Nigel writes: Whilst the west of the country enjoyed warm and sunny conditions, here in the east we had a cooler and cloudier day. In fact it was rather cold when the ride started, but it soon warmed up and the sun eventually came out. But cool weather is actually not such a bad thing when you're cycling; especially when you're on the longest club ride of the year so far.
At Brookside this morning I found a good turnout for today's all-day ride: Steve, Paul, Neil, Peter H, Chris, Mike CC, newcomer Elizabeth, Tom and me. Tom was our leader today, and to prove his leadership credentials handed out route sheets at the start, not that we needed them.
Tom led us west out of Cambridge, along the Fen Causeway and across Lammas Land to Barton Road. As we rode along I spoke to Elizabeth who explained that she was training for a 100-mile charity ride later in the month. (As it turned out, she had chosen the perfect ride for this).
We followed the Barton Road to Barton and from there we took the B1046 to Bourn. As usual at this stage of our Sunday rides, we rode slowly in groups of two, chatting pleasantly. At Bourn we turned off onto quieter roads through Caxton and Great Gransden to Waresley. We resisted the temptation of the garden centre cafe and continued along the lovely narrow road that leads over Lily Hill towards St Neots.
We reached St Neots and stopped for coffee at the Market Cafe in the middle of the town. This cafe is a club favourite and it was clear that we were welcome visitors, with the proprietor thanking us for our visit when it was time to move on.
During the coffee stop Adrian and Doug separately arrived but didn't join the ride, and afterwards Peter and Neil turned back for home as usual, followed after a short while by Paul. This left six of us to carry on to lunch at the Harrold-Odell country park.
Tom led us there on a direct route through Bushmead, Bolnhurst, Thurleigh and Sharnbrook so we arrived at the country park quite early at 12.30pm, with about 40 miles behind us. This was my first visit on a club ride, and I was pleased to discover that there was not only a cafe with table service but also a kiosk nearby selling coffee to those of us who had brought sandwiches.
It was about 1.45pm when we set off again. We turned south across the River Great Ouse on a historic bridge called The Causeway.
I suggested to Tom that we lengthen our afternoon stage and so when we reached Turvey we turned west for a loop (off the map!) to Newton Blossomville before returning back onto the map for a series of pleasant quiet roads to Astwood. We crossed the A422 and continued south to Cranfield. Here we turned east. At Wootton we joined the signposted NCN 51 and followed it into Bedford. This started promisingly with an underpass of the western bypass but soon brought us to a halt when we encountered a large construction site just beyond. Fortunately there was a surfaced path around it and we were soon back on our way.
Once we entered the urban area properly we were on a typical Sustrans magical mystery tour along poor quality cycle facilties through through grim housing estates.
Eventually, however, we found ourselves crossing over the Ouse just west of the town centre and rode east along the north bank of the river.
This was quite pleasant though it took us under a surprisingly low railway bridge.
We were pleased to see that a high level cycle bridge was nearing completion close by.
We reached the middle of town and were deposited on a road back over the river., We crossed this at a toucan and then dropped back down to the river along a steep ramp.
From here it was simply a case of following the river east out of Bedford.
After a couple of miles we left the river behind and followed the cycle path constructed along the bed of the old Bedford to Sandy railway.
Four miles later we reached a place called "Danish Camp", with a visitor centre, cycle hire place and cafe in a nice location by the river. We ordered chocolate cakes served with ice cream and sat down to wait for the afternoon riders. Before long they turned up, led by Jacob.
Afternoon riders at Danish Camp
Chocolate cake and ice cream: just what we needed to prepare for the 25 miles back to Cambridge
Afterwards we set for the long ride back to Cambridge. Unusually we stayed together as a single group - sixteen or so of us - almost all the way back to Cambridge. We continued along the route 51 cycleway to Sandy and then through Everton, Gamlingay, the Hatleys and Croydon to Wimpole. We entered the Wimpole estate by the back gate and rode past the hall to the main entrance. We dropped down to the A603 and crossed it to Orwell. At this point I warned our newer riders that a hill was coming up in about three miles and, after riding through Barrington, we reached Chapel Hill. This didn't prove too difficult and we were soon speeding down the other side to Haslingfield.
The final leg of our ride took is to Barton and from there along the Barton Road cycleway into Cambridge. It was clear that today's ride would have an impressive mileage, and by the time we reached the Barton Road/M11 junction on the outskirts of Cambridge my Garmin was showing well over 90 miles. With the prospect of riding my first century of 2013 very much in mind, three of us left the main group and and turned towards Coton. After a diversion around the country park we entered the city along the Coton path. I rode through the city centre and back to Brookside. My mileage was now 97 miles, so I continued down Trumpington Road to the guided busway and returned towards the city. Just before I reached the station the required distance was achieved, 100 miles, making this my longest ride this year. I arrived home a few minutes later at 7.50pm. Thanks are due to Tom for leading an excellent ride.
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