With 160 miles as my previous biggest ride, 250 was quite a significant jump up. But I was confident that I could do it, even if it meant waking at 2:05 in the morning! So off went the alarm and up I jumped surprisingly awake and definitely ready for the day ahead. I don’t know quite how I managed to be so sprightly at that time in the morning but it was a really good start.
By 2:34 I was meeting Wayne by the railway bridge and we were joined by Andy shortly after passing the Peterborough football ground on our way to the agreed start point in Cathedral Square. That’s where the final rider of our group of four, Richard, was added to our number and after a brief pose for photos we were into our first mile of the 250 @ 3:02 AM.
The early morning roads were as clear as you’d expect and with a light tailwind the riding came easy along the flat fenland roads of Cambridgeshire. I’m pretty sure we popped our heads into Lincolnshire at one point too on our way to King’s Lynn.
So our spirits were flying when we descended on McDonald’s at King’s Lynn for our first scheduled stop. There’s not much else open at 5:30 Am and the chance to take my first coffee of the day was appreciated. Alongside a porridge I also picked up a toasted bagel for the next part of the journey ahead.
Walking out of McDonald’s it became clear that the forecast of morning rain would indeed come true. It was only light spots at King’s Lynn but throughout the morning from there until we approached Cromer we would find ourselves blighted by the wet weather, at times coming really heavily too. My lack of a rain jacket was rued, especially during moments of stopping; the shivering moments.
Fortunately it took the rain a while to get properly heavy and I did manage to munch my way through the paper wrapped, cream cheese loaded, toasted bagel that I’d stuffed into my jersey pocket before the rain made a mess of it. We also made our traditional pilgrimage to the Hunstanton lighthouse for the usual photos.
Arriving in Cromer we made an immediate beeline for breakfast and met up with our support car for the first time. Thanks to David for being our attentive support driver. Breakfast for me came in the form of bacon and eggs with lovely thick toast at Café Main. It’s a café that I would definitely recommend stopping at as a cyclist passing through. Not only is the food great but there’s bike racks right out in front too.
The ride down from Cromer to Gt Yarmouth saw a significant change in the weather and by the time we arrived at midday it was getting lovely and warm. When finalising our 250 mile route we decided that you couldn’t ride through Gt Yarmouth without doing a full length of the seafront, so we rode down as far as we could to the port before coming back up the other side to cross over the river.
Avoiding the busy A12 between Gt Yarmouth and Lowestoft is a tricky planning task and so our route took Warren Road even though we weren’t sure if it would be paved all the way or not. As it happens, it’s not. But being adventurous types we carried on regardless and did a bit of off-roading on the road bikes. (Look out for a video including this later).
L is for Lowestoft, L is for lunch. And so at around 2 pm, about 12 hours after waking up, there I sat munching away at a tuna baguette accompanied by a full sugar coke (I’m was sure I’d be using the calories). Up until this point we had been riding with the wind at our backs or to the side as a cross wind. Now however from Lowestoft we turned directly into a headwind for the first time. It was quite a change from the mostly favourable wind conditions that we had been experiencing so far on our way around the Norfolk coastline. Possibly the lack of any significant stopping locations took it’s toll too. We had hoped to meet the support car half way to Thetford in a small village but found out that there really isn’t anything out there. So we put our heads down into the wind and battled on.
For one rider I think this was asking too much and by the time we reached Thetford, the question of taking a seat in the car came up. However, determined as he is he decided to battle on and see how things went for the next few miles at least. After all, Thetford was our Fish & Chip shop stop for teatime and we’d all get a rest, some more food and maybe a little renewed strength. We had also reached 200 miles by this point, a significant landmark.
Unfortunately a short time after passing through Brandon we were down to three riders as the question of climbing into the support car became a reality for one. There’s certainly no shame in managing 210 miles though! With only March now separating us from the glorious return home the remaining three of us dropped into a single line and took turns on the front, trying to maintain as much pace as we could to get home in good time.
This worked well and with the landscape having now become as flat as a bowling green and the wind completely still we made some good time on this final section. Sure there was one final stop in March but that was only to put on jackets against the cold evening air. And so about 20 minutes before midnight we finally passed through the ‘Welcome to Peterborough’ sign and had completed the mission of 250 miles in a single ride.
I think it’s fair to say that we were all very pleased with how well we did on this ride. It has become our longest ever ride for all of us and something that not many other people have bettered. The only question to answer now is ‘What’s up next?’.
My Strava Data – https://www.strava.com/activities/634558420
I also created a JustGiving page to go alongside the event and raise some money for WaterAid; feel free to donate here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Matthew-Smith141 – You can still donate post-event.