For those who haven't read my Audax reports before, it's worth me explaining that Audax is a form of cycle touring where riders aim to visit a sequence of control points by following a set route. It's not a race, although there is a time limit for completing the ride which places riders under a certain amount of pressure. Although many Audax rides are mass-participation events with staffed control points, today's ride consisted of just the three of us, riding a "permanent" Audax route that was designed by a local Audax UK member and officially registered with Audax UK.
On a permanent Audax such as this, each rider is required to obtain proof of the time that they reached each control point, usually by obtaining a shop or ATM receipt. After completing the ride and submitting this evidence, they earn "Audax points". Today, only Gareth and Alex were actually registered to collect points; I was just there for the ride.
Gareth and I rode another permanent Audax back in April 2015, the Cambridge Pork Pie 200 Perm to Melton Mowbray.
Our start point was once again the Co-op in Girton so I got up early and cycled across Cambridge to meet Alex and Gareth in good time for an 8am start. The two of them called into the shop to make a purchase and obtain their all-important till receipts, and then at about 7.55am we set off along the busway towards St Ives.
The weather forecast for today was very good: hot and dry with sunny intervals. Although the temperature at 7.30am had been quite cool and dull the skies soon cleared and the temperature began to increase. It was clear we were in for a superb day's cycling.
On the busway to St Ives
I've been to St Ives many times, of course, and ridden right past the statue of Oliver Cromwell in the main square. However Gareth suggested that given the Civil War theme of today's ride we should stop and take a closer look at one of its main protagonists.
Statue of Oliver Cromwell in St Ives. Apparently this is one of only four statues of Cromwell on public display in the whole of Britain. (Photo: Gareth Rees)
We crossed the River Great Ouse by the medieval bridge (rebuilt after Cromwell blew up two arches to keep the Royalist troops at bay) and followed NCN11 through the Hemingfords and onto Eastside Common towards Godmanchester.
Eastside Common between Hemingford Abbotts and Godmanchester (Photo: Gareth Rees)
We rode through Godmanchester and crossed the Great Ouse once more into Huntingdon.
Huntingdon is a grim and dreary place, totally ruined by the one-way ring road racetrack that encircles the town centre. Unlike cycle-friendly St Ives, you're not allowed to cycle through the town centre and so we had no option but to ride clockwise around the ring until we reached the far side and the road north.
We followed Ermine Street north through Great Stukely and Little Stukely before turning west across the A14 towards Alconbury. Here we left the dull commercial environs of Huntingdon behind us at last and emerged into quiet open countryside.
Between Winwick and Thurning (Photo: Gareth Rees)
We continued north-west along a series of very quiet country lanes through Hamerton, Winwick and Thurning. With a flattish landscape, high spirits and a very slight tailwind this was a delightful part of the ride.
Before long we reached Oundle. It was now 10.15am and we stopped for breakfast at Beans Cafe in the town centre. This was also our first control of the ride, and Alex and Gareth carefully filed away their receipts. Distance from Girton: 36 miles.
After a pleasant half hour sitting outside in the sunshine it was time to move on. We left Oundle and continued west. After a short run along the A427 to Lower Benefield we turned off onto a much quieter lane to Brigstock.
Red Kite near Lower Benefield (Photo: Gareth Rees)
We continued west, using a cycle track alongside the A6116 from Brigstock to Stanion and then along a series of quieter lanes around the southern edge of Corby.
Church of Saint Peter the Apostle, Stanion (Photo: Gareth Rees)
Whereas the run out to Oundle had been mostly flat, here the landscape began to become rather more lumpy and we encountered our first hills of the day.
Climbing out of Stanion (Photo: Gareth Rees)
We continued through the middle of Desborough and on through Braybrook into the southern suburbs of Market Harborough. Here was our second control, so we stopped briefly at a local shop to buy snacks and obtain receipts. Next door to the shop we noticed that the pub was called "The Royalist". It was now 12.30pm and we were at last in Civil War country. Distance from Girton: 60 miles.
Outside the control in Market Harborough
We left Market Harborough and turned south-west. The lumpy landscape continued as we rode through East Farndon and Clipston to Naseby, taking us right through the area where the two armies had faced each other in 1645.
Just past East Farndon we stopped at "Rupert's Viewpoint". On the morning of 14th June 1645, this is where the Royalist troops under Charles I and Prince Rupert of the Rhine took position before the battle. There's little there now except a car park, viewing platform and flag.
Rupert's View near East Farndon
A few miles further along we reached "Fairfax's viewpoint", at the top of a ridge. Here the Parliamentary army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell faced the Royalist armies on the day of the battle.
Fairfax’s view of the Naseby battlefield (Photo: Gareth Rees)
A few hundred yards further on we reached a commemorative obelisk. This marks the site of the windmill where the Parliamentarian forces gathered on the morning of the battle before moving forward to the edge of the ridge where the "Fairfax's view" flag stands now. At 197m above sea level, this was the highest point on our ride. This was a pleasant spot, hidden from the road by trees, and we spent twenty minutes or so resting on the grass and eating lunch.
Commemorative Obelisk near Naseby
We continued on into the village of Naseby. A sign pointed to the Cromwell Monument a few miles to the west but we ignored it and carried on south to Guilsborough. Here we had another control point, marking the most westerly point on the ride. We called into the village stores and wandered around looking for something to buy. The man who served us realised what we were doing and said "you'll be wanting receipts then". Apparently they get visits from Audaxers "all the time". Distance from Girton: 70 miles.
Coffee outside the control in Guilsborough
This was the half-way point of the ride and also its most westerly extremity. It was now about 2pm and time to turn back for home. This took us south-east through Brixworth and across Pitsford Water towards Earls Barton.
After having ridden relatively strongly up until now I was beginning to tire and the next couple of hours were a bit of a struggle. It was still quite hilly, we had a slight headwind, and of course the preceding miles were beginning to take their toll. In addition, since getting as tired as this on a bike ride is quite a novelty for me, I probably wasn't pacing myself property, as Gareth explained to me a little later.
Causeway across Pitsford Reservoir
After Earls Barton we crossed the River Nene and continued through Grendon and Bozeat (which I remarked sounded like the name of a board game) to Harrold. The country park here is an occasional lunch stop on our longer club rides and from here onwards I was on more familiar roads.
Thatched houses in Bozeat (Photo: Gareth Rees)
I plodded on and when we reached Sharnbrook, at 97 miles our final control before the finish, I suggested sitting down on the grass for a few minutes' rest.
Sharnbrook (Photo: Alex Brown)
After Sharnbrook things improved, with the landscape flattening down once more as we rode on through Thurleigh and Bolnhurst towards St Neots. I was feeling much better now, and with the help of a slight tailwind our speed increased to about 20mph for the final few miles into St Neots.
In St Neots we paused in Riverside Park for our final stop of the day: ice creams at the Ambience Cafe in Riverside Park. Whilst sitting outside in the late afternoon sunshine I noticed that the smaller cafe here is called Ambience Cafe and the larger cafe at the other end of the same building is called Ambiance Cafe.
Ice Creams in St Neots
It was now about 5.50pm and time to press on for the final push back to Cambridge. Fortunately the route back was fairly direct, taking us through Toseland and Yelling to Papworth and then along the old St Neots Road from Caxton Gibbet all the way into Cambridge.
Final purchases in Girton at the end of the ride
We arrived back in Girton, the official end of the ride, at 7.10pm. This was the final control for Gareth and Alex and they went inside to make a final purchase and receive a receipt.
We had completed the formal part of the ride in 11 hours 15 minutes. This compares with the 12 hours 20 minutes that Gareth and I took on our 200km ride in April (on a route only three miles shorter). I suspect much of the time-saving on today's ride was due to making shorter stops along the way. which probably resulted in a more tiring ride.
We parted ways and I rode back into Cambridge, arriving home half an hour later at 7.40pm. My total mileage was 138 miles.
Download GPS track (GPX).