Cambridgeshire Grandfondo – 84 miles. Sunday 7th June.
With JB washing his hair and Ian/Dave busy trying to learn the Thai pronunciation for คุณมีชุดซ่อมเจาะโปรด?, it was left to Abdu, Has (Doc), Andy and I (Trix MM) to represent our club at the first ever Tour of Cambridgeshire Granfondo. Our chauffeur hitched up the trailer for all the food supplies Andy had packed including several kgs of jelly babies, in fact probably enough for one for every entrant. We registered on the Saturday evening and got there just in time to see the last few time trial riders going out including Matt Bottrill, who most of you will know is a bit special.
Our salubrious accommodation at the Travelodge saw a steady procession of riders booking in and taking their bikes up to their rooms and I would imagine the bikes value quadrupled the value of the Travelodge premises overnight. We had a night of merriment eating pasta and chicken and Abdu managed to eat a 9” pizza base smothered in Nutella, which noticeably slowed him down the next day. Andy abstained and Trix had a fruit salad.
The next morning we met the Doc who had escaped from his Travelodge room full of females… (wife and three daughters before you get the wrong idea) and went to the Little Chef for an Olympic breakfast. I felt at the time Les and Gill would have felt comfortable with the general lack of riding and excessive eating and was going to email them, but JB had emailed earlier and said that as of 07:00hrs on Sunday they were not back from their 100 miler, which started at 06:00 hrs on Saturday. Helena, Pat, Paul, Sarah and Anthony made it back on Saturday (well done!!!) but the tandemers where doing the Essex tea shop economy proud over a 24 hrs stint of a little cycling and a lot of tea and cake….
Anyway – Olympic breakfast digested, bikes on the roof and we set off ready for what we thought could be an arduous journey to the showground, through potential 6000 cars and road works in Peterborough. It was a pleasant surprise that a gate on the A1 50 yds from the Travelodge had been opened and within 4 minutes we had parked in the showground looking at the back of the Travelodge – only three hours to kill until the gun…..
After another look around and a 45 minute queue for coffee and muffins (remember we had not eaten since 08.00hrs), we went back to the Team Bus and got kitted out and into Pen 2 ready for the off in 1hr 15 minutes.
At 12noon with the tension building, the gun went off and…… nothing happened. The front riders went off and we shuffled forward, waited, shuffled forward, waited for 25 minutes and then it started to get exciting. The start was in sight, we jumped on, you heard the click of our cleats and we were off!!!!!
There were spectators at the very first roundabout where we crossed the A1 and along the entire route, villagers were out with banners, painted boards and flags, waving clapping and cheering. There was a really good turnout outside the village pubs and generally throughout the whole route there were people sitting on banks, alongside hedgerows and at junctions all supporting the race – it was incredibly humbling. There were very few cars left parked on the side of the road and the only traffic we saw on the whole route was an unfortunate amount of ambulances and marshals directing us around accidents. We saw a few people who had crashed and some looked in a bad way, all had medical support and in the true nature of cycling camaraderie we just kept going. T
I thought Cambridgeshire was supposed to be flat and there was a couple of small lumps at the start which were a surprise, but the course soon levelled out. The Doc and Trix perfected their formation riding down the Alconbury airfield and Abdu managed to hit a piece of aircraft fuselage on the runway and somehow pull himself back over the handlebars after a dodgy moment. We bypassed the first feed station and to our mutual surprise we hit the second one at an average of 19.4mph which had dropped from an earlier 19.7mph. After doping up on gels and bananas we set off across the fens and maintained this steady average to the next stop at 66 miles. Our ‘through and off’ wasn’t bad throughout the ride and the Tiptree Train had half of Cambridgeshire hanging off the back of it at one point.
The last 19 miles included a couple of climbs on narrow roads which were a surprise after the fens and this split the group up for the first time. Andy got away, Trix and Abdu sat in the middle of a group and the Doc was offering medical advice to someone on how to breathe deeply when riding up a hill.
We hit the last corner with 2 miles to go and the chase was on, Abdu, Trix and Laura (Colchester Rovers) were chasing down Andy at around 23-24mph and Mark caught him on the line. I will let them tell you who crossed first. Trix beat Laura over the line and the Doc followed closely behind. So 84 miles at an average speed of 19.3 mph and I will remind myself of this next time I am wheezing up Market Hill or Station Road and the Garmin goes onto auto pause as I am going too slow for the satellites….
With over 5000 riders, one of the group was very pleased with coming 49th in their age group, but again – I will let you work out who.
It was a great day, fantastic route, good support from the locals and most importantly brilliant company from fellow Tiptree velo riders.
The Editor would like to apologise for any misrepresentations made in the above article as Miss Trixie MM was probably still high on the free Caffeine Gels given out at each of the Tea Stops!!