Dorset Coast Audax 200km

First run by Keith Matthews in 1978, it is reputably the longest running event in the AUK calendar. The route has changed over the years; the current one hugs the Dorset coast as much as practicable, resulting in a supremely scenic, varied and challenging days cycling. Sub 10 hour finishes are possible, but be prepared to use the full 13.5 hour time allowance. The event is also renowned for its controls, with good cyclists food and drink provided at the start, finish, and the three intermediate controls.

The ride starts from Wareham Quay at 07.45. The route heads north on quiet main roads, and through Poole Town Centre. You will probably become swept up in the peleton, and arrive at the ferry somewhat hot and sweaty, but there is no real hurry; most riders catch the same ferry, which runs every 20 minutes. Before reaching the ferry, enjoy the views across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island, and play "spot the millionaire" at Sandbanks.

The chain ferry takes less than 10 minutes to cross the mouth of Poole Harbour, and provides a chance to socialise and take the sea air. The adventure really starts when you embark at Shell Bay, and head off towards the Purbeck Hills. A rollercoaster of a road leads to the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle, which you skirt, and then a delightful road leads to a climb up Creech Hill. The view along the ridge is spectacular, with Portland Bill and the Jurassic Coast to one side and the army ranges and Egdon Heath to the other. A swooping descent down Whiteway Hill, then up past Lulworth Castle, and down into West Lulworth, then up to Daggers Gate. Phew! In contrast, the peaceful Chaldon Valley is fairly flat, until the end

A stretch of main road then takes you to Broadmayne, when you head up and over to Weymouth and the first control, the Criterion Cafe. The marshals will give you a drinks voucher, and all day breakfasts, filled rolls and cakes are for sale. The basement seating area is reserved for cyclists, so enjoy the break.

A new route, using cycleways, has been devised to take you out of Weymouth, and you will soon be back on quiet lanes, as you approach the unrelenting Abbotsbury Hill. An ice-cream van usually lurks at the summit, as you may need to cool down. You should see fantastic views of The Fleet and Chesil Beach as you follow this spectacular road, glimpsing views of "Broadchurch" locations as you head towards Bridport.

The headbanging section begins as you turn left by the thatched Palmers Brewery. Up, down, up, down etc. Take your time on these single track roads and enjoy the intimate landscape of the Marshwood Vale. After a short downhill stretch on the A35 you may need to stop at the last shop before Axminster, at the bottom of the hill in Chideock. Recently resurfaced, these roads are technically challenging, and you'll probably think the last climb out of Wootton Fitzpaine will never end, but I promise you it does, and its' then all downhill to Axminster, where the ladies of the School will revive you with filled rolls, soup and cakes in the haven of the School Hall

Only two more hills to the finish, well, almost! First up the notorious Sector Lane, then a high altitude B-road which follows the Devon/Dorset border, down past Lamberts Castle to Marshwood Church, where you turn right and dive back down into the Marshwood Vale. Plenty of scenery and hamlets, a couple of drags up to crossroads, and then, up ahead, looms Spyway Hill. As you near the top take time to look over your shoulder; the whole of the Marshwood Vale and beyond should be visible. And in front, the majestic Eggardon Hillfort. Sharp right, you join the old Roman Road which leads you towards Dorchester. The route avoids the busy A35, deviating along the pastoral Winterborne Valley, then you enter Dorchester via the surreal Poundbury; Prince Charles' visionary settlement. In contrast, the last control is Top O Town Cafe, where you are assured of a good cyclists feed. Patrons Dennis and Linda stay open late for us, and provide a great service, but don't over indulge, as there is plenty of good food at the finish.

The Sunday afternoon descent down Dorchester's historic High Street should be fairly quiet; most traffic taking the bypass, which you cross by a busy roundabout before entering the last stage of minor roads to Wareham. Undulating to begin with, but nothing like the hills that you have already conquered. Ring your bell in Tincleton, spare a thought for Lawrence Of Arabia at Clouds Hill, peer into the abyss as you pass gravel pits, as you gently descend to the Arrivee back at Wareham. You will more than likely need lights for this last leg.

At the finish, in the Parish Hall, you can relax in the company of fellow Audaxers, and enjoy the home made food laid on by the helpers. Medals and 2015 date bars can also be purchased. What a Day!