The Perfect Present

The extended public holiday to celebrate Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne of the UK this year afforded a choice of days for the annual rip to and from Hunstanton.  It’s a ride of some 190 miles (with some participants nudging that up to 200 with a small extension to the route at the end), so we always need the long days of June.  A public vote indicated Friday 3rd June as the favourite day – and what a good choice that proved to be.  A north easterly breeze was against us on the way but bright, sunny conditions and the prospect of the breeze strengthening during the afternoon and giving us a push home proved to be a perfect Queen’s Official Birthday present for us.

A chilly start

Even in June, a 6am start is a little chilly, so gilets and arm warmers were donned by most of the riders.  Sainsbury’s bust stop was the rendez-vouz for Steve Webster, Will Lawton, Mark Brockway, Scott Barber (who shot this brilliant video, Haythem Rashed, guest rider Martin Smith and me (Andy Parker) and we picked up Andy Brown in Regent Street on our way to the second meeting point at the Grafton Crossroads.  Here we became 12 with the addition of Andrea Wollcott, Darren Gillings, Ian Bird and Mike Castelete for the customary team photo and briefing.

A good pace

All experienced riders, the briefing was very simple: ride two abreast; stay together as a group; riders at the front ride 4 or 5 minutes then the rider on the front right moves to the front left and the second rider on the right moves to the front and everyone shifts around.  Given the slowly stiffening breeze in our faces, this meant a good pace was kept up with no one doing more than 10 minutes on the front each hour.
Just after the crossroads the team was completed by Wayne Tunnah, riding to us from Thrapston and meeting us that the between the Grafton crossroads and Slipton.

Impressive riding

I was really impressed by the consistency of riding.  Everyone looked good.  They looked fresh.  Everyone rode well as a team.  This approach ticked off the miles really quickly as we headed out through Alconbury, Ramsey, a new way through March and on to a shop stop in Friday Bridge. Disappointed with a route only suggesting 299.1 km for the day, certain members of the group decided we should look for a different shop in Friday bridge and an, ultimately fruitless, detour was inserted as a spur on the map at Friday Bridge.  Encountering a very busy A road though, a decision was made to return to the original route and head back to the standard shop for top ups on drinks and snacks.

Fenland breeze

After Friday Bridge, the ride took on fenland proper. Flatness; drains; a breeze with no interference from trees or hedgerows.  The disciplined teamwork of the group worked well as we rotated every five minutes and managed to get in some good rest before returning to the front to be buffeted once more by the fenland breeze.

Back into the undulating landscapes

Entry into the county of Norfolk always seems to bring relief the monotony of North Cambridgeshire and picturesque villages with a mildly undulating landscape bounded by hedgerows and trees greeted the group.  Many of the villages were decked out for jubilee celebrations including Wormgay with life size dummies decked up as everything from the Queen, Freddie Mercury and through to a police officer checking speeds.

This leads to the Sandringham Estate where rhododendron bushes sported their beautiful purple foliage in a celebration of springtime.  Before reaching Old Hunstanton, there’s a couple of hills which provide a reminder that you’ve done 90+ miles, however economically you have ridden as a group.  However, their was great teamwork as we re-grouped and went for the final push into Old Hunstanton and the customary picture in front of the Lighthouse.

Fish n chips by the sea

We’d all burned a few calories and needed to recharge both our Garmins and our bodies with the traditional seaside food of fish and chips (or veggie burger and chips for me).  What a great ride it had been so far: no mad drivers; no mechanicals; no one falling off on greasy level crossings. Surely the road home could not be as favourable?

Time for the homeward ride

Setting off, it felt good with that breeze pushing us up the incline our of the town.  However, a puncture struck!  Haythem, who’d replaced his tyres the week before only to pick up a puncture in the mid-week chain gang, succumbed to another.  Again, teamwork came to toe fore with successful input from Darren, Wayne and Haythem getting the tyre off, a new tube in and we were on our way again.


KOMs and regrouping

The return route followed the traditional one we have used for many years through King’s Lynn and Wisbech before taking on the fens to Thorney.  With the breeze building, so did the pace of the group.  Continuing the rotations strategy, we were clocking up well over 25 miles per hour with little stress on the group. 

KOMs and trophies were picked up by most of the group on three or four segments as the pace pushed up.  Eventually, the pace was a bit too brisk and a couple of people started to detach from the group and we regathered the team.  Mark clocked up 240 km (previous best of 101km!) before meeting his wife to carry him home in the car.

Support Cure Leukaemia

As we came back into Lincolnshire south of Stamford to Wansford, we said goodbye to Martin Smith.  Martin was using this as a training ride for his forthcoming 21 stages of the Tour de France where he and I will be riding the 3,500 km route to support Cure Leukaemia.

If you’d like to support us and make a donation, here’s our just giving link:

He headed across the valley to Foxton, safe in the knowledge that his form is good and the long days of 10 hours plus in the saddle will be a challenge but not an insurmountable one for him.

Strangely, I felt good as we turned at Fotherghay and headed for Southwick water tower hill and managed to clock up a PR and picked up more PRs on the Brigstock bumps as we had one last thrash on the road home.

Scott, Andrea, Darren all clocked up 200 miles.  I fell a little short at 193 but had a fantastic day.

The average speed was a fraction under 19mph over nearly 200 miles – a testament to excellent teamwork.