With many towns now promoting Christmas Markets few are as spectacular as Lincoln. The old cobbled streets, the castle and the cathedral all offer a backdrop and an atmosphere unsurpassed. The huge crowds are testimony to the popularity of this event so an invitation to spend the weekend in the city and a couple of cycle rides on Saturday and Sunday morning was too good to miss.
Friday evening saw us collecting son David and daughter in law Sam and loading or should I say wedging the bikes in and a dash up the A1. Saturday started with a light shower, the good news was that was the last shower of the weekend but the temperature was going to ensure maximum effort to keep warm.
Jeremy our host had sorted a couple of interesting rides including a few climbs on Saturday to the south of Lincoln to keep the Hampshire lads happy and a flatfish ride on Sunday to the north revisiting some of the lanes we travelled on the Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive earlier in the year.
On Saturday morning we left Heighington heading west to Canwick and after a brief spell on the A15 and the first climb we joined the A607 towards Waddington, the 607 runs along the top of a ridge and the plan was a couple of descents off the edge and then corresponding ascents.
At Waddington we enjoyed a fast drop and after a brief spell on the suitably named Low Road we climbed back up Somerton Gate Lane. Another brief spell on the 607 before turning west at Harmston for another descent. By now we were getting into the ride but the run up Castle Lane prior to the last climb was more like a cyclocross course, the road was covered in sticky mud and it was impossible to pick a clean line. The adjacent fields had been ploughed and it seemed half the field was on the lane and a forced stop the clean the mud from brakes and duraileur.
The second half of the ride provided a very long straight run down the B1202 with a tailwind all the way to Metheringham before turning north towards home through Dunston, Nocton and Potterhanworth.
A very enjoyable 30 mile loop was extended by the 30 minutes needed to hose down the mud off the bikes at the end of the ride.
Saturday afternoon and we joined the crowds in Lincoln town centre for retail therapy before climbing the steps of Steep Hill to the Castle Entrance and the Christmas Market. Mulled wine and mince pies were the order of the day and with endless tasters of wine, whiskies, licquers, cheeses and chocolate our planned evening restaurant booking was looking unnecessary.
The Lincoln Eye proved a popular attraction and the floodlit Cathedral a beacon overlooking proceedings. The whole city centre was resplendent with Christmas decorations and nearly every shop was full with people buying presents and Christmas treats. After three enjoyable hours it was time to sample a few pints of Timothy Taylors Landlord at The Peacock along with a large wedge of steak, port and stilton pie, this of course was only for the purpose of carb loading for our Sunday ride.
A peep out of the curtains on Sunday and a not too bad looking day apart from the tree branches swaying in the wind but we need to be out fairly smartish before our drive back down the A1 to Hampshire.
Jeremy led us towards the city centre on Cycle Route No 1 and then the short steep climb up Spring Hill to the top of Lincoln. Already the cleaners and marshals were preparing for another market day but thankfully the traffic was still light. The B1398 provides our escape route to the North and with a big tailwind we were soon eating the miles. At the junction of the A1500 we came across a photographer with long lens and notebook. I was convinced our route had been leaked to the press but it appeared he was photographing busses contracted in for the market park and ride. Through Scampton village and around the perimeter of the airfield that is home to the Red Arrows and on to Brattleby, across the A15 to Hackthorn. At this point we turned back South and realised how much help we had from the wind on the first half of the ride. The peleton slowed noticeably through Welton and Dunholme before crossing the A46 and then the exposed lanes to Scothern. The wind seemed to get even stronger on the run into Reepham and then Fiskerton. Reaching the River Witham and about two miles from home Jeremy suffered a puncture and the wind exposure while changing the tube literally went through you. The thirty mile ride felt more like fifty into the wind but an enjoyable ride on traffic free lanes.
One noticeable difference from Hampshire is the amount of cyclists on the roads. Around Lincoln we saw a few on Saturday and one club ride and no more than five individuals on Sunday whereas the Sunday run in Hampshire and you will probably encounter no less than a hundred other riders.