First test of my CTC leadership skills – Balsham to Isleham

Having been riding with the Cambridge CTC for the past 10 months I thought it was now time to try my hand at being a Group Leader on one of their City Thursday rides.

First thing I had to learn was that it’s the leader job to work out a route between the previously designated coffee stop and lunch stop. As well as satisfying the mileage requirements or timings coffee by 11 am lunch by 1 pm. My first route had a long route between coffee & lunch so was rated as poor so I returned to Apparently, the preferred distances are 18/18/24 miles or thereabouts.  After some fiddling, I created this route which met all the criteria as well as satisfying myself on a different route out of the city avoiding both the DNA narrow track and the awful surface on the Barton road track.

So Thursday came with totally perfect cycling weather, I bumped into Simon coming down Gonville Place on the way to the start so I clearly wasn’t going to be on my own. In fact, 6  other riders showed up. I managed to get all their names for the required Registration Form, something I had been agonising over as I’m useless with faces & names.

Crossing The Lode

At 9.15 prompt we departed the first mistake of the day for me was that I didn’t designate a backmarker but Glynn kindly did it anyway. The second mistake was not having a rear view mirror so I couldn’t tell if I was on my own out front or with the group.

We made smooth progress through Grantchester and the new Trumpington Meadows Country Park. After passing around Whittlesford we discovered that Jeff had gone AWOL probably because we had deviated slightly from my published route, John went back but couldn’t find him so after 10 minutes we carried on the next holdup was Glyn scoring a puncture. However, we still made it to the wonderful Old Butchers cafe in Balsham at 11 am to meet up with the village group. I love the friendly rivalry between the city slickers and the village people. Jeff rejoined our group having got lost in the graveyard

After a very relaxing 30 minutes with a slight change in riders, we departed for Isleham along the B1052 through Newmarket at a decent pace on a good road. We arrived at The Griffin pub. at 12.45 way before the others. However, there was still quite a delay in getting our food since apparently, no one had warned them about 14 hungry cyclists turning up.

We returned home with the inevitable headwind across the fens to Wicken Fen and then along the Lode Way & new Quy cycleway back to Cambridge.

A splendid cycling day and a good introduction to ride leadership for me with an experienced group, although I MUST get a mirror.

Thanks to Seb for the header photo and post ride cuppa.

The days Strava:

Return to Moscow

Sunday 29th July 2018

After the nights shenanigans I woke up feeling really ill which was a pity as the lake looked really inviting. However, I decided to leave Ostashkov and get back to big city life and all its niceties in Moscow.

Ostashkov is definitely up and coming and I’m sure the derelict properties will soon be worth a fortune with the huge lake ideal for all water sports and its location midway between Moscow & St. Petersburg. I found one of the recently renovated trendy cafes and managed to eat some porridge which later proved indigestible 🙁

I decided to leave the Schwinn behind at Ostashkov rail station as the gear change was finally broken plus the rear wheel & headset bearings were worn out , in its 4 years with me it’s covered 11,100 miles on Strava plus loads more as my town bike at home so not bad value for £163. Also it now meant it was easier on the express trains as I couldn’t face the slow train back to Moscow.

The train back to Bologoye was shown as an express but went the same speed as before! Except it was now a slow sleeper train with the old style sleeper compartments.

In Bologoye the staff recognised me and were obviously puzzled were the bike was and I why I was willing to pay the huge amount extra to use the Sapsan high speed train to Moscow!

I was beginning to stress out when no platform was shown for my train, I went to see my guardian angel alas she had been replaced by an old dragon 🙁 I managed to get the security guy to understand and he raced me through the security checkpont, the Sapsan has its own waiting room & security, I discovered then it was a race down the new platform around 1km the 20 coach train itself was 500 metres long! And of cause my coach was the final one! Thank goodness I wasn’t lugging the bike along…

On board I was offered fine dining but alas all I could stomach was an ice cream & water.

The ride was very smooth comfortable & fast. In Moscow I had booked the Orange Hotel which wasn’t as close to the terminal as they made out especially since it was on the fifth floor of an old apartment building! I felt wrecked & collapsed in bed.

Birthday source

Saturday 28 July 2018

On my 71st birthday I was up bright and early ready to start the journey to The Volga’s source, , having slept OK despite how busy the Russian rail network was below me.

Nowhere was open for breakfast at 5.30 so I made do with a crust of bread in my bag hoping to get more breakfast in Ostashkov.

Yesterday’s guardian angel rescued me from the wrong platform and managed to get me on the packed train to Ostashkov 🙂

The train slowly rocked and rolled onwards after the first couple of stations I extricated myself to a pair of seats that had been vacated and later took the bike to near the exit and started to reassemble it, we eventually arrived In Ostashkov which I was surprised to find was the terminus so I had to patiently wait for the whole carriage to clamber off the train 🙁

It was now getting quite late for starting such a long ride but I found the local supermarket and far to hastily bought nowhere near enough food for the day, especially without my usual eggy breakfast, the first hotel I saw said they were full tonight so I rushed on carrying all my belongings with me knowing full well that I had to return in the evening 🙁

The road proved of better quality than I thought so I sped along even finding a hotel on for the night which sounded great. All was going well untill the junction at Svapushche at 31 mile’s into the ride when the road descended into a corrugated sandy track for the last 15 miles 🙁 awful riding. Eventually after 4 hours of riding I made it to the source of the Volga

The source has a small hut over it and you can look down into the spring the whole area is quite bucolic especially with the domed church overlooking the small stream well worth all the trouble and expense of getting here.

Alas there was no food only some guy selling ice cream and some home made cloudy drink which I eagerly drank as i had run out of water.

So back down the dreaded sand road I went with the 4X4’s throwing up vast clouds of dust as they charged to & fro my rear gear changer finally gave up the ghost refusing to budge in any meaningful manner, the bike is finally breaking up on me 🙁

I made it back to Ostashkov first at the supermarket and then onto the Lubov Hotel with its magnificent lake setting feeling totally wrecked. I eventually found a bar open and had some pretty disgusting fish and chips.

In the night I became very ill with food poisoning throwing up my total stomach contents, not a good ending to my 71st birthday.

On the Russian trains

Friday 27th July 2018

My first time on a train in Russia was last nights overnight sleeper to Moscow from Cheboksary. I chose the most expensive option, a First class cabin to myself which came with an evening meal & private shower/toilet.

It took nearly 13 hours todo the 474 miles including some extended stops, it has to said that this particular track is in a similar condition to the roads as it lurched along 🙁 eventually I fell asleep only to wake up as it was parked in a sidings somewhere where it then sounded as if they were dismantling the undercarriage with a hammer 🙁 Fitbit however thought I slept fine for nearly 7 hours including over 1 hour of REM sleep so maybe it was just a dream 🙂

The station I arrived at in Moscow was only across the street from Lenin Station and with the bike already in a bag I thought I would get the St Petersburg express train to Bologoye ready for a local train to Ostashkov first thing tomorrow all went smoothly in the ticket office if somewhat expensively 🙁 In Lenin Station while waiting I had an excellent breakfast at the bakery.

The expensive ticket was somewhat ameliorated by a 2000 Ruble credit in the buffet car 🙂 The track is a lot smoother than the overnight train but still not up to Japanese rides so just as well the train only gets up to 138mph

In Bologoye one of the station workers took me under her wing helping me to get tomorrow’s ticket including the supplementary charge for baggage! She then showed me the station hotel 3 floors above the ticket office a good buy at 1,000 roubles per night and right where the one train a day leaves at 6am tomorrow.

Hopefully the freight trains etc won’t keep me awake tonight although the first 17 years of my life my bedroom overlooked a freight line & occasionally express passenger trains.

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