Saturday 2 September 2017

Some Ups and Some Downs in Cambridgeshire (LGD -253 Days)
Saturday 2 September 2017, 104 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Hooray, the sun’s shining and looking out the back door of my house there’s not a cloud to be seen! Standing in the back garden at 7.30 am it’s actually quite warm. Ideal for a century ride. Whilst chowing down my breakfast I pondered the possibilities – a ride south into Cambridgeshire with a bit of hill climbing became the route of choice. Mostly because I haven’t ridden there for a while. I’ve also been watching the nightly highlights from the Vuelta on the tellybox. There have been some impressive mountain stages so they provided a bit more inspiration. Not that I was going to experience anything comparable, but the Cambs Ups and Downs might just act as a catalyst to get me dreaming about a Pyrenean ascent or three. It’s now almost one year since I last rode in the Pyrenees and I have to say that I rather long to be back there.

Today’s Bianchi of choice was the Infinito. The Impulso is currently with Mick Madgett in Diss for a full service which involves a complete strip down of the frame and a rebuild with some new components and some wheel trueing. In the two years that I’ve owned it the Impulso has done close to 15,000 miles and I’ve worked out that the front and rear derailleurs, which were previously fitted to my Via Nirone before it died, will have done about 50,000 miles! The front mech is as good as new; the rear mech feels a tad spongy – this may be a cable issue – but I’m guessing that the main spring is probably feeling the miles. I wonder how many times I’ve changed gear with the rear mech over those 50,000 miles? With electronic gears you can now count this on the Garmin. Hmm. Data’s good but too many numbers ….?

At last, the fog's clearing
Within a couple of miles of saddling up and setting off I realised that I may have made a mistake. Visibility had dropped to a few hundred yards due to ground fog and the temperature had fallen significantly. Wearing a thin summer short sleeve jersey gave me a distinct chill. I should have worn some arm warmers. No matter I told myself once the sun had burnt off the fog the temperatures were bound to rise which meant that when I arrived at the Cambs ‘hills’ I would be all set to go.

Sure enough as I left Suffolk near Newmarket heading towards Cambridge the sun did emerge and I could feel a noticeable rise in the temperature. The route from Burwell through the Swaffhams is quite exposed and I’ve battled the head winds here quite a few times. With a tailwind today was very pleasant and I pootled along at a leisurely pace enjoying the scenery. Crossing over the A14 and then arriving at Fulbourn I reached the start of today’s first ‘up’.

The segment from Fulbourn to Balsham is just over 4 miles long at an average gradient of 1 per cent, with a maximum of 5 per cent. Nothing too taxing. It’s defining feature is that the road is straight so I could see the climb stretching away ahead of me. About half a mile up the road I could see the fluorescent orange jersey of another rider so that gave me something to aim for. Resisting the temptation to up my pace and chase, I settled into a steady and hopefully sustainable cadence. Sure enough, I gradually closed the gap and after about a mile I caught and overtook my target. The other rider slowed significantly when the road ramped up slightly as it crossed over the A11 whereas I just going at a constant pace.

Is that an up or a down?
After crossing over the A11, the road kicks up slightly and I was passed by another rider who had caught me. Then there is a short descent before the final mile up to Balsham. The second rider, going full gas, opened up a gap as I freewheeled down the descent before heading up the final leg. I had the last laugh though as the other rider ‘blew’ and I passed him about halfway up the ascent. By the time I reached the top the other rider was nowhere to be seen! 2-0 to the Captain methinks!

From Balsham I carried on to West Wickham before turning back on myself to West Wratting and dropping down to the A11 in the process losing all the elevation I had recently gained. Then I doubled back at Six Mile Bottom for the next ascent to Brinkley which is similar to the one from Fulbourn to Balsham. This time it was a climb of about 3.5 miles with an average gradient of 2 percent (the steepest bit doesn’t quite touch 6 percent). The road is also slightly less straight which, to my mind makes it more interesting. With no riders ahead of me I just did my usual thing of choosing a gear that I felt I could stay in all the way to the top and kept spinning along quite happily. It was quite warm now so I was glad of my summer short sleeved jersey.

Whilst riding around the ‘hills’ I was reflecting on what I have seen of this year’s Vuelta. It’s certainly been an eventful race. The Froomedog has asserted his authority and has been wearing the leader’s red jersey for several days. Not that he’s had it all his own way. Whilst he and his team have been pretty dominant, controlling the race with the odd flurry of inspired and attacking riding, the Froomedog has had a couple of ‘moments’ – crashes and mechanicals. The crashes seemed to be more a case of falling-off on a descent rather than the more usual collisions and downs with other riders. The other revelation has been Bertie/El Pistolero (Alberto Contador). Bertie has lit up the race on a couple of occasions with some really aggressive attacking riding which makes for great viewing. Sadly he was apparently unwell at the start of the race which has probably killed off any GC hopes. A shame as this is his final tour before retirement. Stage wins are now the order of battle. I’m sure the Froomedog hasn’t forgotten the 2011 Vuelta which he effectively lost because of an attack by Bertie. So, he’s marking him pretty closely. The other main GC contenders are all there or thereabouts; the Shark (Vincenzo Nibali) is circling at the scent of blood. But it seems to me that their prospects may depend as much on whether or not the Froomedog can stay upright on a working bike as they will on their own riding abilities. The final week has the potential to provide some enthralling racing. Anyway that’s my take on the Vuelta so far.

Something's coming ...
From Brinkley I gradually made my way north east past Bury to home. The closer I got the more I spotted a flurry of yellow signs warning of road closures and traffic delays next Friday. The Tour of Britain, which has a strong start list of World Tour Riders, will be in these parts. In fact it passes along a lane just beyond our village. I’m planning to get out and have a look. I’m not sure where I’ll go but I’ll let you know.


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