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Tour of Cambridgeshire Report

A chance to do a short 17-mile sporting TT followed by a sportive the next day – all on closed roads. Possible qualification for the UCI Gran Fondo World Finals.What is there not to like? Well, it seems plenty of others think the same, over 8,000 in fact. I’ve done the previous two with my brother, both of us riding ‘old steel’. This year there was a team TT as well and we were joined by 4 teams from the club – Steve D was joined by Paul and Steve Blackmore (all the way from Italy) plus Chris Yates for the Brian Phillips Tribute Team first ever foray onto British soil. Luke recruited Robin P, Mikey W and (at the last moment) strongman Mark Bashford into Team ‘Quatre-up mixte…..’ Could these roadies challenge Steve’s fastmen? Paul Winkley’s ‘All Stars’ had Richard W and Alan Mac to lend horsepower and experience, Gee Shek was added to inject his youthful speed. Nick Walker’s Saturday Gang had Giles, Phil and Russ, all relative newcomers. I took one look at all this array of talent and diplomatically joined my brother’s family team riding old steel Carpenter bikes – me, my brother John, his son Joe and – pressed in as a courageous last minute replacement – Joe’s wife Nikki.

But first there was the small matter of the individual TT to get through, with over 600 entrants. The fastest time came from Matthew Smith, 33:52. Previous winner Matt Bottrill was sixth with 35:00.  First ‘Grinnie’ away was ‘Campionissimo’  Weavers – 3-2-1, down the ramp and away out of the exhibition hall. He pulled off a remarkably quick 39:27 ride. Must have been the breakfast porridge Janet fed him at chez Bedingfield. So much for keeping something back for the team effort a couple of hour later… Even more remarkable was his admission that he’d actually enjoyed it, quite something for a roadie – the 20 sec start intervals let him see the guys in front and chase them down. (Not something I can personally remember). My nephew Joe did a 42 only to have it mis-timed, Giles did a very good 46:33, Nick a solid 48:19 and I provided some entertainment by bursting my tub during an over-long session on the warm up turbo. BANGISSIMO! it reverberated around the exhibition hall. Still, enough time to glue on my spare before clambering up for the ramp start. Headwind off the fens on the way out, 44 ring, tailwind back, 52 ring. 51:58. Not the slowest and better than last year anyway.

An hour or two lounging around under our gazebo, re-truing my slackened spokes, cheering in our Grinnie teams, then finally our turn for the 4-up Team effort. Last off so no worries about being caught :-). Joe Bedingfield shepherded us round on his ’47 racer with close-ratio Sturmey Archer hub gears (yes, really!) and 50 x 18. Yup, his years of MTB racing have left him with a cadence that makes Froomie look like a slogger. I tried imitating him, 44 ring the whole way, 14 top sprocket.  He rode on the tops to maximise our shelter, sometimes letting us have a go as he cruised up and down the line video-ing us with his phone. Nikki looked like she might stick a pump in her hubby’s wheel. Our formation regularly fell apart, lots of regrouping. John unshipped his chain at the last roundabout and the three remnants of team Carpenter crossed the line with a big chuckle. Actually, shedding a man was the tactic of the day. Only Luke’s roadie team finished intact, others made their sacrificial offerings to the harsh god Chrono. And how did we all do? Well, RAF A flew round in tightly drilled Red Arrows formation in 35:37. Group Captain Simon would have been impressed.  Stevie D’s Brian Phillips Tribute Team team were predictably our fastest – so fast in fact that they came within 0.58 seconds of matching Mikey’s 39:27 solo effort….   Luke’s Quatre-up roadies came in just 50 seconds behind them – so close to proving a point! All Stars put in a creditable 44, Saturday Gang a 46, Quite a technical course, ‘interesting’ to ride as a team but hard to do it faster than solo. Our Carpenter team was dragged round by Joe to a 51:36 – 9 minute slower than his solo time but a few seconds faster for me. Thanks Joe and chapeau Nikki!

Sunday came and it was Gran Fondo time. Well, Medio Fondo for us oldies. I fitted a stronger wheel set then John and I lounged about on the grass for an hour while the ‘proper’ race got underway. Somewhere in the front ‘Race’ gate was Campionissimo Weavers, looking to qualify for the GF world champs later this season. Mikey was caught in the second echelon when the cross winds split the bunch, doing a Quintana. Just as they worked their way up to the front group he hit a pothole and dislodged his saddle. So he came in with aching legs and a little crestfallen. Gee and Giles hammered it out at the front of the ‘Sport’ group, faster than their normal sportive experience. Hey guys, this is racing! Guess what – Gee had his first taste of what we used to call ‘THE BONK’. They had to stop at the last feed station, only to experience the ignominy of John and me cruising past. Not only that, we’d stopped for a nosh already, then spent some time looking for a marble John had dropped. Explain that to a couple of motorbike marshals. Just don’t mention we’d been on a shorter route….. anyway it spurred G&G back into action and they quickly put the natural order of things back where they should be. Up at the front Matt Bottrill was mixing it again, edged out in the final sprint by Richard Simmonds  in 3:01

EGCC (& friends) results:
Gran Fondo, 79 miles
Campionissimo Weavers   3:22
Joe Bedingfield                  3:43
Giles Cowdell          3:51
Gee Shek                           3:52
Nick Walker                        4:29

Medio Fondo: 56 miles
Nikki Bedingfield               3:28

Tour Classic: 56 miles
John Bedingfield                3:35
Peter Bedingfield               3:35

All that was left was for a dozen of us to descend on the nearest Pizza Express to refuel. Now that was the second best bit. The best was knowing Mikey’s sombre mood had turned to elation – YES he had qualified for the Worlds in France!! Racing for the rainbow next. Go Campioinissimo!

Peter Bedingfield

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