Conrad writes: When I turned into Brookside at 9:30 am, my heart sank when I saw two figures there. Part of me was hoping that no one in their right minds would be out on this cold, wet and windy day, but Rupert and Ian were already there.
We had a half-hearted discussion about cutting the ride if the weather were to deteriorate but we did not agree on anything by the time Neil and Paul joined us. We quickly set off down Trumpington Road on the usual way out through the Shelfords, Duxford and up Coploe Hill.
The going was tough as we were cycling directly into a stiff headwind. Along the way, we lost one rider who made the sensible decision to turn back, no doubt to watch the Six Nations action over a hot cup of tea. We reached The Temeraire at Saffron Walden to find Mick C, Adrian and Ed. Although the warm and dry pub offered a welcome and tempting respite from the conditions outside, I did not want to spend too much time indoors for fear of being late for home tea.
The day before, I had gone on a recce ride where I had planned to lead the ride on a long loop south towards Elsenham (my original plan was to turn west at Henham only to find North Hall Road closed till March, Ride leaders please note) then up through Rickling Green. But given the unpleasant weather, I agreed with Rupert and Ian, who were the only ones to join me on the next leg, that we would take the direct route. So we cycled slowly out of Saffron Walden in the direction of Debden, then turned right towards Newport. We didn't have far to go so I led us through Stickling Green where Ian suggested going down the back road through Further Ford End. This was a path that is probably better suited for a summer ride but it was still passable although there were some downward stretches where one had to be careful to avoid large potholes.
We soon arrived at the Woodman. I have been here several times for coffee and I found that there was a completely different complexion today with many groups there for lunch. We were having a leisurely lunch when an early nominee for Hardy Rider of the year walked in. Daniel had cycled against the headwind all the way from Cambridge to join us for lunch! We had time so we waited for Daniel to finish his lunch before we moved off.
Now, with the wind behind us, it was a relatively easy ride back through Shaftenhoe End, Heydon, Fowlmere and Newton. At Newton, we turned left towards Harston and then Haslingfield (hence avoiding Chapel Hill) and then it was on to home tea at John's. Adrian and Greta were already there and soon, Julia and little Florian joined us. According to Julia, Florian had gone just 18 days without being on a bike!
John and Catherine had put on a wonderful spread of food including a very delicious lemon drizzle cake. The afternoon ride soon arrived, just in time for Rupert to present the Len Nice trophy to a very deserving Adrian.
It was such a good social even that I did not realise that it was almost 5 pm when I left John's. In total, the day ride covered 53 miles, a bit shorter than the usual winter ride but it definitely felt a lot longer. Conrad Chua
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