Nigel Deakin writes: To celebrate my recent birthday I decided to start out with today's all-day ride, call at the same coffee, lunch and tea stops, but to take an extra-long route in-between these stops to increase my mileage to 100. The day started dull, overcast and cool, with four other riders waiting at Brookside at 9am. Ian was the leader today, and headed out west towards Coton.
As we rode along I contemplated for the last time whether or not to make a breakaway. But I was full of energy and as we reached Coton asked whether anyone else fancied a slightly faster ride to coffee in Waresley. Jerry agreed, and we went ahead, taking a loop via Madingley and Dry Drayton before dropping back down to the old A428 which we followed to Bourn. As we rode along it started to drizzle quite heavily. After passing through Caxton and Great Gransden we arrived at Waresley Garden Centre at 10.30pm. There were several members waiting in the cafe, and the rest of the group, which had taken a more direct route, arrived soon afterwards. My odomater failed somewhere along the way, but my GPS gadget reported that I had ridden 18 miles. Less than a fifth of my target 100 miles.
As we left the cafe I announced my plan to ride ahead and take a longer route to lunch. I headed west out of the village along the little lane that passed over Lily Hill. The rain had stopped but the roads were quite wet.
I continued into St Neots, where I misjudged my location and briefly got lost in a housing estate in Eynesbury. But I soon found the main road and headed through the town centre and over the Ouse bridge to Eaton Ford. There I turned west towards our planned lunch stop at Keysoe, taking a diversion via Little Staughton and Great Staughton to increased the mileage a little. As I approached Keysoe I caught up with Ian and the main group, and we arrived at the Chequers in Keysoe to discover that it was closed for most of April. Some people had left the group at coffee; Joan and David W had joined. David asked a local resident for an alternative pub and we rode on to have lunch at the Fox and Hounds at Riseley, which was large but welcoming. My GPS gadget now reported 44 miles. Less than half my target, but we were less than half the way through the day.
After finishing my meal I said goodbye to the group and again went ahead. Ian's plan was to drop down south towards Great Barford and Sandy. However this was too short for me, so I headed on westwards, intending to drop down west of Bedford.
Just south of the pub I passed these dishes.
I continued west to Sharnbrook, where I was struck by the change in the local building style. Unlike in Cambridgeshire, the villages here built from stone.
By now the clouds had cleared, the sun had come out, and it was becoming a fine afternoon. I passed through Harrold Country Park, where I stopped for an ice-cream. Just beyond here I had technical trouble with the GPS gadget and so switched back to using the Odometer, which has now started working again. But with the two together I knew how far I had gone.
Eventually I rode into Bedford from the west. The road into the town wasn't especially pleasant, but the in the town centre I was rewarded with the opportunity to ride along the river.
I followed NCR 11 east out of Bedford. The riverside path in Bedford turns into a path along a disused railway line, which offered a pleasant traffic-free ride almost all the way to Sandy.
It was now 4.45pm and I realised I was not going to reach Gamlingay in time for tea. But I carried on, leaving the railway path at Blunham and heading north to cross the A1 at Tempsford. Then east to Everton, up the short, steep Everton Hill (one of the few hills near Cambridge marked by a chevron on the OS map). I reached Everton just after 5pm. Hoping to arrive at tea in time for the last few sandwiches I continued on to Gamlingay, only to make a wrong turn on Gamlingay Heath which took me down to Sandy instead. I arrived at The Cock, Gamlingay at 5.30pm. As I walked in, the landlord took one look at me and said "you're too late".
There was a good turnout at tea, so all the food had indeed gone. The group soon left, leaving me on my own to eat a scotch egg and drink some orange juice, and ponder my mileage. My long diversion west of Bedford, has added in quite a few extra miles and I was now on about 72 miles. 28 to go!
It's about 15 miles from Gamlingay to Cambridge so I needed to put in another diversion on the way home, so instead of the usual route via Bourn I took the road through the Hatleys to Croydon and Wimpole.
The dull morning had turned into a glorious evening, but I was getting tired and my progress was slowing down. I stopped in the grounds of Wimpole Hall to sit down and have a rest.
I continued through Orwell. Even with this diversion I was going to get home with only 90 miles on the clock, so I needed another diversion. So just after Orwell I turned right to Malton and Meldreth. At Shepreth I turned right again and dropped down to Fowlmere. Surely, this would add in enough extra miles? My calculations suggested it would be touch and go, so I added in a loop via Thriplow. Fortunately I was enjoying second wind and my pace had sped up.
I continued through Newton and the Shelfords. Again, my mental calculations told me my mileage was still too low. So I headed for Trumpington where I wearily turned left to Grantchester. As I rode through the village I decided that even this diversion wasn't long enough, so I turned left again and headed along Coton Road up to the A603 roundabout. I was now on 96 miles, so it was safe to at last turn home towards Cambridge.
By now the sun was low in the sky, clearly visible on the horizon as I rode north out of Grantchester. I knew I didn't have lights but reckoned that I would have ample time before that became a problem.
My final approach was along Barton Road and across the river to the common near Brooklands Avenue. Half a mile to go. As I approached Brookside I was on 99.75 miles, so I took one final loop via Bateman Street to Hills Road, to arrive at last at Brookside at 8.15pm. From there it was less than a mile back home.
Later that evening I pieced together my route. My mileage was actually 109 miles, so including the journey home I had ridden 110 miles on the day. I'm not sure why I had made such a big miscalculation, but there was clearly no doubt that I had achieved my Birthday Century. Nigel Deakin
View this route (part manual, part GPS) on a larger map