Event Review

REVIEW: Fairies Flattest Possible 300 Audax

by Caven O'Hara

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REVIEW: Fairies Flattest Possible 300 Audax

Distances: 50, 100, 150, 200 & 304 kilometres 
Participants: 150 with 60 of those undertaking the longest route 
Start: Village Hall, Bethersden, Kent 
Transport: Pluckley station, 2.4 miles or Ashford International 6.1 miles 
Feedstops: 7 Information controls & 6 control points 
Timed: Manually 
Services: This is an Audax - you have to be self sufficient although food and drink was available at the Control Points 
Signs: No signage but a route card was provided 
Road: Over the longer distance you wouldn't think it would be possible to find so many roads that were flat. A very pleasant rumble around the Kent countryside, with a brief foray into Sussex. 

Having broken my Audax duck last year at the excellent Ditchling Devil - basically a London to Brighton and back again - I thought I'd dig out another equally challenging event. Coupled with my desire to complete the Tommy Godwin challenge it seemed like the perfect match. 

Celebrating 75 years since Godwin set his incredible annual mileage record, riding his daily average for one day, 205 miles, seemed an apt test. The appeal of the route offered by the Fairies Flattest 300 was in the name, flattest! Having ridden one 300km event already this year, I was more selective with the terrain on offer second time around. 

The difference here was the start time - 2am. I'd arrange to meet my riding partner, Gavin at Haywards Heath Station at around midnight for the drive over to the Race HQ, the village hall in Betherden, Kent. At that time of night there was no issue with traffic and we made good time, arriving early with 35 minutes to spare. The event organiser, David was busy making teas and coffees besides keeping the registration process flowing. 



One of the differences between an Audax and a Sportive is the simplicity. You get used to turning up and having everything provided for in a sportive, in terms of signage, timing chips and so on. For an Audax, you sign in and are presented with a Brevet card. This is your proof of completion. You have to mark on the cards the answers to questions posed at several information points on the route, as well as having it stamped or marked with stickers at the control points. That's all there is to it, the rest is down to you the rider. In addition to this you get a route card, with step-by-step directions; basic, but good fun and a test of your abilities to navigate not just ride the distance. 

Gavin and I spent a little while getting the bikes sorted and selecting kit. During the day the temperature had risen to a very pleasant level. For the early hours there was some rain forecast despite the balmy feel to the night. The other consideration for this ride was the use of lights, not something I have done for quite a while. Our prep completed we had time for a quick brew before heading out. With 60 odd riders signing up for the 304km, everyone was keen to head out. Those undertaking the shorter distances would start later. 

We started slightly behind, as the others had headed out pretty swiftly. The long route was effectively split into two parts: 103km would see us back at HQ before undertaking the second longer loop. With the first information control at the 34km mark there was plenty of time to spin the legs and get into the ride. The route took us out through the outskirts of Ashford before heading south towards Folkestone and the coast not for the only time on this long day. At this time of the morning there was a slightly surreal feel to the surroundings in the half-light, exacerbated when we passed the eerily quiet racecourse on the outskirts of Folkestone hosting the World War Revival. The shadows cast by some of the large guns were a little unnerving. 



An auspicious start saw us miss the first information point, but a quick chat with other riders let us know what we'd missed. Continuing on we hit the coast and turned west towards Rye. This part of the coast consists of some long straight roads, it also signalled the start of the drizzle. The first control point passed without incident. Brevet card signed we headed on, only to stop shortly afterwards to don raincoats - the forecasted rain had arrived. It never really tipped it down but we were pretty soaked by the time we hit HQ, after a wrong turn on the far side of Rye added an extra 10km, just what we needed! 

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) n/a
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 91.1%