Mad March Hare Sportive 2022

I originally entered this event back in October 2019 for the 2020 version. With the pandemic cancelling that and last years event it was a bit of a novelty to be riding an event again and using an entry over two years old.

This one is local to me. The start is only four miles way. I had family commitments this weekend so I was in two minds whether to ride it but given my 12 year old gets up late am and is not functioning until Noon I figured I could get there, be first off and back before then.

Bit of history of the event. I organised the very first Mad March Hare Sportive in 2008. At the time, these types of events were beginning to get popular and some organisers, in my opinion, were doing it for a quick $$ pushing entry fees up and over £20 at the time. I wanted to prove it could be done much cheaper so my first one I ran from a village hall, charged £7.50 entry and filled it with 150 riders. The keep it cheap, keep it simple approach worked and very quickly the event grew to 1200 riders by the 5th and 6th edition at which point I sold the event to some friends. My entry fee never went over £25 though and in that I raised money for charity, the local scout group who helped me run the event got good cut and I made some money too. My friends who bought the event off me took the event to another level of professionalism whilst maintaining the personal touch. I was really pleased how they ran their events and they justified the additional entry fees. They then sold the event on and fast forward to now and what is it? Sadly, I have to say I found it a bit soulless, some elements of the organisation questionable, a bit bland and for anyone paying the £40 entry, very expensive.

I’d set my alarm for 6am so I could do breakfast, ride there, sign on be off at 7am, right at the front. I rolled into the HQ to be greeted with the start mats and a gantry. My initial thought was what happens after 7am when riders are rolling out from the start and riders are turning into the HQ? Even the path adjacent to the start was barriered off. I racked my bike and went in to get my number and was asked for ID. Weird this one because I asked if it was photo ID? and the nice girl said just something with your name on it not withstanding friends could take their friends ID to get their number for them too. What’s the point of that?

I opened my envelope, my number, 2 cable ties and two poker chips inside. What are they for? Then I overheard the girl explaining what they were for to another rider otherwise I would have had to ask. Coffee and food after the event as it happens.

Outside I sacked off the coffee as there was just a converted horse box serving coffee for the hundreds that were beginning to turn up and the queue was 10-12 long already. It was almost 7am so I sat on the start line and I was still there at 7.10am wondering what was going on. Just watching what looked like people in charge beavering about trying to sort something. At 7.15am we had an announcement and apology for the wait. There had been an issue with the timing and a few minutes later we were let go and off I went.

The first few km are quit built up with plenty of climbing out of the gate. The roads surfaces were shit though. I got into a small group and eventually let them go as they were all on their lightweight carbon steeds while I was brandishing my Ribble CGR on 33mm tyres for the day. Fuck yeah! Go big (tyres) or go home right? Then I realised I’d forgot to start my Garmin FFS.

The signs were a bit sparse early on. Even a rider in that initial group commented how small they were. I have to say they are a bit lost in an urban environment. Much better in the countryside and easier to see. I wasn’t using my Garmin for routing I’d decided to use the signs. I knew most of the route but some of the sign placement was questionable. On a fast downhill, don’t put the sign on the junction, pre-warn the riders beforehand with one too. The signage did get much better further into the ride.

The first big climb over Romsley done, it was really fast descent off Clent where there was a slight diversion due to a road closure. No issue at that time of the morning, crossing the main roads was a breeze.

I’d dropped a rider off Clent who for the next few km’s was a bit annoying. He’d catch me on the flat and ride past then just stay a few metres in front. I’d then pass him on the climbs but he never spoke despite trying to and looking at him. I’d dropped him up and over Kinver Edge and he eventually caught me on the descent from Shatterford to Upper Arley. At the foot of a very steep hill to the river you have to stop and cross a pedestrian bridge over the River Severn and he went flying past round the corner. I did chuckle. I stopped on the bridge to take a pic and he finally murmured some excuse when he went past. Never saw him again.

The climb away from the river is steep and goes past the Severn Valley Railway station where weirdly there was a DeLorean car with an excited cyclist running around it dribbling and taking pictures. I heard the owner say it was as close to as an original you will get. Pretty cool but I was too much in my zone to stop. A glance at my Garmin and I was only 70 mins in and I was blowing so I had to dial it back a bit.

The next few km’s to the feed station are probably the hardest on the ride with no flat just endless drags and climbs into the Wyre Forest that really sap your energy. At one point I was alone and all I could here were the birds echoing in the trees. It was beautiful day to be out on the bike.

The feed station was at Clows Top village hall. The HQ for a few races I’ve done back in the day. Thankfully they had some savoury food as I was sick of sweet bars and gels. I sat down in the sun, ate a chicken roll, a banana. I refilled my bottle and took a pee.

I didn’t rush and got back on the road after about 10-15 mins. It’s a nice descent off Clows Top but the tailwind out was now over, now it was back into the wind. Ahead I could see a small group of riders that had left just before me from the local V-Sprint club. After the climb to Rock I realised I was catching them and then at the top of the next climb to Bliss Gate I caught them so I tagged on and basically used them to stay out the wind as we rode through Heightington and descended the Hurtle Hill and its dangerous corner. They were a bit unorganised, constantly moving about, switching and changing pace but that was fine. There wasn’t much traffic in Stourport and we all stayed together back into the lanes until we got to the A38 at Wychbold. Traffic here was horrific, a constant stream and I’d say almost impossible to get straight across safely unless you waited for a break that would never come. I’d question crossing here, in my opinion there are better options further down the A38 away from the M5 junction but that’s just me and my local knowledge. Just to left was a pedestrian reservation. I shouted we should use that and as I did I skipped across and was away to the complete bemusement of the others as they’d all been looking right and obviously didn’t hear me lol.

I soft pedalled for a bit but they never appeared so I just rode on which was tough into the wind now I was out of the group. Eventually I could see them in the distance but they never seemed to gain.

At 10km to go I was cooked, out of fuel and just went into survival mode. A few km out the group did catch me and I stayed with them for a bit but the legs said no as we climbed the Lickeys and I let them go and just rode the last few km as easy as I could. The return to the HQ was very urban and built up which I didn’t enjoy if I’m honest.

I rolled over the finish and was directed to food and my free goodie bag but I skipped that and rode home to the family instead.

I enjoyed the ride, it was great day out but, for me, the event was very average. Not a wow. It will be my last one.

I haven’t ridden that far since May last year on The Black Rat Fondo and that was on my best bike. So 100km+ today on a gravel bike + 33mm tyres was a decent ride for me.

4 thoughts on “Mad March Hare Sportive 2022

  1. Fair bit of climbing in there too. Nice one. I haven’t entered an organised “sportive” type event in ages now, I’ve almost forgotten what they’re like! I remember Evans Cycles used to run some good ones back in the day, far lower priced than the big companies who were just cashing in on the cycling boom, but still well organised and friendly.

    Liked by 1 person

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