Got up late, had a shower and went to the pub for elevenses. Then bumped into Henry and had a nice chat about life and the weather and things, sadly he had to get off and couldn't arrange to meet us again later. Had a nice picnic lunch under a big oak tree, and then sunbathed for a while, before heading to the pub again for a pint each. And then finished the afternoon in the park with an icecream listening to a jazz band. It was a lovely day.
We set the alarm for 6am and allowed ourselves the luxury of hitting the snooze button once, before getting up, filling water bottles and heading to Broad Street for the start of the Oxford to Cambridge bike ride, in aid of the British Heart Foundation. We were just too late to join the first batch leaving the start line, but did see them off, and then join the second batch ourselves, setting off about 7:10am.
About 7:30 we stopped to put on waterproofs for what turned out to be rather more than a shower, and we spent about an hour in a pretty heavy downpour, which had me wondering for a while if we were really up for it. By the first rest stop 18 miles in it was just about giving up though, and soggily we continued.
On a downhill stretch a bit further on we had something of a little adventure. Mike's chain came off as we went down the hill, so he shouted to me (in front) that we'd need to stop so he could fix it. So I slowed down, apparently just as he looked back to check it was clear behind him, and he ploughed into the back of me and went flying. Thankfully he seemed to have come off with nothing worse than a sore arse, a grazed thigh through his shorts, and a couple of holes in his elbow. So we broke out the first aid kit, cleaned it and applied some antiseptic cream and carried on as if nothing had happened. By roughly 11am we'd reached about 39 miles, and had our first meal break at the Three Locks Pub.
It turns out this rest is just before the biggest bit of climbing of the whole ride, and it was on the long slog up to Great Brickhill that Henry spotted me by the oxnet tshirt and slowed to have a rather breathless chat (on my side at least). We parted further up the hill as our pace was rather slower than his, and we didn't think we'd reach the end in time to have a drink with him before he had to catch a train to London to visit his parents.
Every time we thought we'd reached the top of the hill and could relax at a slow pace for a while to recover we discovered there was another bit of hill just round the corner. And so it continued until we reached Woburn and cycled up through the abbey park where we saw a gorgeous stag, and the hit the steepest hill of all. Only the last 200 yards or so, but it was steep enough that we saw the first person getting off to walk, and I actually had to break out the lowest gear of the lot, and reached the top completely shattered at about 3 mph. But we did it. After that while there were more climbs there was nothing so punishing.
We pushed on, with a pace which was steady without being too tiring, and our third stop wasn't until about 60 miles, where we spotted a dry spot under an oak tree and had the rest of our food as a rather pleasant picnic, and spent about half an hour there in total, which was very pleasant in the sun. We'd nearly completely dried out by this point, apart from our shoes, and it was nice to just relax for a while and wave at the people coming past. Everyone was very cheerful and friendly all day. Then we pushed on, knowing the last 25 miles were well
without within our ability.
The last official rest stop in Gamlingay was at about 70 miles, leaving 15 miles (by my computer) to the end, and we reached it at around 3:15, keeping up our roughly 10mph average including breaks. So we stopped there and had a pint of lime and soda (me) or lemonade (him) in the pub garden. The regulars at the bar had warned me of the last hill on the way out of the village, though we'd been kind of expecting it have seen the shape of the horizon in front of us as we arrived there. After that it was gentle and rolling all the way home.
We slowed down at lot at this point to be honest, partly because we were tired and partly just because we knew we were going to reach the finish in plenty of time, long before the ride closed at 6, and while it was still warm and sunny. And so it was about 4:40 when we finally rolled over the finish line at Downing College playing fields and were handed our medals and goody bags, and congratulated by lots of the nearby bystanders. Mike gave me a big hug and bought me an icecream and we sat for a while in the sun and listened to the sound of the jazz band playing before we made our weary way home.
My computer read 87.07 miles at the finish, and from comparison with Henry's at about 40 miles I suspect I was overreading by a fraction and it really was almost exactly 85 miles. Add on the two and a bit from Chris's house to the start in the morning and the three and a bit back to mine and we did over 90 miles in total. It really does go to show how much fitter we were than earlier this year, when we first started taking the bikes out any distance. A big thanks to all who sponsored us. And well, I'm just still really impressed that we made it and chuffed to bits.
Addendum: Very rough route map: GMAP