Road to RideLondon – Top Tips For Sportive Riders
Whilst I was up in London a couple of weekends ago racing the Nocturne and checking out the finals of the Women’s Tour, I ran into a couple of women from ŠKODA who are riding their first sportive this summer, Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.
In case you haven’t heard of the event (though I’d be really surprised if you haven’t) the Prudential RideLondon – Surrey 100 is a 100-mile cycle sportive for amateurs that takes place on closed roads in and around the capital using a variation of the route used for the 2012 London Olympic games.
The event is part of a three day celebration of cycling that kicks off with BMX racing, continues with a UCI women’s UCI WorldTour race – the Prudential RideLondon Classique – and finishes with a 200km road race – the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
It’s a challenge enough to actually get a place on the ride with the general public applying for a place by ballot (much like the London Marathon) so I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to take part for the first time this year.
Anyway, back to my pals at ŠKODA. Both women were really excited about taking part but as relatively new cyclists had butterflies in their stomachs as they tried to imagine what it would actually be like. Knowing quite well how reassuring it is to have a few tips ahead of leaping into the unknown, I thought I’d write some advice for them and for anyone riding a sportive, regardless of experience. I hope you find it helpful, guys!
- Don’t go off too fast.
After looking forward to a sportive for a long time, when you finally line up at the start with all your buddies sometimes the excitement can get too much. It’s hard not to go speeding off from the start like a rocket propelled by smiles, adrenalin and camaraderie but the problem with doing so if you risk severely depleting your energy reserves and making things difficult for yourself later. It’s far better to set off relatively slowly, keeping your heart rate low and your legs spinning gently as you warm up.
Ride at a pace that is enjoyable – remember, it’s not a race.
- Eat little and often
You can burn serious calories cycling and as the body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrates you’ll need to keep topping up your reserves or you risk ‘bonking,’ which is when you energy crashes so badly that you can barely carry on. Large meals are difficult to digest, will make you uncomfortable and will slow you down so eat little and often.
- Eat the right things
There’s often quite a spread of food at ‘feed stations’ on sportives and if you haven’t been eating little and often, you might arrive at one ravenously hungry. A piece of cake is not going to hurt you but try and avoid fatty foods such as cheese sandwiches, crisps, chips and fistfuls of biscuits as fat is really hard to digest when you’re exercising. Energy bars, bananas, nuts, dried fruits and peanut butter or jam sandwiches are all good choices.
- Ride with other people
Riding in a group uses less energy, particularly if you ‘draft’ the rider in front of you. Practice riding in groups before your sportive so that you know how to do this safely. The other reason riding in groups is good if because it’s more fun!
- Get your bike checked
There’s nothing more disappointing than an avoidable mechanical ruining the day you’ve been looking forward to. If you aren’t confident checking your bike over yourself, book it in for a service with a qualified mechanic ahead of your big day.
- Be self sufficient
Don’t be afraid to ask for help but it pays to be self sufficient. Pack a saddle bag with a spare tube (or two), a puncture repair kit, allen keys, tyre levers and a mini pump and make sure you know how to use them all in case you are separated from your friends. On that note, I always have an energy bar and a gel in my jersey pocket in case I’m delayed getting to a feed station or they don’t have anything I like to eat.
- Learn some hand signals
If you’re planning on riding in groups, it’s useful to know how to indicate to any riders following you that there’s a pothole, an obstruction, or something else they should be aware of. Check out this video from GCN which explains how they work.
- Break it into chunks
If you haven’t done a lot of long rides and you’re daunted by the distance, break the ride down into segments and just concentrate on completing each one. When I’m finding a ride tough, I like to think ‘I’ll just ride to that hill and then stop if I like, or I’ll just go to the next stop and see how I feel.’ If you give yourself small targets and even the option of quitting, it takes the pressure off and you’re likely to find you don’t actually want to give up.
- Be prepared
Hopefully you’ll have done some training or got used to riding for several hours at a time but the preparation doesn’t stop there. The night before your event, lay out all your clothing and prepare everything you’ll need, such as water bottles, snacks, spare clothing and tools. Have your breakfast foods to hand so that all you need to do is eat, dress and go and enjoy yourself. Which brings me to the next point:
- Have fun!