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The Magnificent Seven

Yesterday I rode one of the most remarkable events I have ever taken part in, the Magnificent Seven in Sheffield. Looking at the route, and with my unquenchable love for hills I thought I’d give it a crack, and I could visit the in-laws at the same time. I didn’t look into what it actually involved, I just assumed it was a quick jaunt round the city with lots of climbing, a very short, yet very hilly Sportive. I was SO WRONG. This was no jolly, this was no amble round Sheffield to be ridden at one’s own pace, this was seven consecutive, mass start, eyeballs out, take no prisoners hill climbs. Yes seven, one after another, all on closed roads with points awarded to the top 15 in each category, the winner decided by the greatest aggregate score. What had I got myself into, I couldn’t loose face and back out, I just had to accept my fate and start to prepare. (No, not that type of prepare, just do some training then ride the course the day before). Thankfully there was a Vets category so there was no need for me to go chasing after 55kg 19 year olds. I just had to keep an eye on the riders with blue numbers and at the top of the first climb, Hangram Lane, there was only one of them in front of me so I was pleasantly surprised. Until then I’d no idea if I could be competitive, now I knew I was, so it was game on. I located the man who beat me and stuck to his wheel as we were expertly shepherded between the climbs in a convoy of cars and motorbike outriders. The next climb, Blake Street was a total disaster, blocked in and on too big a gear on it’s 20% incline I lost loads of places and points, I was now playing catch up. I faired much better on the cobbles of Thrush Street then took third on the longest of the climbs, West Lane so was in the mix. The organization, the marshaling and the transportation between our vertical arenas was flawless, with the thrill of being escorted through the city centre worth the entry fee alone. Next was the one we all feared, the Côte de Oughtibridge, so named after it’s inclusion in the 2013 Tour de France. We waited at the bottom for the last of the cars to be ushered away then as the whistle blew all 100 of us tore off up the blissfully quiet road in search of oxygen debt and lactic acid. This climb was agony, it was brutal, it had me in all sorts of trouble and with two still to race I was now really starting to feel it. At each summit, as the competitors arrived the bodies piled up, riders hunched over their bikes, unable to progress, their convulsed faces gasping for air creating a traffic jam of exhaustion. The sixth climb was Hagg Lane, kicking off with 200 metres of almost 20% gradient I dare not look up, it was agony beneath the wheels but the roars of the huge crowd dragged me to the milder slopes, where now riding into the wind I sat in the wheels before lunging for the line. After each climb of course the legs hurt some more but the mental burden decreased, six to go, five to go, four to go... until we hit the last climb up Foxhall Lane, into a block headwind and lashing rain. Then it was over, relief turned to joy and joy to the thought of beer and bacon sandwiches, what a morning on the bike it had been. The ‘Mag7’, as it’s known, is a totally brilliant concept that was immaculately executed with great local support both from the city and it’s residents. Big thanks goes to @marc_etches and @Sheffrec_CC and to everyone in Sheffield, especially the army of supporters who chased from hill to hill to cheer and scream us on. See you all again next year. Maybe, after all, I was third Vet. Simon @100climbs

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