With the Essex Castle bike ride scheduled for Saturday 14th July 2012, and the Herts & Essex One Day Cycle Challenge on Sunday 15th July 2012, I had to make a decision on which one to do a few weeks ago. Having done the Essex Castle ride last year (report here) the Herts & Essex seemed a sensible idea. And with yesterday seeing rain varying from heavy through to torrential for most of the day, and today being bright and dry, it turned out to be a good decision!
Mind you, when getting up at 6:55 on a Sunday to get across to Bishop Stortford FC Football Ground for 8:20, leaving the other half of Essex Days Out as snug as a bug in bed, it seemed less of a good idea!
Organised by and for the Alzheimer’s Society, the One Day Cycle Challenge offered 100km, 100mile and 200km routes. I’ve nothing but admiration for those who took one of the latter two options, as 100km was challenge enough for myself and my cycling companion, the redoubtable Broad Oak Bullet, who had the additional challenge of staying on his bike this time, unlike our outing at the Tour of Tendring in May (article here).
Most of the first 100km was shared by all riders, and it was with only one or two exceptions on lovely, quiet country roads, enabling riders to enjoy the countryside and the blue skies (a rarity in 2012!), and also see a lot of country pubs that looked worth a visit. Some of the village names were straight from Agatha Christie novels – Manuden, Wicken Bonhunt, Rickling Green, Furneux Pelham.
It has to be said, though, there were several (more than several) steep hills, some very steep. Thaxted was the first checkpoint, with drinks and muesli bars available. Then we did a shorter loop around Duton Hill, passing the Three Horseshoes (read our article from last year’s beer festival), Great Barfield, Finchingfield, and back to Thaxted for lunch. Plenty of carbs to recharge the engines, and thanks to those providing the catering, and the St. John’s Ambulance crew, although the St. John’s lady wasn’t able to help with my complaint (getting older).
Getting out of Thaxted included a steep climb or two, and once we got underneath the M11 we went through Rickling Green and a cricket match on the green that really did look like something from another century!
Final refreshments at Furneux Pelham, overtaking one guy with dodgy knees, who had nothing on the guy we eventually overtook who was managing quite happily with one leg and a prosthetic replacement for his other. Towards the end of the 100k we peeled off to leave the 100m and 200k people (actually they had peeled off long ago), with organisers cheerily encouraging us – undoubtedly laughing to themselves as we arrived at the foot of a very, very, very steep climb.
We wended our way through Bishop’s Stortford and back to the football ground, to be roundly cheered by the thronging masses, with the legs and the gluteus maximus having been complaining ‘are we there yet?’ for some miles!
So, another ride ticked off. Where next? Some options in the right hand column of this page…