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Allan’s Ultra and Simon’s Significant Birthday

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(L to R) Geoff, Allan, Will and Simon enjoy the cream teas to celebrate Simon’s 60th.

It’s chapeaux to Southport CC chairman Allan Taylor for achieving legendary status amongst the nation’s Audax fraternity. On Friday Allan completed a Randonneur Round the Year (RRTY), for the tenth time, which makes him an Ultra RRTY, a feat that places him 22nd on the UK’s all time list. A word of explanation to those unfamiliar with this specialist discipline. To achieve Randonneur Round the Year status an Audaxer must complete a two hundred kilometre ride each month over a twelve month period….all very pleasant during the balmy days of summer, a little more challenging on Britain’s frozen, pothole strewn roads in winter when rides often start, and finish, in the dark.

Allan kindly invited me to join him for his big day and I foolishly accepted. This was my first Audax on home soil and it was with great joy that I scraped the ice off my mudguards and cycle to Ainsdale Post Office for Alan’s Grand Depart….the crowd is best described as thin but it was good of the postman to turn out. As a newcomer to the Secret Squirrel Society, as it is referred to by one of our members I was eager to learn the rituals of this clandestine fellowship. The ride starts by taking money out of a cash machine which. Don’t ask me why but everyone did it so I joined in.

Soon we were off down the leafy lanes of St Helens and Newton-le- Willows and on to Culcheth, here everyone went into a supermarket and purchased a Snicker (other chocolate bars are available) and proceeded to loving place their receipts in side their reinforced wallets. I presume this was for tax purposes.
Next we headed towards the Warburton Bridge and Checkpoint Charlie. To those unfamiliar with this escape route to Cheshire, the ‘Warby Bridge’ is an ancient crossing of the ship canal with a toll charge of 12 pence. Thinking he had crossed the channel Allan switched to riding on the right hand side of the road and sped through the barrier much to the chagrin of the border guard. Allan said this was Audax rules so who was I to disagree?

Cheshire at last, were cyclists give you a cheery wave and the 4x4s that cut you up are all driven by footballers’ wives – there are some perks. Suddenly Jodrell Bank appeared shimmering in the mist. This led Will to begin a discourse on gravitational waves about which he knows little but he can talk at length; it led me to think I’m a long way from home and we’re not half way.

Goostrey, and finally Allan says we can stop and another Audax ritual begins as he approaches one of the younger waitresses and asks her to stamp his card….well that’s a new opening line, but if it works… A quick lunch and we’re back on the road. Will is now discussing the US elections about which he knows even less, but this is an Audax and there’s twelve hours of conversation to fill….fortunately we haven’t discussed sprockets and skin suits …. yet. In the midst of this discourse Will is assaulted by a farm dog, but a brief conversation between Will and the farmer’s wife cleared up any misunderstandings and Will retracted his promise to eat the dog.

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Careful with the valve Will!

Old Ma’s tea room….and it is a proper team room. Simon generously buys the whole cafe an afternoon cream tea to celebrate his sixtieth birthday i.e. the four of us. He leaves the cafe with a spring after the aged and infirm waitress tells him he doesn’t look a day over 50. In the meantime Allan stashes away another receipt.

It’s head down time now. On to Chester, and at last were heading north, but more importantly on the Merseyrail route….should I pull a muscle and play the Seniors Railcard? Tempting. Alas Allan goes off piste down the Chester Greenway and onto the Wirral Way and that’s when things started to go down hill. Within seconds a strangulated cry of puncture emerges from Will; no problem, great team work has Will’s tyre on in 10 minutes….unfortunately in the eleventh minute it was off again as Will breaks the valve…..much strong language ensues….but teamwork prevails and we’re off again following a route that now resembles a cyclo-cross course rather than the pure, wholesome tarmac I was promised.

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The finish! Will, Allan, Simon and Geoff at Me Cycle

The pressure is now on to reach the ferry, but heads down, through and off and we’re there….Gerry Marsden blasts out ‘Ferry across the Mersey’….Allan gets the ferryman to stamp his card…down the gang plank, past the Pier Head….safely home…..no, 15k to go and Will hits a pothole in the dimly lit Litherland streets. Not one to do things by half, it’s a double puncture…..Four tubes in one day, is this a SCC record? We’re off again and by now my lights have expired so I shamefacedly take my place in the middle of the peloton and get a rollicking from the chairman.

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Allan enjoys a well earned beer with Geoff and Peter Scott

And then, almost like a mirage, we see it….Ainsdale Post Office, and once again the ritual of withdrawing money from the cash machine takes place. The crowds have gathered in Mecycle to welcome us and the chairman is carried on the shoulders of admiring cyclists. Beer is consumed, wine quaffed….perhaps these Audaxes are worth doing after all?

So well done Allan. A magnificent feat. Having done one Audax all I can say, is Chapeaux and pass the Radox.

Words from Geoff Caton, pictures from Simon and Neil Robinson

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