Velo at the Tour of Cambridgeshire
23rd June 2019
The lure of a sportive on closed roads in the UK was too much of a temptation for the VSJ team of John Pallot-Brown, Mick Higginson, Martin Orpin and Martin Coop, along with Glasgow rider Neil Smith.
As it was part of the Gran Fondo series, there were also some time trials the day before, so a team was entered to make the most of the occasion, John, Mick, Neil and Martin O were the four riders to attempt the 25k course and still save themselves for the main event.
A very narrow start ramp saw the riders descend in single file before heading out onto the course, with a headwind initially, the lack of practice saw Neil dropped after 5k, and the lumpy terrain prevented a decent rhythm until just after 15k when the course hit the high point and turned round to follow the wind. The trio almost managed to catch the last team to overtake them, but just ran out of road before the finish. The objectives to avoid coming last and rip the legs off had been duly accomplished!
Sunday saw the sportive start at a reasonable hour and with 8000 riders taking part, the queue for the start was lengthy. A narrow funnel before the start eased the congestion, and it was off into a noticeable headwind. The first rise after about 10k got a bit bunched up, but over the top and we were clear. Soon the traffic eased but with the longer route doing an extra loop after 20 miles, it meant we were soon back in amongst slower riders.
The first stop was after 45 miles, just as the bottles were getting empty, on a disused Cold War airbase. Plenty of space to refuel although it seemed someone had been there first! Long queues, especially with riders and their bikes saw an area of confusion.
Pressing on, we dropped down onto the Fens and a long straight with a following wind had Mick hit the gas. The Velo train was fairly motoring down the centre of the road at 40Km/h and passing riders, before taking the turn for the last extra loop. Changing direction all the time to follow the minor roads was making it difficult to find shelter, but Mick and JPB gave a masterclass in echelon riding, as we spread across the road, overtaking struggling riders.
Another stop to refill bottles and we were back on the main course, only 30 miles left, but heading back into the wind again. A final stop with 15 miles to go, just to ease those stiff back and we were on the home straight.
Crossing the line as a group, seconds under 6 hours ride time for the 100 miles, it was a job well done!
A well organised event, if on some slight dodgy road surfaces at times, with lots of local villagers out in force along the route, adding to the atmosphere.
Thank you to Rebecca Orpin for writing the report.