Sunday, 15 May 2011

Tour of Britain Route through Suffolk and Norfolk

The official launch of the East Anglian stage of this year's Tour took place on Thursday 12th May.

As I revealed recently, the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain will start from Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds on September 17, meander through the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside and end on the royal estate at Sandringham.

The next day the riders will race to the finish in London.

If you're wondering how the organisers have created a 120-mile race stage between Bury and Sandrigham, the answer is that the route takes in a 60-mile loop south then east before heading north to cross the county border near Diss.

Lavenham Church

Parts of the route will be familiar to anyone who's done the 100 mile version of the St Edmunds Wheel, as the professionals race through the picturesque and historic Lavenham and Hintlesham, also taking in Cockfield, Debenham and Eye.

You can also ride this stage yourself in July. Full details of the route and your chance to test yourself before the professionals arrive in September are on the Tour of Britain website.


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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Best Ride This Year

Actually, it's almost eight months since I last cycled this far, and more than that since I last did this route. What I really enjoyed was discovering (now I can measure it properly) that this familiar circuit was a little bit longer than I thought.

That and the sights, sounds and smells of what seemed like early summer.

I 'guesstimated' between 30 and 35 miles for the circuit via Long Melford, Lavenham and Cockfield Green and finally measured it yesterday at 35.44 miles. On a humid and breezy day my usual route south towards Long Melford via Hartest hill was hard work. As I planned to do this longer ride I tried not to over-exert myself in the first leg against the wind but did hope for some serious help on the northward leg to compensate.

I also now know that I slow to between 3.5 and 4mph on Hartest hill...

Reaching the main road at Hartest I was pleased to see 12.7 miles indicated (meaning all my 24-25 mile rides in the past had actually been 25.4 mile long). Long Melford was reached at 15 miles and then I was able to turn northeast-ish towards Lavenham, although the tailwind wasn't making itself particularly evident yet!

Lavenham church was at 20 miles. I seem to remember estimating it at around 18-20, so that was encouraging. My average speed to that point was around 14mph. Turning right at the other end of Lavenham High Street I headed towards Thorpe Morieux and stopped for a snack at the end of the track where I lived for a while some years ago.

It's lovely open countryside out there, gently rolling and almost traffic free. This was just past the 25 mile mark, and after a steady climb followed by a level stretch I reached Cockfield Green at 27.5 miles.

By now my average speed was around 14.5 mph and I started to believe I could manage 15mph overall. With the tail wind (not that you can ever feel a tailwind, you just feel stronger) I was able to ride at 18-20mph for quite long stretches, although I dropped away to 8mph on the last hill of any consequence. By the time I reached Nowton, the average was 15mph exactly and I knew my road speed would be above that for most of the last few few miles so relaxed a little and cruised at around 16-18 most of the way back into town.

I got home to see my average had reached 15.1mph for the 35 plus miles and I had hit a maximum early in the ride of 31mph.

That's probably as good as I was managing last summer when I was supposedly in serious training for Paris to Venice - although the serious work was mostly done in Yorkshire. I don't think the stamina is there yet but it is nice to know I'm not too far off.

The St Edmunds and Norwich 50-milers in 4 and 5 weeks' time are definitely on. A century isn't out of the question, although I don't think we'll be doing any big weekend rides before then.


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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Some More Useful Miles

From now on I'll know exactly how far I've gone, even if I'm not always sure which way I'm going.

Not that I'm that bad a navigator, but the Suffolk lanes can be confusing when an eastward-bound route suddenly seems to snake westwards for a while as I found on Sunday.

Still, my newly fitted cycle computer did tell me how far I'd travelled and how fast I'd got to wherever I happened to be at any particular time.

The computer was a Christmas present but, for various reasons mainly associated with laziness, I only fitted it on the Saturday after Easter. Having fitted it I had to test it, of course, so on Saturday I headed southwards on a route I know (and have measured by car and brother-in-law John's computer).

As I was only planning to ride 'around the block' to test the computer I didn't actually go too far, but I was very pleased that the computer confirmed my impression that, once again, I was much faster riding home than I was on the outbound leg, despite a Northeast wind that should have slowed me coming back. My average speed for the measured 11.4 miles was exactly 15.0mph, which is not quite Tour of Britain pace but is not a bad average on a mountain bike after an idle winter.

So it was on Sunday that I decided, now I could measure distances on less familiar routes, to head eastwards, intentionally taking on a strong headwind component from the strenthening Northeasterly. I wanted to stay south of the A14, so took Rushbrooke Lane east-ish and meandered away from the afternoon sun (mostly) towards Rougham and Bradfield St George.

I was right about the wind: although there was some shelter between the hedges and woods for much of the time, there was always a strongish breeze and occasionally it made itself felt as a strong sidewind, too. At Rougham, after one gusty stretch, I passed a village cricket match that looked idyllic in the early May sunshine. Very soon after this I found myself heading west, so turned around and took a turning towards Bradfield that carried me eastwards again for a while. At around ten miles I decided to turn for home. Average speed to this point was 13.7mph - not bad with that headwind.

The ride back was equally gusty as the wind funnelled down avenues of trees and between hedgerows now in full leaf. When I reached the cricket match again I stopped for a snack and a drink and watched a few overs. There was some decent fast bowling and a good batsman taking advantage of the slower bowler's struggle to bowl line and length against the wind. That must have been a good bat too, as he stroked some very easy looking fours.

After the rest (and a quick check of my average speed - up to 14.7 now) I headed for home, and the wind now gave me the help I expected as I span along at 18-22mph for long stretches. There were still some slower hills, though and some rough and gravelly patches where flat out wouldn't have been a good idea. I was very pleased, then, to get home with an overall average for the 20.3 miles of 15.6 mph. Highest speed was attained a few miles from home at 27.6mph.

A ride the previous week was at an average nearer 14mph, and was a 20 mile there and back ride including 'my hill' at Hartest. Next time I do that route I'll be able to time it properly!

I'm pretty confident about doing the two fifty mile charity rides next month and tempted to go for the century around Bury. There's also another big ride of up to 200km around Suffolk in July for Alzheimers, called Miles for Memories. Now, 200km is about 124 miles, and that's one mile more than I've ever ridden in a single day. Although that was in the hillier West Country (Taunton to Torquay and back) it was also about 25 years ago!

As yet, we (the Paris to Venice group) don't have a tour of any kind planned for this year but we are hoping to at least do a coast to coast together at some point.

Meanwhile, these sunny days are making Suffolk irresistable!


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