MECBC Cycle 100 Miles

As announced at the Neptunes Dinner in February, and in the most recent issue of Neptunes, MECBC has been fundraising for a new boat, ideally a second hand VIII for our W2. We had a target of raising £2000 before 30 June, and we are very close to achieving our funding target– at the start of Bumps we have achieved over £1200. Just one final push to reach our goal!

Since Lent term, Rowanne and later on Freya had been planning an epic 80 mile bike ride between Oxford and Cambridge for the final fundraising push. However, in the excitement of exams, Bumps, and May Week, there was increasing confusion about who is actually on the ride, and how the bikes and human beings can make their way to Oxford to start the ride on Monday 23 June. Various plans were made to get bikes to Oxford and places were arranged for people to sleep before the ride, thanks to Freya, Thea, and friends and family of Siena and Sal. However, the X5 was fully booked up and it seemed impossible to get the people to Oxford at the right time.

On Saturday 21 June, two days before the ride, the list of riders have been pared down to Sal, Laura and Holly, all stalwarts of MECBC W1. They realised the logistics of getting people and bikes to Oxford were not feasible, so Sal planned an alternative circular route that would start and finish in Cambridge. Though the route is now closer to 93 miles (~150 km) rather than the original 80 miles, it is considerably flatter, which is a notable advantage considering that none of the cyclists have road bikes, and Holly and Sal were planning to do it on a rented city and mountain bike respectively.

Sal's original planned route

Sal’s planned route

Looking at this route, I realised that I have cycled to many of these places before (Huntingdon, Chatteris, and Ely), that I missed long rides (haven’t been on one since my light bikes was stolen in 2012), and I have the equipment and experience to fix punctures if needed. So I volunteered to join the ride at the last minute, armed with spare inners, a puncture repair kit, and a GPS-capable phone and tablet.

There is a slight problem in that my bike is a town bike, and I love it, but it does weigh a ton. Here’s a picture of my bike not long after I bought it in 2009.

Ying's bike at a particular London landmark

Ying’s bike at a particular London landmark

It is still a lovely bike, though not really suitable for cycling anything more than 20 miles. So I thought: I will rent a bike on Monday morning, when the bike shop opens (at 8am), then join the girls on the ride at 9am. Unfortunately, when I got to the bike shop on Monday morning, they say that they have a big group of prebooked bike rentals that morning and won’t be able to give me a bike before 9am. I decided that I probably can keep up with a mountain bike on roads, so I joined the girls and we set off around 9:15am after a quick helmet and tyre pressure check.

Holly tweeting our start!

Holly tweeting our start!

The first leg of the journey, about 20 miles from Cambridge to Huntingdon, went by in a breeze. We followed signs for route 51, which were mostly easy to find, and passed by pleasant villages with thatched roofs and summer blossoms.

Cycling through Hemington Abbots.

Cycling through Hemington Abbots.

The only obstacle we encountered was a cow blocking the path in Huntingdon, which Sal dispatched smoothly with a pat on its back.

Holly: MOO SHALL NOT PASS

Holly: MOO SHALL NOT PASS

From Huntingdon, we continued on route 12 and had a fairly uneventful 25 miles to Peterborough, with a couple of climbs that made us really glad that we picked this route rather than the Oxford hills. We enjoyed a picnic at Crown Lakes, and felt pretty good that we had such a smooth trip so far. Also, Peterborough is half way! (roughly)

At Crown Lakes, outskirt of Peterborough

At Crown Lakes, outskirt of Peterborough

The next 3.25 hours we followed a fairly well-signed, very flat, very straight, and really, kind of boring path from Peterborough to Ely. That 35 miles was mentally the toughest for me. I started to feel the weight of my bike and was having trouble keeping it at 10 mph, and everything was starting to hurt. We were trying to ride with some speed as we planned to meet Siena at Ely. Originally we said around 3pm, then we deferred to 5pm, then further deferred to 5:30pm.

A few drops (literally) of rain came down when we went past Mepal, which is about 5 miles from Ely, but luckily most of the rain cloud seemed to have missed us. Once we started seeing Ely cathedral on the horizon, it was psychologically much less painful. At 5:30pm we were on the outskirts of Ely and just have to make it across town to meet Siena!

Ely cathedral in the distance (11 o'clock)

Ely cathedral in the distance (11 o’clock)

At Ely, after meeting with Siena, we got a water refill from the Cutter Inn (THANKS!), and had our second food/water/loo break of the day. We were all quite tired by this point, though the fact that most (all?) of us have been to Ely made it felt more familiar and close to home.

At Ely, found Siena!

At Ely, found Siena!

From Ely to Cambridge we had to deviate from the planned route because we were worried that the route along the river bank from Ely is too overgrown and not possible to cycle over. Freya’s dad suggested going through Wicken, Quy, and returning to Cambridge via Newmarket Road (route 11-51). Sal prefered to follow the river back, which is marked as route 11 on OpenCycleMap, though the first section still goes off the river bank and through Wicken, presumably because the river bank route was completely marked as a footpath. Having been on a few footpaths earlier near Peterborough, we decided on taking the cycle route through Wicken, then trying to rejoin the towpath near Waterbeach. This little detour will add about 7 miles to our route, but it is probably better than trying to battle through 5 miles of footpath when Sal and Siena are the only ones with mountain bikes.

The views on this section are, in fact I think, the best on the route. We enjoyed the scenary and the wildlife, and took the cycling rather more gently through this section (about 8.5 mph).

Holly making friends with a donkey.

Holly making friends with a donkey while waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

At Burwell Lode.

At Burwell Lode.

Impressive/ominous clouds at Burwell Lode.

Impressive/ominous clouds at Burwell Lode.

The other side of the sky from Burwell Lode.

The other side of the sky from Burwell Lode.

The ominous clouds unfortunately caught up with us 2 hours later, when we were still about 6 miles away from Cambridge. It was a full blown rainstorm, no thunder, but raining so heavy that it hurt when it hit you. We decided to hide in a hedge until it calmed down a bit, while I tried to work out on my tablet/map the last section where this route is supposed to join back to the River Cam. On the map, we are supposed to follow route 11 and it will take us across to the river. However, note that part of the route (thick red dashed section) is not marked as a road but as a footpath…

The final hurdle.

The final hurdle.

We took the footpath because we want to be back on the River Cam towpath which we are very familiar with, and we felt it would be a nice ending to the ride. Unfortunately, the footpaths were a bit confusing and we ended up picking the one with 4 stiles/gates to climb over.

IMG_20140623_195555

First stile.

Siena (the pun master): Doing it in stile!

Siena (the pun master): Doing it in stile!

The footpath also ran through a field with two over-friendly horses. One started eating Holly’s handlebars.

A bit too frisky.

A bit too frisky.

This section was probably only ~300 metres but it took us around 30 min to get through, by then it was 8:20pm. Thanks to the British summer, we still have daylight.

Finally we were back on the Cam, back on the towpath, and it was familiar territory for all of us. We cruised through the last 5 miles, appreciating the much calmer than usual river (it was after all, getting on 9pm and nearly no one is training on the river). We got back to the boathouse at 9:10pm, nearly 12 hours after we set off.

"Point at the part where it hurts most"

“Point at the part where it hurts most”. We would have taken a photo in front of the boat bays, but none of us could face the thought of going down steps or walking around the tree with our bikes at this point.

You can check out the final route and elevation on MapMyRide (Special thanks to Maprika/Maprika on Google Play and OpenCycleMap for helping with navigation on the way.)

It was a very memorable day for all of us. We were very pleased that we managed to complete the ride, and we trust that donations will continue to come in; Monday 30 June is the last day for this fundraising drive! Please get in touch with a friendly MECBC-er or contact boatclub-captain@murrayedwards.cam.ac.uk to arrange a donation.

May Bumps 2014 Day 4: W3

When W3 gathered at the boat house for the final day of May Bumps, we did it in the spirit of finally catching and bumping Homerton II, who had just escaped in an exhausting and exciting race on day 3. With the weather being much cooler than the days before, our spirits were high – we wanted to give our best and enjoy this last day as a crew.
Our row up to marshal was calm and controlled; we moved as a crew and had a good practice start in front of the Plough.

Marshalling at station 4 was almost getting a routine now for us, and our lovely bank party including Dame Barbara, our College President, joined us for our last race as a crew – we were eager enough to leave this station behind and move up one place!

Knowing that we had to bump fast on Homerton II, as they were chasing a spooning Clare Hall, we gave everything we had from the start. We pushed stronger and moved our hands quicker than ever and soon gained a whistle on Homerton. However, they had an easy catch with Clare Hall and bumped on them before we could seriously close the gap. Once more, we tried for the overbump – this time on Sidney Sussex II: we sat up tall, moved together, pushed even harder and did not give up chasing them over the whole course. With the cheers of spectators on the banks and waiting crews, we rowed over for the 3rd time.

Although not exactly the outcome that we had hoped for, we knew that we couldn’t have done more and overall we had a very successful racing week of which we can be proud. See you in next year’s bumps!

Manuela Gross

May Bumps 2014 Day 4: W1

After 5 races, including 3 row overs across the full course as sandwich boat, W1 were grateful the glaring sun had retreated behind clouds for the final day of Bumps. The previous days had been as exhilarating as they were tiring, but today we set ourselves a simple goal that dispelled all weariness: level up. If we raced like we knew we could, station 17 in the Women’s First Division would be ours.

We pushed out for our first row atop of the second division, followed by college President, Dame Barbara, who had bank partied both W3 and W2 already. We executed a crisp and powerful start so that Kings W1 were not able to gain a whistle on us like the day before. After Grassy we watched as Kings fell to an exceptionally strong Jesus W2 crew, leaving seemingly endless clear water behind us. As we rounded Ditton, we were confident enough to take the rate down a few pips to conserve energy, and we hit a calm but assertive stride. Then Mark alerted us that the only other racing crew on the course was Downing W2, the sandwich boat at the other end of the division. Everyone else had bumped out! We wound it down to a firm paddle, and exchanged pleasantries with the crews marshalled for the M2 Division as we rowed down to top finish, Downing W2 still nowhere in sight. Has there ever been a more casually rowed Bumps race? Maybe only Ying knows. Either way, this row over was definitely my favourite of the week.

Phase 1 complete. We span to reclaim our now habitual sandwich boat marshalling spot and refuel on flapjacks and sweets. We also discovered the full story of W2′s almost-bump on Trinity Hall W2, giving us even more impetus to bump their W1. On the row up, driven on by the crowds, we had one of our most powerful and fastest starts in front of the plough. As we pulled in at the last station, dangerously close to the lock, it dawned on us that for at least two thirds of the crew this would be our last ever Bumps race, and last ever outing as a crew. Another reason to push hard.

Our final start of Bumps wasn’t the tidiest we’ve ever been, but as a crew we were more single-minded than ever. We closed down on Trinity Hall and caught them after the railway bridge. The 17th spot in W1 was ours. Phase 2 complete. Level up.

The most memorable moment was the row home, knowing that the club had finally finished in the W1 division for the first time since 2005, knowing all our hard work had paid off and writing the latest chapter in the club’s history. As we rowed past the Plough, W2, W3, friends, family and it seemed the whole of Cambridge sent up a wall of noise as if we were rowing through a stadium. I may never hear that sound again, but I am going to bet that next year’s W1 will.

Holly Smith

May Bumps 2014 Day 4: W2

When W2 gathered at the boathouse for the last day of bumps, everybody’s nerves were palpable: We had bumped every day so far, and blades were in our reach. We would be chasing Tit Hall II, and we were sure that we had it in us to bump them. The question was, would we catch Tit Hall before they would catch up with Caius II? Coach Alex reminded us that we had to make this race count, to stay calm and collected, if we wanted greenery. We thus put the “B” word out of our minds for the time being and concentrated on the row-up. We had a good practice start at the plough, pulled in at our station, and waited for the guns.

When the final gun released us into this last bumps race, I felt determined to give it my all, and I knew every single girl in the boat felt the same. However, Bekah’s seat came off half-way through the start sequence. We may have been slowed down by this, but Magdalen W2 behind us failed to gain on us considerably. What followed was a seriously impressive display of determination, as Bekah raced THE ENTIRE COURSE off her seat, managing to keep up as we took the rate up to 41 around Grassy Corner. Unfortunately, our bucket-rig meant that her and my blade frequently clashed; as a result, I caught more crabs during this race than in all the three years of rowing I did for MECBC together.

Were W2 in pain? Yes! Did this matter? No! We, a crew who hadn’t done much more than 50 strokes worth of racing in each of the days before, tried to grind down Tit Hall. And we did gain on them, sometimes getting as much as three whistles. Whenever cox Christina called for a “jump” sequence, somehow we managed to take the rating up – special mention must be given to stroke Emma for making us go faster even on the third jump. Whenever Christina called for pressure, we found more pressure, and we put it on the footplates.

We persevered, but it wasn’t enough. We rowed over, and needless to say, were heartbroken. To be so close to blades, especially for those of us for whom this was their last bumps campaign, and miss out, is simply sad. But what is more important, and what will, I hope, make a more lasting impression on all of us, is that we didn’t give up. This crew was a fantastic crew, and this term was a fantastic term for us. “Lucky crews get blades, good crews go up three” – W2, we rocked!

Henny Schulte to Buehne

May Bumps 2014 Day 3: W1

Oddly enough, the race plan was for a row-over – we were racing at the top of the division, ahead of King’s whom we had bumped the day before. We had a strong row-up, catching up with King’s several times and winning the psychological battle.

We had a long wait for the cannons, and then were being pushed out. The start was strong. Kings got a single whistle several times (I don’t know whether it was an honest whistle or not, but like to think it wasn’t), but we stayed together and pushed just a little harder off the whistles and soon enough were walking away from them. According to FaT live timings, we had pushed them away to two lengths by The Plough, and they fell away further along the reach. We picked it up a little under the railway bridge to entertain the men’s boats who were marshalling. We were pleased with our row over.

Rowing over meant we were sandwich boat. To be honest, we expected to row over again at the bottom of the first division: we were chasing Selwyn again, and they were chasing the spooning Tit Hall. And the overbump onto Churchill looked unlikely as they were chasing St Cats. We knew we had to go ridiculously hard off the start if we were to have any chance of catching Selwyn, so we did. Unfortunately, that just meant messiness. In any case, Selwyn caught Tit Hall before the motorway bridge, although we had gained on them a little. We chased the overbump, but didn’t believe that we had the ability to catch it, having already raced 2k. Even so, coach Mark wouldn’t let us wind it down (which had been in the race plan), so we kept going at race pace. Eventually we crossed the finish line.

We were happy with our races today, with them going exactly as we expected. Tomorrow, we need to push off King’s again to row over at the top of division 2, and then bump Tit Hall to cement our place in the Women’s first division. That would be a perfect end to my years with MECBC.

Sally-Anne Bennett

May Bumps 2014 Day 2: W2

After day 1 we’d been told that we couldn’t “always expect a race that lasts 80 seconds”…

Basking in the sunshine pre-race was soon replaced by sheltering in the shade to avoid heat stroke, as we waited to row up to the start. We were geared up to race for longer today, but why do so in this heat if you don’t have to?!

So when the final cannon fired we went off into our start sequence with powerful strokes and as the wind count increased the boat was racing. When the call came from Christina that someone in the St. Catharine’s boat ahead had caught a crab that was all we needed to tell ourselves that this race was ours.

Now.

There were so many whistles coming from the bank that I couldn’t make out how many whistles we were on, but then came the call that we would be jumping in 3…2…1… “It’s just you and your footplate” had been drilled to us and when we took that first jump stroke everyone in the boat must have crushed those footplates – clearly this time we really did hit warp-speed, because the very next call was to hold it up.

WE BUMPED! And no, we can’t always expect a race that lasts 80 seconds…but we’re pretty happy with 59 seconds too!

Emma Heydon

May Bumps 2014 Day 2: W3

Having had a taste of bumps success on Day 1, W3 were feeling eager to get on the water for Thursday of Mays 2014. Having bumped Peterhouse II, we were pitched against Sidney Sussex II for Day 2. We had a strong row up to marshall, with a promising practice start on the Plough Reach. We arrived at our station early, and tried to relax with Dr. Saxton and our bank party pre-race.

The four minute men’s cannon sounded, and we prepared for battle. Gates were tightened, footplates were tightened, abs were tightened. Shoulders were relaxed and deep breaths were taken. We were ready.

We had a solid start, and were moving together as a crew. However, so were Sidney, and by First Post Corner it became evident that if we were to bump, it would have to be an over-bump on Jesus III, currently head of our division. Spurred on by this challenge and the fearsome motivation of W3 cox Katie Prescott, we dug as deep as we could, ignoring the sweltering heat. Despite a good line round Grassy Corner, we didn’t manage to gain significantly on Jesus, and reached the finish line exhausted but not having conceded distance to the Queen’s boat behind us.

Rowing over was not what we had planned, but as a crew it felt positive to know that we had given the race our all and that come Friday, we had another chance to prove ourselves.

Olwen Wilson

May Bumps 2014 Day 1: W2

After a jubilant W3 had returned Owen to the boat house post-bump, W2 set off, keen to repeat the performance. Reports of the sirens having halted the earlier men’s divisions meant that we paused at various points along the river, with plenty of time to soak up the sun, load up on haribo and talentspot. We thus arrived at the start fairly relaxed…and were then slightly alarmed by the 4 minute cannon sounding before we’d pulled into our station.

Despite this slight stress, we were pulled in with time to spare, and collected ourselves…and then the minute cannon sounded, we pushed out again, rolled forward to frontstops, squared up and then began to race. The race itself was over swiftly: the whistles came quickly and the deal was sealed as Christina called to ‘jump’, our closing move. The victorious row home, resplendent in greenery, was made even better by the news that Christina had passed third year with a 2:1!

A thrilled crew then posed for several crew photos back at the boat house with varying degrees of swag, before tucking into some well earned race baking. All in all, the perfect bumps day. Same again tomorrow (and the next day, and the next day) please!

Nina Jones

MECBC TAKES ON MAY BUMPS 2014

 

DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4 Final station

W1

BUMP! BUMP! / Row Over Row Over / Row Over  Row Over / BUMP! 17 in Division 1
W2 BUMP!

BUMP!

BUMP!  Row Over  6 in Division 3
W3 BUMP! Row Over Row Over Row Over 4 in Division 4

May Bumps 2014 Day 1: W1

From the moment we got the boat out we had our game faces on. W2 and W3 had already bumped and we wanted to make it a clean sweep for MECBC. On the row down we pushed hard onto Fitz, leaving plenty of water between us and Magdalene- we were definitely winning on the psychological warfare front!

We got off to a bit of a panicked start because of some confusion with the countdown, but eventually settled into our rhythm and gradually crept up on Magdalene. It was not too long before we got one whistle but then seemed to be stuck there. We could hear that Magdalene were pushing up on King’s and knew that we had to make a move or row over. We were gaining more and more whistles but by the time we got to continuous whistles, Magdalene were pretty close to bumping King’s. However, we were determined to not have to row over and finally hit their boat- pretty hard!!

Hopefully tomorrow we can bump King’s and break into the first division.

Maria Rust