We got up at 5:20 and spent some time queuing on Midsummer common eating sausage rolls, and then dozing on the bus. We reached the start point at the River Lee Country Park, just outside the M25 at Waltham Cross at about 8:15am and as we got the bikes from the van we discovered my front tyre had come partially off the rim, and was flat as a pancake to boot. The mechanics at the start sold and fitted me a replacement inner tube, and eventually David and Robin arrived with the tandem, we filled in our entry forms, handed them over for the route map, and set off, about 9am.
Mike's rear tyre blew at about 4.2 miles in, just outside Bumble's Green. Having discovered it was unrepairable with materials to hand David and Robin rode on ahead to the next rest stop at Roydon, which looked about a mile away by the map. Mike walked and I cycled at walking pace for about a mile, then found a signpost and decided another 3 miles was too far to walk and called the mechanics hotline. After about 40 minutes waiting we texted Robin and David and told them to press on, as it was clear we were going to be some time. We were picked up about 5 minutes later and driven those 3 miles to the White Hart where a new tire and inner tube were fitted so we could continue, by this point it was nearly 11am. Our second incident occurred about a mile from the next rest stop at Widford, where trying to change down further when already in first (there's optimism!) I snapped the gear cable and suddenly found myself in 5th. Still, the next mile was fairly flat so we pressed on and reached the rest stop without too much trouble for a replacement.
After that it was all pretty straightforward. We skipped the next two rest points since we weren't in need of the rest or refreshment. Stopped for homemade lemonade and cake supplied by a small girl for 30p at the halfway point, and again at Langdon at about 2pm, where apparently David and Robin would have waited for us if they'd been able to eat at the Bull, but cyclists it seems were only welcome outside. Then we hauled our way up the two really big hills before Ickleton, with some difficulty but without having to give up and walk. At the top of the larger of the two I was very flattered that one of the ladies we'd met at Langdon complimented me on getting up them, and said I'd be a very strong cyclist if I were fitter. Praise indeed from someone who's obviously a more serious cyclist than I am. Still, the way up was worth it for the ride back down, even if I do tend to use the brakes to limit myself to around 22 mph - I get nervous much faster than that downhill. Ickleton provided cheap icecream, and we knew we only had around 15 miles to go. We had to stop shortly after that and let a little air out of my rear tyre, since it was bulging rather alarmingly, but the rest of the way was pretty flat and very easy going, and we sailed into Cambridge eventually at about 4:30pm, and I even had the energy left for a daft sprint over the grass to the finish line. Tired but happy, and chuffed to have made it.
The route seems to have been about 48 miles long, rather than the headline 50, and having done 3 miles in the van our final stats were:
|Cycling Time:||4 hours, 10 minutes, 20 seconds|
|Total Time:||About 7.5 hours|
|Average Speed:||10.8 mph|
|Max Speed:||23.0 mph|
We staggered back to Mike's, had a nice cold shower and sat around listening to music for while, then went out for a pizza and headed to the Carlton for a quiet drink with David and Robin and a handful of others who wanted to try the tandem. David let me have first go because I wanted to get off home, and we went once round the block, but it was pretty hair raising to be honest. Naath apparently made a much less scared rider. The saddle being a *fraction* too high for comfort didn't help, and the handlebars were in a completely useless position for me, but I think I'd have found it less alarming if I didn't weigh so much. Still it was instructional :-) And on that note we went home to bed and to sleep, with a vague plan of doing the Oxford to Cambridge one in September.
And I just want to end with a huge thanks to Mike. It was a pretty easy ride for him, but without his encouragement and company I'd have found it even harder still. He let me believe I could do it, and hugged me and told me how impressed he was with my efforts at the end. He's a star.