Cambridge Market 200 perm

Cambridge Market is a 200km permanent that heads from Cambridge to Framlingham via Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market, all of which are traditional market towns. Three of them also have castles.  It's a generally flat, but exposed route due east, so worthy of a stiff easterly to blow one back to the start.

This route is one of my own: at the time of writing I am running four permanent events on AUK.  When I first rode this route as a DIY in October 2014, we were well into autumn and the weather was grim: I could see the merits of a flat ride eastwards from Cambridge, but it did feel like a bit of a drudge.  However, I had just had my first rider complete the amended perm route and I felt behooven to ride it myself.

Last weekend we were forecast a brisk easterly wind, and I needed the first of my RRTY rides for April — I have two on the go at the moment — and so I decided to ride my own event. 

My rider the few days before had completed his ride at a moving pace of 27.5kph (!) so I felt the need to see what I could do.  And following my Green & Yellow Fields helpers' ride pace of 17.5 hours total, Rog had commented that I was at risk of being out of time on Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 1200 in the summer — although conceded that perhaps I needed to control quicker, since the actual moving pace was about 20kph.  I wanted to set a comparative time; I have to be realistic, though: on the Brompton, which is heavy, relatively uncomfortable, lacking any drops out of the wind, and still running Marathon tyres (which are slow), my pace was never going to be so high for so long. 

Therefore I set myself some aims for the ride:

  • to ride it at 22kph moving average, because that speed would give me a lot of headroom on PBP later in the year;
  • to keep stoppage to a minimum, unless I had a specific reason to spend longer
  • to keep my heart rate no higher than zone 3, which for me is anything below 157bpm, although I had the beeps set for about 145; I need to work out how to maintain a continuous effort for four whole days of PBP;
  • to stay away from sugar for energy: usually I carry a bag of Jelly Babies — and eat them — but really I need to get used to fuelling from real food.

I set off from Cambridge at a leisurely 06.50 and obtained a receipt from the BP garage down the road.  And then off for properly real.

Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds via Newmarket

The first part of the route drops through Cambridge and then heads straight out along Newmarket Road to Newmarket: although this is a full-fat A-road, it's wide and traffic was light, since most use the parallel A14 a half-mile distant.  On this open stretch, I could feel the easterly trying to push me back home and I struggled in my exuberance to keep within my HR goals.

There's a significant lump on the elevation profile up to Newmarket on this ride, but check the scale: it's a mere blip of 40m or so!  There are bigger lumps to come, but not that much bigger.

After a fast 25km run to Newmarket, the road becomes more laney and it was time to sit back and ride within myself.  The sun was beginning to break through and the temperature, which had started around 5ºC was beginning to climb.  It was a lovely day, and the early spring growth in all the hedges and woodlands was lovely — spring is definitely my favourite time of year.

Soon enough I popped out onto the road into Bury St Edmunds: this is a short section of relatively busy C-road, but most of the drivers were very well behaved.  In Bury I controlled at the garage on the mini roundabout before the town centre and was quickly on my way.

Bury to Needham Market

The other side of Bury there's a short, stiff climb up to the Thurston road.  I was passed by a couple of club cyclists, inevitably, but they headed rightwards to what looked like a decent cycle path: I followed.  It is indeed a lovely path: smooth and set back from the road.  It's not quite as direct, but for the more leisurely randonneur, it's near-perfect.  A quick switch to the other side of the road and then it leaves the main road altogether and heads down a back lane to a new foot/cycle bridge over the railway — they were still building this when I was last here — and into the back of Thurston village.  It's nice to get away from the main road for a while and only costs an extra kilometre smile

This next section is new for this route: the south-westerly run from Thurston to Needham Market.  When I rode this previously, I rode it as a DIY-by-GPS, so I just had to ride through the nominated controls with the GPS on; specifically, I did not have to find a commercial control for proof-of-passage.  When I converted this into a perm, I had to play with control locations to get the correct minimum distance and have 24-hour commercial establishments.  I had ridden these roads previously on other DIYs and events, so I knew the route.

This is a relatively quick section along more C-roads to Stowmarket, before joining the old A14 dual carriageway to Needham Market.  I had previously considered this a busy, high-risk road.  However, it has since been reclassified as a B-road, and the outside lane has been closed and is used for right-turn deceleration lanes.  Therefore, it's really just a B-road with big passing places.  It's actually quite a nice road to ride on.

In Needham Market I popped into Elton House News on the corner.  I popped into this establishment on the G&YF helpers' ride three weeks previously and warned them of a deluge of cyclists coming their way, and I thought it would be interesting to find out how they'd got on: they'd had a good day with a lot of cyclists stopping there.  I always find it heartening to think that a bunch of wierdo cyclists could make a significant difference to a small corner shop merely by turning up en masse and buying a Coke and a Mars Bar each thumbs up

Needham Market to Framlingham

The next stage to Framlingham is probably the lumpiest and most exposed to the wind.  I could feel my legs asking me to slow down; my HR agreed, so I did.  My speed dropped by 2.5kph so I could stay within my HR goal, I was riding at a mere 18.6kph fighting quite a stiff headwind.  (yr.no)[http://yr.no] had put the windspeed at 7m/s, which I estimated as about 24kph, so a 15mph headwind across a very exposed Suffolk landscape.  I hugged the hedges where I could, but my options were limited: it was to be a morning of winching.

Framlingham Market

Framlingham Market: it's not big at all; quite quaint, really

A couple of villages and turn by a church into a hedged-in lane, and shortly I was faced with a hilltop plain, bereft of hedges or woodland, directly into the teeth of the wind.  This told me two things: firstly, I was near Framlingham; secondly, this would be a great place for a wind turbine … like the one just over there, spinning furiously facepalm  But at least I was close to the turn.

And in a few (extra) minutes I was in Framlingham, woohoo! grin

The first thing I noticed was the café I stopped at last time, and is mentioned on the route sheet, has changed its name.  No bother, it wasn't the only correction that needed to be applied.

I was short of cash, and it doesn't hurt (as an organiser) to check out the local control-friendly amenities, so I climbed up into the town centre, where the market is located.  The Barclays branch has a hole-in-the-wall in the wall inside the foyer.  Since this is a quiet town, the doors have been pinned open so long, they are now cemented into the foyer walls, neat.  Cashed-up, I continued up through the town to view the castle once again, grab a few snaps for the website.  And then back down the hill to the café for some well-earned lunch.

I had ridden 105km in about five-and-a-half hours — a pretty slow pace of 19.1kph, including stops.  However, PBP minimum pace is 13.3kph, so that's still nearly one hour won for every two hours spent, and my time above includes the stops.

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle: a close-up, because of all the cars parked at the moat's edge

While I was there, a familiar face turned up with a friend and I spent 20 minutes chatting with Orange Andy, who was riding the Suffolk end of the Dunwich Dynamo.

Framlingham back to Bury

And then back to it.  I was now heading due west almost all the way, backed by a strong easterly, so I should make back much of the time I'd lost winching all morning, so long as I still had something left in my legs.  Indeed, once I got back up to that hilltop plain, I was pushed along at an easy 35kph without really having to work too hard!  Happy times!

After 10km, the return route separates from the outbound route and heads off down a lovely stream valley, away from the main road.  I can see that main road becoming quite busy in the summer and I may have to work out a scenic detour around it.

Up and over, left and right, the route is almost all lanes back to Thurston.  This is a lovely section and in the sun with the wind on my back it was a pleasure.  I had removed a couple of layers at the café, since although the air temperature was a cool 12-13ºC, in the sun it was much warmer.

There is a reasonable number of short, snappy climbs as I crossed Suffolk: the highest point in Suffolk is only just over 100m, so no climb is going to be that challenging.  But as I crested each one, I was pushed over the top by the tailwind — wheeeee!

Soon I was back in Bury — a much swifter 23.9kph for that leg.  A quick cash-point receipt and I was back on it: I felt that I needed more liquid, and possibly more nuts to graze on, but the middle of Bury has everything and nothing, and as a solo rider, bike security was more of a concern.  I knew I would pass the Shell garage in Newmarket, which has been smartly refitted, and was only 25km away.  I bounced the control.

Bury to Cambridge, arrivée

After Barrow, I was now on lanes I hadn't cycled before.  This would be interesting, in a good way.  I love exploring!

The lanes are all good, and there's only really one significant climb out of Dalham, on which I stopped halfway to remove my long-sleeve base layer: a problem with spring and autumn riding is that the temperature in the morning may be just above zero, but in the middle of the day it may rise to 20ºC; this means starting with thermals and having to unlayer.  Unlayering itself isn't the issue; the issue is removing and replacing a short-sleeve jersey with lots of stuff in the pockets: get it wrong and you've got wallets and phones falling into the roadside verge!  From my GPS track, it took about six minutes to remove my long sleeve and get going again.

On the up side, at the top of that hill, it's a gentle 6km downhill all the way into Newmarket, so the pace was lovely and high with the continued tailwind and I averaged nearly 28kph without exceeding 133bpm cheesy

A slowish pitstop in the garage, taking time to refill both bottles, even though it's just 25km to Cambridge and arrivée: a milkshake in one bottle and a protein drink in the other.  And then back to it.

There's a noticeable climb out of Newmarket up onto Newmarket Heath — the road's even called Cambridge Hill.  And down the other side: it's not a Roman road as far as I can tell, but it sure feels like it, it's so straight.  With the wind on my back it felt light and easy smile

The road is quite busy as far as the A14 crossing, and most cars head onto the A14 towards Cambridge, leaving this road relatively clear.  The road is wide and safe — it's the same one I rode out on first thing in the morning.  I had the wind, it's flat all the way into Cambridge now, I spun along at a steady 26kph with my HR steady, but rising to 166bpm when I was emotionally assaulted by an old-MG driver honking his horn and vigorously pointing his finger to tell me to get into the left-hand lane — I was at a roundabout and I was in the correct lane, but he seemed determined to rewrite the Highway Code there and then.  Other than some finger-pointing and shouting, no harm done, apart from a crazy HR figure.

A lazy wander through Cambridge city centre and a never-ending wait for a green light at the top of Castle Hill (roadworks: we waited for about four minutes!), soon enough I rolled up to the Co-op in Girton for a receipt.  After that it was a very lazy warm-down back home, merely 18kph.

All done

  • 205km in 11h11m elapsed — 18.3kph including 1h42m stoppage, that should be a solid pace for PBP, if I can maintain it for 1200km thumbs up
  • 205km in 9h29m moving — 22.1kph, almost exactly on target in spite of the strong wind thumbs up
  • Most of the ride was spent in zone 2 — nearly five hours — with 1.5 hours in zone 3 and just six minutes in zone 4: it wasn't so much of a cardio workout as a long, lean fat-burning ride thumbs up
  • Interestingly, some of the highest HR peaks were actually on some short downhills!  Go figure …huh?
  • My Garmin estimated 4000kcal burned, RideWithGPS estimated 7200kcal — I think the Garmin's closer; I could see two large dimples in my belly where fat/water had been that morning thumbs up
  • Stopped time was so-so at under an hour per 100km, or alternatively 26 minutes per control; I could've reduced this easily by having enough cash in my pocket to start with, and by not chatting to Orange Andy, nor popping up into Framlingham town to take photos of the market and castle; I know this and at 11h11m I was still just over three hours within the time limit; but there's no point bouncing the controls if it would be more enjoyable to relax at them! rolls eyes
  • And apart from some smarties added to my trail mix at Newmarket for the final 25km, most of which were uneaten by the time I got home, I didn't have any sugary stuff at all: just nuts, raisins, dried fruits, granola bars and a panini for lunch thumbs up

All in all a lovely day out on the bike. 

I felt uncharacteristically knackered at the end, considering it was a mere 200km, so I will need to keep an eye on that as I prepare for PBP: perhaps I have a running injury, perhaps a cold, perhaps not training regularly enough, perhaps it was just the wind.

Postscript

I do wonder about the rolling resistance of the Schwalbe Marathon tyres fitted to the Brompton, so I've ordered some slick Stelvio Kojaks to see whether they make a difference — they are a factory-fit option, so it's still true to the Brompton essence. I will find out next weekend when I ride the Asparagus & Strawberries 400 as a perm.

Nick Wilkinson

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