27 September 2009 - Oxford to Cambridge Bike Ride.


So what did you have planned for the 27 Sep 09.  Well for myself I decided to join 1200 other riders and take part in the BHF Oxford to Cambridge Cycle Ride, raising much needed money for this worthy charity.  So why did I choose to raise funds for the BHF?  Well, apart from having family members who have had heart problems, and know a few people at work who also have had problems, I myself had a scare at the end of last year with chest pains, and although I was given the all clear it made me think about what may have happened and if any care/recuperation would have been needed. 


So in July of this year I was scanning through the BHF web pages and I found the Oxford/Cambridge Ride listed and decided to enter this event as I now do a lot of cycling.  Not knowing how much I would raise for the charity I set up my web page on and waited for the donations to come in, and in they came at a steady pace.  I had not thought about setting a target, but with online and paper based donations I have managed to raise the grand total of £1045.00.


With the event looming I increased my distances on the bike, riding with the local cycling club, as the furthest I had ridden before was 75 miles, and 89 miles was a bit more of a challenge.  My training went well, and I even managed a ride of 104 miles to Sutton-on-Sea and back, but that did take 10 hours riding with members of the club.


The weekend of the event arrived and Elaine and I had already decided to make a weekend of it, staying for a couple of nights in a Travelodge just outside of Oxford.  On the Saturday we took the bus into Oxford to do a little site seeing and also to find the start of the event at Gloucester Green.  We found the start, only to find it was completely pedestrianised, and was only a green in name.  Having a look around we found a good place to park the car in the morning near the start where Elaine wouldn’t get boxed in after I started the ride.


The morning of the ride we were up at 0530hrs, grabbing some breakfast and a hot drink before departing for the start.  Upon arrival we left the bike in the car, so that we could register at the start tent and collect the T-shirt that I had ordered, as the exchange chit instructed the bearer to pick it up at the start.  We were a little shocked to find that they were just setting up, considering that the event started at 7.  After 20mins of standing around I managed to get to the check in desk only to be instructed that T-shirts weren’t available at the start, but could be collected at the finish, and there was no need to check in at this desk.  Muttering under my breath, we went back to the car to get the bike.  Back to the start and through the starting gate, and we were off, 89 miles to go until we arrived at Cambridge.  The ride took us north out of Oxford and then turning easterly towards Summertown and out into the countryside.  The route for this part was flat, which was nice, but the temperature was quite chilly, but at least it was dry.  We had been promised light winds and lots of sunshine for later, and the forecast didn’t disappoint.  Following the well marked route we passed through some lovely villages, including Woodeaton, Islip, Merton and onto our first checkpoint at Marsh Gibbon approximately 20 miles done.


Elaine was waiting here as we had planned for her to support me around the route, with extra drinks etc so that I did not have to carry too much on the bike.  I had a brief rest and chat and then arranged for Elaine to meet me at Woburn, another 30 miles along the route, as it seemed pointless for her to be at every checkpoint.  Leaving Marsh Gibbon, the route was flat for a couple of miles, until passing through the village of Twyford.  Now the ride got a little harder as this was the start of the hills, with a nice big one climbing up into the village of Steeple Claydon which certainly got the heart pumping.  Carrying on, the route was undulating, with some little surprises on the way.  There was a fair share of downhill sections, but as you are aware, if you are graced with a good decent to start with, it’ll smack you in the face with a good climb out on the other side. 


Cycling through I was thinking to myself how quiet the roads were on this Sunday morning, as it had been at least two hours before a car had even overtaken me.  The sun had broken through and the temperature was rising nicely, and so on I cycled passing through the second checkpoint at Drayton Parslow, and onto Woburn which would be over the half way mark.  One again the hills were there to slow the pace up and enable the lactic acid to build up in the thighs, especially after the steep climb through Great Brickhill.  After this it was a gentle descent through Brickhill, over the A5 and through to The Inn at Woburn, where Elaine was there to meet me.


There wasn’t many cyclists there, as only 30 or so had passed through, and it was also lacking in BHF staff, (I think we had arrived a little early).  The check point itself was a nice hotel, with guests arriving for a wedding or some other type of function, and all they needed was a group of sweaty cyclist traipsing through the reception.  Before Elaine went on to Cambridge she told me that the route should be nice a flat from there.  Wrong!! 


Back in the saddle and a ride through Woburn Country Park, up a nice steep hill and onwards passing through Steppingley and through to Ampthill which was a busy little town.  From there it was onto Haynes and Northwood end, a little more climbing and a bit more lactic acid in my old legs, until reaching the next check point in Northill at the local pub.  Here I decided to stop for a little while and have a sandwich, some thin cheese, two pieces of bread, wrapped in cling film, £3.00, I’ll never complain on the price of baguettes again.


From there I set off to Cambridge with only 25 miles to go.  The route now had eased, the terrain levelling out, and my legs turning a steady 18 – 19 miles an hour.  One crossing area of concern was the crossing at the A1, Sandy, and then onto the road to Everton (was I lost?).  Cycling on and passing through the last check point and the last few villages and under the M11 before reaching the outskirts of Cambridge.  Now the roads got very busy, lots of visitors driving through, and unfortunately having to share these thoroughfares with us eager cyclists, trying to pick a safe way through the traffic!


Only a mile to go and I am looking forward to finishing.  I had already phoned Elaine to let her know I was only about 15 minutes out, so she had organised a pint of lager for me to replenish my fluids, (that is what you are supposed to do, isn’t it?).  Midsummer Common looms in the distance, and I spy the finish line.  Unfortunately it is on a field, and therefore I am unable to have my Tour-de-France finish, arms in the air etc, but at least my beer was there. A good day, with no injuries.  Completed the route in 6 hours 10 minutes, with a total riding time of 5 hours 30 minutes which was my target!


I would like to thank all my sponsors for helping to raise such a great total, and also my wife Elaine who supported me throughout the day, and drove me safely home afterwards.  What to do next year?


Paul Hennessey