Coins Cachés: Cambridge

Cambridge might not be well-known as a cycling hotspot, but most people will be familiar with the prestigious University of Cambridge. A city of history, culture and world-changing discoveries, Cambridge is home to more Nobel Prize Winners than any other city. Cambridge has a great network of cycle paths in and around the city, along with riverside parks, grassy commons and cool meadows.

Cambridge's elegant centre is framed by architectural triumphs, such as King’s College with its towering Gothic chapel. Sitting on the River Cam in the east of England, it is a compact city which is easy to enjoy on foot, as well as by the river – punting on the River Cam isn’t to be missed.

Whilst it may not be as spectacular as les Alpes, or Le géant de Provence, this area is one of the driest in the UK and the route possibilities are endless. It’s here in the flat landscape of northern Cambridgeshire where you can ride exposed sections and experience the Fenland winds, just like Ghent-Wevelgem.

Towards the east of Cambridge, the rolling landscape is more challenging, with short, punchy climbs along unspoilt backcountry roads, with a number of descents and sharp technical turns. This is your mini-Ronde van Vlaanderen, albeit minus the pave.

The diversity of routes really does offer cycling for every rider’s taste. From scenic style rides on backcountry roads with a coffee stop on deckchairs at The Orchard in Granchester, to conquering three counties in one day, weaving through quiet country lanes and talking in picturesque churches and charming villages.

Pro tip: if you run short of water, every village or Town in the UK has a church and most have outside taps from which you can top up your bidon.

THE THREE COUNTIES

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This ride is characterised by rolling roads through charming villages and past picturesque churches. No less than three counties are on today’s menu, linked together by quiet country backroads which are off the beaten track so you can get away from the madding crowd.

The route starts at Newmarket Racecourse, the home of British horseracing and where some of the country’s classic horse races are hosted. From here the road heads south through Cambridgeshire. After just over 20km, you’ll arrive at Sturmer where the aptly named ‘Hill Lane’ awaits you. This single lane track offers a short, steep climb, combined with a nice descent past fields, with some sharp technical turns. Watch out for loose gravel and a few potholes.

From here the route traverses through the county of Essex, taking in some quiet roads through the unspoilt countryside of arable fields of wheat, barley and oilseed rape. If you’re lucky and keep your eyes open, you’ll have the chance to spot the local wildlife. The area is home to many kinds of birds of prey, as well as three species of deer who sometimes leap out across the road in front of you.

You’ll eventually find yourself heading back north and into Clare, Suffolk’s smallest town and the perfect place to stop for coffee and cake. With a little under 30km to go, you can sit back and enjoy a series of gentle climbs and some faster sections as you head back to Newmarket for a well-deserved cold beer!

NEWMARKET HILLY

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This is a route suited to those who like the simple things in life. Characterised by almost 150km of quiet backcountry roads off the beaten track, where you can just lose yourself and be at one with your bike and nature. The route starts at Newmarket Racecourse as well and from here the route meanders slowly in all directions along quiet backcountry roads.

At times it can feel like a Belgian Classic as you ride through a rolling landscape, with sweeping bends and short, punchy climbs that appear out of nowhere.

After around 80km you’ll find yourself in Clare, one of Suffolk’s most charming towns and the perfect place to stop for coffee. From here you head towards the aptly named Cavendish and continue riding along quiet roads through open countryside. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll be able to spot the local wild game, particularly pheasants. If you’re hungry your mind will start to wander to the classic French dish, Pheasant Normandy, where the pheasant breasts are roasted in apples and cider. You may even get the chance to race a hare on one of the lanes – although they are known to reach speeds of nearly 70kmh.

At Hartest, the best climb of the day awaits you. With 38m of elevation difference over just under 1km it looks like a wall as the gradient nears 12%. After this Belgian berg style climb, you can sit back and admire the rolling panorama and enjoy some gentle climbs and faster sections as you head back towards Newmarket.

THE FENLANDS

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On today’s menu is the Fenlands, an area of reclaimed marshland in northern Cambridgeshire, which is below sea-level in several places. This is your mini Ghent-Wevelgem - an extremely low-lying landscape of straight, flat roads with exposed sections and the Fenland winds.

The route starts at the Cambridge Science Park, with its stunning modernist architecture and home to some of the world’s leading technology businesses. From here you’ll take the guided busway route to St Ives - 20km of traffic-free tarmac cycle path along the world’s longest guided busway. After cruising through the historic market-town of St Ives and onto Ramsey Heights, you can enjoy some rolling roads, a few gentle climbs and a stunning panorama.

At Ramsey Heights the fun begins as the route takes in roads used on the official Tour of Cambridgeshire UCI Gran Fondo route. If you’re with a group, then now is the time to form your echelon as you get your first taste of the Fenland winds. For the next 70km you’ll feel like you’re in The Netherlands as you enjoy a mind-blowing landscape of straight, flat roads running parallel to dykes, with modern windmills on the horizon.

After Ramsey, you head back towards the guided busway via Earith, along winding, flat roads that run parallel to dykes and traverse several small bridges. Then sit back and enjoy the last few kilometres of the ride on the traffic-free cycle path as you head back to the Cambridge Science Park.

THIS IS CAMBRIDGE

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The 2014 Tour de France stage 3 started from Cambridge, so on the menu today is a scenic style ride taking in the best bits of Cambridge. The ride starts with a double espresso from one of the cafés outside King’s College and its towering Gothic chapel.

From here you head out of town and onto the narrow, bumpy cycleway through the idyllic Granchester meadows and into Granchester, a quaint village beside the River Cam, home to thatched cottages and the famous Orchard Tea Garden. This really is a corner of England where time stands still as the outside world rushes by.

Heading north past the meadows you’ll eventually reach Madingley. As you climb Madingley hill, you’ll see the American World War II Cemetery on your left. The panorama of 4,000 headstones is truly mind-blowing and in honour of airmen who died over Europe and sailors from North Atlantic convoys.

You’ll then traverse north along quiet backcountry lanes and across to Waterbeach. The landscape then changes before your eyes into a few rolling hills and from countryside to suburbia, as you take some hidden cyclepaths back into town.

The best is saved until last as you ride past Midsummer Common and through Jesus Green along the iconic tree-lined path. After traversing the bridge over the River Cam, the route flows onto The Backs. This is one of the most picturesque areas in Cambridge, with it’s with stunning views of the University colleges that back onto the River Cam. Then you head back to King’s College for a well-deserved coffee.

FOR LES COINS CACHÉS