Nigel writes: Today's all-day ride was designated as being car-assisted, with the start point being at Sarah and Andy's house in Wistow, a small village in Huntingdonshire, about eight miles north of St Ives. Typically members make arrangements a few days beforehand to ensure that anyone who wants to ride can get a lift. On this occasion, however, I decided that I didn't need a lift and would get up early to cycle all the way from Cambridge.
I set the alarm clock for an early breakfast and left my house in Cambridge just before 7.30am and was soon on the busway making my way to St Ives. Despite the early hours, there were quite a few cyclists coming and going and even larger numbers of walkers, especially near the lakes at Fen Drayton. Getting up early clearly puts people in a good mood, and I had lots of pleasant exchanges of greetings with people as I rode along. The Thicket Path from St Ives to Houghton was also quite busy as well. After a few more miles on normal roads I arrived in in Wistow at 9.05pm, allowing me ample time for a rest and a mug of coffee before the official departure at 9.30am.
Several cars arrived laden with bikes and by the time we were due to depart there were twelve of us: an excellent turnout for a ride on a dull and drizzly day with a forecast of scattered showers.
After a brief photocall we all set off. Within seconds I discovered I had a flat tyre, and the time taken to replace the tube delayed our departure by a quarter of an hour. Then we were back on our way, led by our joint leaders Andy and Sarah.
Today's ride took us west, over the motorway to Alconbury Weston and then north-west into Northamptonshire. This is an area we rarely visit on normal club rides and almost immediately I was on unfamilar lanes, riding through unfamilar villages.
Although the sky was dull and overcast, and the occasional patch of drizzle came and went, it remained mostly dry. And since it was mid-July, very warm.
As we rode along we saw the brick of Cambridgeshire replaced by the warm stone colours of Northamptonshire.
Our mid-morning coffee stop was in Oundle, an extremely handsome stone town dominated by its famous public school. We parked our bikes in the market place and stopped for coffee at The Coffee Tavern.
I suggested to Rupert that Oundle would be a good lunch stop on some future all-day ride.
After coffee we continued north-west, past Deenethorpe airfield and then past Rockingham speedway stadium on the northern outskirts of Corby.
We then turned north towards Harringworth. Before long, an enormous long railway viaduct came into view. This was the Welland Viaduct, still the longest structure of its type on Britain's railway network.
This marked the western extremity of today's ride, and it was time to head back east.
Lunch today was at the Top Lodge visitor centre in Finshade Woods, which we reached rather late at 1.50pm.
This turned out to be an excellent place to stop. The cafe had a good range of sandwiches and light meals and a pleasant courtyard in which to eat it. Also in the courtyard were a number of small shops, including a branch of the small Rutland Cycling bike shop chain (also at Grafham), where I bought a cycling jersey.
After lunch we rode on through the forest before emerging back onto roads for our return south-west towards Wistow.
Soon enough we left the brown stone landscape of Northamptonshire behind and were back in the gentle flat prairies of Huntingdonshire. It was about 4.40pm when I arrived back at Sarah and Andy's in Wistow. There a huge spread of savouries and cakes was waiting for us.
The afternoon ride had been due to meet us here but in the event no-one arrived, perhaps put-off by heavy rain in Cambridge at lunchtime. However we were joined by Eva and Jim, and by Ian, who had all cycled here directly.
This home tea was a lovely, convivial occasion, and after we had all finished eating no-one seemed in a hurry to leave, perhaps because most of those present would be returning home by car.
After tea I rode back to Cambridge with Eva, Jim and Ian, along the same route that I had used on the outward journey. It was still very warm, and as we rode back the sun at last came out and the final hour of the day was bright and sunny, providing the best weather of the day. The sun was still shining when I reached home at 7.50pm. Whilst everyone else on this car-assisted ride would have returned home by car an hour earlier, having cycled around 70 miles, my own bike-assisted mileage was an excellent 118 miles.
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