What's Cool In Road Cycling

Chasing Magnus: One Man’s Tale

It’s not often we fans get to descend a Grand Tour mountain pass with the pros, even rarer that we almost take out a pro while descending said pass, and completely unheard of that we share the tale of our own reckless riding with fans the world over. Until now…

We get a lot of emails from readers sharing tidbits of memorable days on the bike – both good and bad. But when a reader takes the time to send in a decently written (ie: requires minimal editing by me…) account of one of those days, along with a few photos to illustrate, who am I to withhold such entertainment from loyal PEZ-Fans?

This story made me laugh, not only because of the part-JackAss, part-Mr. Bean nature of these events, but because I’ve probably done something (some things?) similar in my day. I’ll bet the rest of you have too.
– The PEZ –


Stage 9 of the 2016 Tour has most shaking in their boots… A saw-toothed brute of a stage – 185km – the last 70km go uphill.

– Submitted by Matt Borland – a man who obviously values a good laugh (even at his expense) above his own shame. –

I’ve been sitting here in Waterloo, Ontario in the snowy cold remembering warmer days on warmer soils when I took my trip to the ’07 Vuelta. I went to stage 10, which was the one in Andorra up to the Foret d’Arcalis, and I came away with a bike story that I never grow tired of telling. So here it goes:

Have you ever gotten a dirty look from Maggy Backstedt? Well, after my trip to the ’07 Vuelta, I’m lucky enough to say that I have!

Let’s set the stage a little here, it’s Etapa 10 and the race is heading into the beautiful principality of Andorra. Menchov is in control, but a big day like this, 214 km with four categorized climbs and a mountain top finish, could provide some fireworks. The only Spaniard close right now is Sastre and pretty much everyone who’s climbed up the mountain is hoping he’ll pull something special out of his hat today.

Let me just say this: Andorra is damn close to heaven, especially on a

As soon as the riders cross into Andorra the elevation starts going up, but the climb only really kicks in with 10k to go. Everyone who needs to be there at the bottom of the climb is there, but a lot can change in ten kilometers, especially if it’s straight up a mountain. As expected the odd attack was thrown, but in the end Denis Menchov was able to hold them off and all the big names wound up finishing in a pack together.

Piepoli was still riding at this point and it was great to get to see a pure climber like him doing what he does best.

So, a big day, exciting race, big mountain, and Maggy Backstedt is in the gruppetto after 214k (he’s hard to miss in the Swedish national kit). This is one of those dead end mountaintop finishes and only a couple teams actually drove their bus all the way to the top. The riders who aren’t lucky enough to get the shuttle service to the hotel back in town have to find their own way down.

Seemed Like a Good Idea… At the Time
I see Cadel and Piepoli and all the ProTour guys go flying by and I think to myself, when am I ever going to get to descend a mountain with the best cyclists in the world ever again in my life? I hopped the barrier and started ripping down after them!

Cadel suffering and Carlos smiling…things never change.

I start heading down, riding way faster than I should (because for some reason I need to go as fast as the pros even when I’ve got a massive handlebar bag on the front of my bike), and who comes zipping by, but Maggy Backstedt.

I take my chance and grab his wheel and stay with him for a couple kilometers doing 60 kph while he’s sucking on a bottle and I’m holding on for dear life. We’re weaving (me and Maggy) in and out of the traffic, passing the long line of cars that are trickling their way off the mountain.

Things are going great and I can’t believe that I’m chasing Maggy Backstedt down a mountain in Andorra… Then after a hard switchback this giant Eurobus comes out of absolutely nowhere straight up the mountain in the lane I’m currently hurtling down at about 50 kph!

The gruppetto rolled in 20 minutes after the leaders… I think Boonen’s
winking at me in the middle there.

Maggy (who actually knows how to descend a mountain) calmly applies his brakes and stops in traffic just fine. I, on the other hand, am going way too fast and with my crappy brakes lock up my back wheel, and yell at Maggy to watch out so I don’t crash into him.

I start fish tailing real hard, just squeak by Maggy, and somehow pull it together by putting all my weight on the handlebars. Then I squeeze through a tiny gap between the bus’s mirror and the cars in front of me that are still crawling their way down bumper to bumper.

Honestly, that was the closest I’ve ever come to dying on the bike, 50 kph headfirst into a bus would not have been pretty. I pulled over to collect my thoughts, yelled out sorry to Maggy. I see him ride by giving me a dirty look that just says “You idiot”.

I’ve now decided to take it a bit easier on the descents. You have to
go to Andorra, itґs great!

And if you’re reading this, sorry again Maggy, I am an idiot…


Matt Borland

Many thanks Matt – I’d say that’s worth a pair of PEZ socks for sure – now who else has a tale and the guts to tell it?

Gotta Story?
If you’ve got a story, comment or opinion you’d like to share, send us an email and we might just publish you in glorious pixelated black & white! Letters may be edited for grammar, spelling, length or just to make ‘em better.

Send your comments to:[email protected]

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.