HOW TO TRAIN FOR A SPORTIVE

Article Mar 18, 2016

More women than ever are signing up for a sportive. Fancy the challenge? Here’s how to get involved!

Cyclosportives (or sportives; mass-participation, organised cycling events) are a fun way to keep fit. While there’s no doubt that sportives are tough, they’re not considered to be as competitive as traditional races. Sure, you can’t stop competitive souls from rocking up and trying to race you, but you can ignore them and enjoy the ride. These long-distance events are a great way to test your cycling mettle, and the number of new sportives is on the up. Along with a 200 per cent increase in the number of UK sportives, there has been a 33 per cent rise in the number of female-friendly bike events such as Macmillan’s Cycletta women’s series (humanrace.co.uk) or Evans Cycles’ One for the Girls series (evanscycles.com). In fact, with so many events to choose from, it’s pretty hard to ignore this growing trend. Itching to give a sportive a go? Here’s how to get your body ready for the ride. 

1. BUY THE RIGHT BIKE 

Ready to buy a road bike? This is an exciting moment, but it can also be a bit of a minefield. For starters, what type of bike do you want? Sportive cyclists appear on many rides – some will roll in on road bikes, while others might rock up on a mountain bike. There is no hard and fast rule, but a road bike that’s made for the terrain is best (and, it has to be said, fastest). ‘Many cycling manufacturers now offer bikes aimed at the sportive rider,’ adds Gareth Evans, Evans Cycles marketing manager. ‘Sportive-friendly bikes are less aggressive than classic road race bikes and offer a more comfortable ride for long hours in the saddle. But don’t think that this means they’re a slower alternative - they are often raced by the professionals at races like Paris-Roubaix!’ Speedy. 

2. INVEST IN YOUR KIT 

It really does pay to prepare for cycling – the more prepared you are, the more you’ll enjoy the ride. ‘Start out with a well-serviced and correctly set-up bike,’ says Kerry Bircher, British Cycling coach and humanrace.co.uk expert. ‘Pump up the tyres, put some fuel in your stomach, grab a full water bottle and your training will be more enjoyable.’ And it’s worth investing in high-tech clothing, too. ‘A bit of market research will help you find whivh clothing is right for you, but padded cycling shorts, cycling jerseys, gloves and helmets are considered essentials,’ adds Evans. ‘A packable gilet or rain jacket is also a must.’

3. OVERCOME YOUR FEARS 

Don’t be afraid to speed along the roads. If riding alongside the cars scares you, brush up on your safety knowledge. ‘You need to be confident on your bike,’ explains Bircher. ‘Understand how your bike works and be able to handle your bike safely in traffic situations. Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb so that drivers can easily see you.’ A pop of high visibility colour and some rear lights will also help to ensure you’re seen. High viz is even needed on sunny days. ‘Cycle training with a Bikeability [new-style cycling proficiency] instructor is also good option if you're new to cycling or haven't cycled for a while,’ adds Bircher.

4. TRAIN WITH YOUR BRAIN

‘It’s easy to get carried away by doing excessive training in preparation for a sportive, but give your body enough time to adjust to the exercise to avoid injury,’ warns Evans. ‘Sportives are perfect for first-timers, but make sure you’re able to ride the distance of the category you are entering.’ Don’t be a dare devil – start with a distance that you’re comfortable riding and build your way up to the longer distance next time. Once you’ve completed your first event, you’ll be able to gauge if you’re fit enough to move on to the next length of ride.

5. FIND A FEW FRIENDS

Riding in a group is a great way to prepare for a mass-participation cycling event such as a sportive. ‘It can be a bit daunting riding with thousands of cyclists around you,’ explains Evans, ‘So it’s a good idea to gather a few of your cycling buddies and practise group riding before your event.’ Get a feel for what it’s like being near to someone else’s wheels, and learn how to point out obstacles like cars and potholes to other cyclists. They’ll thank you for it.