Sportives, or cyclosportives, are high-mileage mass participation rides, typically held over hilly terrain with big groups setting out in planned phases.
Are they races? Not officially, although there’s a start line, a finish line and you’re timed… They’re usually held on open roads too, so you have to obey traffic laws.
A bit like the London Marathon, most people are aiming to achieve their own personal goal rather than to cross the line first. You can take it as seriously or as easy as you like, as long as you finish before the cut-off time; if you don’t keep to the minimum pace, you could be stopped mid-ride in some events. There’s no such thing as a standard sportive distance although one-day events are most often around the 100-mile mark, frequently with shorter options on offer too.
What equipment do I need?
Bike: There are no rules regarding the type of bike you need to ride in a sportive but most people find the best tool for the job to be a standard road machine or one of the many sportive-specific bikes that are out there.
Typically, a sportive bike will have a longer head tube than normal and possibly a shorter top tube to give a more upright, back-friendly riding position for long hours in the saddle. Check out the Specialized Roubaix and Felt Z ranges for examples of what’s on offer.
Gears: You might also want a compact chainset, typically with 50- and 34-tooth chainrings, that’ll get you up tough slopes at the end of a hard day, or even a triple, depending on your climbing ability and the terrain. If the course profile shows a 25 percent climb, consider getting a large 27-tooth sprocket on the back. Check out the course profile in advance and have smaller gears available than you think you’ll need, just to be safe.
Riding kit: Wear your most comfortable kit, particularly when it comes to your contact points: shorts, gloves and riding shoes. Be prepared for wet weather too. You’ll need to be able to carry food and plenty of liquid, and event organisers will usually insist you wear a helmet. Whatever you use, test it in advance. Don’t try anything new on the day of your big ride.
Be prepared for wet weather: be prepared for wet weatherBikeRadar
How do I get started?
Whether you’re a first timer just aiming to get round or a sportive veteran looking to take your performance to the next level, you’ll benefit from a structured training program, and that’s what we’ll be providing in subsequent instalments. Our advice will get you to the start line fully prepared for the challenge ahead. We’re offering three different programs, each aimed at a different goal:
1. Beginner’s ride: This is the one for you if you’re a first-time or inexperienced sportive rider preparing for an event such as the 100km sportive at BikeRadar Live
2. Big British ride: Choose this one if you already have a few sportive T-shirts in the drawer or you’re a strong, experienced cyclist and you’re taking part in a longer sportive, such as the 100-mile event at BikeRadar Live
3. Continental mega-ride: This is for you if you’ve been so inspired by the Cycling Plus Sportive that you want to head to Europe for one of the big, mountainous sportives!
In practice, you may not fit perfectly into one of these categories. You might be targeting a shorter event but want to train more hours than we’ve planned in for the Beginner’s ride category. You might have signed up for a Continental mega-ride but be unable to devote the time we’ve suggested. Or your Big British ride might be every bit as tough as a Euro event… That’s all fine.
These programs are guides, they’re not set in stone. If you need to swap things around – that’s fine. We’ll be giving you as much information as we can to allow you to tweak the plans to suit your circumstances, abilities and goals.
Get the medical all-clear
If you’re hoping to follow a structured training plan for the first time, or to increase the volume and/or intensity of your riding significantly, check with your GP that it’s safe for you to do so.
In part two we’ll cover the key sportive training rules that’ll help boost your performance. We’ll also feature the first of three four-week training plans designed to help riders of all abilities get in shape in time for BikeRadar Live.
About BikeRadar Live
BikeRadar Live is the biggest ever mass-participation cycling event to hit the UK, and will take place on the weekend of 30–31 May 2009 at DoningtonPark in Leicestershire.
The weekend will be packed full of races and challenges, with something for everyone, whether you want to compete, watch your friends and family or just check out some of the world’s best riders.
Entry into any of the events gives you full access to the festival’s many attractions including spectacular all-weather stunt displays, invitational dirt jump and dual slalom comps, a cycling film festival, live big top entertainment and the Scott Sunset DJ Sessions. Test yourself against pro and celebrity riders in the Procycling Hot Laps, post a time in the Wattbike comp or take the kids along to the Islabikes Children’s Skills School. A purpose-built bikes and accessories expo will give festival-goers the chance to ride the latest bikes from leading brands and grab show-only deals on bikes and accessories.
Events include the Cycling Plus Sportive in association with the Geoff Thomas Foundation (100km & 100 mile), Whyte Night night-time enduros (12hr & 4hr), MBUK eliminator dual-slalom and the Devil Takes the Hindmost circuit race. Click here to sign up.
BikeRadar Live’s world-class facilities include on-site camping with a kids and family area, secure bike lock-up, showers, bike wash, workshop, picnic area, medical centre, viewing stands and food and drink market.
BikeRadar Live is brought to you by Future, the makers of Mountain Biking UK, Cycling Plus, BikeRadar.com, What Mountain Bike, Cyclingnews.com and Procycling.