Sunday, 30 April 2017

30 Apr: Sunday ride to Potton, Holme and Shepreth

Nigel writes: The dominant feature of today's ride was the wind, a fierce easterly that blew us easily to lunch, but offered a nagging obstacle for the ride home. Our leader today was David T, with seven others joining him for the first stage of the ride to Potton.

Brookside

Lammas Land

Barton Road cycleway

We took a fairly direct route via Barringon, Wimpole and Gamlingay, and with a strong tailwind I couldn't resist the temptation to take advantage of it and flew along, arriving at The Coach House in Potton ahead of the others at about 10.40am. I went in, to be told that the pub was closed and wouldn't open until 11am. I went back outside and waited for the others, who arrived a few minutes later. We didn't fancy waiting around for the oub to open, so Rupert announced that we would go to the cafe at the Potton Cricket Club instead.

Coffee at Potton Cricket Club

This was my first visit to Potton Cricket Club, and it seems very nice: probably a better choice than the Coach House, which is just a pub.

Afterwards we regrouped and carried on to lunch at Jordan's Mill in Holme near Biggleswade. This took us to Everton and then down Tempsford Hill, over the A1 and then south through Moggerhanger and Blunham to Holme. As soon we we turned south we became aware of a strong cross-wind on our right, and we were warned that we would face a tough ride home.

Lunch itself was very pleasant, though the cold wind made it a bit chilly to sit outside.

Lunch at Jordan's Mill, Holme

Over lunch we discussed our options for the afternon. We decided to abandon the planned tea stop in Waresley because it was very close to Potton and would involve visiting the same area as in the morning. So instead we decided to continue south to Langford and then return home via Ashwell and Knessworth.

Heading home after lunch

Rather by accident we divited into two groups: I rode with Mike S (on pedelec), Joseph, Ray and Dimitris. As expected the headwind made us a bit weary, so by the time we reached Meldreth I suggested we give ourselves a reward with a tea stop at Wydale Garden centre north of Melbourn. This proposal was unanimously accepted, and we spent a pleasant half hour drinking coffee and enjoying some rather huge cakes.

Afterwards it was a short ride home via Fowlmere, Thriplow and the Shelfords. I arrived home a little before 5pm, having cycled 118km (73 miles).



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Nigel Deakin

Thursday, 27 April 2017

27 Apr: Thursday ride to Newport and Great Bardfield

John writes: With regular riders away in the Brecon Beacons, North Norfolk and Suffolk, and after an unseasonable hard frost, I arrived at Brookside unsure how many riders there would be to lead. I was pleased to find that Anne, Peter W, John J, Glynn, Simon, Jeff, Ian and Russell had all braved the cold.

We set off down the DNA path and on towards Whittlesford. After an impressive validation of several of Newton’s Laws of Motion by Glynn, we met up with Jacob, who had missed the Village starters only by a few minutes. We rode on through Duxford and up Coploe Hill, where we stopped to catch our breath and appreciate the view.

A pause for breath at the top of Coploe Hill

At the turn for Littlebury Green we parted company with Jacob, who proceeded direct towards Newport. We took the hillier route past the radio mast and down to Wendens Ambo, where we wound through the lanes and over the level crossing to arrive outside Dorringtons to find Edmund and his Village People already installed. There had only been 4 riders at the village start, and Edmund told us that they had made good time over Chapel Hill and across to Fowlmere, and on to Newport via Duddenhoe End and Arkesden. The service at Dorringtons was, as always, quick and efficient.

Outside Dorringtons in Newport

Edmund and I agreed to combine our rides, and 9 riders continued south along the B road before turning off onto the quieter North Hall Road which runs parallel to the M11 and the railway line. After passing the cycling club huts, and deftly avoiding the potholes under the railway bridge, we climbed towards Henham where we spotted what must have been another CTC group going the other way. We dropped down to the Broxted road, and then took a short detour via Tilty.

The eponymous sign for Tilty

Here Ian recalled that there used to be a regular Sunday afternoon tea stop at the church. From there we took the road to Great Easton, where we paused to admire the Rolls Royce Merlin engine in the window of the car showroom before turning off towards Lindsell. Several of the roads we took had been recently re-surfaced, but it was surprising to see that although there was a new surface over most of the road, they had not taken the opportunity to fill in the potholes at the side of the road.

Checking out the Rolls-Royce garage in Great Easton

After Lindsell, we joined the B road to Great Bardfield, and proceeded to Bran End. Here Edmund took charge of the on-road group, while 4 of us turned off onto a Byway with a rough but ride-able surface that emerges just a short distance from our lunch stop for the day – The Blue Egg.

The weather had been kind to us in the morning, but after lunch it started to rain, and the north-westerly wind strengthened, so we had a rather tiring slog through Finchingfield and past Spains Hall to Helions Bumpstead, the Camps and Bartlow and on to Linton and Hildersham. Here Edmund took one group via Pampisford, while Glynn, Russell, Anne and I continued through Abington and across the footbridge over the A11. This is awkward at the best of times, and the wind and drizzle made it seem even more awkward than usual. From there we took the new cycleway through Babraham Research Park and joined the cycleway over the Gogs. Although you are safely off the main road, the constant stream of traffic leaving Cambridge makes this feel quite pressured, especially after the quiet lanes we had used in the morning.

I finished the ride having covered 70 miles. In the evening, I went to an excellent Transport Discussion Evening about cycling infrastructure around Stapleford, Shelford and Sawston. One of the pictures shown by Nigel Brigham (the former Sustrans manager for the Eastern Region, who has produced a Greenways report about local cycling routes) was of the same foot bridge over the A11 that we had struggled over earlier, and it was interesting to hear it confirmed that this crossing is recognised as a bit of a bottleneck that needs improvement, and find out about other potential ways to cross the A11, including a possible new path under the A11 next to the River Granta. John Seton, with contributions from Edmund Rose



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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

26 Apr: Evening ride to Thriplow

Nigel writes: Spring seems to have taken a break for a few days, and tonight's ride was one of the coldest in recent weeks, with a temperature (according to my Garmin) of 5C at the start and dropping to 2C as the sun went down. Perhaps because of the wintry weather I had only one taker for tonight's ride, Neil, who accompanied me on a gentle loop down to Ickleton, over Coploe Hill, along Royston Lane and back over the A505 to Thriplow.

As we made our way out of Cambridge we paused the inspect this Ofo rental bike, waiting for business in a rather lonely location on the cycle path leading from Long Road to the busway.

First sighting of an Ofo bike near Long Road

Coploe Hill

We reached the top of Coploe Hill at about 7.30pm. That would probably have allowed time for the "full loop" via Catmere End and Littlebury, but given how cold it was I decided we should take the slightly shorter Royston Lane route instead.

Royston Lane

We reached The Green Man in Thriplow at about 8.20pm. The pub was full of diners, and we only just managed to find a seat at the bar. However it soon emptied out and we were shown to a table to eat. This pub is verging on being too busy to be able to simply turn up and expect a free table and food, but it's a nice place to visit, with friendly and accommodating staff, and we have always been able to manage to fit in and get what we needed. We'll be back before long: hopefully it will be warm - and light - enough to be able to sit outside.

Afterwards we returned back to Cambridge via Newton and the Shelfords, and I arrived back home at about 9.45pm having cycled 50km (31 miles). Nigel Deakin



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Sunday, 23 April 2017

23 Apr: Sunday afternoon ride to Wicken

Simon writes: Hello and welcome to today's blog for the Sunday 23rd afternoon ride to Wicken. A trickle of 5 riders came to meet me at Brookside today. Johns E and F and Neil S, with Lalita and Mark who recently upgraded their horizons from the Saturday rides.

Phil's request to meet just outside the densely traffic populated parts of town is sufficiently regular and so pre-empted his call by sending him a text message to suggest meeting on the railway bridge just off the bus way south of Addenbrooke's.

Delicious slow release energy smoothie

Half an avocado
Half a cucumber
200ml almond milk
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
50 gm almond nuts (pre soaked)
25 gm cashew nuts (pre soaked)
2 hand fulls spinach
1 hand full kale

Blend it all together to make two servings of super healthy, easily digested go faster fuel for the longer distance cyclist, something our webmaster Nigel might like to benefit from on future Audax rides, as an improvement on burgers and chips.


Hence as Mike K rang me earlier today to ask the same question it seemed logical to offer him the same suggestion. No wonder then that the pair of them were waiting for us as we reached the bridge, super charging our collective to a harmony of eight.

Mike and John F know I prepare for a cycle ride by eating a delicious slow release energy smoothie. It’s a bit like Popeye's spinach and Brazilian Monica’s tea, but you'd need to be a fan of reading Turma da Monica to appreciate the comically battering effect it has on the boys in her stories (and does actually have spinach in it). So, by popular petition here is the recipe for said smoothie.

Our designated leader David S had to pull out not long before today’s ride so I volunteered to step in and follow his route. This was a familiar course starting with the bus way from the train station and leaving Addenbrookes via the locked gate on Red Cross Lane. I missed the path that takes cyclists along the grounds of the Forvie Site with the shiney copper coloured sculpture so for my oversight I had to lift everyone’s bike over the gate. Lalita must be the fittest of us as her bike was the heaviest.

The Gogs hill to Fulbourn was our only hill for today. From there we naturally took in the Wilbrahams, over the A14 and into Bottisham.




Once through the Swaffams, Reach and Burwell the landscape charms us with the uncomplicated and traffic free Fenland lanes. Who should we meet at Wicken village hall but a trio of Ian, Julia and Flo enjoying the warm sun in the grassy area out the back of the hall.



Actually Flo was running off his own go faster fuel so it should have been little surprise to see him fast asleep in the child seat on Ian’s bike as we passed them on the way back through White Fen. Simon Gallaway



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23 Apr: Sunday ride to Ickleton and Buntingford

Nigel writes: I had done rather a lot of cycling over Easter so was happy that today's ride was relatively short: what we call a "short day ride", which means that it had stops for coffee and lunch and then returned back directly to Cambridge without stopping for tea. My companions at Brookside for the first part of the ride were Alex, Rupert, Ray, Tom, Susan and John S our leader.

Brookside

It's really not very far from Cambridge to our coffee stop in Ickleton, and with a full two hours to get there John took an appropriately circuitous route to get there.

On the Barton Road cycleway

We set off along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton, turned off to Haslingfield and climbed over Chapel Hill to Barrington.

Chapel Hill

It was a rather dull morning, and although it felt relatively mild whilst we were stationary, the moment we started moving we felt the chill of the cold air.

From Barrington we continued through Shepreth to Fowlmere, crossed the A505 to Chrishill Grange and then undertook the long but gentle climb to Chrishall.

On Hertford Lane approaching Elmdon

That was just about the last of the climbing for now: after Elmdon we enjoyed a long and fast descent back down to Ickleton, and arrived for coffee at Riverside Barns about fifteen minutes early at 10.45am.

After coffee at Riverside Barns, Ickleton

After coffee we re-grouped: Rupert and Susan returned to Cambridge and we were joined by Sue, Ian B and Mike S (on electric bike) for the next stage of the ride, to Buntingford for lunch.

As we climbed Coploe Hill, the sun came out and the armwarmers came off.

Coploe Hill

Langley

After a very pleasant meander through Langley, Meesden and all three Pelhams we arrived in Buntingford at about 1.30pm. Our lunch venue was Buntingford Coffee Shop, where we found David W waiting for us.

After lunch at Buntingford Coffee Shop

After lunch we returned directly back to Cambridge along the B1368. I arrived home at about 4.20pm, having cycled 105km (65 miles) Nigel Deakin



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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

19 Apr: Evening ride to Hardwick

Nigel writes: It may be late April but it's still getting quite cold in the evenings, so I donned my winter windproof jacket before setting off to Brookside where I was joined by Alex and Sven. This spring we're trying our some new pub stops, and tonight was our first visit to The Blue Lion in Hardwick. To get there we started with a run up to Girton and then along the busway to Swavesey.

Sven and Alex were both up for a fast ride and I was happy to follow behind them for much of the way. After leaving the busway we continued to fenstanton before crossing the A14 and cutting back south along empty roads to Knapwell before a short final leg along the old St Neots Road to Hardwick.

We arrived at The Blue Lion just after 8pm, a few minutes after sunset. When we went in we found that the pub was very quiet. Instead of ordering drinks and food at the bar we were invited to sit down and receive table service. The staff were friendly and the food and drink, when they arrived, were entirely satisfactory. The food took quite a long time to arrive: it was probably just as well that we had arrived so early.

Relaxing after dinner

Afterwards we set off back to Cambridge, following the direct and very fast route down Madingley Hill. I arrived home at 10pm exactly, having cycled 54km (33 miles).Nigel Deakin



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Sunday, 16 April 2017

16 Apr: Sunday afternoon ride to Newmarket

Neil writes: Gina, David, John and Simon joined me at Brookside for the Easter Sunday afternoon ride. I led the group out of Cambridge via Hills Road and Worts Causeway, and on through Fulbourn, the Wilbrahams, and Six Mile Bottom. On Easter Sunday, of course, most of the shops are closed, and the roads are noticeably quieter than usual. My planned route continued to Newmarket from the south, from Dullingham, Stetchworth and Woodditton, and into a long downhill straight on Duchess Drive.

Brookside

Our tea stop was the 'Tacks Room'. This is the cafe of the National Horseracing Museum, now relocated to a new site on Palace Street, not far from Coffee and Co. I believe this was the first visit to the new venue by the Sunday ride, though I'm told the Thursday ride had been there already. Anyway, the Tacks Room offers table service and a good selection of cakes and scones at usual tea shop prices.

Tea

The forecast heavy rain arrived while we were in the tea room, but had mostly cleared by the time we left. We returned to Cambridge on National Cycle Network route 51 (Exning, Burwell, the Swaffhams and Bottisham). I rode 69km (43 miles) from home to home (ascent 264m). Neil Spenley



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Saturday, 15 April 2017

14/15 April: Easter Arrow to York

Alex writes: The Easter Arrows to York are team events organized by Audax UK. The rules as written are complicated, but the upshot is that teams from all over the UK, each of up to five riders, converge on York over the Easter weekend, each aiming to ride around 400 km within a 24 hour time limit.

This year Cambridge was represented by a four-rider team, the “Cambridge Express” containing three club members: Nick W (captain), Alex, and Nigel. Joining us was Pichy, a rider based around Edinburgh and who was – as Nick put it – our “secret weapon” …

Each team’s composition, route and plan has to be submitted to Audax UK for approval and as team captain, Nick had been responsible all the preparation. Since all of all us of have entered London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) his concept was to shadow long stretches of the LEL route, and in order to make up sufficient distance we would first perform a large “orbit” of Cambridge before heading North for the Fens. The overall cycling distance turned out to be 415 km (258 miles).

Ready for the off

And so at 08:00 on Good Friday the team assembled in central Cambridge, got ATM receipts and cycled East out of the city. Nigel and I were both on carbon geared machines; Nick and Pichy were riding fixed: Nick with 72 gear inches on aluminium, and Pichy 79 gear inches on steel.

You can tell it's going to be a long ride ...

We had all been carefully watching the weather forecast in the run up to the ride, and as promised there was a firm wind behind us from the West. We found ourselves clipping along easily at around 30 km/h – but none of us was under any illusion that we’d be still be doing this by the following morning.

Breakfast at Red Lodge

After breakfast sitting out in the sunshine at Red Lodge (33 km), we turned south and got a taste of the crosswind that was to feature for much of the ride. The pace was still fairly quick and we were now entering some of the lumpier terrain hereabouts around Dalham and Gazeley – however Pichy pronounced himself delighted with the novelty of what was for him a flat ride, and when the road started going up Pichy and Nick didn’t seem to slow down; I puffed effortfully in their serene wake.

Pichy!

At Haverhill (65 km) a wooden stage had been erected in the town square and an insipid preacher was talking apologetically about sin over a PA system. We controlled and moved on now directly into the 20 km/h wind. Progress remained brisk as we worked over familiar terrain towards Saffron Walden and I began to wonder about the effect such intensity would have on me in the hours to come. Nick was banking time and this was however wise: we had to ride as a team so any mechanical or other enforced stop would affect us all, so Nick was aiming to arrive in York at 07:00, keeping at least an hour’s buffer to allow for this. With the distance to cover in (effectively) only 23 hours that made the minimum average moving speed (including stops) ~18 km/h, a much sterner target than the more usual 15 km/h. Add to that that 400 km is commonly thought the toughest distance – long enough to need a sleep, but not long enough to allow one – and all the ingredients are there for a testing ride indeed.

I was certainly feeling a bit tested as we pulled up at the Tally Ho pub in Barkway (105 km). As Nick dismounted he winced in pain – something was up with his ankle. A couple of hours earlier Nick's bike had touched wheels with Nigel's and he had put his foot down to avoid falling over. Although he hadn't noticed it at the time, this had made his ankle painful to walk on, though fortunately it didn't seem to be a problem whilst actually riding the bike.

Nigel continues: It was now 13:00 and time for lunch. This was my first visit to the Tally Ho, though the pub was familiar to Nick as a control on his “Cambridge Spring Dash” 100km calendar event. We all ordered fairly light meals (and two of us ordered beers) and were there for almost an hour before Nick indicated that it was time to move on.

Our departure from Barkway came as something of a relief, since after having spent the morning on a big loop that had taken us first east, and then south, of Cambridge, we were at last heading north in the direction of our ultimate destination. We were also now on the official LEL route north: Nick's plan was to follow this as far as the Humber Bridge, though he mentioned that we might take a few short-cuts along the way.

We started with a fast descent down the B1168 to Fowlmere, where we turned left, towards our fourth control point in Barrington. As the village shop was closed today, we paused in front of the village sign and Nick took a team selfie to prove our passage.

Controlling in Barrington


Barrington

As we approached Chapel Hill I explained to our guest rider Pichy that this 61 m summit had an iconic status amongst Cambridge cyclists, and that despite its modest elevation (less than half that of Barkway) we considered this our local mountain. I suspect he thought I was joking. We made short work of the climb up its “easy” side, and from the top we could see the towers and cranes of Cambridge. This would be our last climb until we reached the Lincolnshire Wolds six hours later.

We reached St Ives (154 km) at 16:00, and rather to my surprise Nick proposed we stop for tea at the River Tea Rooms.

Tea in St Ives

Once again, there was a sharp cry from Nick as he dismounted from his bike and was reminded that he had hurt his ankle. As we sat drinking tea and eating some huge portions of cake Nick examined his injury, and the rest of us remarked that despite having been riding for eight hours we were still only 25 km from Cambridge ...

Poorly ankle

As we left St Ives and made our way north towards The Fens, it felt to me that the ride was at last beginning. Eight hours after we had started, we had at last escaped the gravitational pull of Cambridge and were now on our way to York.

The next two hours took us across the Cambridgeshire Fens to Ramsey Heights, Whittlesey and Thorney. The B1040 was flat and straight, perfect for peloton riding. Nick and Pichy set a fast pace at the front, with Alex and I taking an echelon position behind to gain the maximum protection from the persistent (and rather cold) westerly wind. The pace was definitely faster than I would have preferred, with long sections at over 30 km/h, but Alex and I managed to cling on at the back and the four of us made good progress.

We crossed into Lincolnshire and after passing through Crowland (famous for its medieval “bridge to nowhere”) we found ourselves following a deserted road alongside the River Welland to Spalding. Along the way we found another Easter Arrows team, the Kingston Wheelers, temporarily at a halt whilst one of its members fixed a puncture. A few moments later it started to rain a little, and it began to get dark.

We arrived in Spalding (217 km) just after 7pm. It was time for dinner, and after checking out Wetherspoons and finding it too busy we decided to eat at the Tulip Tandoori a little further along the street.

Curry surprise in the Tulip Tandoori, Spalding

Alex continues: As we departed Spalding Nick mentioned that we should all be “soft pedalling” for a while to aid digestion, however the speed soon crept up above 25 km/h and we resumed our places in an echelon-like formation: this was a cruising speed, it seemed, at which we felt comfortable. I was in good spirits: my tummy was full of curry and my heart had slowed allowing me to make progress feeling nicely relaxed. I knew however that the next act of my body would be to cut power – I hoped I’d have enough for the remaining 200 km …

The rain was beginning to ease as we reached Kirton (237 km) at around 21:00. I queued in the Co-op behind one guy buying crates of Budweiser and another – tattooed, pierced and twitching – buying a bottle of vodka for his suspiciously young female companion.

Kirton

The temperature was now dropping and by the time we reached Horncastle (272 km) my Garmin was reading 5°C. It was 23:00 – I plinked a caffeine tab into my bidon as a ward against sleepiness. Nick forewarned us that although the next stage to Louth was only 21 km we should expect it to take around an hour because things were about to get lumpy …

Controlling in Horncastle

Sure enough, as we hit the Lincolnshire Wolds my legs – used to riding on the flat for hours – were shocked to find the road going up – and quite seriously too. A sustained stretch of 12% incline on Cawkwell Hill even saw the fixies falter and start to grind to a halt. Somewhat relieved by this sign that Nick and Pichy were human, I spun past (pushing about  their gear length) and enjoyed a fast blast downhill with Nigel whose bike was now pulsing with pop music via his Bluetooth speaker.

We controlled in Louth town centre (293 km) at around midnight just as the local clubs were turning out. “What the @*#! are you doing on your bikes at this time of night?” shouted an inebriated youth. It seemed a pertinent question.

A little out of town we pulled in to a 24-hour garage. These often function as a kind of Shangri-La for tired audaxers, offering an array of unhealthy snacks, a seating area, loos, and a semi-decent Costa coffee machine. Sure enough, we found an Arrows team for Lincoln already huddled inside. I ate some crisps, drank a coffee and added another caffeine tab to my water. 120 km to ride with plenty of time in hand: how hard could that be? I called the ride as in the bag. Nick however, cautioned against over-confidence: it wasn’t over until it was over …

Midnight garage fun

Nick continues: Just under 300km done, about 115 km left to ride to York. Midnight-o’clock, so eight hours in which to ride it. Something like 15 km/h should do it. It’s easy to think the ride’s done-and-dusted at times like this, but all it takes is a couple of punctures, or someone feeling the strain and slowing the pace, for all that to change.

After 25 minutes or so in the services, we started moving out — by now the team could sense when it was time to go without being told. I could’ve really driven the teams through the controls, but we were at least as good as target times with some judicious use of route-options, so no need to upset the steady mood in the team with unnecessary hurry-ups. Outside the temperature had fallen further, so no hanging about.

My planned route for this, the longest, stage was to follow the scenic lanes over the Lincolnshire Wolds, but I had a shortcut in my pocket in case we needed it — use the main A18 along the edge of the Wolds to within spitting distance of the Humber Bridge. The overall distance would still be well above the 400 km minimum, but we would save several kilometres of riding and 200 m of climbing, and it seemed prudent to take it. The advantage of night-riding is that there is very little traffic — even though this is one of the main roads in the Wolds, we would see but a handful of very respectful cars.

In spite of this being the low-road, there were still several uppy-bits and Pich and I on fixed-gear leapt up them, keeping “on top of the gear”. Nigel and Alex were riding spinny gears and lighter bikes, but it was clear they were really beginning to feel the distance, not helped by a slight turn into the wind, and we rolled off the front from time to time and stopped to regroup several times.

One of the special features of my route was an early-morning crossing of the Humber Bridge — the longest cantilever suspension bridge in the world that you can cycle over, apparently. An obligatory stop for a team photo — I brought a micro-tripod just for this occasion — but requiring two locations to frame the shot.

If I can just lie here for a while ...


On the Humber Bridge

After the bridge it was 15 km on the main A-road into Beverley — during the day I wouldn’t take the team anywhere near this road, but at 3am it was very quiet, and drivers were still showing a great deal of respect with proper full-lane passes, so a nice, fast ride into town. We bumped into an Arrow team from Suffolk on the way in, but they stopped for a bus-stop rest while we rode on. I even recognised one of the riders from only my second 200 km audax back in 2012!

We ignored the tourist route and headed straight into town for a receipt. Nigel was showing the signs of extreme tiredness and was almost asleep in a shop doorway, so for once I didn’t let us hang about. Alex asked about another rest stop, but I cast firm doubt on that — not particularly for time, although that would later be a factor, but because I thought that once Nigel hit the warm air then that would be his first Arrow attempt over, so better to deal with the tiredness on the bike as best we could and keep moving in the cold air.

At this point I was extremely cold, but to put thermal tights on would’ve cost too much waiting time for the rest of the team, so I braved it out. I knew we would start with a long, draggy 13 km, 140 m climb up and over Weighton Wold, ideally suited to warming up on fixed gear. As we started the climb, I could see the two geared riders dropping backwards. Halfway up I turned back to ride up with Nigel, definitely fatigued, allowing Alex and Pich to keep on up the hill and I knew they’d wait for us at the turn-off into Market Weighton, if only I could cajole Nigel over the hill. No words spoken, I just gave Nigel a light to follow, even if at times he couldn’t keep close to it.

There are many factors to fatigue: lack of available energy, dehydration, sleepiness, saddle sores, low sodium level, hunger, tummy troubles, need a pee, and on and on. Endurance riders have to experiment to learn how to tell the difference. And everybody is different — it’s hard to read another rider’s fatigue, but a guess at sleepiness, dehydration and low-sodium is a good start, so I offered Nigel some sodium-plus-caffeine-tabs for his bidon, which he took.

Nigel at Market Weighton, the final control before York

And there we were: 30 km to go and 2.5 hours to do it. Time for a coffee at the services? No way was I going to let the team stop now! Our pace had dropped to around 20 km/h and we had to work with what we had, so I declined the offer and pushed the team on. It was now the final main-road shortcut all the way to the finish — the weight of the traffic was bearable, like the A10 to Royston very early Saturday morning, but any heavier and it would be horrible.

Unexpectedly, Nigel found his legs and disappeared off the front of the group on his own, perhaps the tablets, perhaps something else. When this happens it’s usually a temporary situation, so better to burn slower and longer; I chased him down and steadied his pace, giving him a wheel to follow at a stately 22 km/h directly into the wind. Ten minutes later and he’d dropped back into the group.

The final 20km to York just seemed to go on and on — the ring road took forever to appear on the horizon, especially into what was now a slightly abated, but more annoying, headwind, but once over the ring road, with still over an hour left, we knew we had done it, we could walk it from here. Alex started joking about punctures, tempting fate …

A few sets of traffic lights and a straight-on thru the old Walm Gate to enter the defensive walls of York, then a left to cut across what’s now a residential area within the walls to the Postern Gate diagonally opposite, and we’re there — Wetherspoon’s Postern Gate, open for breakfast and expecting possibly 150 tired and hungry cyclists over the next few hours. We were the first team in and had the pick of the place, but groups of cyclists continued to turn up over the course of the next few hours and we might’ve filled the place!

415 km (258 miles) in 23 hours — the 24th hour was in the pub at the finish — on less than 19 hours’ riding. We managed to sit down for a leisurely breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a half-decent supper, which was exactly to plan, as the weather had been relatively kind — I’ll take a stiff crosswind over a headwind any day!

Thoughts on the ride from Alex

Alex writes: I’d only ridden one 400 km audax before, and afterwards I thought I’d never do one again – it’s such an unpleasant distance with its final hours dominated by sleep deprivation: much better to ride a 600, when there’s time for a rejuvenating sleep!

So a chief goal for this ride was to avoid the “dawn dip” which I achieved through being well rested beforehand and drinking caffeinated drinks through the night. I also think riding the final 120km without a proper stop worked well. If I’d got comfy somewhere it would probably have been unpleasant/impossible to restart. This is my lesson: when pushing on for a proper rest, push on all the way and don’t treat yourself to an interim stop as it will likely kybosh you. Oh, but also remember that doing this into actual doziness is dangerous. Balances, balances.

As well as being a journey to York this was also, for me, a journey to somewhere outside my comfort zone: I didn’t think I would be able to ride for so long at a brisk pace and left to my own devices would have taken a much more conservative approach on the road – which may not have been enough to finish the ride in time. I feel I’ve found an extra gear as a cyclist – so thanks to Nick for pushing me.

Given the nagging wind it was great also to work as a team and have the help of Pichy and Nick who were often just in front functioning as a wind-shield. In particular it was marvellous to ride those final 20 km to York into a block headwind hiding in Pichy’s wind-shadow while he tapped out a steady 22 km/h – our “secret weapon” was powerful indeed!

And finally, thanks to Nick for all his efforts captaining the team. As well as all the organization and paper work I felt this was a good route from Cambridge that had the advantage of previewing LEL. In particular I am in awe of Nick’s ability to stay frosty and on top of decision-making on all aspects of the ride even in the small hours of the morning after nearly a day on the road. Chapeaux all round!

Thoughts on the ride from Nigel

Nigel writes: The first 300 km of the ride (Cambridge to Louth) was hard work, tiring and, as is so often the case when riding with others, much faster than I would have ever managed on my own. But the final 100 km from there to York was probably the toughest I have ever done, with an intense attack of sleepiness leaving me feeling disoriented and totally devoid of energy. If I had been on my own I would have certainly stopped for a lie down by the side of the road, though – as Nick firmly explained at the time – it was much too cold (5°C) to sleep and all it would have achieved was to put our timely arrival in jeopardy. So for a couple of hours I plodded on behind the others, hoping I wasn't slowing them down too much, and wondering when the right time would be to tell them to go ahead without me. When we stopped to control in Beverley, Nick revealed that he was taking caffeine tablets: would I like some? He popped a couple in my water bottle, and I glugged down about half of the resulting sweet fruity fluid. I struggled on to the penultimate control at Market Weighton. This felt like my lowest point, and I slid down to the ground beneath the ATM to close my eyes for a minute or so. But we had only 30km left to go, and as we made our way out of town I suddenly found myself feeling stronger, and I realised that I was going to make it.

I'm not sure whether it was those caffeine tablets kicking in at last, or the sky getting lighter, or perhaps simply the terrain getting flatter, but my sleepiness subsided and my speed increased sharply. Pichy caught me up and exclaimed pleasure at my “Lazarine recovery”. I started to flag once more as we approached the outskirts of York, but I was able to keep up with the others as we entered the City Centre and made our way to The Postern Gate. As I spotted the pub at the end of the street I shouted with delight that “I never thought this moment would arrive”. But it had arrived, and with a whole hour to spare.

I did a 400 km Audax last year (the same as Alex), and also a 600 km, and I had no particular difficulties on either. I now realise that I had been lucky on those rides, and have discovered quite how tough these long distances can be. On the other hand, this particular ride would always be a hard one, with a time limit much shorter than the usual for a 400, and with low temperatures taking their toll overnight.

Thoughts on the ride from Nick

Nick writes: For most audax riders, the 400 km distance is the hardest, because it’s too long to avoid riding through the night and yet too short to accumulate enough time-in-hand for a decent sleep. Add to that the fact that for this Easter Arrow event we were targeting 400 km in 24 hours — nearly three hours quicker than we would have to ride it on a normal audax event — and that we had to ride it as a team, then it was always going to be a struggle.

Captain and crew

In the end the team rode together well. While Alex, Nigel and myself know each other reasonably well, Pichy was a last-minute addition to the team and an unknown quantity for Alex and Nigel, as they were to him, but, if anything, that helped.

It was clear that the presence/absence of gears across the team brought an extra dimension to the riding. The unrelenting flatness of the Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire Fens plays to the metronomic strengths of the fixed-gear bikes, and the heavier rides atop them, so for much of the time Pichy and I shared the duties on the front of the group, as I expected we would. However, once we hit the sudden, but expected, climbs up the side of the Lincolnshire Wolds to get to Louth then the two plastic, geared bikes — with significantly lighter riders — disappeared up into the darkness, leaving us heavier fixed riders to our grunting and gurning; both of us had to concede defeat and walk for a few hundred of the steepest metres, and the other two had to wait several minutes at the top for us to catch up.

Towards the end everyone was tired in both the legs and the head, but together we manage to keep our resolve to finish within the time limit. It was a proud moment for me to see the team achieve what it set out to do, without any real dramas, and pretty much to plan. We weren’t lucky with the weather — but we weren’t that unlucky either.

Chapeau to each of the members of the team for a ride well ridden! Bring on Easter 2018 — perhaps we’ll manage to get TWO teams riding from Cambridge?!

15 Apr: Saturday social ride to Sawston

Ian writes: Somebody casually mentioned after the previous social ride that our next ride would fall on Easter Saturday. I hadn't considered that but I thought "no problem" as I hadn't planned to be away. However things didn't go precisely to plan. Easter Saturday turned out to be a fine day and it was even more encouraging when I found twelve members and one guest rider waiting at Brookside, which together with my own group made a total of sixteen.

We took the scenic route out of Cambridge, passing through Newnham to Grantchester Meadows then by way of Trumpington Meadows to Hauxton. We were then back on the minor roads, passing through Little Shelford on our tailwind-assisted way to Whittlesford to pick up Sustrans Route 11 by the church to head back towards Sawston where coffee was planned to be at The Brickhouse.

I had visited The Brickhouse a couple of days before returning from the Thursday Ride. However that was late afternoon and I wasn't surprised to find the cafe closed as it was gone 3.30pm by a long way. I did, however, notice the counter well covered and chairs and tables stacked. However the standard opening times were still displayed in the window so I reckoned it would be fine for our visit today. However this was not to be, since when we arrived on Saturday The Brickhouse was closed.

Sawston, I thought, has numerous alternative cafe options to offer, but all were found to be likewise closed except got Dorringtons. So there we all queued for our coffees and cakes whilst the trainees behind the counter seemed programmed to trying to sell us packets of hot cross buns which were evidently on offer!

In due course we all got served and we headed back over the road to sit in The Brickhouse outside seating area, which was adequate but slightly draughty, perhaps with the sunshine only just compensating.

By this time Ed, Adrian and Averil had joined us so we were quite a throng. Once we had managed to distract Flo from his forestry operations involving some bark chipping mulch and bulldozers and dumper trucks we all initially headed in the direction of Cambridge but soon diverged at the crossroads, Phil and Sue retracing to Whittlesford, some heading straight ahead and the majority turning right to divert via the recently opened Babraham Institute cyclepath. This was all very pleasant until we joined the cyclepath along side the A1307. What with heading into the wind, and the traffic noise, conversation was somewhat restricted so it was just a case of concentrating on climbing up to Wandlebury and coasting into Cambridge where Tom H, Beverley, Mark and Lalita peeled off, soon followed by Rachel leaving Dennis, Liz, AngelaW, Simon, John and the three of us heading for the Busway into town.

All in all a good way to spend a Saturday morning, away from the hustle and bustle. We completed a leisurely 20 miles. Ian Wright

Thursday, 13 April 2017

13 Apr: Thursday ride to Ashwell and Ardeley

Edward writes: In the city Mike P looked after a group of nine and out at Hauxton Edmund had to deal with a group of twenty-one for our ride to Ashwell for coffee and Ardley for lunch. The weather had stepped back a pace from the glorious sunny days we enjoyed for the last couple of weeks. The temperature, after a cold night, didn't really get above 13C all day and we had a cool, brisk west-north-westerly wind. Edmund organised us into two groups and we started with a climb over Chapel Hill which brought us into Barrington. The morning was always going to be a bit of a toil, being mainly into the wind, as we passed through Orwell on our way to Wimpole Hall.

Wimpole

We quickly cycled through Arrington and Croydon, down the hill onto the A603 into the road between Wendy and Steeple Morden. Once at Steeple Morden it was just two more miles to Ashwell for the first stop of the day.

It was as well that we arrived in two groups because we caused the women in Day's to work really hard to complete the orders for coffee and cakes; and they did it, and all with a cheerful smile. As usual we sat on the little green in the heart of the village and there must have been in the region of thirty-five members milling round.

Coffee at Ashwell

On leaving Ashwell we remained in three groups. Edmund's led his group by to Baldock via Bygrave, whereas we in the following group made a last minute decision to reach Baldock via Newnham on the basis that this was one less hill to climb. The downside, though, meant a mile or so on the A507 and a few busy roads in Baldock. We soon reached the turning for Wallington and back on to quiet roads again; also very hilly! In Wallington we paused to look a house once occupied by George Orwell before pressing on to Redhill. This had the effect of bringing us onto the road we most often use on our way to Ardley, meaning we next cycled through Rushden and then Cromer.

Rushden to Cromer

The Mill at Cromer, which is still under renovation, is only a short distance to Ardley where we arrived after thirty miles at 1pm. As usual Adrian checked in having followed his own route and Greg is convinced that Adrian has a twin brother as he frequently disappears and pops up again later.

Cromer Windmill

In the past we have sat on the little green outside the farm entrance to eat our sandwiches, but today we found a nice green area about a couple of hundred yards away and this proved very satisfactory, even more so on a nice summer's day.

Lunch at Ardley

The three groups left separately and we, being a group of nine, followed Ed's recommended route. Aided by a following wind and with Rupert out in front setting a furious pace we soon covered the four miles to Great Munden. On our way home on several occasions we were lucky enough to see buzzards circling above us; and as we passed some of the fields we could hear the skylarks. Facing northwards we went through Nasty, Westmill, Buntingford and Wyddial before arriving at the B1368. We paused briefly here where Greg fell off the second time today. No harm done but he should be aware that we don't keep records for the number of times people fall off their bikes. More lovely lanes followed on the road through Anstey to Nuthampstead where we stopped to look at the memorial for the U.S. Airforce Bomber Group who used to be stationed at Nuthampstead.

Anstey to Nuthampstead

American Memorial at Nuthampstead

The last leg of our day out took us through Shaftenhoe End, the climb up to Great Chishill before the two mile descent to Flint Cross. This wasn't as pedal free us usual as the wind today was against us. This left us with Fowlmere, Thriplow, Newton and Great Shelford to finish the ride after 64 miles at 4.20 pm. Thanks to our two leaders, particularly Edmund who volunteered as a late replacement. Edward Elmer



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