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Tour of the Cornfields / Cyclo-Cross Sportive

The Tour of the Cornfields was billed as a slightly different take on the standard Sportive the nearest event similar to it was probably to the Hell of the North Cotswolds. Starting in the village of Whaddon close to Cambridge the 56 mile route consisted of half country roads the other half off road on bridleways and straight byways which skirted the cornfields.

Entering into the spirit of the event I went armed with my cross bike for the 9.30 start, and would be fair to say that in the 100 plus field the cross bikes were in a greater number.

With riders setting off in groups of twelve I lead the first group out onto the road in hot pursuit of the organiser Mark Wyer who was checking the course markers although we had also been given a comprehensive route guide. This would prove highly valuable later on in the day.

I found myself at the head of our group being half wheeled for the first few miles fortunately a bad call at a junction allowed me to slip to the back of the group. After 6 miles of sleepy back roads we hit the dirt quite literally as all hell broke loose on the first of 16 Paris Roubaix style off road zones. I managed to ride straight into a deep tractor rut which brought me and a few others to a grinding halt, having forgotten how to ride a cross bike off road As we then headed down the gradual descent off this first off-road stretch a couple of riders in front then somersaulted over their handle bars.

Fortunately I managed this final section of the zone, reaching the respite of the road unscathed. The next section or zone of off-road was a lot more fun, I was now getting into the swing of things, one thing it had done was blow my little group apart. Most of the off-road throughout the day was flattish bridleways and byways that skirted fields and farms. Fortunately the weather had been kind and these had been baked dry it would have been a very different story in wet.

Despite the fact that I was on a cross bike the effect was probably similar to riding the cobbles of Northern France and boy did I take a beating, later on in the day when we hit a down hill section of byway which someone had at some stage tried to rebuild with broken bricks I would look enviously across at the person next to me on the full suspension mountain bike.

Just before the half way feed station we caught up with the organiser and then left him setting up a few markers we then promptly lost our way! Although soon corrected I then got that sinking feeling as a thorn went through my back tyre, a fate that was waiting for most people during the day. Luckily I was within limping distance of the feed where someone with a track pump saved me from curse of the mini pump that I had with me.

The second half of the course was much the same again with the benefit of the brick strewn trail, I have to admit as the day wore on each zone of off road was starting to make my eyes water. Respect is definitely due to those who race Paris Roubaix as the best way to cover the rough ground was to stay seated grip the tops and power through it. In my minds eye I was Stuart O’Grady charging through to the finish at Roubaix admittedly only at half the speed.

At times course marking was a bit lacking but then again on the few occasions that I needed to use the route card it was all quite straight forward. I gather from other reports on the event some got lost in a big way.

The final zones of off road were a peach one long section of old drover’s road that seemed to go on for miles. This eventually lead back to the finish at Whaddon. It had been a tough 56miles completed in 4hours and 2minutes the fastest ride was just under 4hours and the slowest 7hours.

All in all a good day out and the consensus a classic in the making to get the most out of it though ride it on a cross bike but with a well padded saddle.

Andy Seltzer

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