After the previous day’s frolics, next came the Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo – 128km, like a sportive but massed start and on closed roads. 6,000 entries. Busy start! To get some semblance of control, those racing for UCI points were put in the front ‘pen’. The rest of us in the second. When I say ‘pen’, it was a snaking column of riders at least a kilometer long, 6 or more abreast between the barriers.
The start gun went off, the clock started running, and we….. stayed stuck. After 10 minutes the jam freed up enough and we were cautiously off. Some took 40 minutes to reach the start line. Ho hum.
Out of the showground and onto the same roads I’d seen the day before and the pace started stepping up. I was with my brother John, my old college mate Don (a long time club biker) and his son. One ’60s steel road bike and 4 carbon thingies. Slowly the random mass of bikers started to coalesce into informal bunches of riders with similar abilities, I shamelessly sucked wheels as the roads rolled by. I guess the speed was high teens by now. After 45 minutes a little gap appeared, Don and his son slowly moved ahead while John and I eased back a tad. All the time groups were coming past, lone bikers were dropping back so concentration was all. Around an airfield perimeter road each speed bump was followed by a clutch of dropped bottles, then a clutch of riders fixing pinch punctures, followed (sadly) by paramedics sorting out the worst fallers. Not everyone holds their line well! Then onto the runway for a 2km blast with the breeze behind and then back onto the roads.
At halfway a feedstop gave us an excuse to lie on the grassy verge for a while before tackling the fens. Rule 1 of biking: no matter which way you turn next, it’s always more into the wind than before. Luckily a well organised group came passed, we grabbed the back wheels and took a ride, then took our turns at the front. I enjoyed this as much as any biking I’ve done for ages. Purposeful and disciplined. Now we were passing loads of others.
Sadly all things come to an end, they stopped at the next feed, we elected to press on. John pushed on, manfully closing the gap to the next bunch, but after 3 or 4 miles of effort, just as we got there it broke up. Then it got more sheltered but lumpy. We came to a steepish downhill. Rule 2 of biking: What goes down must surely go up again. John had burned himself out and I was in the unfamiliar position of leading him up the slopes for a change. Howls of anguish as those with Garmins said we’d done the alotted mileage yet we still had 5 miles to go. More riders on the deck.
Finally into the showground I had just enough left in the tank for a bit of grandstanding. Has to be done, doesnt’t it? 5 hs 10 mins for (I think) 83 miles, 15 mph, 20 mins behind my mate Don and ok for me. I didn’t join the queue for a £20 massage, just bought an ice cream and we sped back to John’s place to watch the last 20 minutes of Wiggo’s hour. Brill day out, I’ve entered next years’s event already.