...and what a fine morning was bestowed upon us, as I left the stately pile, companion (in the form of Mr. Parkes) in tow. A trifle of a headwind was breezing around the corner, but no great shakes. Swiss had already sent a note from mother asking to be excused due to TT sign duties (the North Midds & Herts '100'), but with the sun rising in the sky, great crowds were expected.
Upon reaching the recently restored (and possibly eligible to appear on a BBC 2 show hosted by some chap with a beard) Harley Hall, doors were unlocked and we awaited the masses.
The masses turned out to be Gilbert (hard man of the north) Wheelwright, Russell, Chris Selley, Jaybee, Lindz & Tony (Brunton).
After briefly considering Wendover, Ashridge was finally decided upon, and Gilbert offered to be our guide. The usual route ensued, out to Bow Brickhill, into Woburn Sands, then up into Woburn. Myself and my Garmin were indicating a right hand turn at the town centre, however the hard man of the north called a left into Woburn Park. Dicing with the deer, cycling helmets were doffed towards 'The Dukes' residence and I believe the compliment was returned by the great tax dodger Mr. Tavistock.
On the uphill Chris (Parkes) suffered from the curse of Campagnolo, missing three gears and losing his stride. This continued into Eversholt and up into Milton Bryant, a quick stop was needed and after a few moments the Dura Ace was shifting as Mr. Shimano had intended.
I can see why Gilbert had chosen this route, as we spent all of our time climbing up hills, to reach the Hockliffe Road. Zipping through Hockliffe, arm warmers and gilets were disposed of as temperatures hovered in the twenties.
Spirits were raised as we proceeded past the turning for Bison Hill, well with the route that Gilbert had already chosen, it looked like it was to be on the cards (still there's always next week).
A quick trip, well quickish, up the Ashridge hill, soon saw us at the famed tea and cake stand. cappuccino's all round and lashings of cake, we were soon eager to get back to the sun kissed roads.
Once again Gilbert picked a route down Tom's hill, break neck speeds were reached, until the pack split at the bottom, only to re-join at the lights after Ivinghoe (unusual for Gilbert to wait at the lights).
We waved goodbye to the Milton Keynes contingent as Gilbert, Chris & myself played with the lunchtime Leighton Buzzard traffic.
A good 53 hilly miles at a steady 15.8mph in the sunshine, what could be better.
More next week...