"It's deadly flat in Cambridgeshire" - for comparison, the last bit of the profile is Croydon Hill as I rode home.
A crack squad of SNCC riders agree to meet at Wimpole at 8am to have a go at the Evans 'Cambridge' Ride; Mr Strava tells me we had eleven riders there, although this tale will concern our merry band of five / six / seven.
By 8.30 it was established that those who had decided to drive to the start were still looking for change for the meter as two of us stood around like a pair of plums whilst the massed ranks of our fellow Spotivists jostled for an early start position. Having eventually got going some time after 9ish we had an 'entertaining' first 15 miles or so picking our way through a highly eclectic mix of riders; with my favourite being the guy in what appeared to be a pair of SPD Clarks sensible shoes on a mountain bike where the tyres looked the only remotely road-worthy parts and who took umbrage at us passing and managed to whip his clunking collection of cast-iron parts up to over 30mph to (briefly) re-take his position ahead of us.
We headed eastwards via Chapel Hill to Hasslingfield, the Shelfords and for the second week running I soon found myself going over the Cambridge CC Hill Climb at Worts Causeway. All this fun proved too much for Steve Walker's rear tyre, which having not punctured since his last ride decided that the approach down to Balsham would be a good place to puncture. In only 20 minutes and with three different pumps used we were soon off again and back into the throngs we had already passed once. It was at this point that our six became a seven as Judy was collected as we passed and the next couple of miles to the first stop at West Wratting were made without incident. Bottles re-filled we managed to avoid the trap of leaving in the wrong direction and soon found ourselves in Suffolk, another supposedly flat county, which would see us loop around and cross our tracks at West Wratting again.
With little ceremony and a few waves from those waiting for their bus, the SNCC Grand Depart left the Market Square at 8.30am for the 1st stage of today’s scheduled 25 mile route to Great Shelford. Despite prior notice to the authorities the roads had not been closed and the crowds were non-existent until reaching Great Gransden when the school mums raised a few voices to encourage the 30 riders as they tackled their second climb of the day (uncategorised) through the village. Thankfully there were no mechanicals on the day as the support cars had obviously got lost or been primed for the wrong day.
Amongst the group were a number of old faces – Rob Black, Jason Gadd and Andy Oxborough – who have all been missing in action over the past few months and we were delighted to see them out again in their SNCC colours.
The motley crew on the day
Despite threats of snow or more rainstorms in the weather forecasts, the day of the Wiggle No Excuses Sportive dawned to a clear blue sky; albeit a clear blue sky that had seen the thermometer drop to zero.
Having not sat on a road bike since the aborted 'monsoon club run' of late January, I decided to take the cowardly approach of driving to Huntingdon Race Course to minimise the miles I'd have to complete under my own steam. This had a great deal of 'schoolboy error' potential as my bike had benefited from a comprehensive rebuild courtesy of club mechanic Terry and I had ignored his advice of a shakedown ride to check everything. However, my faith was repaid as the bike rode like a dream, although the carbon saddle was quite a long way from being forgiving on my out of practice backside.
Saturday the 1st, and March arrived with clear skies and gentle winds. In the sun it even felt a little warm! Ideal conditions for the first road race in the NCRA Spring series. Tim Pennell, Wayne Tunnah, Lewis Rooney, Joe Finucane and Richard Ostler were representing the club. The NCRA races follow a handicap format with women and juniors off first followed by 4th cats, then 3rds and finally scratch, made up of 2nd cats - there were 12 minutes between the 1st group and scratch. There were 6 starting groups with Lewis in the 2nd group, Tim and Joe in the 3rd, Richard in the 4th and Wayne in the Scratch. Got all that? Oh and Lewis and Joe were both competing in their first race.
The Naseby circuit is just shy of 10 miles and reasonably lumpy - crucially the lumpiest part is on the final couple of miles from Welford to the finish line and would likely prove decisive in the charge for the line. From Welford there is a steady climb up to a flattish and fast road. After nearly a mile the road sweeps down and then immediately back up for a long uphill drag to the finish line. We would be doing 3 laps.
Hot on the heels of the first BRCC reliability ride came Round 2, a 70 mile saunter through the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire countryside. With the weather forecast to be dry, sunny and more importantly less windy than of late, the SNCC early starter contingent set off in good spirits.
A last minute route change caused some issues with the Garmin users amongst us, however as always BRCC proved to have things in hand and had been out to signpost the change.
With Steve B, Martin, Mark G, Steve W, Mark C and I making up the 8am SNCC starters we made good progress south towards Old Warden, before turning west towards Houghton Conquest and Millbrook. Some of us started to feel the pace during the westward leg and somewhat inevitably, Steve B and Martin decided to stretch their legs, leaving the 4 of us to continue on as one.
For those who don’t know me I’m Wayne Tunnah and race for St Neots CC. I joined SNCC back in August 2011 after getting my first road bike in the April.
It all started with the desire to compete in Triathlons, and how better to train for the bike leg? Join a local cycle club and race in their TT’s. After playing field hockey for 12 years, a less painful sport was required. How wrong was I about that! Cut knees and fingers from the sandpaper like playing surface to torn, ripped muscle fibres throughout my entire legs.
After a year of Triathlons and Duathlons, the constant talk of road racing by several club members had me wanting to give this a go.
I turned up to my first road race at Rockingham Speed-Way hosted by the NCRA, this was their 3rd race at the Speed-Way and well what can I say....It was awesome! Such a buzz I hardly slept that night after finishing in 3rd place. Needless to say I was back the following week for more. Throughout the season I scored enough points to gain my 2nd Cat licence and win the Most Improved Rider in the 2013 NCRA league. The prize, a Retül bike fit courtesy of Nick Smith at Core Cycling Solutions.
A number of SNCC riders chose to ride the Bedford Road CC Reliability Ride on Sunday 2nd February, instead of the club run. See how they got on:
Sunday saw the first of two reliability rides organised by BRCC. A few of us from St Neots CC chose to take up the challenge, setting off from Cardington at 9am for what promised to be a dry, warm, but all too familiar windy, 60 miles around the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire countryside.
Heading off towards Moggerhanger, Mark, Terry, David, Steve, Dan and I came across Adrian and Richard. Adrian made a quick u-turn to join our group whilst Richard carried on by himself. Dan and a stray, whom I’ll call Tony for the purposes of this report, also joined us soon after. With the first 20 miles quickly covered, and with just the faintest sprinkle of rain on the way, we were making good progress.
As some of you may have known, fellow St Neots CC members Tom Stead, Ian Turner, Chris Ritchie and I qualified at Nottingham National Water Sports Centre earlier in the year for the ITU World Championship Final to be held in Hyde Park, London on September 12th - 15th so I thought I'd let you know how things went.
Gareth Smith and I were lucky enough to be selected to take part in the fifth running of the Garmin Sharp Ride Out, a rare opportunity to meet and ride 50 miles around the New Forest with four pro-cycling teams just two days before the start of the Tour of Britain. The teams represented were Garmin Sharp (Dan Martin, Jack Bauer, Jacob Rathe, Steele von Hoff and Nathan Haas) IG Sigma Sport, (Joe Perrett and Andrew Griffiths), Rapha Condor JLT (Elliott Porter and Ed Laverack) and Madison Genesis (Dean Downing, Ian Bibby and DS Roger Hammond). Every one of the Garmin Sharp riders was later to feature prominently in the Tour of Britain.
I'll hold my hands up and admit that I was pretty anxious about my first attempt at doing a large open TT. It wasn't the dual carriageway nor the 120 other riders it was more that feeling in my gut "am I going to mess this up?!"
It had been on my mind for a while and the build up was long due as the entry form needing to go in so early. This didn't help matters... Andrew B from one of our neighbouring clubs (Chronos) was able to assist getting to grips with the form and giving some tips about what to do and where to go when I got there. Very kind.