Stage 0: Rectory Road to Waltham Abbey
We set off from Si and Nesta's house near Rectory Road station at 7:15am and reached the official start at Waltham Abbey at around 8:30, somewhat later than intended, having cycled along towpaths up the lea valley to get there. The last little stage was full of puddles so we were rather muddy.
Stats for stage 0
|Cycling Time:||1 hour 10 mins|
|Total Time:||1 hour 15 mins (5 mins map reading!)|
|Average Speed:||9.5 mph|
|Max Speed:||Not recorded, but probably around 14 mph|
Stage 1: Waltham Abbey to Widford
Here we met Clare, David and Naath and faffed for 10 minutes before heading over to the starting line. The first stage is across the park and along towpaths, but when you come out onto the roads it's straight up a small hill. This is harder than it looks partly because there are so many cyclists so you can't just pick your own pace. And when I tried to stick it in bottom gear on the rear the chain fell off, leaving me stopped and with very oily hands before we got moving again. Still, Clare and David kindly waited for us at the top. After that we continued at a pace which was determined by how fast Naath and I could manage sensibly as far as Nazeing, where we had a rest and a drink at the top of the hill, then on to Roydon. Mike and I were in the lead at this point, and sailed past the first official rest point here, thinking it was too soon since the last rest, and accidentally leaving the others behind. It was interesting doing the Nazing to Roydon stretch, since this was the bit we did in the van last year. Anyway we carried on as far as the next rest stop in Widford. This was probably the nicest of the rest stops. Being in a playing field there's lots of space, and they'd provided some tables and chairs which made the rest more comfortable, and had the poshest trailer-loos I've ever seen: clean, carpeted, nicely painted, wooden doors on the cubicles, paintings on the wall, and posh soap and moisturiser at the big sinks - a nice little touch of unexpected luxury. Here Mike and I sat and had our first meal of cream cheese bagels and chocolate brownies, and waited for the others to catch us up.
Stage 2: Widford to Langley
After Widford we managed a few more miles en masse before Mike and I unintentionally pulled ahead. This section was all pretty straightforward, none of the hills are very big, and it's all on nice country lanes. We got a short unexpected break when my sister called to tell me some news, and we had a chat while standing by the side of the road in the shade. Once again we weren't ready for a stop at the next official resting place in Furneaux Pelham, so continued on as far as Langley and the grass outside the Red Bull, where we collapsed in the shade of a tree and lay down for 10 minutes before tackling more bagels and jaffa cake rolls. We stayed here quite a while really. Checking my phone I saw that the others had stopped at the previous rest stop, so we figured we were still ahead, and vaguely kept an eye out for them. I suspect now that they may have passed us while we were lying down and stopped further along the rest stop, and then left before we did. This is the only explanation we have for them getting ahead!
Stage 3: Langley to Cambridge
Anyway after Langley you begin to get towards the section with the real hills. There are two that are a real slog, quite close after each other. The first one is less steep but longer, and you get a nice fast bit of downhill after it before you hit the second hill. In our case we were still going 20 mph when the hill arrived, changed quickly down several gears, then dropped into the bottom chain ring, and slowly pedalled up, and then were somehow at the top without having run out of either breath or gears. I was rather surprused, as I'd been struggling with some of the other hills and had been expecting this one to be more difficult! Still, we didn't stop for a rest but sailed down the other side. This is in some ways the most fun stretch of the ride, with a long long long sweeping downhill. I'm still too much of a wuss to let myself freewheel the whole way, but the curves are mostly gentle enough that even I didn't feel the need to slow right down for them. Sadly here I picked up a flat from something sharp which had vanished by the time we came to inspect the tyre, so we had to stop for repairs 3/4 of the way down towards Ickleton. This was hampered slightly by me putting my bags down on an invisible ants nest, and then Mike's pump giving up the ghost so we had to flag down someone with a better one, but eventually we got going again. Not sure what I did but my indexing was a bit squiff from here on in, which was a bit frustrating, but I wasn't sure how to sort it out and just carried on, occasionally having to change up a gear and back down again to stop the one I was in from rattling. At Ickleton we again skipped the rest stop, and that's where the pretty bit of the ride ends. Up to there it's been country lanes, but here you soon hit Hinxton and are quite pointedly directed to join the cyclepath on the pavement along the main road. Once round the roundabout you're back on the road again but it's big and not very pleasant as far as Shelford. Then it's right and over a gentle hill and then in past Addenbrookes and along Hills Road, St Andrews St, Short St and Maids Causeway to the finish at midsummer common. The traffic definitely gets stroppier and less patient as you get back into town too. But still, we reached the finish with enough energy left for a little sprint over the line at about 3:30, tired but happy.
Stats for the official route
|Cycling Time:||4 hours 30 mins|
|Total Time:||6 hours 50 mins|
|Average Speed:||10.6 mph|
|Max Speed:||27.5 mph|
And that's it for another year. We rang David to see where they'd got to, not having seen them overtake, and discovered they were already in the Carlton. Apparently they finished about half an hour befor we did. They asked us to join them but we decided to go home, shower and nap and then curl up with some KFC in front of a DVD before bedtime. Looking at last year's account we weren't very significantly slower in the actual cycling time, which rather surprised me since I feel a lot less fit than last year. But actually I suspect the fitness was still only building up from there, and I'm thinking too much of how fit we were by September and the Oxford to Cambridge. I don't know if we'll do that again this year, but we've got a few days cycling in Norfolk planned for the week after next, which should be nice. And we're definitely up for this again next year.
Route map, drawn very roughly but to give you an idea, at bikely.
Stats for total distance
|Cycling Time:||5 hours 40 mins|
|Total Time:||8 hours 15 mins|
|Average Speed:||10.4 mph|
|Max Speed:||27.5 mph|