Another stupid o’clock start saw us heading down past Birmingham again for the Mad March Hare sportive. Five souls from North Cheshire Clarion (and one ex-clarionista, Andy) braved the very cold early morning chill.
After chauffeur Anthony delivered us down the M6 we arrived at possibly the most bizarre HQ I’ve seen. Not the bike shop, Cult Racing Cycles, which was fine, but the parking area looked like a cross between a disused farm and Steptoe’s scrapyard, and we parked in a very long and dark cattle type shed!
Registration and a cup of coffee were very easy and we mingled a while with the many Sportive riders milling around before setting off. The route took us west across the top of Redditch before turning south into a strong headwind.
Andy had set off on his own to get a time, and with the first couple of hills the field started thinning out, with Giles, Anthony and I breaking away from Paul and Martin, who with recovery from recent illness were being sensible.
I noticed that my stupid, useless Garmin was reporting an elevation about 200ft below sea level at this point. I really do despair about this. I had to downgrade the firmware because it switched itself off periodically and now it was reporting the elevation many hundreds of feet below where it should have been.
We were setting a strong pace, especially up the hills. We weren’t expecting anything too hard until the middle of the ride, but there were a couple of cheeky hills fairly early on.
We were making good progress but were wondering where the “big” hill was. Then in the distance we saw it, rising above the treeline as we headed towards it. It started with about a mile of “gentle” 3 to 5 % and then got difficult. Riders were going backwards, desperately searching for more gears as the gradient hit double figures for the final mile.
Several gave up and got off, but we were going strong, dodging the riders weaving across the road. Then I saw Andy go past me on the inside – apparently I had overtaken him, head down, earlier on the climb. We pressed on until the top, Giles out in front followed by me, Andy and then Anthony.
The feed station was not far down the other side of the hill and I helped myself to 4 slices of cake. Andy didn’t stay long but we hung around a short while before launching ourselves back down the hill.
Progress was pretty fast as the wind was slightly behind us now and we got on the back of a fast moving group, enjoying the tow. Apparently not fast enough though, as Giles took us past them and onto the front, in the name of “doing our turn.” Turning round I realised we’d dropped them fairly quickly though and we pressed on. A community speed trap and car in the road managed to split us up, with Anthony having to stop to pull out round it whilst we continued on.
A set of temporary lights and a right turn onto a busy road saw Giles leave me for dust and for 13 miles I gave it everything to try to catch him. Round the twisting country lanes I occasionally glimpsed a guy in blue so I put everything into reeling him in. After 7 miles of going past rider after rider I finally caught guy in blue only to find it wasn’t Giles!
Pulling into the finish there was Giles and Andy waiting. Anthony came in soon after followed by Paul and Martin. Some nice Moda bikes on display at the end and a massive queue for a bacon butty cooked on the world’s slowest grill.
Overall a good day – decent organisation, good company, great route and the sun actually came out! What more could you ask for?
Ride stats : 71.3 miles in 4 hrs 18m @ 16.5mph average. 3,059ft climbing, 3,692kcals energy and average HR of 148bpm