How to Choose a Sportive
With so much choice it can be hard to pick the right event. Maybe you are looking to complete your first sportive? Or have you done them before but want to push your limits and choose something harder?
In this post I highlight the things to consider when choosing a Sportive or Gran Fondo.
Firstly, take a moment to consider why are you doing this. Maybe it’s to boost your fitness. Maybe to give you motivation through the winter months. Or perhaps you have already done a 60-mile event and want to do 100 miles. It really doesn’t matter so long as it’s clear in your mind when choosing.
Many events have several routes of differing distance, something like 35 miles, 60 miles or 100 miles. I think everyone is capable of riding 100 miles provided the terrain is not too challenging (see next point) and they prepare accordingly. So don’t be too conservative. Especially if you’ve done a 60-mile event before, there is no reason why you can’t do 100 miles.
The general rule in training is to complete at least one ride of 70-80% of the target distance in the weeks before the event, but it’s not essential. I think the important thing is to get plenty of regular riding in over the preceding months.
100 miles riding in the Yorkshire Dales is not like riding 100 miles in Lincolnshire!
It’s relatively easy to spin-along on a flat road for mile after mile without expending too much energy. This is especially true when riding in a group where you can save 30-40% of your energy.
Once the road tips uphill however, this all changes. Now you’re on your own; just you and the climb. Weight (yours and the bike) becomes a limiting factor, and you are forced to work as hard as the incline dictates.
So do look at the amount of feet or metres of climbing. Event organisers often have a difficulty rating which is helpful.
Here are some examples of events around 100 miles:
|RideLondon||102.3 miles||3,623ft (1,104m)|
|Etape du Dales||109.1 miles||8,973ft (2,735m)|
|Fred Whitton Challenge||112 miles||10,400ft (3,170m)|
The date of the event dictates how long you have to train for. How much time you need all depends on your current level of fitness and the size of the challenge. I’d suggest most people need between 3-6 months to prepare for a really challenging event. That is, if they want to enjoy it and not just suffer all the way around!
This leads us on quite nicely to the weather. An early-season event could have cold and / or wet (and windy) weather to add to the challenge. Make sure you’re up for that and prepare your bike and clothing accordingly.
Also linked to weather, is the location. If it’s a domestic event, you’ll pretty-much know what to expect (heatwaves aside!) If you’re venturing abroad to for instance, the French Alps, this can be very different.
The temperature and humidity in Southern Europe is much higher than here and requires some physical adaption. You are unlikely to have time to do that adaption (it takes up to 10 days) so you need to go well prepared.
For the high temperatures, make sure you pack hydration tablets and plenty of water bottles. Suncream is a must of course. I also like to take a gilet when riding hilly terrain; you’ll be surprised how cold you get descending for 30 minutes so put this on at the top.
There are loads of events to choose from, often with different lengths. Pick one that is going to be challenging but realistic. If you take into account all the above, then you can pick wisely and start to plan how to get yourself ready both mentally and physically. Enjoy!
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