Tina writes: This was to be my first Audax ride so I tried not to let the grey, drizzly morning and gloomy forecast dampen my enthusiasm. (What a contrast to last year’s brilliant blue skies and basking in warm sunshine while helping to stamp Brevet cards at the Reed checkpoint.) I arrived at Hauxton around 9.50am, collected my card and set off at about 10.05am, just behind the main group of cyclists wearing several warm layers including a waterproof jacket.
The route took us along familiar roads through Great Shelford, Fulbourn and up to Great and Little Wilbraham, where I took off my fleece, but replaced my outer jacket. Crossing the A1303, I rode through Bottisham, turning up to Swaffham Bulbeck where we had to answer the first question on the Brevet card. I also found Malcolm and Mike mending a puncture – the first of three that day!
From the Swaffhams, we turned south following the ‘Newmarket Cycleway’ to Dullingham – still on familiar territory from Sunday afternoon rides, but then branched left towards Burrough Green, climbing the hill into Great Bradley and on to our first checkpoint at Little Thurlow around 11.30am. 40.4km down and "only" 63.6 to go. Simon P was waiting there with Gwen, dispensing drinks and some very sustaining chelsea buns to help us on our way. I arrived around the same time as David (from Surrey), an experienced Audax rider who I had chatted to along the way.
The route sheet directed us along a narrow "yellow" road to Carlton Green, which would have been quite scenic but for the steady drizzle. We dropped down to West Wickham, but the payback was a climb up to Balsham pedalling into the wind. From Balsham, the B1052 took us down to Linton across the A1307 and a long climb up to Hadstock. (I'm not sure I would have made it without that Chelsea bun!). The road levelled off and then dropped downhill to Saffron Walden, where we found the lunchtime checkpoint at the Mocha Cafe, manned by Ian D. Never has a ham and cheese bap with pasta side salad tasted so good, and hot chocolate, normally too sickly for me, provided welcome extra calories for the afternoon ride ahead. Mike and Malcolm arrived shortly afterwards (delayed by Mike’s second puncture), with Gwen providing encouraging back-up.
The intermittent morning drizzle was replaced in the afternoon by unrelenting rain as we headed out of Saffron Walden towards Wendens Ambo, some cyclists already using their lights, taking the road to Arkesden and then Duddenhoe End and Langley. The quiet lanes, green fields & pretty hamlets would have been lovely in bright sunshine, but today it was more head down and pedal determinedly on, as we swooped down to Little Chishill and then up to Barley. By now it was 4.30pm and the 5.08pm deadline was looming, but having cycled this far and being this wet there was no way I was going to give up! The road to Flint Cross seemed interminable, but at Fowlmere, the end was in sight. I arrived back at Hauxton at 4.50pm, fingers almost too numb to sign the Brevet card. Jacob and Mike S, lone riders from the afternoon ride, also arrived, and David, who had been delayed by a puncture, checked in about 5pm. We all sat down to thaw out and enjoy a welcome cup of tea.
Thanks to Simon for a varied and pleasant route – it's a shame he wasn’t able to organise similar weather conditions!