Sunday, 19 September 2010

By the Purple, Of the Purple, For the Purple

The TroisV owe you an apology dear reader(s). More than a week has gone by without a post.

No Bike Porn Friday, despite Dr Matt's excellent idea of delighting our Finnish followers with the variant 'Bear Porn Friday'

No TroisV Repair Shop , despite the fact that I fitted new handlebars AND changed a brake cable all by myself (with a little help from Sheldon (and I had to have two goes at the brake cable)).

No, neither of these things. We are sorry, readers.

However, our excuses are fine ones. Dr Doug is in the Western Colonies shouting encouragement at his favorite cricket sqaudron, the Chicago Blue Stockings. Dr Matt is probably thinking about Rapha. And I was too busy to post because I was preparing for one of the highlights of my cycling year, my annual charity ride across East Anglia for the Laura Case Trust.

The bright idea of a man whose solution to every question in life is a bicycle ride, but actually established, organised, mapped and generally made to happen by a magic pixie, The Great East Anglia Bike Ride is now in its fourth year of raising thousands of pounds for this exceptionally fantastic charity.

The ride traditionally starts in Cambridge, where Laura studied medicine, and finishes at her parents' home, where they spend the day of the ride wafting the smell of boeuf bourguignon and homemade cider across the fens to entice the riders to the finish line.

The route is just one of the many traditions on this ride.

The first is the start time, always billed at 8:30am sharp, but after waiting for everyone to arrive, having final croissants, last-minute wee stops, and posing for flattering photos:

we usually don't get away until at least an hour after that. Then comes the next great tradition - arguments about directions.

Having spent a happy evening before the ride plotting the route into the GPS, I was confident I knew how to travel the 126km. But I hadn't actually seen the route. "Right!" I cried. "No, it's left" shouted Ben. We discussed it like friends, friends blocking city centre traffic, and then I conceded the point and followed him.

We all pedalled merrily through the heart of the Silicon Fen losing track of where we all were. I looked up and saw a rider in a pink t-shirt (pink and purple being the two colours of the ride) ahead of us. Somehow Ben had slipped past me. I led a deputation to catch up with him and continue the ride. It turned out not to be Ben, but the exact opposite of him - a pretty girl.

Undaunted, I turned to the trusty purple line, and cut through the inconvenience of Cambridge's one-way system to regain contact with my virtual friend. Soon after I espied some of my actual friends, and a quick 'phone call later, the ride was back together again, ready for the adjusting of saddles and the scoffing of Clif Bars.

No TroisV club ride, nor any ride associated with the Trois V, would truly be complete without wheels rolling over a National Cycle Network route, and the GEABR is no exception as the first two thirds of the ride is on NCN51.

Once it gets going into the countryside NCN51 is beautiful, but before it does that, it meanders confusingly through through the Cambridge suburbs. I think at one point it even goes through someone's garden. And we all got very lost, but by cleverly remembering the 'zoom out' button on the Garmin, I spotted the purple line and got us back on track, after a few "scenic" detours.

You really know that the GEABR has got going when you pass under this magnificent monument:

Which is an extremely impressive way to enter a supermarket car park.

From Cambridge the route goes through Newmarket (where that's not sand on the floor, kids), up into the glorious Fens:

Through Moulton (where none were spotted), Barrow (not the one that Lizzie knows), both Saxhams, and into Bury St Edmunds. Now this town is famous both for the Greene King Brewery, and as the resting place of the body of Edmund the Martyr.

What the history books don't tell you is that Edmund actually died of frustration trying to navigate his way out of the town. This year we made it almost all the way through before getting lost.

This is always doubly frustrating because we know that when we get to Bury, lunch is not far away. As we (finally) left the town, the purple line suggested that lunch was left. The roadsign said that lunch was to the right. Caught on the horns of a dilemma, I trusted the purple line, and set off alone with a cry of 'see you at the pub'.

Would I get there first, or would I get egg all over my face? As I passed a sign pointing in the direction I was going that read 'NCN51 - Diversion', I let out a joyous laugh of smug self-satisfaction, and as I rode along the side of the field where the model aeroplanes always confuse some members of the group, I knew that I would have the honour of getting in the radlers to welcome the ride in for lunch.

Last year, we stumbled upon a wonderful pub called The Fox, in the village of Pakenham. So delighted was the landlord to see us that year, that he vowed to put on a barbeque for us this year, and get a few locals along to make an afternoon of it. We smiled politely and thought little further of it, but when he was called the week before the ride, not only had he bought 850 chicken legs, but he'd also booked a Macedonian pop star ("a real one") to greet our arrival.

When I got there, I found this sign:

And I knew that the legends were true.

We settled in for our barbeque:
but, alas, the Macedonian musical marvellousness had not showed. He'd 'phoned the pub to say "Ḱe bide malku docna", and we had to set off without seeing him. Perhaps the video at the end of this post is him, perhaps not, we'll never know.

The bit after lunch is always a touch grim, filled as it is will hills, a full stomach, and a lack of beer. It was made more mentally testing by a profusion of punctures and the sky beginning to bruise, but we pressed on and found our second, third and fourth winds.

The group reached Eye and hatched a plan to shorten the route slightly from the advertised list of villages. I decided to press on the long way round - the purple line had been a loyal servant, so I would honour it by following it until the gps played its strangely satisfying finishing tune.

The batteries packed in ten km from the finish.

Falling back on iPhone and roadsign navigation, I rolled into the finish village a respectable five and half hours of pedalling time and 121km since the start. There I found the local cider baron and his scion; the Club Mascot and her mum; and the Club Mascot's new best friend. It was a veritable baby party. I showered, waited for the others to arrive, and we enjoyed our hosts' glorious hospitality and feasted on protein, carbs and herring,

So, loyal readership, I hope this was a worthy reason for disappointing you with lack of posting this week, and I also hope that you can reach into your pocket and give whatever you can to a fine charity. The link to donate is here, and I and all yesterday's riders will be very grateful for anything you can give:



  1. Mmmh. Rapha.

    That's not a bad kph. Consider yourself sponsored.

  2. Actually, it's all about DHB these days: