Saturday 3 December 2016

That’s So Last Century (C#60)
Saturday 3 December, 108 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Well here we are. The 60th and last ride in my Century Series has arrived. I’d thought quite a lot about what to do for it. Should I try and get a chain gang together to ride with me? Or perhaps ride somewhere other than East Anglia; maybe the Chilterns where I started riding as a teenager? Eventually I decided to keep it simple and ride locally. So after last Monday’s foray east to the coast I figured I would head in the other direction today – west to the Fens. Planning the route I realised that I could pass right by Daren (Nairo) Morgan’s house so I persuaded him (it didn’t take much persuading) to join me for part of the ride. Daren has ridden more of these rides with me than anyone else so it was great to share this last century with him.

By 08:00 the sky was light enough to ride without lights and the grey clouds meant that there was no frost to worry about. Opening the back door to my garage I was nearly knocked over by the rush of my Bianchi family who were all eager to do the ride. Cries of “mee”, “meeee”, “meeeee” broke the silence as the Impulso, Infinito and Oltre vied for my favour. The great thing about Bianchi’s is that they always want to go for a ride. In the end, my trusty Impulso won the day, mainly because I had already fitted my swan neck guard to it to ensure my bum stayed dry. The Impulso and the Oltre took things with reasonably good grace and didn’t sulk too much.

So at 8:05 sharp and I sent a text to Daren and I was underway. My 60th and final century of the series had begun! I made good time for the next 25 miles and found Daren riding slowly ahead of me along his road as I approached. Perfect timing. As I caught him I mimicked a hand sling but he wasn’t biting. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve last ridden together so we started to catch up with some chatter and natter and the miles ticked by relatively effortlessly. Our first landmark was the sugar beet refinery south east of Downham Market. It’s quite a distinctive feature at this time of year as it’s the peak time for beet deliveries and there’s always a cloud of steam streaming from chimney. Depending on the wind direction it can get quite smelly too! I was interested to see that the entrance signs were written in several Eastern European languages including, with the help of Google Translate, Russian, Croatian, Romanian, and Polish (I think). I can’t quite fathom why though, as the beet is hauled locally from East England farms. Surely we’re not importing raw beet from Eastern Europe? Of course it might just be that there’s a higher proportion of Eastern European drivers working for local haulage firms? Anyway, time to move on!

Big skies, big country. Is Nairo big enough to ride two Bianchi's?
From the beet factory we headed over to Denver (see blog for 14 July) and then on into the Fenland heartlands. As always this sweeping open countryside, where you can see for 20 and more miles without interruption, takes my breath away. On days like this with grey skies and cold temperatures the Fens take on a bleak and forbidding atmosphere. But at least today the light wind was in our favour. Riding a 5-mile (or longer) straight into a headwind here is a pretty tough call.

Going up - sort of!
Most of this part of the route is at sea level and even below it in places. As we rode along, our chatter turned into a bit of a history lesson about how the Fens were originally created. I won’t bore you with the details as there’s loads of information on the interweb. Suffice to say that we were able to cover several miles on the subject! Our nattering was sharply interrupted by the arrival of that exceptionally rare thing in these parts. I’m talking about a gradient or what in these flatland boonies substitutes for a hill. Now readers, those of you who know these parts will of course realise that I am grossly over exaggerating. But after many miles of riding on a pan flat surface reminiscent of a snooker table, the prospect of a 5% incline can and does get me excited. Ten yards at 5%! That’s all it takes - wow! I was so fired up by this that I turned around and rode it again so that Daren could get a few photos of me in full climber mode. By my reckoning this was definitely a ‘Sous Category’ climb.

With several more miles of flat we needed to keep moving. Our route took us southwards including a navigational challenge. Well, not exactly a challenge but rather more the result of me not paying attention to my Garmin so we had to double back adding an extra 4 miles to the route. Once we were back on track we passed through Little Downham with its ‘Califiornia’ suburb before reaching Littleport where we stopped for a quick drink. From there it was a steady pull past Queen Adelaide, Prickwillow and Isleham before parting company at Freckenham. Daren had now been with me for about 50 miles and it had been great to have his company.

After a quick handshake and a final few words of wisdom we each headed our separate ways. Daren northwards and me eastwards. I used the last 30 miles to think back on my previous rides, thoughts and motivations. Rather than write about them now I’m going to pause for a few days and reflect before trying to sum the series up.  Arriving back at home I found the Infinito and the Oltre waiting to greet me. So, to mark the occasion we all had a little song which had one of my neighbours looking at me as if I had lost my marbles. And to ‘celebrate’ I decided to christen that rather fine espresso cup that Uncle Andrew and the team at Bianchi Towers presented me with when I rode from there (see blog for 13 October).

Passione Celeste readers!

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