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Addict's grand tour of... Lincolnshire.

So, August is holiday month. This is good. Various PdC denizens have been spreading their wings and going to beautiful and unlikely places to either watch people ride bikes or ride bikes themselves. All of which is done in bright, and some might say alarming, colours. We have seen Watergirl in fetching neon yellow in Colorado, Albertina in Orange (what else?) in Euskadie, and Willj and Jens going left and right and left and right up various large hills in France. Me, I went to Lincolnshire. Sadly I was flying (or at least biking) solo, so you miss out on pictures of me rocking the most fashionable PdC kit in the Midlands, but I was armed with an iPhone myself. So – with all due fanfare, I present Addict’s Grand Tour of Lincolnshire. Warning: may contain pictures of farmland.

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First of all, some background. Those of you who have heard of Lincolnshire can skip this paragraph. All still with me? Excellent. The first question everyone always asks is "where the hell is Lincolnshire?" The easiest answer is to say start at London Bridge and go 150 miles, more or less directly north. Either that, or find the bite that someone has taken out of the eastern side of England, and you are more or less there. Both answers tend to be followed by a short pause, a puzzled frown, and "um, what is actually in Lincolnshire". To which the answer is "The city of Lincoln. And some farms. Plus churches… we do churches". Actually, Lincolnshire is relatively easy to explain to PdCers. Imagine the rural parts of Belgium, with more cowshit and sadly fewer cobbles. Then take a large mallet, and pound every damn cote, hill, ridge and molehill flat (I exaggerate: there is one hill. I will show it to you later). Then add wind. And more wind. And then dribble of soupcon of extra wind on top. Chris would love it here.

To be honest, the weather was pretty damn good this year as were enjoying summer – unlike last year, where I missed it because I was in the bathroom.* And I enjoy the countryside. So in my time off from zoo keeping looking after my daughter, I hopped on my bike and followed my nose.

*Confession: I may have stolen that joke from Flanders and Swann.

And this is where riding in Lincolnshire becomes utterly lovely. Firstly, it is almost impossible to get lost: once you know where three landmarks are (Lincoln, Newark and the Trent), you can get home, pigeon like, under almost any circumstances. All roads, basically lead - well, to nowhere in particular, but it doesn't really matter all that much:

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And secondly, it is almost all countryside. And countryside is pretty.

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And with pretty countryside, you get narrow lanes, bucolic villages, and no cars, all of which were present (or not) in spades on my rides. Each day, I would have precisely 1 mile to do on a very busy, straight main road (called, locally, "the straight mile") before turning off onto roads that are basically deserted, and occasionally are little more than glorified farm tracks.

Here is one.

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And another.

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Basically, if this was in Belgium, they would surround it with beer tents and run a race through it. Here... they take their ponies for a walk. As you do.

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Sorry about the quality of that last photo, by the way. It was getting dark and I was trying not to be too obvious a rubbernecker. Try being inconspicuous while perched on a bright red bike dressed in skin tight lycra. It wasn't clear which one of us looked odder to the other. The village we were in, by the way, is called Eagle, which rounded out the animal theme nicely, I think.

So I would potter from one of these roads to another, occasionally thinking "I fancy turning left here". So I did. And one of the pleasures of not knowing where you are going is that you get constantly surprised by the view. Like when you turn a corner and seethe quintessential view of an English village.

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(For those who are worrying, the pub is just behind the church).

Oh, yes, churches. I mentioned we did those in Lincolnshire, didn’t I? Well we do.

I saw this one.

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And this one.

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And many, many more, including this one. This is Lincoln Cathedral, one of the more magnificent medieval structures going, and so nice the Americans copied it almost stone for stone for the Washington Cathedral. First constructed in the 11th century, it had a pretty disastrous history including fire (1141) earthquake (1185 – I mean, Earthquake!), collapsed towers and spires (1237, 1548) etc etc. The final form is mainly 14th Century, although various bishops have played lego with it pretty continuously over the course of its life. But to me, although the history is rich and the architecture is beautiful, the most amazing thing about it is that you can see it from absolutely everywhere. Which brings me to the hill I promised you earlier.

Here it is:

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Apologies for the dubious quality, but it is still pretty staggering. Just to be clear, I am about seven miles away when taking this photo. The houses you can see, by the way, are the city (yes, city) of Lincoln. What Medieval peasants, who rarely would leave their villages except to shoot arrows at the French, must have felt to be able to see this magnificent structure from so far away, is hard to imagine. But the words "glory of god" would have definitely resonated. And, Lincolnshire being Lincolnshire, you can see it from absolutely everywhere. It's extraordinary. It also makes routefinding really.... really .... easy. Thanks St. Mary.

I didn't go into Lincoln on my bike, but I do ride up the hill it is on - a veritable, challenging climb if ever there was one. It is even a genuine Strava KOM. Here it is:

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There. The Dolomites haven't got anything on that, have they?

And the view from the top? Well, you get the idea (we do a nice line in powerstations and powerlines as well). 7889901864_8ba40f0b91_medium

Anyway, turning left away from our history lesson, I got buzzed by an AWACs. This one flew over me about twenty times – I can only assume he was doing circuits and bumps at Waddington airfield, which in a plane about the size of a 747 must have been some exercise.

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Which brings me on to history lesson number 2. Lincolnshire is Bomber County – the second world war saw most of Bomber Command (including the Dambusters) and a big chunk of the 8th Airforce based here, both because it is close to Germany, and because there was precious little by way of things to crash into when trying to land a glorified colander post mission. The result is that we have a bigger density of used and disused airfields than strictly believable, and a depressing number of war memorials. Plus a bizarrely large Polish population.

Returning to the modern world, it was time to head back to home. The roads continued to be small, and some were really quite straight. I even came across Bert Grabsch's favourite TT course:

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is 2km of dead straight road, very slightly down hill. If it is ever used in a ProTour event, I can show you one very happy German. At the end, by the way, it takes a quick left and right, and then goes a further 1.5km dead straight again. Though this bit has a couple of uphill slants on it, so Bert is looking for a prologue.

So that was my biking. What with childcare and seeing my wife (someone has to), I did about 330km in a week, which I know for some of you is labelled "a warm up" but I enjoyed it and wanted to share. I took lots of exercise and felt healthier than I have for ages. For those who do Strava, I think this one sums up the topography nicely.

ln fact, it was occasionally so energetic that I had to stop for a rest. In a churchyard, naturally.

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