Tuesday 8 November 2016

In Pursuit of Sunshine (C#56)
Tuesday 8 November, 102 Miles

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Two words in last night’s weather forecast for the East of England caught my ears – ‘snow’ and ‘sun’. The weather folk seem to think there’s a chance of snow hereabouts tomorrow and I hope they’re wrong! But they also said that today it would be “warm” in the sun. Note, they didn’t actually say it would be sunny.

As I approach the end my 60 Centuries Series I’ve started to think that it’s a bit like pursuit racing on the track. The finishing line is just a few laps away. The opposition isn’t quite in sight but I can sense they're there. (My metaphor today for the ‘opposition’ is the sun.) The temptation is to up the cadence, get the opposition in sight and hope I can hold the pace to the line without blowing up. Well, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. Mind you, it’s a very long time since I last rode on a track. I hope to change that early next year - especially if Santa looks kindly on my Xmas list.

So with the possibility of some sun in the home straight I was out of the house and on the bike (Impulso) pronto this morning. I had dressed for the occasion too. Winter bib tights, merino wool base layer, medium weight fleecy jersey, windproof gilet, winter socks, shoes and overshoes, silk inner gloves and thicker winter outer gloves. All finished off with a thermal skully thingy under my helmet and a pair of daylight enhancing (i.e. yellow) glasses. And by heck, for the first hour or so I was very glad of all this kit. At one point it was so cold that I actually thought ice crystals were forming in my beard. They weren’t, but it made me feel virtuous to think they were! Overhead the sky was leaden grey and there were traces of some overnight mist lurking in shaded field corners.

My route today took me south eastwards through Hadleigh towards Manningtree before heading to Shotley and then doubling back into Ipswich where I then had about 30 miles to get back home. The route was virtually the same as the one I rode on 23 October (C#51) except today I went the other way round.

I was able to hold a good pace to Hadleigh which helped to keep me warm. And leaving Hadleigh I had a little rant at a moronic motorist which also helped generate body heat. Basically, this guy driving a Focus came up behind me, overtook, then immediately slowed and pulled in to the kerb so I had to swing out to pass him. Then said moronic motorist turned hard right across the road and down a driveway just as I was about to pass. There must have been some oil on my rear wheel rim because as I slammed on the brakes it emitted a loud squeal – so loud that even the moronic motorist heard it and then pretended to ignore it. Oh, and I should have said that the moronic motorist made no attempt to use his indicators at any point. But every cloud has a silver lining I suppose as I learnt that in here in Hadleigh we all speak the same language – unrefined Anglo Saxon.

And yes, every cloud really does have a silver lining since soon fter leaving Hadleigh the sun started to put in an appearance. Rather hesitantly at first though by East Bergholt it had made its mind up and I was riding under what the weather folk refer to as broken cloud. Or is it scattered cloud. Well, whatever I’m sure you get my meaning.

I had been looking forward to arriving at the village of Holbrook because I wanted to spend a few minutes checking out the Royal Hospital School which I had spotted on my last ride down here. The School has an impressive history. Originally established in Greenwich in 1712 it moved to Holbrook in 1933. It has a very strong naval tradition; its nickname is ‘The Cradle of the Navy’. It is the only UK independent boarding school to have ever been continuously granted the Queen's Banner and it flies its own Admiralty-approved Royal Hospital School Blue Ensign. And it is one of only two UK schools whose students have the privilege of wearing Royal Navy uniforms. Nowadays students wear their naval uniform for ceremonial occasions only. The School buildings are extremely impressive as are the adjacent houses, which I imagine were originally built for residential staff. About 700 students, aged from 11-18, attend the School.

Leaving the rather splendid delights of the School behind me, I needed to up the pace a bit to warm up again. Mooching around trying to get a photograph, and not getting arrested for loitering, meant that I had cooled down somewhat. The sun was still shining, quite brightly now but with little warmth, so movement was the key to keeping warm, or at least not getting any colder. To get the necessary mileage in for this to qualify as a century ride I rode down to Shotley Gate at the mouth of the Orwell and Stour estuaries. Then I rode back again. I stopped briefly to take a photo of the cranes at Felixstowe. My mate Nick, one of the Elites, works there so I sent him a text with the photo and he sent me back a text to say he was waving. Well, that’s what he claimed.

From Shotley Gate I retraced my route ducking under the impressive Orwell Bridge and shooting through Ipswich to Claydon, Coddenham and Crowfield (nice alliteration) before the final leg home. Gradually, as the sun dipped I could feel the temperature falling away quite quickly so I was glad to be in the home straight. And, perhaps it was a good thing that I didn’t have to call on my Anglo Saxon vocabulary again. Now with four laps to go I can almost hear the bell. And is that the sun I can see just disappearing round the banking?

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