Thursday, 21 August 2014

21 Aug: Thursday ride to Nuthampstead and Green Tye

Edward writes: Although the weather this Thursday was probably best described as indifferent, for cycling it was a good temperature being about 20 C for most of the day but accompanied by a stiff south-westerly wind. As we were going to be heading south in the morning it held the prospect of a brisk ride back in the afternoon. This week David Mason was our leader and he was in charge of group of about twenty two as we left Hauxton for our trip out to Tye Green, near Bishop's Stortford, calling at Nuthampstead for our coffee stop.


Although we didn't formally go off in two groups we did in fact keep ourselves well separated as we left Hauxton, Little Shelford and into Newton. A trip round Thriplow and Fowlmere took us to the A505 and Chrishall Grange ready for the long climb up to the Elmdon turning where we stopped so that everybody could come together again.

A505 at Fowlmere

Tandem at Chrishall Grange

Elmdon Turning

Now in the high points of the county with fine views all round it was possible to observe that the harvest is nearly completed with some fields already ploughed over. Next up came Great Chishill and then on to Shaftenhoe End where, of course, there are one or two stiff climbs as we headed for Nuthampstead and The Woodman Inn with immaculate timing at 11 am and they were well prepared for us with cups already on the bar counter.


As it was still sunny most of us sat out in the garden to enjoy our break and we were joined by Greta, Doug and Jacob thus making quite a party. As is usual, after coffee, there was the usual exchange of personnel but it was still a large group of about twenty who set off to nearby Anstey.


A trip through Meesden, Brent and Stocking Pelham, all very pleasantly rural, took us on the road heading due south through Gravesend, Clapgate, Albury and finally Little Hadham where, of course, we had the inevitable long wait to cross the busy A120. Two more miles brought us to Much Hadham where we turned for the last leg of the morning session to go over Hadham Ford, three went through the water, but everybody else used the bridge, a little climb gave us Perry Green and then Green Tye.

Hadham Ford

We arrived at the Prince of Wales in Green Tye, still with superb timing, at 1pm for the luncheon interval. Most of our group had brought a packed lunch with only about four of five buying food at the pub and we all sat outside in a most convivial atmosphere.

Green Tye

At 1.45 pm it was time to go again and now we would have the benefit of the wind on our backs. We went back to Much Hadham and Little Hadham and another lengthy wait at the lights and headed up the hill towards Albury but turning east to Upwick Green. This is another narrow and hilly road with patches of gravel to catch the unaware.

Upwick Green

Upwick Green

After Upwick Green we went through Farnham, Manuden (a quick check of the walnut tree), Clavering and Langley Lower Green.


Langley Lower Green

Here Jacob suggested a slight detour to take in some off-road work, naturally, and this came out just before Chrishall; some preferred to stay on the road and headed for Little Chishill. Those on the detour went through Chrishall and into Chrishall Grange where we followed the morning route out and bringing us back to Little Shelford with the ride finishing at 4.45 pm. This was a splendid day out and we give our thanks to David for his contribution to such a good day. Our trip was 63 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

20 Aug: Evening ride to Barrington

Nigel writes: My companions for tonight's ride were regular Jim and newcomer Sven, here for his second ride with the club. It was a pleasant evening with quite a bit of sun though the temperature was quite cool with quite a chilly westerly wind which imparted a rather an autumnal feel to the air.

Our route this evening was a loop along roads to the west of Cambridge which we rarely visit on evening rides. We set off west from Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway before turning onto the B1046 to Comberton, Toft, Bourn and Longstowe.

A couple of miles beyond Longstowe we turned left and continued part of the way to Gamlingay before turning south and returning back east through the Hatleys, Croydon, Arrington and the grounds of Wimpole Hall. We reached Barrington rather earlier than planned at about 8.15pm, just before the sun was due to set at 8.19pm.

Jim and Sven

After drinks and bowls of chips in the Queen's Head we returned back to Cambridge via Chapel Hill, Haslingfield and Barton. I arrived home at 9.30pm, having cycled 35 miles.

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A road-biking holiday in Girona, Spain

Nigel writes: My main cycling holiday this year was a week in the Spanish city of Girona with my chum Rob. We based ourselves in the city and rented top-class road bikes from a local tour company which allowed us to enjoy a series of fast, unladen day trips into the surrounding mountains.

Girona is in the far north-east of Spain, in the autonomous community of Catalonia. It's 60 miles north of Barcelona and about 25 miles inland from the resorts of the Costa Brava. Although the city itself is fairly flat, there are wooded mountains in all directions which we found offered a week of delightful cycling along well-graded, well-surfaced and mostly very quiet roads.

Girona is a popular destination for road cyclists, with several professional cyclists based in the area (including Lance Armstrong at one time) and there are a number of cycle shops in the city renting top-quality road bikes to visiting club cyclists.

The River Onyar in central Girona, the footbridge by Gustav Eiffel, and the Cathedral

We rented our bikes from Girona Cycle Centre, handily located right in the centre of Girona only a couple of minutes' walk from our hotel. After briefly considering some rather slow-looking "touring" bikes with racks and straight handlebars, we decided to rent top-range Cannondale Supersix carbon road bikes. Neither of us had much experience of riding road bikes, but these turned out to be the lightest and fastest bikes either of had ever ridden, and great fun to ride. And at €120 for six days' hire the cost compared well with the £100 fee (£50 each way) that Ryanair would have charged for bringing our own bikes.

Nigel and his Cannondale Supersix

Monday: Sant Gregori-Les Serres-Bonmatí-Mas Llunés-Estanyol (32 miles)

Our our first day we picked up the bikes and went out for a relatively short spin into the mountains to the south-west of Girona. We soon discovered what cycling in the countryside around Girona was like; once out of the city the roads were empty and the climbs were very well-graded. Although it was clear and sunny, and the temperature was close to 30C, the mountains were covered in trees and there was plenty of shade.

This ride had two short climbs to about 300m but they were not steep and I was able to ride slowly up with several gears to spare. The descents were similarly long and gentle which made for an enjoyable ride down without the need for continuous braking. We stopped for coffee part-way round and were back in Girona in time for a late lunch.

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Tuesday: Cassa de la Selva-Monells-Santuari dels Àngels(38 miles)

The following day we went for a ride in the Gavarres mountains east of Girona, following a classic route known as the "Els Angels" loop, apparently a favourite of Lance Armstrong.

We rode south from Girona along some rather some flat and dull main roads for about eight miles until we reached the small town of Cassa de la Silva. There we turned east into the mountains and were immediately on a smooth, empty and gently rising road which took us up to an elevation of 350m before dropping down again to the village of Sant Sadurni de l'Heura on the other side.

The climb from Cassa dea la Selva towards Sant Sadurni de l'Heura

A few miles later we stopped for refreshments in the main square in the village of Monells. It was too early for lunch so we just had coffee before setting off back west for our second climb, up to the monastery of Els Àngels. This was rather harder than the earlier climb and took us up to an elevation of 484m. The ascent was straightforward enough but our decision not to eat anything earlier turned this into a bit of a slog, and when we reached the top I was relieved to discover that the monastery there had a cafe selling bars of chocolate.

After replenishing our sugar levels and admiring the view we descended a mile or so to a restaurant for another late lunch before completing our descent back down to Girona.

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Wednesday: Llagostera-Sant Grau-Sant Feliu de Guixols (63 miles)

After two relatively short days we now felt confident to attempt a longer ride south to the coast. This took us south through some pleasant flat countryside for about an hour until we reached Llagostera.

Near Sant Andreu Salou

Sant Andreu Salou, on the flat section between Girona and Llagostera, which we passed through on the way out and on the way back.

After Llagostera the climbing begin, up to about 460m near the village of Sant Grau, where I had my first view of the Mediterranean Sea. As usual, I was the first to reach the top and sat down to wait for Rob to join me. After half an hour he still hadn't appeared so I reluctantly set off back down the mountain to find him. I didn't have to lose much height before I found Rob wheeling his bike up the road. He had a puncture but since I was the one carrying the pump he had been unable to mend it without me. After making the necessary repair we carried on; this turned out to be the only mechanical breakdown of the week. I climbed with Rob back to the top after which we were rewarded by an exhilarating and spectacular descent down along a series of winding hairpins until we reached the coast road.

A view of the sea on the descent from Sant Grau down to the coast

We followed the coast road east until we reached the small resort of Sant Feliu de Guixols where we stopped for lunch.

The winding, switchback coast road (GI-682) approaching Sant Feliu de Guixols

Our route back to Girona wasn't as spectacular as the route out but wasn't as hilly either, taking us on a different route back to Llagostera before reversing the first part of the ride back to Girona. We arrived back in Girona at about 6.30pm.

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Post-ride beers in Plaça de la Independència, Girona. The waiters seemed very tolerant of our need to keep our bikes close by.

Thursday: Sant Gregori-Les Planes-Olut-Santa Pau-Banyoles (70 miles)

Today we had the longest ride of the week, a big loop to the west of Girona which took us into yet another mountainous region, the Garrotxa Volcanic Park around the town of Olut.

Most of the ride was on quiet roads but for some sections it was necessary to use some busier roads, though these were still quiet by British standards and didn't pose any problem.

C-63 between Les Planes d'Hostoles and Sant Esteve. Like most of the main roads we used, it was well-surfaced, well-graded, had a shoulder, and wasn't especially busy

We stopped for lunch in the village of Santa Pau a few miles east of Olut. This was the highest point in the ride at about 500m, and was followed by many miles of gradual descent along charming quiet lanes.

El Torn, on a quiet diversion from the main road in the Parc Natural Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa east of Sant Pau

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Friday: Sant Gregorio-Les Serres-Angles-Osor-Sant Hilari (64 miles)

Today's ride, rather to our surprise, turned out to be the most purely enjoyable of the whole week. It was essentially a long climb to the town of Sant Hilari for lunch. At 800m this was the highest point of the whole week, but the climb to reach it was a delight, a long and very gentle ascent up a series of beautiful wooded valleys along a road which was so quiet that we only saw a car every ten minutes or so.

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The very long but gentle climb up to Sant Hilari

Saturday: Flaça-Vilaur-Banyoles (52 miles)

Our final ride was a loop through the flatter agricultural countryside to the north of Girona. With no mountains and rarely climbing to more than 200m this was a relaxing way to end the week.

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The city of Girona was an attractive place to be based for the week, with a cosy old town and countless bars and restaurants. A good place to unwind after a day on the bike.

The bumpy cobbles of the old town in Girona

The city wasn't an especially cycle-friendly place, with bumpy cobbles in the centre and plenty of big roads and roundabouts further out. However none of the roads seemed particularly busy and we didn't have any difficulty with the local drivers who generally passed us with much more care than we were used to.

Light breakfast at cafe in Girona before setting off

This building in Girona old town is apparently where Lance Armstrong had his flat

Sunday, 17 August 2014

17 Aug: All-day ride to St Neots, Harrold and Over

Nigel writes: Today started off feeling rather autumnal, cooler than in recent weeks and with a strong westerly breeze, but still quite pleasant and sunny. Joining me at Brookside for today's ride were Klaas, Neil, Eva, Ian D, newcomer Tom and our leader Joseph. Joseph led us into the City Centre and then west over the river and through West Cambridge to Coton.

Crossing the river in Cambridge

From Coton we climbed Madingley Hill to Hardwick and continued west along the old A428 all the way to Caxton Gibbet.

Madingley Hill

As we rode along the sky became dark and it began to rain. With a strong headwind this made for fairly unpleasant riding conditions, made worse by the need to use the relatively busy A1198 for several miles. The temperature dropped markedly and it now felt definitely very autumnal.

Near Papworth we turned off onto a much quieter road that led us west through Yelling and Toseland and after about half an hour the rain stopped. When we reached the junction with the B1043 we turned left for the final few miles to St Neots where we stopped for coffee at the Market Cafe in the middle of the town. Whilst we were sitting in the cafe the weather outside began to improve and by the time we were ready to set off again the sun had come back out and the temperature was increasing, a pleasant reminder that it was still August.

Coffee in St Neots

For next stage of the ride we crossed the River Ouse and continued west through Bushmead, Thurleigh and Sharnbrook to Odell. With the rain now passed over the remainder of the day was warm and dry, though still quite windy.

near Thurleigh

When we reached Odell we turned into the Harrold-Odell country park and stopped for lunch at the excellent cafe there.

Lunch at Harrold-Odell Country Park

Lunch at Harrold-Odell Country Park

After lunch we rode north for a few miles, briefly entering Northamptonshire before turning east for the long ride to our tea stop in Over, where Mike C was hosting a "home tea" at his house. At last we had the wind behind us, and this allowed us a relatively easy ride (with the possible exception of Klaas, who was riding a heavy town bike today) to Grafham Water and from there through Buckden, Graveley, Hilton and Fenstanton to Over. Despite the tailwind this was quite a long way and we didn't reach Over until 5.15pm. Already there (and preparing to leave) we found the afternoon ride and several other members who had made their own way there.

Tea at Mike's house in Over

After an excellent tea we set off back towards Cambridge via the busway cycleway. Refreshed after our tea stop and with the wind behind us once more, this was an easy and very pleasant ride in the late evening sunshine. I arrived home at 7.05pm, having cycled 91 miles.

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