Tour of Britain


Conrad suggested that it would be a fun day out to ride to Bury St Edmunds to see the start of Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain. But there were not many takers: Conrad and I were the only two to set out from Cherry Hinton at 07:30, and then we met up with Tony at Little Wilbraham.

We planned to go through Gazeley and Higham, but I made a wrong turning at Ashley, so we went through Ousden and Hargrave instead, rejoining our route at Little Saxham.

The church of St Nicholas stands by the junction at Little Saxham, with its distinctive round tower. According to Mortlock’s Popular Guide to the churches of Norfolk and Suffolk, the lower part of the tower is Saxon, and the bell tower at the top is Norman. There’s certainly a discontinuity in the architecture here, with distinctive Roman (semicircular) arches at the top.

Having benefitted from a tailwind, we got to Bury St Edmunds around 09:15, and found our way through the maze of one-way streets to the start of the race, by the Abbey Great Gate. The square was jammed with people, team buses, race cars, sponsors’ vehicles, cyclists and spectators. In the narrow streets of Bury, people were lined up three deep against the barriers, and it was hard to get a view of the riders as they set off slowly. I held my camera as high above my head as I could reach, and got some photos. (I could see nothing myself!)

We took a longer and more leisurely ride back, taking some lovely narrow lanes south of Bury toward Hartest. As we descended the last hill before Hartest, there was a loud bang! from behind me: Conrad’s inner tube had burst through a gap left by the tire, where the bead had separated from the tread. This took a while to repair, and Conrad didn’t trust the tire to stand full pressure any more, so it was with a rather soft back wheel that he continued. At Denston, we were caught in a rain shower, but it was only a small shower, no more than three or four miles across, so we were able to ride out from under it and make our way damply to Stradishall for a welcome lunch at Tubby T’s.

The strong westerly wind made the last section a bit of a drag, but by about 14:45 we were back in Cherry Hinton having done nearly 70 miles. But it was such a nice afternoon that I put in an extra loop to Coton and Swavesey, and then back along the busway to make it up to 101 miles for the day. At Swavesey, the sky to the west was black with rain from horizon to horizon, so I scarpered back to Cambridge as fast as I could, arriving about half an hour before the thunderstorm.

Thanks to Conrad for organizing the ride!