For anyone not in the know, that title might be seen as me advocating manning up and braving the weather etc. But no, that’s all been said before, many times by many riders and until I get the chance to ride across the Mongolian plains I really won’t truly understand tough conditions.

Instead, the title in this instance is about the early season sportive series titled ‘no excuses’. A couple of weekends ago, I joined some riding buddies in participating in the Cambridgeshire No Excuses sportive . For anyone not aware of the series, it’s a paid for event with electronic timing, sign posted route and on-route support but with a slight twist in that if you do turn up and ride you can have your money refunded. The idea being to get people out on their bikes early in the season but not allow people to sign up for free to something they have no intention of turning up for. Also if the weather is bad people are more likely to brave it if there’s the reward of a £40 refund at the end.  Money not refunded goes to charity.

So road bike out of the garage, winter layers donned and an earlier than favoured start found me riding to the usual meeting point for Yaxley based cyclists. The white bench. An easy 8 mile spin over to the Peterborough Showground picking up an additional rider along the way and soon enough we were signing in to the event, getting our numbers affixed to our bikes and enjoying a cup of pre-ride coffee. All ready, all eager, a little on the cold side but glad to see the sun was out and the roads were dry and clear. Or at least that was what we thought.

Tannoys. So often the bringer of bad news. Yet so rarely understandable. In a big crowd however there are usually sufficient ears to determine the message being conveyed. Or at least understand the general meaning at least. So the understanding that the start would be delayed due to icy conditions was soon passed around and we all wondered quite how different it could really be out on the route compared to what we’d ridden on our way from home.

We considered leaving and riding the route ourselves independently of the event. We remarked about the one chap who had come in shorts and t-shirt. We had another coffee and we ate all of our mid-ride snacks pre-ride.

Eventually the start gate opened, to a loud cheer and a muffled glove handed clap. And finally we were on our way. For me it started well, being a good way back in the pen allows for plenty of overtaking which is always inspiring. The pace was high and the effort quite reasonable. Our group stayed together well to start with and the chat and banter passed the time. Once we reached the first real climb, we started to split up though. Southwark Hill is not big but its steep enough to drop and be dropped on. And so one of our group (you know who you are Phil), shot off ahead in a moment of over enthusiastic madness, another couple of guys dropped back and two of us, Richard and I, pushed on in between. We soon caught up with Phil and passed him, turns out that pace up the hill was a little too adventureous.

It wasn’t too much longer before I decided to let Richard go and proceeded to finding other more similar paced riders to slot in with. The phrase is ‘sharing a wheel’ but unless you know them, that’s not really what happens. You just sit behind them out of the wind until the pace starts to drop and then you go past. If they manage to pick up your drag then so be it. And when a slightly faster group passes you try to tag on to that.

As it happens I fairly quickly found another pair of riders that I knew and for a decent while I rode with them. It’s not like riding in a big group but 3 is definitely better than 1. A while after we had joined a larger passing group they dropped off and I forged on ahead. (Later I would see them pass as I was stopped at the feed station).  The icy conditions never caused any problems at all, maybe due to the delayed start or due to the revised route, or maybe it was an overcautious organiser making the decisions.  The weather that did rear it’s ugly head though was the wind.  Cambridgeshire is famously flat and although this route did take in some of the hillier parts, it was still mostly flat and exposed.

By the final miles, I’d just about had enough of the wind and I think I’d eaten too much flapjack at the feed stop.  Whatever the reason, I’d slowed to almost a crawl and was definitely glad to cross the finish line.  Overall, a good day out.  Slightly soured by the long delay at the beginning.

Sorry for the unusual lack of photos – it was too cold to get the camera out!