October can be a funny old month. From still, foggy mornings to a leaf blowing gale, and with everything from drizzle to rain in between, but, just occasionally, you wake up to a perfect autumn morning. Blue skies and a gentle breeze, that’s what greeted the 177 riders arriving in St Neots for the 2nd St Neots Cycling Club Autumn Breeze Sportive.
We had two distance options for the day, 61 and 100 miles, and the riders were evenly split between them. I gather for quite a few riding, this was their first century ride. Many riders were ready to go early and by 8.20, HQ at the One Leisure Centre was a ghost town!
The route took the riders along St Neots’ traffic-free Willow Bridge then on to Kimbolton. From there the route meandered along Huntingdonshire’s quiet back lanes and to the ride’s steepest climb, a short 10% plus gradient kick after Spaldwick. At Winwick the routes split with a route marshal apparently dancing the YMCA to direct riders onto the correct route.
The 61 mile ride took a rolling route to the Hargrave feed station while the 100 mile route continued north to explore the picture-box villages of Northamptonshire. After the feed station stop at Nassington, the 100 mile route took an extended loop around Oundle and then onto the lumpiest section to Thrapston.
As for the feed stations, well they could only be described as lavish and well stocked, with a fine selection of sweet and savoury offerings to keep the riders going - thanks to Waitrose for providing the bananas and High5 for the drinks and gels. Thankfully, the broom wagon wasn’t as busy as the feed stations, but a couple of mechanicals and cramps kept them from clearing up all of the feed station leftovers!
The routes merged shortly before the Hargrave feed station. From there the course headed south into Bedfordshire, and the later riders had to cope with a head wind which had picked up during the morning. The routes are best described as gently rolling rather than hilly, with the highest point on the 100 mile distance only just making it to a 100m above sea level. Nevertheless, the longer route did manage to pack in over 800m of uphill riding and the day’s last proper climb at Keysoe did take a few tired legs by surprise. Once over the final summit, the roads were on a mostly gentle downhill gradient back to St Neots and some welcome egg and beans on toast back at HQ (apologies to the final few riders who missed out on the egg and beans, despite being told of numbers to expect, the One Leisure Centre cafe still ran out of stock!).
We had a great day at the club putting on the event, and judging from the feedback we’ve had, it sounds like the riders had a good day out too, especially at the feed stations. If only we could take credit for the fantastic weather! Well done to all the riders who completed their first century.
Finally thank you to all the riders who came along to ride and to the St Neots Cycling Club members who volunteered to make the event such a success.
Photos are available on-line here: http://georgeburgessphotography.thirdlight.com/home.tlx?eventid=20402
Results are available here.
See you next year!