By Bob Carter
Stage six of The Tour of Britain takes place on 16 September 2010
From the very day they announced the Tour of Britain was riding through Norfolk, from King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth, I knew I wanted to try riding the stage.
I've only been riding seriously for a couple of years, but the chance to try out a course mapped out for professionals was too big a chance to pass up.
So on a sunny morning, on the cusp of August and September, my regular riding partner Markos Janes and I headed out of King's Lynn for what we hoped would be 118 miles of challenging and enjoyable riding.
Now a road race rider can hardly go wrong with a rolling roadblock around him, motorcycles with TV cameras on board and no end of outriders behind.
For us though, finding the route entailed memorising it as much as possible and carrying the emergency map in the back pocket.
It was called into duty only minutes after leaving Lynn as we found ourselves in North Wootton - an attractive place to live, but a village quite obviously not on the route of this year's race.
And so we started our journey with a three mile detour.
Out onto the A148, the main road between King's Lynn and Hunstanton, we found one of the drawbacks of following a race route.
We would not normally choose to ride on a busy main road like this, so there was no easy sweep into the Sandringham Estate for us, more a dicey right turn.
Sandringham had put on its late summer morning clothes and dappled sunlight through the trees - and then an encounter with one estate worker who was convinced that if we were heading for Great Yarmouth, this was not the most direct route.
The stage starts at King's Lynn's Tuesday Market Place
Well, he was right
if slightly misguided.
We stepped up the pace in honour of the first race sprint which would take place through the parkland and pedalled furiously over the imaginary finish line outside of the visitors centre.
The road from Sandringham to Dersingham has one of my favourite downhill sections in Norfolk and we came into the village at full pelt before riding through to find the main road, which was mainly uphill, towards Hunstanton.
We swung down a lovely hill into Hunstanton, bearing in mind that we had to go up at the other end, and grabbed some lungfuls of sea air before riding up to the lighthouse and the first landmark moment of turning east and heading towards our final destination.
The road along the north Norfolk coast is a favourite of mine because you can settle down and pedal, enjoy the view, and the miles go past.
This route had the sting of the first King of the Mountains section as we peeled off the coast road at Burnham Deepdale to push up the hill to Burnham Market, and then the fun of negotiating a Norfolk village packed with enormous 4x4s.
But then this is a classy area. You don't get much classier than Holkham Hall and the beautiful grounds into which the race route then headed.
The race notes warn of cattle grids - what they don't warn the unsuspecting amateur cyclist is that the gate through which the race goes will be locked when you get there.
Luckily a big stroke of luck came with a man in a car who, while saying not a word, keyed in a code on the keypad and beckoned us through.
Through Holkham Park and then onto Wells-next-the-Sea where the second sprint of the day took place.
On this day it would have been sad to sprint past and miss how gorgeous the harbour was looking, how so many people were enjoying the place and the smell of chips and doughnuts.
The route runs past Sandringham and on to Hunstanton
Wells to Stiffkey has a small miracle of a road surface, smooth as a racetrack, which made a remarkable difference to the speed we travelled at.
At Blakeney we turned left to the harbour. By now my cycle computer told me we'd cycled more than 40 miles - one third gone, two thirds to go.
I was in comfortable surroundings, the weather was lovely, we were bowling along just shy of 20mph, what was the worst that could happen?
The tyres that had covered around 1,500 miles since the beginning of the season finally succumbed to a stray flint on the downhill run into Weyboure.
But we were well practised at this. Bike over, wheel off, levers out and into the side of the wheel. Tyre off, tube out, tube in, tyre on, hand-pump up, wheel on and off we go!
Passing the smell of steam trains at Sheringham we started to worry about one of the hardest parts of the ride, so a gulp of energy-giving drink and a sugar-packed energy gel is consumed for the climb up Sandy Lane in West Runton.
I've done it enough times - the hump of the railway bridge saps any run-up speed you might have been banking on, so it was a low gear and spin, spin, spin.
Right at the top back onto the main road towards Holt, this was a road I'd time trialled on. I knew where the ups and down were and Markos and I sped along it as if we were on the real Tour of Britain and not our own rehearsal.
We then sped onto Holt, Blickling Hall and Aylsham, where we had nearly 50 miles to go, and I could ride home in about ten minutes.
The final run goes through the Broads at Potter Heigham
Norwich is of course a major milestone on the trip with two climbs I could not relish - Grapes Hill and Mousehold Heath.
It is now 1645, we'd done nearly a full day's work on the bikes but still had to get to Great Yarmouth.
I remember in my teens riding up Mousehold Heath on my trusty old Elswick Hopper with a Sturmey Archer three-speed on the back.
As I reached the top, there was time to reflect that sitting beneath Britannia Barracks would be perfect to watch the race come through.
Just as we approached Wroxham bridge, the 100th mile came up on my cycle computer.
I thought that at this point I would have felt terrible, and yet I didn't. I felt refreshed at the thought that we weren't that far from the finish.
Riding out of Hoveton and on through the Broadland villages of Horning, Ludham and Fritton, the shadows began to lengthen but the pace continued.
We were close enough now through Repps, Bastwick and Rollesby to know that we could push on as fast as we liked - we were going to get there and soon!
Off the A149 at Ormesby and over the last small incline of the ride, we dropped into Caister and glimpsed at the sea, if not the sea, the wind turbines.
Great Yarmouth passed in a bit of a blur, the race route going round the centre of the town to head northwards to the finish line on the south beach.
And that was that!
One hundred and twenty one miles recorded, due to our little detour at the start, 16.5mph average and a riding time of seven hours, 19 minutes and 22 seconds. Oh, and the longest cycle ride of my entire life.
Riders will then finish on the south beach of Great Yarmouth
I felt fantastic to have finished it, but oddly would not choose that route again.
I got the tiniest glimpse of what it would be like to be riding the tour, but the professionals go twice as fast and while I can spend the next day resting my weary limbs and gingerly sitting down, they have to get out and ride some more, having already ridden for six.
It was not a great leisure ride either. Too much of it was on busy main roads and going through towns, which is no problem in an organised race, but it was not the best way to spend your time cycling in our beautiful county.
Now, having followed a stage of the Tour of Britain, it is time to think a bit bigger: bring on Mont Ventoux!