A sportive this was not!

The opportunity to ride on closed roads does not come often. Your scribe has done this a few times, twice last year: The Maratona of the Dolomites (brutal) and Ride London (almost scarily fast). The Tour of Cambridgeshire is a more recent opportunity to both ride on closed roads and qualify for the UCI world amateur championships (this year being held in Perth, Australia) and in its second year has increased its capacity from 6000 riders to 8000 this year. The weather on Sunday was fantastic and there were people and bikes all over the place at the Peterborough showground hours before the scheduled midday start. The weekend had been a double header, with the time trial event on the Saturday and the Grand Fondo and sportives on the Sunday.

Just a part of a great turnout of clubs large  and small!

Your scribe went with a number of local cyclists who were well spread out in a number of different catagories, some making their ToC debut and some veterans of their second year, which bearing in mind the hefty entry fee must have said something for the tours debut outing. Your scribe was making his debut and was racing. Your scribe is 34 years old. Your scribe was thus a bit tentative when he saw that he was in the 19-34 age bracket (just the 15 year spread!) that was going to lead out the event with what would turn out to be about 7950 people behind him, most of who had not turned out to take in the scenary!

When you are loaded into pens an hour before the start the only thing to do is get a little nervous. As it was I met a pilot who works for a major middle eastern airline. He told me he flies A380’s for a living. He went for three “nervous wee’s” in the time we stood together. Maybe I smelt, but I think it was a reflection of the wider scenario.

Once we were eventually shuffled forward and released underneath the waving of a giant union jack it was on and the pace increased immediately. A dangerous time for any bunch of potentially mixed riders, moving 10 abreast and a million deep basically centimetres apart on unknown roads and indeed there were a few fallers (bearing in mind your scribe must have been within the first hundred riders there must have been a few more touches further back). The giant bunch began to spliter with a crash or two, one man seemingly randomly cartwheeling into a hedge followed closely by about £6k’s worth of carbon fibre. A sigh of relief was breathed by most as the packs settled down, if one could indeed breath a sigh, for it was now a case of heads down. It was pretty clear that no one was here to take in the sights.

The route was essentially flat with lots of right angle corners and then more long flat bits. So it was essential to stick in a group. If you got dropped then a group would appear from behind but the chances were that they were smashing it as well so it really was a case of burying yourself for a few hours and coping as best you could!

Big strong bunches. Brutal pace and tricky winds.

As we passed through villages and hamlets we were all really well received by the locals! Pubs with bursting gardens all cheering the riders on and front gardens full, it was absolutely fantastic to see the event embraced in such a way. The weather certainly helped and by the time we were up and running the tan lines were certainly getting the chance to mature! On the whole a one off event in an area seemed, from where we were, to be endorsed by everyone and that was great. Hopefully it was the case on the ground.

Your scribe was perhaps one of the first to encounter some local hospitality as after running out of food and water he had to stop at someones house to get some fluid on board! Fortunately this particularly man was only too happy to help and clearly dehydrated stranger! This happened at around 60 miles, after my chasing group was swallowed up by the leading group of the next age category and scribe was unceremoniously spat out of the back, hungry and thirsty and frankly pretty cooked after some, youthful exuberance in the early exchanges! I cracked on, and was caught by a solo rider who introduced herself as Ruth. I did the gentlemanly thing and agreed to work together for a bit and led her out, we swapped roles as we went over a chicane and a bridge, fortunately before she dropped me as well a feed stop appeared and scribe made his excuses!

Food on board, very quickly, and off we went again finding residual members of earlier groups all in similar states of disrepair all helping each other in the wind to get back to the showgrounds eventually we made it. In this case on one leg having tried for a sprint finish only to be met with one hamstring that was refusing to play ball! A lesson in pacing and nutrition.

Cramping after a a gruelling day

A great day in the saddle, scribe qualifying for the World Championships btw, brilliantly organised and really well marshalled in our experience. We’ll be signing up for next year even if our pockets don’t quite run deep enough for a flight to Australia just yet! From the conversations both in real life and online afterwards it seems that everyone had a great day and this event is only set to grow in stature as the years go on!