Sunday, 14 October 2018 11:02

Things to do on a Bike : Sign Up for a Sportive

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One of the hardest aspects I personally find in my cycling life is motivation. Usually in just pushing myself to ride harder and train but sometimes just to get my arse off the sofa and endless repeats of sub standard American sitcoms, especially during the depressing months of autumn.

Motivation is easier when there's something to aim for so I'd suggest signing up for something and as a cyclist the obvious answer is a sportive. At this point I'm not even saying ride one but sign up for one. In 2018 I've ridden two, both of which were on roads closed to traffic. Etape Loch Ness and Prudentail RideLondon-Surrey 100. Two rides which vary greatly.

Coming early in the season the Etape Loch Ness is at the mercy of Scottish Spring weather so a wide variety of kit is worth taking. In 2018 in was a beautiful sunny day but with a 6am start it was cold. Very, very cold but that was soon forgotten on the amazing circumnavigation of the Loch. How often would one get the chance to ride down the A82 without coaches speeding past?

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 With routes through the villages and a return along the quiet south shore it carries a sting in a steep long and strength sapping climb from Fort Augustus it's a ride that needs preparation and knowing this I dragged myself out during the dark winter days to get ready and I enjoyed it. I mean really enjoyed it. Riding in bad weather isn't as horrible as you'd think. It creates a bit of bragging material and is great for social media posts. With my training I was 30mins inside my target time and had never felt so good going into the season early. Motivation had worked.

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I was signed up to Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 at the tale end of July but had months without anything planned and motivation dropped off. Looking back at my training log I appear to have done a lot of miles and whilst all miles on 2 wheels are good there is a distinct lack of hard and long or even short and intense rides. Mostly just commutes and bimbles. To go easy on myself it has been a challenging year personally but with already being very fit and a gap I let things go a bit after June with the resulting performance drop off.

The thing about doing any sport is you only get better by pushing yourself and without the motivation I didn't. Don't get me wrong I did still achieved a hundred miles in RideLondon-Surrey 100 and with the weather condition just getting around rubber side down was a triumph in itself but dropping 30 mins on last year and I'm left with a sense of despondency and disappointment in myself. 

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Many are offput from doing sportives by the cost involved in entering and this is certainly a problem with closed road events. Such events are expensive to put on and lets be fair  the oranisers are businesses out to make a profit. Lets not get too sanctimonius about this a business not making a profit won't last long. Closed roads though aren't essential for a sportive and some of the open road ones uses routes that are very very quiet. One of my favourite events crossed the Cambrian mountains of mid Wales and was the quietest route I'd ever ridden. Even the A482 trunk road I'd always found busy when driving was quieter than I thought. perhaps in the car I'd got a false perspective.

Others are put off by the sheer numbers of riders and yes RideLondon-Surrey 100 is challenging but if that worries you Etape Loch Ness due to it's location is smaller and again the non closed roads are usually quieter although not always. Just do a little research and find something for you.

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 One thing that seems to have happened over the last few years is the increase in extreme events. Mammoth events of seemingly impossible distances with climbs that never end. If this floats your boat then fine if it doesn't then there are plenty of events that offer shorter routes of as little as 30 miles. This is perfect for those who just fancy dipping their toes in and usually are just a little more affordable.

There are some idiots and macho men who ride these events but you can either use sarcasm so subtle that they don't quite realise but suspect or ignore them. Personally I like to overtake them on climbs because they're usually burnt themselves out at the beginning. Indeed the cameradie on events is usually top notch and although most of the conversations go along the line of moaning about the weather or wishing more training it's still a bit of a laugh. I make it a habit to ask at least once on the main climb if somebody has a spare gear they can lend me. Sometimes people even laugh.

Stu Thomas

 A few years ago my partner Julie broke her ankle running. Knowing how much she loves keeping fit and knowing that running would be tough I signed her up for the 2nd edition of Velothon Wales, a close road 80 or so miles through docks and hills of South East Wales. She didn't ven possess a rad bike at that stage but the thought of an event spurred her on and she completed the event and picked up her medal. And that's it really. A sportive and it's finish line gives you something to aim for a purpose to those training miles in the cold and wet. Getting a medal at the end, and I don't care what you say, gives you a sense of pride and when you enjoy a post ride pint still wearing it around your neck you'll look around and see that everyone else is still wearing theirs. Not even your teenage daughter asking "Did you get that for participation?" can spoil it.

So sign up for a Sportive. Challenge yourself. Give yourself something to train for over autumn and winter. Get that motivation. Me I've got cross season and I've stupidly entered an off road duathlon next month for now but I'm already planning next summer. Got to add to my collection after all!

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Some Sportives I'd recommend from personal experience

https://www.etapelochness.com/

https://www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk/

https://fatladattheback.com/sportive

http://www.abercyclefest.co.uk/

Photo Credits

Etape Loch Ness Tricker PR

Prudential RideLondon-Surrey London Marathon Events