What is a Sportive and how do I prepare?
Becoming more and more popular over the last few years, sportives are mass participation, non competitive, long distance cycle challenges. These events are not races and usually offer a choice of routes all varying in lengths and terrain thus catering for riders of all abilities and fitness. Routes will be chosen for quiet roads, scenery and beauty of the landscape and will also be well signposted and marshalled at major junctions. There will also be various food stops en route where you can refill water bottles and replenish your food supplies before carrying on. You will be provided with emergency contact numbers for medical assistance and breakdowns. Sportives allow you to cycle with like minded people who think it is completely normal to want to spend hours on a saddle on your days off.
If you are facing into your first sportive it can indeed be a daunting prospect. Here are a few of our tips to help you prepare for the day and more importantly how to survive it. Remember, it should be fun!
• Make sure your bike is in good working order, check your tyre pressure and ensure your chain is well oiled, and that your gears and brake pads are in good condition.
• Ensure the bike you are riding is suitable for the task at hand and is the correct size for you. While it is doable to ride a mountain bike on a road surface for 50+km, it certainly will not be the most enjoyable experience.
• Pace yourself - resist the urge to try and catch faster riders at the start and avoid burning yourself out. Start slow, finish fast.
• Eat and sip regularly, the idea is to keep your blood sugar at a constant level - don't skip a food stop to make up time and alternatively there is no need to scoff whole energy bars every 20 minutes, small bites will be sufficient.
• Prepare for the Irish weather - don't be tempted to leave the rain jacket at home just because the sun is shining when you start off, trying to complete a 100km cycle while soaked to the bone is no fun, especially if a chill sets in - bring a packable lightweight jacket or gilet in your back pocket just in case.
• Make sure you wear cycling shorts with a good quality chamois. Do not wear underwear under your shorts, the chamois pad is designed to be against your skin, and if it isn’t, chaffing is a real possibility.
• Make sure you are tooled up - spare tubes, tyre levers, repair kit, pump, mobile phone and money are essentials on any cycle; most of these will fit neatly into your saddlebag.
• Protect your eyes - the best glasses will have different lenses for different conditions from dark lenses in the summer to protect against eyestrain to clear lenses to use during the winter months to keep debris from the road out.
• Practice your bike handling skills so that you are confident in your ability to cycle within a group.