I began drafting this post earlier this week after completing the Equalizer ride on Sunday with Glen, Lisa, Helen and Laura. After getting the news that I have secured a place in Ride London through the ballot, it suddenly seemed very appropriate to share my love of sportives!
What are sportives?
Sportives are organised long distance mass-participation cycling events with marshaled, sign-posted routes. They can be likened to a cycling version of a marathon, as there is an entry fee, food/water stations and sometimes spectators along the route. Sportives can be ridden for charity or for a personal challenge.
Here’s why I love riding sportives…
1. Explore new areas
Sportives are a great opportunity to ride new roads and explore a different area of the country, without the hassle of planning a route. The course is guided by clear sign-posts with marshals, mechanical and medical support out on the roads. It gets me out of the habit of following the same route every weekend and lets me explore further afield.
2. Choice of distances
There are typically a variety of distances to chose from at sportive events, ranging from around 30 miles to 100 miles plus. If you are planning to sign up for your first sportive, consider a distance which is challenging but achievable. Generally there is also the option to drop down to the shorter route on the day, if you are not feeling up to the full course.
3. Different terrain
Sticking to a local route might not offer the chance to train on more challenging hilly terrain. Most events will publish a course profile online so you can check out the elevation. An undulating route is a good opportunity to learn to climb and descend, if you are used to cycling a flatter route.
4. Timed but not competitive
Sportives are not considered to be a race, but they are usually chip-timed and some will aim to complete the ride within a certain time. Whether you are aiming for a personal best or setting yourself a challenge in terms of distance, sportives can be used as a benchmark for improvements in your riding. This weekend, I completed the 39 mile Equalizer Sportive in 2:52, whereas last February my time was 2:58. It shows some improvement over the year!
5. Practice group riding
Riding in a group is an important cycling skill- it helps you to save energy and become more efficient by sheltering from the wind. If you usually ride solo then a sportive gives the chance to practice riding with others, just find a group who are travelling at a suitable pace for you to keep up. When riding in a group, it is important to communicate hazards in the road, busy junctions or traffic approaching from behind. It’s also great fun to ride with a group of friends!
6. Great photos!
Race photos from running events are notoriously bad, I cringe when I click through to see an unflattering shot of myself staggering across the finish line. However the photography at cycling events seems to capture my best side! I’ve purchased several sportive event photos, as I actually love how they look! Some sportives even provide copies of photos to download free of charge.
7. Overtaking men!
OK, I know I said sportives are not competitive but I do get a kick out of ‘chicking’ men! Cycling events are typically male-dominated, so it is a small victory to leave men in my dust particularly on a steep climb!
8. Medals and goodies
I will admit that the bling is one of my main motivations for taking part in events, whether it’s cycling, swimming or running. It’s a great sense of a achievement to cross the finish line and be presented with a shiny medal as a memento of the day. It’s not as common to receive a medal in cycling events, but there will usually be goodies including gels, water bottles, bars to take home.
9. Feed stations
Along the route there will be a number of feed stations laden with a huge variety of snacks. I tend to carry my own fuel and rarely stop at a feed station, but it is always an option if I am running low on supplies. Feed stations also offer a chance to get off your bike, stretch your legs, go to the toilet and top up your water bottles.
10. Use as training towards a bigger event
Now that I’ve got my first century (100 mile) ride on the calendar, I’ll be using shorter distance sportives as training towards my goal event. I’m looking at the 68 mile Evans Ride-It sportive in July to increase my mileage in preparation for Ride London.
Photo credits: Sportive Photo
Have you taken part in a sportive? Were you lucky in the Ride London ballot?