 less than 500 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. Because the number of trackpoints has been reduced below 500, the track does not follow the road perfectly, though is never more than a few metres off. You may want to adjust the sensitivity of your gps device so that you do not get frequent "deviated from route" alarms.

The files will all be updated for "current year" when I am satisfied that no diversions are necessary. There are no planned changes to the route.
The Routesheet is saved in Excel 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..
Please refer back to this page before the event to check for last minute updates. 
Phil D,
15 Oct 2020, 11:23
Phil D,
13 Oct 2020, 13:47
Phil D,
13 Oct 2020, 13:47
Upper Thames 2020.gpx
Phil D,
12 Oct 2020, 06:07