The Hailsham 3 (Audax riding)

I refer to the 3 PBP qualifying rides I’ve done from this town this year under the auspices of “El Supremo” Dave Hudson the noted Audax organiser and outside caterer (quality and quantity). Dave charges a paltry £10 for entry which includes a massive feed at both the World of Water cafe near Rolvenden and at one of Dave’s roving feed stations. With over a dozen events this year Dave has used many common sections; combining them into the required number of 100kms.

The 200
This was the ride which took me to “Randonneur Round the Year” in February and proved a difficult nut to crack. We started on the easier southbound approach to High and Over near Alfriston for the first checkpoint (where I last saw Angela). Soon after the heavens opened and I suffered my only puncture of the year so far near Horsbridge. After a miserable tube change as all the field passed me I reached Dave’s feed stop up on the hill at Brightling. Sabine the controller kindly took my card through the 1cm gap in her car door window and fortified with as much food and coffee to keep me going I was off again. All the rides use the Brightling-Rye-Dungeness route which fortunately had no headwind on all three rides. After more coffee and a dose of gamma rays by the power station we were off up into the lovely lanes to Smarden for an info control before dropping back down to the World of Water, where pre-ordered and efficiently served beans and egg on toast hit the spot. A lumpy last stage to the finish back over Brightling with liberal use of the brakes saw one of my old front rims collapse and I just about made it back with the rear one.

The 300
A far nicer affair at the end of April. An early 4am start; down to the coast, this time via the hard way up High and Over, with the impressive sight of several hundred red LED’s snaking up the hill. This was followed by a dawn ride all the way along the coast to Shoreham before returning inland via Cowfold and Cuckfield (where my mum provided me with a free and welcome breakfast). I rode with Mid Sussex Hilly stalwarts Jack Williams, Richard Thomas, Paul Outhwaite and Chris Tracy, and also newcomer Deniece Williams who I had met in Suffolk at Easter. Dave’s Brightling control was glorious on this day and it was hard to drag ourselves away. The rest of the ride to World of Water was as the 200 before a lumpy and fast A road dash via Frant back to Heathfield (Dave did offer scenic alternatives involving Newick Lane and Tidebroook which nobody seemed keen on!) to finish in just over 14 hours my fastest 300 so far. It was a shame not to see Angela on this ride.

The 400
A civilised 13.30 start, I took the train (a wise move for any rides over 300km) and met several other forum members on the way to Polegate where we formed a peletoon up the old railway line to the start. The 300 team was sadly depleted by the loss of Jack (working) Paul (ill) and Deniece (broken collar bone the previous weekend on the Severn Across) A very wind assisted Dungeness stage (via the deserted spot in Brightling where Dave had been on the other 2 rides) saw us all arrive before the control even opened, a definite first and last! More food at the World of Water (the charming family that run this have been likened to the Larkins!) this time with more than 60km to go I had to go for the wonderful apple pie and custard too. Dave used the A272 for most of the night section, which was relatively quiet but most of the cars on it seemed to think that dipped headlights do not apply to cyclists. Just after the slog out of Wisborough Green I met a large peleton of “Vedettes” on their way back. And soon after we arrived at Dave’s control in a layby between Petworth and Midhurst. This was a fairy tale place with willing helpers, a candlelit pergola and loads more welcome food, drink and spare batteries all provided by Dave. It’s these lovely oases of welcome which make Dave’s rides without a doubt the best organised events in the region. A long 110km stage back to the WoW was happily broken by passing my mum’s again where I had a much needed couple of hours kip in a real bed and more food before heading off for the final 100km. This was without a doubt the most miserable 100km I’ve ever ridden with a constant headwind, torrential rain and more brutal hills back to Hailsham. But good preparation for my next ride; the 600km Bryan Chapman which traverses all of Wales in a weekend.

The 600
I’m glad to be giving this one a miss, although I’ll miss out on Dave and the WoW catering, but I will be manning the finish control to welcome back those on their way to Paris

Martin Malins