It was a day of attrition. Our leader, Tom, was in hospital. (Get well soon, Tom.) Then Joseph dropped out almost at the start, with a dodgy chainring hanging on by its last couple of bolts. So Rupert led the remaining five of us along the towpath down the Cam to Clayhithe, then through Waterbeach and Landbeach, and up Long Drove (with its many bumps where expansion joints have separated) to the Twenty Pence Garden Centre at Wilburton, where we were joined by Vic, Adrian, and Bob.
Bob reported that the café at Tesco in Ely (where we intended to go for lunch) had closed, being replaced by a Costa Coffee. So there was a general consensus to go on to Wicken Fen and have lunch there. Shortly after coffee, Mike (I think) got a puncture, and we agreed to split up, with six of us taking the longer route round via Coveney, and the others going direct.
The skies were getting darker as we headed north, but Rupert opined that we might escape a drenching, as it looked to him as though the wind had blown the stormclouds away to the north. Famous last words! As we turned east from Coveney toward Ely, it began to pour, and we were soon soaked through. Mike and Bob decided to stop at Ely and return to Cambridge by train, while Rupert, Simon, Averil and I decided to skip lunch and return home direct.
At the junction of the A142 with the towpath we met the others who had come direct from coffee. They had tried the towpath but were doubtful about attempting the narrow gravelly path in the driving rain and strong headwind. And who can blame them? It was pretty miserable: even when the rain stopped, there was still the strength-sapping southerly wind blowing uninterrupted across the fens, and the water squelching in our gloves and shoes. I had 54 miles on my computer when I got home, but I have been less tired on rides twice as long.