I made a bit of a mess of this one. The ride was great as far as Market Harborough (140 km), but the next section, over the Leicestershire hills to Wymondham into a vicious headwind, finished me off. At the Windmill tea rooms in Wymondham (180 km) I stared disconsolately at my apple crumble but was unable to finish it. After that I got slower and slower and everything hurt, and although I knew I had to eat, I just couldn’t manage it, so I whiled away the time by cursing the whole sport of audax and myself for getting into this mess. I arrived at the finish shortly after midnight, shaking and barely able to speak, and although there were plenty of Terry’s delicious apricot flapjacks left, I was unable to eat even one.
But now that I’m no longer aching (much), some things I remember about the ride:
Terry put together a super route, on country lanes throughout, with a variety of scenery and no long boring sections. We started by heading south to Barkway, then northwest to Ashwell, across the A1 at Edworth and up east of Bedford to the first control at Thurleigh Farm Centre. Then west into Northamptonshire, across the River Nene to Earls Barton, and a hilly section north to Market Harborough (140 km), where the change in land use was distinctive: from the mainly arable farming of Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire to mixed arable and pasture. The wind was starting to be a factor here. From Market Harborough north to Wymondham (180 km) there was a series of rolling hills and valleys, almost northern in parts. This was very tough with the wind in the north-east, and it was a relief to reach the Windmill tea rooms at Wymondham, perched on top of a hill to the north of the village. A mostly flat section to Market Deeping (217 km) north of Peterborough followed, with each turn to the southeast giving a bit of respite from the wind, and then for slow riders like me the sun began to set as the route headed southeast across the fens to Chatteris (264 km) on familiar roads, atmospheric in the gathering dusk. From Chatteris at least the wind was mostly a help, and then in Cambridge I used a bit of local knowledge to shave off half a kilometre or so by going through the centre of town rather than round by Fen Causeway, reaching Hauxton (308 km) at 00:16.
Tony and Jacky were very encouraging all the way to Market Deeping. Hope I didn’t hold you up too much.
Terry’s routesheet was spot-on. Only one moment of doubt, in Chatteris, where there was no signpost for the B1050, but loads of signs for the A141 and A142. If I were going to change one thing on the route, it would be to get from Benwick to Chatteris via Ibberson’s Drove instead of Dykemoor Drove. The latter is the quieter route, and must have been lovely for those who got there in daylight, but the bad road surface was painful in the dark.
I saw a red kite (see photo below), several buzzards, four kestrels and, I think, an osprey! (It was at Holcot, which is adjacent to Pitsford Reservoir, where ospreys have been reported, so it’s not completely out of the question.)
On the River Nene (old course) near Benwick there was a swan sitting on its nest on the far river bank, right out in the open. In the gathering gloom the quiet of the fens was punctuated by the honking of distant swans.
The audaxer who, despite 300 km in his legs, still felt the need to race a kid on a mountain bike down Castle Hill.
336 km (209 miles) in all.