Stevenage & N. Herts CTC's cunning plan to ride to Le Tour

Alan, Emma and Jim from Stevenage & N. Herts CTC
Julie Rand's picture

Stevenage & N. Herts CTC's cunning plan to ride to Le Tour

When ride leader Jim Brown hatched a plan to combine a 60-mile ride from Hertfordshire to Essex to watch the Tour de France on Monday 7 July, he wasn't sure if it would come together. Happily it did - and very successfully, with a peloton of 20 riders and Jim acting as their 'super domestique'.

It was always going to be different:

  •  It was a working Monday.
  • There was a time limit.
  •  We were going to see something a bit special.

On a brilliant sunny morning, we gathered on the green. We were already a big group for a longish ride and I knew we were picking up others on the way. Two-and-a-half hours to get to Saffron Walden in time to see LeTour's 'caravanne publicitaire', which we could do without going into warp drive, provided we kept moving. The plan was a target average of 13-15 mph and that if I, or anyone else, had a mechanical or other problem, the rest of the group kept moving. This is how it worked out...

Off we went, but we didn’t far before glass on the Fairlands Way cycleway meant one of the faster guys had a puncture. Quick check of the situation and the first implementation of the cunning plan: Lynn and Christina took the group on, leaving just quicker ones to chase when all was fixed. They found Steve and Rich in Walkern and it was “gruppo completto” at the top of the rise out of the village.

Going well at the top of the rise at Cumberlow Green (A507) we found Stuart waiting for us. We were tracking the 'Start of Summertime' route and it was a lovely day.  Brakes went on briefly at Sandon as Stuart had a mechanical. Then we found John waiting for us at the Silver Ball when we arrived shortly after 9.30am.

John rolled on with some of the 'slower' riders, as some others had a quick banana, chocolate bar and loo stop.  Then it was 'bell from hell' time and off we went again.  Following a conversation the previous day, John had given himself a big head start.

We went straight down the B1368 to Barley with the two groups coming together again on the last rise. This way we got to see Great Chishill windmill.  Pausing for a regroup by the church in Great Chishill, it was taking too long for the sweeper to appear so once again, I sent on the 'slower' riders with Lynn and Christina and went to the sweeper to be told that Steve had punctured but he and Rich knew the way from there.  Checked time and restarted.  Soon caught John and a couple of others but, following a briefing, it was obvious he was not going to make the start of the caravan so Brian and I swung past him.

A few hung off the back but 190+ riders went past in about 45 seconds.  Kids went wild.  Loads of noise.  Party.  Party. And then it was over."

Jim Brown 
CTC Councillor for the East of England

This became a pretty wild two-up. Where was that yellow motorbike with the blackboard to tell us the time to the breakaway group?  It took a few miles but we swept up to them before Wendens Ambo, and breathed a sigh of relief.

The Newport to Cambridge road was eerily quiet as we did our left and right but, without any further fuss, we dropped into Saffron Walden, stopping just short of the traffic lights.  Arrival at 1040.  Neat.  Just time to find places on the corner to watch the caravan, which was due at 1050.  Most of that passed within about 30 minutes so now there was some time to grab souvenirs, coffee, etc., before the race was due at 1250.  In the meantime, James and Charlie, who didn’t get up in time but still cycled, turned up.  We also found lots of other familiar faces in the crowd.

 No, not Stevenage CTC but Team Astana!

Tha​t corner had been crowded so three of us headed some of the way up the road to Radwinter, where it was possible to get views without heads getting in the way.  We saw the breakaway then, about four minutes later, maybe about 180 of the other riders lined out in one very fast moving group.  A few hung off the back but 190+ riders went past in about 45 seconds.  Kids went wild.  Loads of noise.  Party.  Party. And then it was over.

The Stevenage peloton regrouped for the ride home, which was at a rather more sedate pace but we completed the 60-mile round trip at an average pace of 14.2mph and I took over 200 pictures. 

We did it! We saw the caravan, watched Le Tour and got back at a reasonable time. Radios may have helped a little but the unusual plan worked: a proper 'A' ride at an 'A' ride pace.  

Well done everybody!

 

For more information on Stevenage CTC and their very varied programme of Wednesday evening, Saturday afternoon, Friday Flings and longer Sunday rides please visit www.stevenagectc.org.uk  or call Jim Brown on 0793 968 7509.

 

 

 

 

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