Randonnée Round the Year

A few weeks ago I completed my first Randonnée Round the Year (RRTY) – a verified 200k audax every calendar month for a year. Here’s how I did it…

In May 2018 I did two audaxes over 200k – the Cumbrian 200 and the Mosstrooper 300. The weather for the Cumbrian 200 was spectacular, as was the scenery. I’d got the train to Oxenholme very first thing in the morning and ridden to the start, which meant it ended up being 150 miles. The ride took in a couple of major Lakeland passes (Kirkstone and Newlands), plus some lesser-known but very challenging climbs. It was more climbing than I’d done in a day before.

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I did the Mosstrooper the following week: over the North Pennines to Penrith, up to Newcastleton, past Kielder to Bellingham, over Winter’s Gibbet to the finish at Ponteland. Except I then rode another 40 odd miles home, which meant that by the time I got back it was my longest ride to date.

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June also involved two audaxes – the Hot Trod 400, and a DIY 600 to complete the Super Randonneur set. The Hot Trod was wet – thundery downpours after lunch got me soaked through, but it was warm, so didn’t matter too much. It’s a great route – up through Northumberland, over the Scottish border, down to Lockerbie, up to Moffat, over the ‘Devil’s Beef Tub’ and then down the Tweed valley towards Coldstream, Wooler, and back to Ponteland. It was my first 400, and it felt exhilarating to ride through the night, through the rain, covering such a distance.

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I hadn’t intended to do the full Super Randonneur, but it seemed a shame not to complete the set with a 600. I did this as a DIY, adding extra miles to the beginning and end of the ‘Ride to the Sun’ event which goes through the night from Carlisle to Edinburgh. I rode with a friend, starting from Newcastle, headed west to Maryport, back to Carlisle, up to Edinburgh and then back through Northumberland to Newcastle. It was an extraordinary ride. Some big highs and lows, but I’m so proud to have done this one – my longest ride to date. I’ve written more about it and the rest of the Super Randonneur series here.

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My 200 in July (a DIY) was fantastic. It was a stunningly beautiful sunny day, and a friend and I rode 150 miles through the Scottish Borders. Loved it.

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A hilly DIY in August. England’s highest paved road – Great Dun Fell – was first, then it was up into the Pennines from Brough to Middleton-in-Teesdale, and then up Teesdale to Yad Moss – the roof of England.

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In September I rode the Humber Bridge 200. It was the second time I had done this audax, organised by Graeme Holdsworth. It’s a fun route, taking in the Yorkshire Wolds, some flat roads in north Lincolnshire, and of course crossing the mightily impressive Humber Bridge shortly before the finish. I was rushing a bit this time as I wanted to get back home in good time, so it ended up being fairly quick (for me). This was also my first audax since going vegan.

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In October it nearly all went wrong. I had entered the Peculiar Old 200, which started near Darlington on the last weekend of the month. The trouble with leaving it until the end of the month of course is that if anything goes wrong then your RRTY attempt can come to an abrupt end. Well, it snowed. I wasn’t expecting snow, so hadn’t worn the right kit. I got freezing cold and gave up after a couple of hours – it just wasn’t fun. I had resigned myself to having to start the RRTY again, but then changed my mind at the last minute. I took the day off on 31st October and rode a DIY. It wasn’t the most interesting route – all very familiar, up the Tyne valley to Garrigill, all the way down to Newcastle, and then back up the valley again to home. I had to grind this one out, but I got it done.

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Just a week later I completed November’s ride. This one felt bit spontaneous. On the Thursday the forecast for Saturday was showery, but with a decent southerly wind. So on Saturday morning I got the train to Preston and rode home. It was good to explore some new roads, and the thing I like about a linear ride is you get to draw a nice long line on the map.

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While December’s DIY 200 was in one sense a case ‘just getting it done’, it was enjoyable nonetheless, taking in some of my favourite roads – up the North Tyne to Kielder, over into Scotland to Newcastleton, down to Annan, Gretna and home.

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My DIY 200 in January was done entirely within Northumberland, and took me as far as Warkworth. It was the first run-out for my new dynamo hub. I felt slow and sluggish on this ride, and some long slow uphill drags on the way home didn’t help. Not a hugely memorable ride, but enjoyable enough. Just getting it done.

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February’s ride started out really well. I caught the train to Edinburgh and headed home. The first half was great; cold, but sunny and a good tailwind. The second half of the ride involved a puncture and issues with my brakes, which really slowed me down. I never really found my rhythm after all the stops; I got really fatigued and had to dig deep to get home. Still, it was an experience!

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In March I rode my first calendared audax of 2019 – The Yorkshire Gallop. It was great to have company again! This was an enjoyable route on mainly flat roads, starting near Darlington and going as far as York (right into the centre of the city) before heading north again. I fuelled the final 50k with a Greggs vegan sausage roll.

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And finally April! I had entered a 300 – Beyond the Dales we Know – towards the end of the month, but decided to do a DIY 200 the weekend before. I had been a bit unwell and didn’t feel like I’d had enough time in the saddle to go straight for the 300, so this DIY seemed a good idea. Plus the weather was looking great – it was Easter Monday and the whole weekend had been good for cycling. I wanted to head up into the Scottish Borders, in particular the Ettrick valley. However, I really couldn’t be bothered with the very familiar roads which form the first 20 or 30k from my house. So I caught the train to Brampton and made that the start and finish point. This ride was great. It was an out-and-back, the farthest point being the very dead-end of the paved road at the head of the Ettrick valley. It’s so beautiful round there, and really quiet. On both the way out and back I stopped at Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist centre, to refuel at the Tibetan Tea Rooms. I had planned to call in there, so deliberately wore my jersey which says ‘Miles are my meditation’ on the back, much to the amusement of one of the other visitors.

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So that was my first Randonnée Round the Year! I hadn’t planned to do it when I started, but when the rides started stacking up month after month I figured I should probably give it a crack. It feels like quite an achievement, especially having to grind out the DIYs in the cold dark winter months. Apparently I can now claim a badge!

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