Event Review

REVIEW: Mad March Hare

by Jennifer Trotman

Distances: 74 miles (approx)
Entry fee: £15.00 in advance and £18.00 EOL (sold out in November!)
Participants: 600
Start: Becketts Farm, Heath Farm, Alcester Road, Wythall B47 6AJ, with plenty of off-road parking (£2.00).
Feedstops: 1 - village hall with food and hot and cold drinks provided, & toilets.
Catering: Free hot/cold drinks before and after the ride, free bacon baps.
Timed: manual, but individual times for all. 
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with clear signage (black arrows on yellow background).
Roads: Safe quiet picturesque route on mostly back roads.
Route:  http://www.madmarchharesportive.co.uk/route.html
Professional photography of the event by George Burgess - photos up same day.

The Ride:
As sportives go, the Mad March Hare is not what you'd call a difficult sportive.  It's intended as a warm-up for the summer calendar of sportives.  But, and yes there's a but, a large but, and not just my large butt, when that sportive is the first one of the season, when the longest ride you've done so far in 2013 is c.50 miles, any sportive is a challenge!  Today was no exception...

The Mad March Hare has become my traditional way to start the sportive season.  Looking back I see that this year was the fifth time I've done it, which I think is as long as it's been running.  However they vary the route every year then, so it's not repetitive, which is good as I have a low boredom threshold! 
You could tell it was the first event of the season by the amount of faffing that preceded it.  That and the fact that I forgot things, like my bar bag, because I'd totally forgotten that I use one!  By the time I'm back into the swing of things, leaving the house will be a breeze (tail wind of course) and I will have gotten the art of pre-sportive packing down to a fine art.  I'm not the only one not quite up to speed yet, Sean forgot his waterproof and his Buff, though I think Mark showed us both up by being totally sorted!

Waiting For Me

Yes, today I had company - my fellow Cyclosport writer Sean "Long Legs" Lacey, and "Retro Pixie" Mark.  I don't have legs that go up to my armpits.  Sean does.  As in that's how tall he is and about where his legs finish on me!  As for Mark, it's a twitter plus kit thing, and he's fast too!  I was a little apprehensive about riding with them...

Which, with repetition, hesitation, and deviation, finally brings us to the newly arranged car park near ride HQ, at 7:45am this morning.  I think I prefer the new parking actually; the original field was out of bounds due to the recent weather, but it wasn't much fun last year even when it wasn't.  There's a lot to be said for hard standing and plenty of room, and it was only a brief ride to the start so as far as I'm concerned, it was an improvement!  It would be great if they could keep that for future events. 

After yet more faffing under cold but ever lightening skies, I closed the boot, stuffed the car keys in one of my seemingly infinite range of pockets, and headed for the start, where a patient Sean and Mark were waiting.  There was a short queue for registration, and once I had my number and ties, there wasn't much left to do other than the obligatory pre-ride toilet stop.  At least there was a female only cubicle and enough portaloos (6 or so?) to ensure that there wasn't much queueing.


OK, done.  Time to stop all that faffing and start riding!  We joined the queue, and were duly recorded and sent away in batches. And they're off!

Bunches Ready To Go

Queue Behind Me

You can always tell my winter sportive reviews, they're the ones with very few photos! There's just no taking pictures on the go when your camera is at least one layer down and you're wearing gloves. Stopping breaks up the momentum, and also means losing heat which is not good when it's chilly.  And it was - proper cold!  So you'll have to use your imagination to picture lots of quiet, mostly dry, occasionally icy country lanes. It's not so much hilly as rolling, allegedly.  Which is to say that the ups feel rolling on the way out and, after the big hill of the day and the food stop, start to feel more and more like hills the closer you get to the end of the ride!  It suffers from being essentially downhill on the way out and the reverse on the way back which is entirely the wrong way 'round!

Route Profile

The big hill in the middle? Big indeed. Deceptively so, as visually you could only see the brow of the bit you were doing, then you'd turn the corner and see it continue to go up, and up, and up! Heaven help those who were already walking on the first section, new cleats anyone? I made it up, very slowly as ever, but in an odd way I quite enjoyed it. At least with long hills I can get into crawler gear, get some kind of rhythm, and just get on with it.

sean and mark
Sean And Mark

foot stop
Food Stop Goodies

The food stop came at Ebrington Village hall, not long after that big hill, and also satisfyingly more than half way around, meaning that it was all downhill from there on in.  Well, ok it wasn't, but mentally I'm always happier after the halfway mark!  There was a huge array of food on offer, tables of the stuff, being descended upon by cycling gannets.  I had half a cup of much needed coffee and a toilet stop...queuing was the only option for us girls, though a lot of less patient gentleman were taking to the greenery outside instead, which I doubt went down that well with the locals.

Once more unto the breach my friends...who were impressively still with me!   We had a bit of a blast for a while, there being some fun flats and downs to be enjoyed, and I love those.  On a slightly negative side rather too many of today's otherwise enjoyable descents ended at a junction of some sort, frequently with a main road to be crossed or negotiated, which took the wind out of one's gravity filled sails somewhat.  At least the signage was pretty good, possibly with one exception near the end, so I didn't get lost.  Not that my Garmin would have let such a thing happen anyway - the gpx file was pretty good.


After a while, as the miles mounted up, and those ups continued, I was gradually left to my own devices, which was, to be fair, probably a good thing, as it meant I could carry on at my own pace without the added stress of trying to keep up!  Which I did, and which went ok, though I was definitely glad the route wasn't any longer. I am informed that I wasn't too far behind, as apparently the guys only got in 5 minutes before me. (See those pink things in the sky?  Flying pigs.  Maybe that's where the free bacon rolls come from?). Either way, I was very happy to roll back into HQ, with a ride time of 4:39, and call the first sportive of the year done.

queue bacon
Queue For Bacon Butties

bacon van
Bacon Van

Considering that I was reckoning on a five hour ride, I think it went pretty well, and at least it didn't snow this year! It's always a nice event - friendly, small, but perfectly formed, and extremely good value for money! 

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 8 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 10 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 7 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 92.2%

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