30 things learned in 30 years of cycling – No. 7

How to ride a sportive

Many cyclists take up the sport with the intention of just ‘getting a bit fit’. Within a short space of time they are amazed at how much their fitness has improved. Next up on the horizon comes the local charity cycle and very shortly after that a 100k event. Within a year a person can go from complete novice to riding a 160k sportive and many people do. So here are 10 tips on how best to prepare for and ride a Sportive ;

1 : Build up the distance gradually and try to ride close to the event distance 3 – 4 weeks beforehand.

2: Rest but don’t stop : In the week preceding a sportive you should still ride your bike two or three times but there is no need to go over two hours. It is also a good idea to get out the day before as it will loosen you up for the event itself.

3 : Fuel up : Be sure to have a good meal the evening before with plenty of carbs and a good breakfast on the morning of the event. Hard to beat a large bowl of porridge with Manuka honey, dried fruit and nuts and a banana sliced over the top. If you are travelling on the morning of the event it’s a good idea to have a pot of Ambrosio creamed rice or some other easy to eat high carb snack when you get there.

4 : Drink up : Be sure to be well hydrated by drinking at least 2 litres of water the day before and keep sipping on the way but stop 30 mins before the event is due to start or you will be stopping out the road for the call of nature.

5 : On the bike fuel : Have a plan as to how you are going to keep your engine (you) topped up on the day. For most sportives you will need 2 water bottles filled with whatever drink you are used to using in training if you use a specific energy drink. Don’t experiment with anything new on the day. However if you use plain water or can bring a sachet or two or dissolvable isotonic tablets along you will only need one bottle as there will be plenty of places along the way to top up with water. Try to take a small bite of a snack every thirty minutes of whatever you like to eat. For some that will be energy bars, a piece of fruit cake or a banana. Gels should be used sparingly as they are harder on the stomach and are most useful in the last hour of the event to ‘get you home’. After the first hour try to sip every 10 minutes and nibble every 20.

6 : Pace yourself : Try not to get caught up in the madness of the adrenaline filled start. Most sportives usually start in the same fashion as a stage of the Tour de France. Cyclists just can’t help themselves when a large group gets together. (I’m just as bad as anyone) The lead group usually covers forty kilometres in the first hour unless there is a good climb to sort things out. Every time, people dig in to stay with the lead group early on only to spend the rest of the day suffering and wishing they had just started at a pace they could hold all day. After all it is only a Sportive and not a race. The aim of the day is to enjoy the cycle on new roads and to meet new people. This is a reason that I’m not convinced about the benefit of chip timing on Sportives.

7 : Obey the rules of the road : Even if there are 50 volunteers in high viz jackets with red flags at every junction they have no legal authority to stop traffic. It is the responsibility of each individual rider to look after their own safety and to obey the rules of the road. Even experienced cyclists forget this during events.

8 : Get your bike in shape : As someone who has spent countless hours driving behind sportives doing back up service I can tell you that the first hour of any event is always the busiest. If you have trained for months for an event you owe it to yourself and your club mates to have your bike in good condition. DO NOT try to get a last bit out of tyres that are worn through to the canvass (I see this regularly on events). Two weeks beforehand is a good time to get your bike serviced, have new tyres, chain and brake blocks fitted. Give your bike a good wash the day beforehand and be sure to degrease the chain. Here is a guide on how to wash your bike 

9 : Arrive on time and relax : Get to the start of the event one hour before start time and find a parking spot. Use the facilities and relax. You have the training done, you have the petrol tank full of porridge and rice. Your bike is in tip top condition and you are ready to enjoy a great day of cycling.

10 : What next : After the event try to savour the accomplishment with a few friends over a coffee or a meal on the way home. The next day try to get out for 40 to 60 minutes and spin a low gear to loosen out the legs. It will help you feel fresher and also keep the momentum going. Whenever you reach a goal there is always a tendency to take the foot off the gas and before you know it you spend two weeks without going near the bike and loose a huge amount of the fitness gained in the lead up to the event. Set a new goal and pedal on !




2 thoughts on “30 things learned in 30 years of cycling – No. 7

  • September 6, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    I live for bikes, so I love this blog. I recently bought a Wave ebike from https://waveelectricbikes.com – the first e-bike I’ve ever owned. The best part of it is that I can ride it like a traditional pedal bike but then, when I get tired, I can turn on the motor and let the bike do the work. Great for extending a ride for tens of miles so I get to really get out there and see the sights.

  • September 8, 2017 at 12:27 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the things you learned in 30 years of cycling. I have 60 years of cycling and couldn’t have said it better.


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