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Beginners: Getting started in sportives

Demystifying sportives so you all can enjoy one in 2014

We’re here to kick start your cycling in 2014 and get you to sign up to one of the cycling world’s most enjoyable events – the sportive!

There’s always a handy wheel to follow and people to talk to. Image by iNew Forest via Flickr

Ever heard of friends talking about sportives, wondering what on earth they were and how you could get in on the action? We’re here to give you the lowdown on what they are and how to get involved.

Before I rode my first sportive I had misconceived ideas about what they were, who rode them and how they were ridden and it all left me with a feeling of dread.

Because sportives are ‘timed’ my initial thought is that they were races for pros. I hate to admit it, but it was only because I had my other half as a safety blanket that I thought about trying them out at all.

And, I’m so glad I did. It’s partially down to my enjoyment of sportives that I’m here as editor of TWC, so I guess I’ve got a lot to thank them for!

What are sportives and what do they involve?

Sportives are long distance organised rides, on (usually) open roads over challenging terrain.

They’re emphatically not races, because a race on the road in the UK needs police permission and a lot more support than a ride.

Most sportives offer various distances on the day, ranging from 30 to 150 miles, making them accessible for most levels of cyclists.

You have to pay to enter most sportives, but it is worth the money as they offer a multitude of benefits to riding on your own:

– feed stations, with an all-you-can-eat buffet of gels, bars, bananas and water

– signed and marshalled courses with GPS downloads of the route

– timing chips

– all-important breakdown recovery

– opportunity to buy photographs of you looking pro on your bike

– some sportives take place on closed-roads, be prepared to pay extra for the added benefit of traffic-free routes.

The photographs are a nice little touch I wasn’t expecting. Admittedly, the photographers always seem to be perched at the top of a pesky hill when you’re not looking at your freshest. My other half and I have bought a couple over the years, but for some reason they still haven’t made it up on to the wall!

Find out more

Here at Total Women’s Cycling, we’re in the process of launching an interactive Events Calendar to help you source events in and around your area, which will be launching SOON.

In the meantime, there are extensive sportive calendars at the following sites:

– British Cycling
– CycloSport
– Wiggle Sportive series
– Evans Cycles Ride-It Series
– Cycletta (women’s only series of sportives)

Bite the bullet

If you are teetering on the edge of signing up to a sportive, bite the bullet and go do it now. Set yourself one that you can work towards over the coming months of 2014.

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