Reporter gets taste of Tour of Britain stage seven in Suffolk

Men's Tour media ride. Pro rides, left to right, Dexter Gardias and George Atkins.

Men's Tour media ride. Pro rides, left to right, Dexter Gardias and George Atkins. - Credit: Gregg Brown

With the men’s Tour of Britain coming to Suffolk next month, reporter Matt Reason gets a taste of a rain-soaked stage seven.

Men's Tour media ride. Matt Reason.

Men's Tour media ride. Matt Reason. - Credit: Gregg Brown

I must admit, I am often heard claiming to be a cyclist, but until yesterday the last time I climbed in the saddle would have been almost a year ago.

So it was with some trepidation that I signed up to ride the small section of Stage Seven of the Tour of Britain, and I had even more doubts when I re-read my press invite: riders “must be comfortable cycling at an average speed of 15mph”. Comfortable? Probably not. Capable? I was about to find out.

So yesterday I joined a group of civic leaders, pro cyclists and fellow journalists in a very wet pub car park in East Harling.

Nothing could say Tour of Britain more than a wet summer’s day. The mandatory photos were taken and we set off with our very own support crew and police escort on our way to Elveden Forest.

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I may have been dragging a fat-tyred weighty mountain bike, but I found the going pretty easy. I was drenched by the time I left the car park – but the riders were not letting the weather dampen their spirits.

That is the attraction of cycling, all sorts of people can go out together and have fun, see some of our great countryside – even if it is raining.

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I spent much of the trip chatting with former St Edmundsbury mayor Robert Everitt, who at 63 was comfortably holding pace with the front of the pack. We agreed that as long as it did not get windy, we should be all right.

The first 10 miles seemed to fly by, I even caught myself thinking, “I wish we would step the pace up a bit”, tucked in behind pro-rider George Atkins. How naive I was.

Next thing I know a rider behind me says “this is the old A11, I bet a few people will be dreading that hill”.

Looking up ahead, I thought they must have read my mind. Whether it was the hill or the miles, my legs were starting to remind me that beer and bacon is not the fuel of champions.

Then a gust of wind came across us. Robert Everitt said: “This is that wind we were talking about.”

I thought we would be back in the shelter of the trees soon – after all, this was Thetford Forest.

But the wind just kept coming and my legs were waning. I tucked in as close as I could to the pro-rider in front.

Then Atkins had to stop. He pulled off to the side and suddenly I was at the front, exposed to the full force of what was probably a rather minor headwind, but let’s pretend I was fighting a freak hurricane.

The only thing in front was the support car, and I naively stepped up the pace to tuck in behind. But I had gone too hard, before I knew it I was being overtaken at pace by a former mayor, assorted journalists and a few councillors.

Losing the pack, I still pushed on until we reached Elveden Courtyard – ego slightly dented, legs wobbling, but somehow very happy.

If the Tour of Britain does not get anyone else dusting off their Lycra, it can at least claim to have inspired me.

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