Not many Sportives are long enough to gather their own story – but this one is!
The Magnificat is one of the longest Sportives in the UK (after this you ‘graduate’ to either multi-day events or Audax, the truly long distance cycling community) at 128 miles / 206 km. It’s not especially hilly for that length (6500 ft), getting the only two major climbs out of the way in the first 30 miles. However, its also not flat! A seemingly endless supply of rolling hills and sharp digs to keep you on your toes right to the end.
My history (partly in this blog) with it has been iffy: 2012 – turned up but fell asleep in the car park waiting for the rain to clear, 2013 – nailed it, 2014 – wimped out due to not being fit enough. This year I am back on track and did a couple of century rides in June, so felt confident about the distance. It was not sold out this year, so I was able to just turn up and go.
It started well – I left with a group of 30 odd riders but quickly lost them all. However, on the very first major climb disaster struck: my rear derailleur gear cable snapped (inside the lever) leaving me with just 34/12 and 50/12! After pondering and beating of fists (and watching all those I started with go by), I simply got back on the bike and struggled up the hill.
Here I am near the top of the hill, bearing it in 34/12.
The next hill was almost as bad though, and the bike started to complain (as did my legs) – on one section I simply could not pedal and had to get off and jog to the summit. At least the weather was OK! So, 15 miles of rolling countryside later, in 2 gears (funny how that actually made me faster!), I reached Feed Stop one.
Thankfully there was a mechanic set up there – lifesaver. He managed to extract the broken cable end and replace it. I’d also lost the washer and hex nut that holds the cable to the derailleur body – but luckily he had a MTB cleat bolt with the same thread and the bike was fixed. Of course I was now 15-20 mins down on my ETA, so I had to step up… but as I left the feedstop, it started to rain. JOY! For the next 50 miles we struggled through increasingly bad weather. I found a few riders just that little faster than me, which was great, as my turn on the front did not last so long (!) but I made up quite a bit of time with them. However at about the 70 mile mark I suddenly started to get cramp in my thighs and realised I was trying just that little to hard to keep up. I eased off, let them go and no more cramp.
So to the Third feedstop. There I managed to refuel… and the heavens opened again! The worse part of the ride followed, pouring rain but at least my rain jacket kept me warm and I’d remembered my cap so none of the ‘acid eyes’ that usually plagues me. Met a husband/wife team (well, they caught me up) and we shared the road for a while – that was fun, until one hill where the wife suddenly fired up the guns and was gone… Impressive after 90 miles. Unfortunately about 2 miles later she punctured and I had to carry on alone, but with quite a bit of time made up. Also traveled for some time with a guy on an identical bike! And here we are:
I was now completely out of food and drink but the final feedstop seemed to take an age to appear. At least, as I rode it down, the weather finally cleared and warmed. Again luckily a rider I passed had a spare banana without which I might have bonked… and here’s the proof:
At the final feedstop I had to oil the chain (only an idiot uses dry lube when the forecast is rain) and banana-up, with the final 14 miles only to go. However these Sportives do tend to have stings in the tail, and this was no exception. Cue spinning madly to avoid cramp…!
If there’s a problem with the Magnificat route its that last 8 miles / 10K, it really is quite boring, mostly slightly up, big roads no scenery – I just wanted it to end by then and rode as hard as I could. Too hard, coming in to Newbury Racecourse I completely missed the finish line and was almost at the car park before I realised and turned around, all those final gains lost.
So did I enjoy the ride? To be frank, not really! About 40 miles of reasonable weather and nice countryside, but the rest of the time staring at the wheel in front, trying to keep the rain out of my eyes.
Next year I will save up for Majorca!