Windmillers Tom & Brian took part in last Sunday’s Tour of Cambridgeshire; an 80 mile run catering for everyone from elite racers to, well, Windmillers like us.
Waiting for the off at the Peterborough Showground, we were just a little apprehensive having rarely pedalled more than 40 miles with Maurice and the gang on our regular Thursday outings. But here we were, Tom in his Marmite outfit and Brian in tomato red, surrounded by fit looking types on fancy machines all talking about about their last enduro race. These guys didn’t look like they were going to stop for a coffee.
The scale of the operation was impressive; 8000 riders had to be registered, our bikes electronically tagged, 80 miles of roads closed to traffic and feeding stations set up along the way ready to dole out industrial quantities of sausage rolls, energy bars, bananas and bottled water. And we were to be shepherded around the Fens by a posse of motorcycle outriders from the National Escort Group.
The first few miles saw some hairy moments. There’s not much room for error with that many riders packed together on winding country lanes and, sure enough, we saw some casualties keeping the paramedics busy. But once out in the Fens we started to relax and enjoy ourselves. The sunshine, the open vistas, the camaraderie; bowling along roads completely free of cars was a real joy.
And with their roads closed to traffic, the locals in the villages really were a captive audience, enjoying beers in the sunshine while, alarmingly, their kids were in the road attempting high fives with cyclists. “C’mon Marmite!” they yelled at Tom.
We also observed that Fenlanders don’t seem to have much regard for Europe. Vote Leave posters were everywhere; we didn’t see a single one for Remain.
We took the first 40 miles at quite a clip. By 50 miles, however, Brian was flagging, whereas Tom was still going strong, encouraged by the vision just ahead who we dubbed Miss Gold. She knows who she is.
The final 10 miles back to the Showground were tough going but we turned in a respectable time of 5½ hours; not bad for dads, we thought.
We also have a healthy respect for the Windmillers recently returned from Scotland. We may have had a long day in the saddle – but they had the additional challenge of steep inclines, loaded panniers and whisky hangovers.
Would we do it again next year? Maybe; but let’s first get over the persistent numbness in our rear ends.