Gareth writes: Today was the "End of Hibernation", a 200 km audax organized by Terry Dickinson of Cambridge Cycling Club. Starting at the village hall in Hauxton, it visited controls at Adam's Café near Stradishall, the Riverside Lakes Café at Onehouse near Stowmarket, and Bosworth's Café at Finchingfield (plus two information controls).
Today was the third time I've ridden this event. In 2010 it took me just over 12 hours; in 2011 I got round in 10 hours and 40 minutes. Last year there was a blizzard: I looked out of the window in the morning and decided to go back to sleep. (There were only two finishers — here's a write-up from Nick Jackson.)
The weather was much better this year, though still challenging with a cold wind from the north-west. It was bright and sunny first thing, which fooled some riders into leaving their jackets at home, a decision that they were later to regret.
The first couple of stages were fast with a tailwind. As we climbed up towards Dullingham, a cold rain began to fall, and by the time I got to Woodditton the rain was mixed with snow. It was a relief to get to Adam's Café, where they put on a splendid spread of cakes. This was at 09:45, so more than an hour before the CTC day ride got there. While I was drinking tea and eating cake, the snow shower blew away, and the sun came out. I wrung out my soggy gloves, got back on the bike, and sped through Hawkedon, Hartest, Shimpling, Felsham and Rattlesden, getting to Onehouse at 11:45.
The way this ride always seems to work out is that there is a tailwind as far as Onehouse, and then you turn the corner and grovel into the wind all afternoon. Today was no different, and in addition to the westerly wind there was a series of hailstorms. The route goes through Bildeston, Monks Eleigh, Castle Hedingham, and Wethersfield. I staggered in to Finchingfield about 14:45, took a seat near the carvery to warm up in the glow of the heat lamps, and ate cherry Bakewell pudding with custard.
It always seems like a very long way from Finchingfield to the last information control at Great Hormead. Terry Dickerson has run this ride so many times that he is running out of questions to ask, so here we had to hunt for a manhole cover (specifically, a round manhole cover) and read the text written on it. Normally the turn north to Anstey and Nuthampstead brings some relief from the headwind, but with the wind in the north-west this wasn't the case, and it was hard work all the way back. There was another hailstorm, and on the descent from Barley I had to keep my speed down because otherwise the hail was too painful! Nonetheless, I was back at Hauxton at 18:15 (my fastest ever audax).
Thanks to Terry Dickerson for organizing the ride. I had 230 km (143 miles) for the day.