Ray writes: I had been fighting off a cold all week, so today was one of those days where I'd have rolled over and gone back to sleep if I hadn't volunteered to lead the ride. Instead, I found myself wrapping up as warm as possible and heading to Brookside.
I arrived to find David trying to warm up his hands and feet; I was in a similar position with numb fingers and toes. People arrived in ones and twos, and there were about a dozen of us by the time we set off, with Rupert acting as back stop.
This was the first really cold day of the winter so I decided on a fairly direct route to Ickleton. There was quite a range of abilities on the ride today, with some strong audax riders up front, but we managed to keep together well on the ride to coffee.
Rupert warned me there would be ice on the road between Duxford and Hinxton. He was right, but it wasn't too bad in the event. Nobody was foolhardy enough to attempt the ford, and we arrived without incident at Ickleton just after 10.30am.
This was my first time here for a morning coffee stop, and a good stop it was, with fried egg and bacon sandwiches the favourite (although I did see one of our riders tackling omelette and chips). A handful more riders came direct and joined us at coffee, so we pretty much filled the small cafe.
Adrian arrived just as we were leaving: he had stopped to repair a puncture en route. He had intended, anyway, to take a slightly shorter route to lunch and meet us there, so we set off without him. Unusually for a Sunday, there were more riders coming on to lunch that returning home, with 12 of us setting off for the full day ride.
We retraced our wheels to Ickleton for the ascent of Coploe Hill, with the usual regrouping at the top. It was turning out to be a beautiful day with clear skies and sunshine, and a lovely view from the top of the hill. We pressed on to Littlebury Green where Rupert left us for home and the main group turned for Arksden.
We continued to Clavering then a southerly loop through the Pelhams. Gareth gave me a time check at Brent Pelham, and I briefly considered adding another loop to avoid arriving at lunch too soon, but nobody seemed too worried about getting into a warm pub a few minutes early so we stuck to the original plan.
We arrived at the Bull shortly before 1pm, and Adrian pulled up as we were parking our bikes. We were given a very warm welcome. The pub was serving food perfect for cyclists on a cold winter day, with a choice of soup, jacket potatoes, or toasted sandwiches, all very reasonably priced.
After lunch Adrian and John S took an off-road short cut while the rest of us stuck to tarmac. A fast group took off ahead of me, and a few others overtook me on the climb to Elmdon, leaving me leading from behind with just Seb and John R for company. I was surprised not to find everyone waiting by the bus shelter in Elmdon, but as we knew we were bringing up the rear we pressed on towards Chrishall Grange.
As we crested the hill, we met up with Adrian and John, who had got there ahead of us despite the rough-stuff. After enjoying another view of Cambridgeshire in the winter sunshine, we began the descent to Chrishall Grange. We found the rest of the group waiting for us at the turn for Fowlmere, where we realised that we were missing Sheila.
We figured the only place she could have gone wrong was at Elmdon, where there was an option of turning right towards Ickleton. We were on the verge of sending out a search party when, fortunately, David got through to her on the phone. We were right that she had gone wrong in Elmdon, but she was with Greg who was confident of the way home.
Adrian left us again for an alternative route along Grange Road while the main group headed for Fowlmere and Newton, where we found Greg and Sheila waiting at the cross-roads. United again, we pressed on for Cambridge via Thriplow, catching sight of Adrian again as we came into Little Shelford.
As usual, people started peeling off to their respective homes as we approached Cambridge. I arrived home at 4.15pm having cycled 56 miles. Ray Miller
Download route (GPX).