Some rides are just rides, others are focused training rides, still others are events or sportives. Some rides are significant to you because of the weather, some due to the company you ride with and others due to your personal performance. This ride surpassed all others on all fronts; BY FAR.
I know, I should probably have written a ‘build up’ post on here prior to the weekend. So if you’re not aware, Peterborough which is where I live (I actually live a little south of Peterborough in the village of Yaxley) played host to this year’s Tour of Cambridgeshire. This was held as a 2014 Tour de France legacy event after the 3rd stage of Le Tour 2014 set off from Cambridgeshire. A fully closed road event over two days featuring a 27 km Saturday TT and a 132 km Sunday Road Race, which also got drafted in to the UCI World Cycling Tour calendar as a qualifying event.
So you can start to understand why the build up and the atmosphere surrounding this event was so significant. Add to that the fact that I got my hands on my new ‘Yaxley Riders’ jersey on the Saturday evening and that there were around 20 fellow Yaxley Riders also registered for the road race and the excitement just kept on rising.
Maybe it was that excitement that caused it, maybe it was the perfect conditions, or maybe it was something else but as soon as we were released from our starting pen, we were on it. I remember looking down at my phone app and seeing the average up above 35 km/h a few miles in and thinking ‘I’ll never be able to keep this up’ but the pace was just so addictive. That’s the best way I can possibly describe it; addictive. We were flying; with the roads closed, as a group we shifted across to the right hand side and started passing riders one after another.
Sure there was the concern that this was too fast but I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to drop out of the group! As a group we had earlier ridden across from Yaxley to the Peterborough Showground for the start and had immediately joined the queue for the ‘non-race license’ start pen which turned out to be a wise decision as others we knew found themselves starting much further back. And now as a group we were eating up the miles.
These were roads we knew for the most part, corners with no surprises for us, the few small hills being of know quantity and this helped give us the confidence to keep the tap fully open. Sure we’re riders of differing abilities, so it wasn’t destined to remain together forever so a few people were dropped and others were left to go ahead but everyone had someone to ride with of a similar ability.
As the dust settled a little, I found myself part of a group of 3 and we arrived at the old Alconbury Airbase, now converted to a business park for the most part, but still with an intact, huge, wide runway which had been included as part of the route. So like little boys in a pretending to be part of TopGun we put the hammer down and flew along as close to literally as is possible on a bike. At the end of this section came the first of the feed stops and we decided between us to stop but only very briefly, so I quickly tipped a 500 mL bottle of water into my bidon and grabbed a banana to wolf down on my way out. Even waiting for the other two guys to use the toilets we lost only 2 minutes total.
Looking back maybe I should have headed off immediately on my own at that point as it wasn’t long before I left them behind and headed off on my own anyway; I could possibly have saved a minute or more. I don’t remember exactly when it was but I think they dropped off my tail going up the Raveley Road climb, which although short enough, it does reach a decent gradient towards the top. This is the kind of terrain that I like and I powered up there overtaking a few more riders on my way up and possibly a couple more on the way down.
From there on in the ride went out into the Cambridgeshire fens which are extremely flat but extremely exposed. So the tour made it’s way for the next 50 km between empty fields with appropriate head, side or tail wind and small villages with people sat out cheering us on, enjoying the action and catching some rays. The route even managed to include a road more akin to a farm track, that as riders we took into our stride as if it were a section of pavé from a Belgian spring classic.
Then it was up out of the fens into Farcet before riding on to Yaxley, my home and the home of Yaxley Riders. The support through both of these villages was excellent, especially for those of us wearing the now famous, Yaxley Riders jersey. My family were there to support me on the roadside by the Three Horseshoes pub along with a decent crowd of others and although certainly tiring I rode fast and proud along Main Street and up the hill past the Yaxley Church.
From here there was just another 10 km to the finish line back at the Showground and although I had to slow slightly for the hill just out of Haddon, I determined to push as hard as I could for this last few km to pick up a few more places and avoid as much as possible dropping any myself. With this clear in my mind I upped my pace which had dropped from the early 35+ km/h to a more tired 28 km/h, managing now to maintain the 33 km/h that eventually became my overall average. Crossing the line with a final time of 4:09:13 which if you take into account the delay in the starting of my pen becomes 4:01:38; a time which I am very proud of.
So all that’s left now is for me to thank the organisers for putting on an excellent event, thank the residents and local councils for allowing it to happen and for coming out and supporting us and particular thanks to my wife and kids for their support throughout the weekend. Oh and a little wait for the release of the finalised results.