The Cycling Plus Sportive supported by Pacific Outdoor Equipment in association with the Geoff Thomas Foundation at BikeRadar Live is just six weeks away, and your final month’s training is vital if you want to finish in style. We'll be publishing the final training plans in a fortnight, but this week we're focussing on getting your bike, kit and eating habits ready for the big day.
Prepare your bike
Mechanical problems are a fact of cycling. You’ll never eliminate them entirely but you can take measures to reduce the chances of something going wrong on your sportive and minimise the impact of any difficulties that do occur.
Check your bike over thoroughly or book it in for a service a couple of weeks before your big day. That way, if new parts have to be fitted or anything needs overhauling, you’re able to give it a few rides in training to check it’s all working okay.
But don’t change anything that doesn’t absolutely need changing. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: use Joe’s TEST IT acronym (Try Everything Several Times In Training). Now’s not the time to treat yourself to a new saddle or bike computer – you want to be as familiar and comfortable as possible with everything you use in your big ride, not getting to grips with new equipment.
Pay particular attention to your brakes – check the blocks for wear, make sure they’re hitting the braking surface correctly and that there’s no chance of them contacting the tyres’ sidewalls once they’ve worn down a bit more on long descents.
This is doubly important if you’ve chosen to swap to your saved-for-best wheels, in which case make sure you give them a test run on a couple of pre-event rides.
And if you have to take your bike apart for travelling, go for a spin once you’ve reassembled it. It’s not a good time to realise two miles into your sportive that your rear mech has taken a knock while in transit.
You’ve got to strike a balance between being prepared for every eventuality and keeping things light. At the very least take a spare inner tube or two and everything you need for fixing a flat. We always carry a multitool that includes a chaintool and a chain pin in a pocket or wedge pack too.
Chances are you can change an innertube blindfolded – should the need ever arise – but, if not, do a couple of dry runs at home. For example, do you know how to re-index your gears quickly via the cable stops or the barrel adjuster on your rear mech? If not, practise.
Make sure you’re able to use any equipment that you take with you, such as CO2 cartridges and tools, otherwise it’s just ballast.
And however well prepared you are, stick a tenner and a few squares of toilet roll somewhere safe. They weigh nothing and you never know.
Study the weather forecast and prepare for the worst, especially if your event is in the UK. A light waterproof can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and a miserable slog if the weather turns evil.
And be ready for the sun too. Slap on the tarpaulin-factor sun block – sportives are hard enough without the back of your neck turning lobster-red half way around.
As for other clothing, wear tried-and tested kit. We’ve known people do sportives in new shoes and get sore knees 20 miles in because the cleats aren’t quite right, and in new shorts that chafe from the start. Don’t do it!
Fill your fuel tanks
It’s important not to make drastic changes to the type and amount of food you eat in the days before your big event. Sudden changes can cause gastrointestinal stress, so stick with what you know.
As you reduce the mileage during the taper period, your muscles will get the chance to increase their glycogen stores – you’re effectively filling your fuel tanks. This carbo-loading effect is vital if you’re going to perform at your best on the day, so follow the training programmes; don’t be tempted to squeeze in an extra session.
From four days before your event, be sure to snack regularly even thoughyou won’t be riding much, and keep food and fluid close at hand, especially when you’re travelling to your event. Forget weight loss or waiting until you feel hungry; stock up on muscle fuel.
Make sure you drink plenty the day before your sportive by keeping a water bottle with you all the time, and stay away from the booze – leave any bevvies until the night after. Have your main meal in the middle of the day and eat a small evening supper.
Have an early breakfast on the day of your event, about three hours before the off. Organise it in advance if you’re staying in a hotel or B&B, or you might prefer to take your own cereal or energy bars. And if you’ve got a long journey to the start, take something to munch or drink on the way.
We wrote about food and drink for the event in part three. Just make sure you keep with what has worked in training rather than relying on a last-minute brainwave.