Author Topic: Tomsk's Essex Events  (Read 19728 times)

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #50 on: April 20, 2014, 01:20:47 pm »
Sorry all - feeling guilty now. I've already made promises at home - we've got a sailing boat to go into the water and that has taken priority (too many hobbies, not enough weekends).

I'll be around next weekend so it's a definate no. I WILL be doing it at some point in the future. Promise.

Enjoy it I'll be thinking of you.
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #51 on: April 20, 2014, 04:19:27 pm »
If I had a yacht I'd priortise getting that into the water too!

No guilt, just extreme encouragement. We all want other people to be as crazy ;-)

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #52 on: April 20, 2014, 04:34:59 pm »
I'm entered. Last time I was in this part of the world it was my final day of LEL and it was hot and windy making it a real slog across the fens. A little less heat and a lot less wind would be nice please.

The older you get, the better you get, unless you are a banana.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #53 on: April 25, 2014, 11:43:42 am »
Looks dry and 9-10 degrees overnight.   Wet Saturday lunchtime and afternoon.   Tailwind out and headwind home.

Think that should be Ok.    In the last 2 years I have had a drenching and then freezing conditions overnight.

Booked on a train home just after 4pm.   Haven't slept as much as I would have liked to this week so expect the dozies somewhere.



  • ACME's Head of Sexual Health and Family Planning
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #54 on: April 25, 2014, 06:37:59 pm »
I'm all set and ready for my biryani.

Managed 3 hours kip this afternoon  :thumbsup:

Feel more up for it than I did earlier today. I don't mind getting wet in the last quarter, I'll be soggy whilst having a pint at Manningtree station.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #55 on: April 25, 2014, 07:26:18 pm »
Starting to liven up, achy and fuzzy head earlier. A coffee before the start should get me going, then sunrise around Swaffham should be a boost.


  • Full of bon courage.
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Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #56 on: April 25, 2014, 07:28:04 pm »
The sun rise and the woods was a delight last year (especially after the bitterly cold night). Judging by the state of things last weekend, you will also not be short of yellow fields this year.

Enjoy it and ride safe everyone!
Right! What's next?

Ooooh. That sounds like a daft idea.  I am in!


  • Too much Mardle makes you late!
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #57 on: April 26, 2014, 05:57:21 pm »
Well done Tom. I finished it this time. Great ride and lovely breakfast babes , sorry I mean lovely breakfast stop. Even made it back for the train back to Norfolk, just. Would have been quicker to ride straight home from the cafe.   :thumbsup: thank you.


  • ACME's Head of Sexual Health and Family Planning
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #58 on: April 26, 2014, 07:04:05 pm »
Tough ride for me, the night was very dark (yes I know thats usual) but there wasn't any moonlight and the first you knew of a hill was when your reaching for a lower gear. Today was blustery.

Thanks for organising Tomsk, you are a sadist though based on start time and 'rolling' Essex countryside before arrivee.

Well done OD on your performance, great job!!


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Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #59 on: April 26, 2014, 07:11:35 pm »
the first you knew of a hill was when your reaching for a lower gear.

Should've taken the fixed ;).
What on earth am I doing here on this beautiful day?! This is the only life I've got!!


  • ACME's Head of Sexual Health and Family Planning
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #60 on: April 26, 2014, 07:48:35 pm »
I'd be more jiggered than I am now. Hats off to those that did.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #61 on: April 27, 2014, 09:22:50 am »
Well done OD on your performance, great job!!

Thank you.

I am quite surprised that my body coped so well given the poor number of miles I had ridden before the start.  I decided not to jump on any chains and ride at my own pace preserving as much energy as possible. I also kept faffing to a minimum and didn't stop for long - just kept plodding along at a modest pace.

Thanks as always to the legend who is Tomsk. Hope to see lots of you on the Asparagus and Strawberries.

Phil W

Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #62 on: April 27, 2014, 03:27:22 pm »
Great event, when I saw a lot of  bikes outside Mogul felt I'd missed an essential part; loved the night riding, my god Suffolk and Norfolk roads are straight and long. Spent a whole night star gazing and spotting constellations. First petrol station was open, and had a hot bakery bit to lean against. Sunrise a little before Burnham Deepdale was a delight to see, as was expecting rain to arrive by then. Wind on way back reminded me of last day of LEL but without the heat. Midnight start was perfect and gave an early afternoon finish. The fields were indeed vivid green and yellow this year. Waitrose cafe did an excellent porridge with honey, and my first contactless purchase! Can recommend the Seasons cafe in Needham Market, comfy sofas, chocolate brownies and chai tea, nice. Crown pub in Manningtree recommended for beer, and of course final receipt. We had to have two pints to ensure we both had a receipt ;-)

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #63 on: April 28, 2014, 04:20:57 pm »
Great ride for my first 300, many memorable moments - bowling along through the forest under the stars with that tailwind. Magical time just as its getting light and the dawn chorus starts. I could have eaten two breakfasts at Burnham Deepdale. Had a tough time just after that with a combination of headwind, rain and doziness but weather wasn't as bad as I thought it might be and nice to finish in some sunshine.

A number of people commented on my choice of sports nutrition at Waitrose - 3 x Magnum ice creams - did the trick though! This was the most social ride I've done yet, good to meet people from here at the Mogul curry house, thanks for the company deniece, daveco and others. Big thanks also to Ian and John for their company for most of the second half of the ride - it was nice to have some well deserved beers together at Manningtree station.

When people tell me I must be mad and ask why I do this I still don't know quite how to answer them but I've already got the Asparagus and Strawberry 400 on the calendar.....

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #64 on: April 28, 2014, 04:57:10 pm »
Oooohhhh that last 90 miles into a headwind by myself was hard. Loved the run up to the coast at speed but of course I knew I'd suffer a little for it and I did. Still pleased that I sort of thought I would be ok for that distance and I was despite having no miles in the legs at all. Hooray for me...

Favourite bits: knocking on the door of McDonalds at 5am with a rogue crew. Sunrise and early morning drifting through Norfolk around the country houses. The fact that the cafe had Gluten Free sausages (I carried my own bread!)
Not so favourite bits: My front tire sidewall deciding to split just as I was overtaken by a group who looked like they might help me with my headwind issue - booted it but also bought a spare tyre in Wynwhateversham. The old A12. No gluten free food in the Waitrose - but at least there was a whole supermarket behind me where I could get something to eat...

Thanks to Tomsk for the ride - were you one of those on a fixed? - and see you all for strawberries soon.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #65 on: April 28, 2014, 05:16:37 pm »
Fast ride up to the first control, initally on my own then with Wilkyboy, Veloman and the orange tandem.   Couldn't get into the correct garage so ducked back to the other one.   Hung onto the same group until just before Swaffham where I needed a hedge and decided to relax the pace.   Quick pavement picnic in the town square as team Tomsk turned up.   Pushed on on my own and then got picked up by Ridehard.    Got to Deepdale at 6.45 so decided to ride onto Burnham Market where we found a garage for a snack.

Into the wind to Wymondham and I started to struggle.   Has a tetchy moment waiting to be served in the Waitrose caff but the food turned up pretty quick.   Rode with Tomsk to Stowmarket, had a quick snack in Needham Market and pushed on to Manningtree.   Controlled in the town and had a coffee in a place called Rio (?) that served a very good espresso and vintage TdF photos in the toilet.   A class establishment.

Caught the intended train just after 4 and home just after 6 for 12hrs kip.

See you all on the Asparagus & Strawberries.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #66 on: April 28, 2014, 06:27:39 pm »
I did my one and only SR in 2012 and have ambitions to do the PBP next year, but that said I'm not a hugely experienced audaxer.  This year I have yet to manage a 1000 miles and on Easter Monday suffered horribly whilst attempting a 100k DIY.  So my confidence levels going into the G&YF were low, I contemplated pulling out but thought "what's the worst that can happen?"  So I did me a plan based on getting up to Burnham Deepdale by 0730 resting for an hour and then aiming to be back at Manningtree by 1900 which gave me an hour in hand for unexpected eventualities.  Slow and steady was what I wanted and knew I would spend most of the ride alone as others would just whiz past.

The outward leg was fine helped of course by the lovely tail wind.  I stopped at Barton Mills for about 20 minutes then pressed on.  I had another stop at Swaffham just after dawn.  I made a vain attempt to keep up with the tandem group but fell off the back knowing their pace would do me no favors.  Burnham Deepdale was reached just before schedule and as the food was quickly served and I felt fine I pushed on after about 40 minutes.  Again I joined a group, this time with the Flying Helmets and Tomsk, but again they were too quick.

Despite having breakfast not long before I stopped at the garage by the roundabout on the outskirts of Fakenham for coffee, Coke and flapjack plus a chat with some friendly locals.  The headwind was nasty but I just plodded along.  Got to Wymondham just as the Flying helmets were leaving and sat in Waitrose chatting to Wilky Boy.  The next leg was very slow, it took 4 hours to get to Needham Market.  I stopped twice, once for a poo in a field  ;D and another for an ice cream.  Also spotted a fellow rider having a kip in a bus shelter  :thumbsup:

There were quite a few riders in Needham Market, I didn't stay long and expected most of them to pass me but they didn't, in fact I caught two riders I'd being playing tag with for most of the day.  Got back to Manningtree at about 1720 feeling pretty fresh.  I think the plan helped a lot and I got my eating bang on as well.  Biryani before the off, fry up at Burnham, flapjack, lattes, Coke, a Mars Bar and chocolate milk for the rest of the time. 

Some photos ...

Witham train station, another adventure begins!

Curry - the food of heros.  Washed down with a pint of Cobra  :D

Barton Mills.  Me bike guarded by The Man!


My 305k face.  Which to be fair, is the same as all my other stupid faces!


  • Fueled by cake since 1957
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #67 on: April 28, 2014, 07:40:24 pm »
Aaawwww - you're all being so nice!

Thanks for the tow - various heroes, you know who you are.

I was impressed by the service at Deepdale [under new management too] and have emailed thanks on everyone's behalf. They apologised for getting a few breakfasts muddled or served to later customers first, but I thought they did very well. Next year I'll arrange a headwind to slow down/spread everyone out on the way there and then speed us through the second half  ;D

That's another stage towards my goal of a Fixed Essex SR on my own events  :thumbsup: Thinks: Hmmm shall I do PBP on fixed again??

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #68 on: April 28, 2014, 08:03:29 pm »
Great event and worth the 360 mile round trip to get there!

Great to ride with Wilkyboy, Rob and Orange Tandem again.  Wilkyboy's new machine (with big wheels) is very nice and full credit to him for riding shortly after returning from USA; the jet-lag and associated sleep deprivation of night riding can't have been much fun!

Ride out was fun and sociable with the impromptu McDs in Swaffam (just to waste time) being a nice touch.

Ride back was less fun due to a rather annoying wind, but still an enjoyable event with very little of the moist stuff around.

Thanks to Tom for organising a great event and the start time of 0001 has many advantages, not least for those wishing to experience night riding for the first time as the overnight ride was a very sociable event and little chance of getting lost/stranded.

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #69 on: April 28, 2014, 09:18:21 pm »

Evidence of off-piste snacking...

Same crew carving towards Breakfast number 2

Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #70 on: April 28, 2014, 10:46:57 pm »
Last year I worked all day, had the curry and almost fell asleep on the bike on the way to Barton Mills. This time stayed in bed most of the day, arrived in good time and had a short nap, before meeting the usual crowd at Manningtree station to exchange greetings. It was exciting being part of the hi viz mainly yellow swarm going up Cox's Hill, the last time I saw most of the riders.

Being more alert I enjoyed the night section, briefly joining Liam and Neil, the latter executing a perfect roll after hitting a crater in Mill Lane early on, just a few yards in front of me. No harm done, just got back on the bike and carried on. Prior to Barton Mills they passed me again, joined by Deniece, with whom I managed to stay in contact at every control.

A latte at the Esso garage, then up to Swaffham for the sunrise. At this point I did feel sleepy, but pushed on to Burnham Deepdale in the expectation of tea and hot food before facing the headwinds and threatened heavy rain. To my dismay a group of schoolchildren had beaten me to the cafe, and despite being a solitary rider I was told that it would be a 20 minute wait to be served. Too much dead time, so I went next door and bought a sandwich and banana milkshake.

Turning into the headwind with cold food and drink inside was uncomfortable to start with, but thoughts of a pot of tea and a rest at Wymondham spurred me on. Deniece had by now hooked up with two different riders and I joined them to have my pot of tea, gratis thanks to my Waitrose card, and a pecan danish washed down with a bottle of coke. Being the back end of the field I like to set interim time targets to ensure that I do not let time drift, and this allows for any emergencies, nothing worse than being out of time with a mechanical. Once past the last control it does not really matter if I have bought enough time, as was the case again. I rolled into Manningtree chip shop for double jumbo sauasage and chips an a coffee before the long drive home, three layby naps on the way and home in time to see Man U thrash Norwich.

Only six minutes time difference to last year, when I stopped to sleep twice, but my Garmin froze and the whole ride had to be deleted to clear it, so no idea of moving speed or time off the bike. The drag to Stowmarket went on forever.

So once again two parts of the Essex SR completed, roll on Asparagus and Strawberries. A nice flat 300 to Skegness coming up this weekend, plus a 56k Essex Brevet on Monday towards the Essex Slam.


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Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #71 on: April 29, 2014, 09:00:37 am »
Great ride, although having been regaled with tales about frozen water bottles from the 2013 edition, we weren't so disappointed that we missed it last year. Sadly we missed the curry, it would have been a great way to start, but the front of tandem just couldn’t get away from work early enough. So our compromise was to catch a train arriving an hour before the depart and to go to the Mogul for a quick coffee and to say hello. It was good to meet up with some previous companions (struggled to recognise Willkyboy to start with on the large wheels – sorry) and link up with some new ones.  I guess we were in the first big bunch at the Barton Mills control and discovered the “official” garage was not going to admit us. We turned back for the earlier northbound one, but not in time to stop the next big bunch repeating the manoeuvre  – which resulted rather amusingly in the A11 apparently being filled with cyclists in both directions at 3am!

Even with our unofficial detour to the McDs “near” Swaffham, we arrived at Burnham only about 10 mins after they opened. Great service considering we all swarmed in in a very short space of time, and good to have such a large number of riders all sitting down together and chatting, with very few apparently fretting about getting going again. We left Burnham in a large group, maybe 15-20 strong but gradually the wind and the pace on the front took their toll. We clung on and managed to make it to Wymondham – I think there were only 7 of us left by then!  Massive thank-yous to the heroes (animals?) who led us on. Although we were OK for pace on the flat sections, we just couldn’t get up the inclines fast enough to really contribute much on the front – sorry guys, we’ll try and make it up to you on the fens one day.

We decided to have a leisurely stop at Waitrose - we had brought our cards with us so were determined to have our free tea, and the porridge hit the spot. By then our gang had departed so we set off on our own on the next leg. We overtook someone (blue surly?) not far down the road, and then shortly after Dave suddenly panicked that he had left his water bottle in Waitrose, lost concentration and we left the road in favour of the verge.  He manfully kept a grip on the steering and we duly re-joined the carriageway, but these things don’t happen too fast on a tandem. So if Mr Blue Surly is reading this, please be assured that no he hadn’t been at the gin and we don’t normally overtake people and then career off the road! Next up was a minor navigational error – we missed the sign for New Buckenham or so we thought. A quick look at the map (we are traditionalists) showed us an alternative route to avoid retracing our steps. Tomsk later confirmed that the sign was missing so maybe we weren’t the only ones to get this wrong.

I debated a quick side trip down memory lane in Stowmarket to see my old school, but it was the wrong side of town so we opted for the back road to the Alder Carr farm shop and café, We’ve used this as a control on our London-Norwich DIY – sometimes their service can be a bit ponderous but this time it was reasonably slick and we sat with the Tomsk gang enjoying tea and scones. The short last leg back to Manningtree gave us wonderful blue to add to the green and yellow fields. The bluebells in Dodnash Wood beside the road  after leaving the A12 were amazing, best I've seen so far this year.

Amazingly considering the forecast, we had only short periods of light spitty rain, very different to the anticipated 2-3 hours of heavy stuff. Our first official 300 in 16.5 hours (of which a considerable portion was spent in cafes), see you all on A&S?


  • Fueled by cake since 1957
Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #72 on: April 29, 2014, 10:27:36 am »
^ Yes, we appreciated the bluebells too - pretty spectacular. We went for a walk on the following day round the woods in Dunmow, but nothing like as good.

Auntie Helen

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Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #73 on: April 29, 2014, 03:41:18 pm »
Sorry to have missed the curry for this (although not the ride, obviously). Still, I live 100 metres from an Asparagus and Strawberries farm now so I will think of you all for the next one as I am tucking into my Erdbeeren.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake –


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Re: Tomsk's Essex Events
« Reply #74 on: April 29, 2014, 05:19:49 pm »
There is definitely something perversely comforting about night riding and Tomsk's Green & Yellow Fields 300, with its one-minute-past-midnight start, delivers in spades: quiet roads, calm weather, deserted towns and villages, the moon and the stars, you can't see where you're going (so any hill could be either very big or just a blip), the dawn chorus at full volume, sunrise.  I find a feeling of calm and serenity that I don't get during the day and I do enjoy a good bit of lanes by lamplight.  There's also a feeling of mischief and insubordination about being out and about when everyone else is tucked up in bed.

It's also an x-rated event, which means garage forecourts and supermarket benches, but it also means the organiser, Tomsk, can take part in the ride as well, which I think is great!

It was an eerie gathering at Manningtree Station, meeting up with Tim first at just after 23.30, and other riders joining a few at a time.  I very nearly didn't make it because the guard at Cambridge refused to let me take my bike on the train as there were already twice as many as they claim it's safe to carry.  He eventually relented when I threatened offered to sing him anything he'd like and we proved it was still safe with one more.



This is only my second calendar ride since November, and only my second on funny-sized wheels, so there was a certain amount of double-take and friendly banter given and taken by those I had ridden with last year  :D  There was also an element of Russian Roulette, because the wheels were new — to include a dynamo for this event — and hand-built, by me — the first wheels I've ever built.  And I hadn't even ridden them any distance yet!!

It was great to see Veloman, Big Saxon, DavidC, Rob, Halloween, Denise, others (whose names I will be reminded of in due course) and of course Tomsk at the start.

We started in the usual way: a rush up Cox's Hill to split the group.  We followed Denise who had local knowledge about severe potholes on the provided route and so took us on a diversion ... which also had potholes.  But with another local, whose front door we passed, we were guided back to the given route, where we rejoined a few other riders.  With a gentle tailwind and above-freezing temperatures we made good time.

The first stage is a 75km ride through Essex to Mildenhall (almost) and so was typically Essex-lumpy.  We set a good pace and for a while Veloman and I sat on the front and made sure it didn't drop too far: it's easy in the dark to misjudge your speed and think you're going faster than you are, so I kept the numbers lit up and we cruised along nicely.  There's no point in over-doing it, though, because Tomsk's rides tend to be 25kph upper speed, with a view to keeping riders grouped together for company, which works well.  As we rode we seemed to pick up riders in ones and twos and it formed into a good sociable bunch, which I enjoyed (last year I tended to ride on my own or with a single partner, due to the gearing constraints I had imposed on myself).

At some point we must've dropped Denise, but in the dark it's impossible to tell from the front when riders are dropping off the back, because when you look behind you are blinded by all the head torches and bike lights, which is so disorientating that you're likely to unbalance into the nearest ditch!  It's hard enough trying to take any photos.  So, sorry Denise  :-[



We picked up Rob on his fixie after an hour or so and it was good to catch up on his news.  Although he stopped to flip his wheel once we got to the end of Essex (and the route got a whole lot flatter), he soon caught us again and stayed with the group into Barton Mills (nr Mildenhall) control.

As others have said, it's a garage forecourt control, with two garages available on either side of the dual carriageway.  We went to the "official" one, which is around the roundabout, but the cashier had been told we would be through by 01.30 — in fact the control doesn't open until 03.01 — and he wasn't able to open the doors now, so we returned to the first garage where we could go inside to warm up and get coffee.  Even with this diversion we were exactly on time, so we'd ridden a good pace on the first leg — thumbs up to funny-sized wheels (and profligate number of gears)  ;)

Last year when we got to this control the forecast temperature of +2ºC had dropped to around -4ºC and fell further to nearly -7ºC!!  Most people's bidons froze, as well as my brake cables (they are inverted and seemingly collect water).  The cashier had refused to open the door and by the time I had a receipt, I was almost hypothermic!!  Only riding away at high cadence restored any core warmth and my extremities were ice blocks for nearly half an hour.  What a complete change for this year: nearly 10ºC warmer and plenty warm enough, a really pleasant evening to ride in  :thumbsup:  Also, it seemed that most of the riders arrived within 15 minutes of each other and so it was a very sociable forecourt gathering at 3am — mildly bemusing for the cashier.


The second leg is an A-road bash in the dark around Mildenhall and Lakenheath airbases to Swaffham, which then becomes a laney/B-road sight-seeing fest in the morning's new light up to the Norfolk coast at Burnham Deeping for breakfast.  In spite of the A-roads being fairly dull, we had a good group together and it was very sociable.

Most of our original group rode off before we were ready, so Veloman and I tucked down for a couple of kilometres work to tag back on the back — Veloman doing most of it, as he's a lot stronger.  We tucked in at the back to let our legs recover, but the bhoot tandem was doing a fine job on the front keeping the pace high and Rob mentioned that it was a little too quick for him.  I took the front again to bring the pace down a notch and ride to the numbers again, but Veloman mentioned that I may have mispaced it myself as the Red Bull was having a 'positive' effect  :facepalm:

We caught up with Halloween and a VC Norwich rider (whose name I can't remember) and tucked in behind for a while.  They seemed happy on the front and the pace was about right.  The numbers suggested even at that pace we'd be at the breakfast control about 40 minutes before it was due to open (and about 10 minutes after the control was due to open), so I suggested a short (3km) detour to MacDonald's in Swaffham for a coffee: the group voted yes and we turned off the main route momentarily.  We arrived at McD's at 5am exactly when the doors were being unlocked and I daresay brightened up the staff's day ... It was at this point I noticed we'd accidentally lost Rob, which was a shame: if he'd stayed with us then he would've been able to use the loo instead of the hedge as he reported elsewhere — sorry, mate  :-[



It was a quick stop in McD's and we were quickly back out on the road.  It was amazing how much lighter the world was than 20 minutes earlier and we could easily ride without lights now.  Watching for the second left after we rejoined the route caught a few riders out: it's a fair distance to the first left, but the second left is right there with it, and everyone except a couple of us missed the turn and had to turn around, including the tandem, which was fun to watch  ;)



Up through the gate into the picturesque Castle Acre and through to a lovely lane section.  The sun was definitely up now and it was a lovely ride in the morning air.  The pace was creeping up again as everyone felt renewed and awake and so alive on such a lovely spring morning!  Again we set about chasing down distant red lights and passed a small group of riders, but an over-enthusiastic Garmin call put us on the wrong road and we had to double-back again, having been repassed by the group we'd just passed, with a bit of a shameface on   ::-)



The final few miles drop down through some ancient woodlands and valleys and are truly beautiful in the morning light  8)  but we could feel the wind had risen and although so far it had been a quick run to the breakfast control, it was going to be a tough slog back southwards again!


Breakfast was slightly erratic: some of us were served very quickly (and possibly out-of-sequence) while others had to wait, but on the whole it was very efficient, and they certainly tried very hard to please, so thank you to the café staff.  I had a full-English (standard size), which was great.

We set out again as a group with Veloman, the bhoot tandem, DavidC, Halloween (I think) and some others.  We passed Denise coming at us from the wrong direction: looked like a navigational error somewhere?  A couple of miles out Veloman mentioned I appeared to be a bottle down — aargh!  I'd left it at the café having gotten them to refill it for me.  No matter, it's gone now, only a couple of quid and more important to stick with the group.

The third leg is a bit of an anticlimax after the first two: it's a bit flat and passes through or near towns but not so many villages and uses more main roads.  By now the sun is definitely up, although the skies have clouded over and it does look like we may get some of the forecast rain.  It's a bit grey, really, and the stiff headwind is definitely going to make it a tough day on the bike, especially as the terrain doesn't provide many places to hide from it.

We caught up with the Tomsk train and Veloman took the front.  It was quite a big group with plenty of riders to hide behind, but the discipline in the group wasn't so good and as riders moved around the wind blasted at me near the back.  Veloman set a punishing pace and seemed to delight in the pain he was inflicting on those trying to hang on!  I kept being pushed back and off in the wind and having to bridge back onto the group.  After 15km the pace was just too hot and I had to drop off — I wasn't the only one, but I may have been the first.

From then on I spent at least two-thirds of the return journey on my own into the wind: a good bit of mental and physical endurance training.  Last year at breakfast I had been suffering from the dozies BIG time, but this year an hour's kip in the afternoon appeared to have put that issue to bed, so to speak, and apart from ten minutes or so while on my own, I was pretty okay.  However, this year I think I ate too much and of the wrong thing and was having trouble getting any energy to my legs: next year I will stick to the baked beans on toast and avoid the sausages, bacon and black pudding.

The lost bidon had a greater effect than I had thought it would: I had drunk about a litre in the first 150km and so thought 500ml for 70km would be okay.  However, the extra effort into the wind and possibly a touch of thirst remaining from the first half, meant I was getting dehydrated long before Wymonhdam.  I tucked onto the wheels of a couple of other riders for a couple of kilometres into Dereham and stopped to refill at the Co-op.  A couple of riders followed me off-route and I didn't see them return, so hopefully they worked their way through the one-way system and out the other side okay!

Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures after breakfast, being on my own for so long.

On the final run to the Wymondham control I was picked up by Wilbur and Bunker, who I'd passed and been re-passed by on BCM last year, and DavidC (I think) and I tucked in behind for a chat. At this stage I was feeling it in my legs having been out on my own for 50km, and so I was happy to let someone else take the wind.

It's a peculiar feeling wandering into Waitrose at Wymondham in the middle of a Saturday morning: you're there in your smelly, sweaty, slightly uncoordinated cycling clothes, clacking your shoes on the hard floor, surrounded by middle class, middle-aged people doing their grocery shopping wondering what on Earth's happening!  While I sat eating my salad on a bench, I was approached by a woman wanting to know more about where we were going and where we'd been, with the inevitable "are you riding for charity?" question  :facepalm:

I was joined for lunch by Oscar's Dad, who I've ridden with before, but never been introduced to — it was good to chat with you.  He explained he was taking it easy on the ride and being efficient in the controls, which is a great way to approach such a ride, and at this point I was wishing I'd done the same.

Not wanting to let my legs sieze up, I was back on the bike all too soon.  I left Wilbur and Bunker finishing their lunch outside, fully expecting to see them later as they passed me again, since they were clearly much stronger than me at this stage.

The fourth leg to Needham Market is more up-lifting than the previous one, because there are more villages and farms and the like en route.  Also, more hedges to hide from the wind, or maybe that was just my imagination?  And it's still a reasonable distance at 60km, so plenty of time to get into a groove and keep pumping out the miles into that headwind.

By now my digestion issues seemed to have worked themselves out: I felt good and reasonably strong and able to work on my own steadily into the wind.  My Garmin, though, indicates that I was exactly the same speed, so I just felt better. Nevertheless, apart from passing a couple of stopped riders, I didn't see anyone else on this leg.

One other thing I didn't see was an enormous pothole, which rattled the whole bike.  Nervously I applied the brakes to see if there was any out-of-true brake rub, but fortunately the new wheels appeared to have held up well.  Dodged a bullet, so to speak, whew!  The wheels are still true today, another 70km further on.

In Stowmarket I opted for the slightly more direct main-road route to the Needham Market control, as I've ridden it before on a DIY, so know the cycle path's okay.  As I was drinking my milkshake from the corner shop, the group I'd left breakfast with arrived from the another direction, having stopped for longer at the local farm-shop café instead.  Veloman dropped off the group so we could ride the final 25km stage together, expecting the bhoot tandem to catch us at some point.

The final stage is a 25km mostly main-road bash through Essex to the finish, with several sting-in-the-tail climbs that Tomsk takes pleasure in at the end of a long ride  :thumbsup:  Nothing particularly huge, but enough to cause discomfort and a bit of swearing.  Some short and beautiful laney stuff as well, through ancient woodlands replete with amazing swathes of bluebells — a picture that can't be captured on film (or digital).  Glorious!

Reinvigorated by having good company, we started out on a bit of a time trial to hunt down the group just a minute or so ahead of us, but I was being far too optimistic and had to ask to cool the pace.  It was a shame really, since Veloman had done such big turns on the front all ride long that I wasn't able to join him in the fun from here on in, but I was feeling pretty spent.  We managed a steady 23kph to arrivée, including up several Tomsk-esque sting-in-the-tail climbs at the end of the ride, so not too shabby, but nowhere near quick enough to catch the others.

Some unexpectedly sudden crosswinds in the final kilometres caught my front wheel in a way I've never experienced before and nearly swerved me under the wheels of a 4x4 that was passing — smaller wheels aren't so badly affected and so I wasn't expecting this.

And then finally at the turn into the station and arrivée, where we met up with Tomsk and the rest of the previous group in the station café, shortly followed by bhoot.

Compared to last year that was not at all shabby: 16h25m (18h40m last year), 13h23m moving (14h42m moving last year).

As Veloman mentioned, I returned from New York on the red-eye on Tuesday, so jet lag may have been a factor, although I think I had that under control.  The thing that I think made the difference was being off the bike for three weeks in US of A and putting on half a stone of flabby stuff — the only vegetable I saw in the entire first week was a carrot floating in a bowl of chicken soup!  I felt unfit before the start and really felt it in the second half.  I was also carrying the remains of a chest/throat infection, so wasn't feeling 100% anyway. 

That aside, I am happy with my performance: a new bike and a year's fitness and experience mean I no longer worry about finishing any ride, which mentally affected me badly last year.  I know I can finish in time, it's now a case of learning to be quicker — or at least how to ride with less effort — so I can enjoy the ride more.  More practise, methinks.

Thanks Tomsk for another great event — always slightly different, always enjoyable, and I do like the stings in the tail you throw at us  ;) :thumbsup:

No Asparagus and Strawbs for me this year: it's my sister's wedding that weekend.  BCM the weekend before.
RRTY #7 done.  Need something else to do ... ah, welcome #8 8)