Thinking of taking on your first 100 mile challenge on the bike in 2015 but anxious about what it entails? We have enlisted the help of cycling coach Kerry Bircher from Revolution Cycling to help. Over the next couple of months Kerry will not only provide detailed training plans, she will also address all of the elements needed to get you to the finish line of your first 100. So go on, what are you waiting for, the is the perfect opportunity to do something really incredible in 2015.
In this post, Kerry addresses what a sportive actually is and what you should expect:
According to Wikipedia: ‘A cyclosportive, or often simply sportive, is a short to long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling event. The Italian term gran fondo is commonly used for these events in the United States, Australia and some other English-speaking countries.’
In the UK the events are considered non-competitive events, although in some sportives there is the use of timing chips to ensure a healthy level of competitiveness is present.
However in Europe in particular, there is more of a competitive element with categories and prizes awarded to the fastest finishers.
Sportives appeal to riders of any experience or fitness level. Some riders will be attracted to the challenge of a long distance event or looking for an element of competition, perhaps by signing up with a bunch of mates for a stress-free, guided, fast ride, or trying to be in the first or fastest group to finish. Others, who might find the leap to road racing a little intimidating or elitist, can ride at a steadier pace and still enjoy the benefits of a ride with marked directions, feed stops and mechanical support.
There are literally hundreds of events held each year, and now the ‘season’ stretches into autumn and even winter months. Websites such as Total Women’s Cycling and Cyclosport carry an excellent information and events calendar, while British Cycling's new sportive section details all registered UK events (albeit limited).
Once you've found the perfect event, sign up through the event website as soon as you can. The biggest events - the Fred Whittons, Dragon Ride, Ride100, Etape Cymru and La Marmottes, Cape Arguses of this world - regularly oversubscribe and only offer a brief period for you to register interest. They often select entries by ballot, so it can become a bit of a lottery whether you secure a place or not, and you may need to travel with an independent travel company to secure a place.
Also worthy of noting is the increased number of women’s only sportives available with Macmillan Cycletta taking a lead role and offering a range of distances from 20km up to (new for 2015!) 150km.
When choosing an event pay attention to what the event is called, for example the ‘Exmoor Beast’ or ‘Surrey Legs of Steel’ suggest a particularly challenging terrain and may not be a novice event!! Neither should you doubt the difficulty of some of the more innocently named UK sportives, so do some research beforehand. While the UK lacks some of the Alpine mountains, the sportive organisers tend to design the route around the most challenging hills in the area; so expect sharp, steep climbs of 18-20% gradients.
Newcomers shouldn't underestimate the physical demands of a long sportive and the prospect of riding a ‘century’ can be very daunting, but entirely achievable.
Have faith that if you can ride a bike and follow our carefully structured training plan, you can achieve the fitness and confidence levels to complete your first century and become a regular 100 Mile Cyclosportive rider.
Kerry is a coach for Revolution Cycling who offer coaching programmes for women and can help you on your road to your first 100.