Having never done a road 'event' before, does anyone have advice for an unfit rider trying their first Sportive?
Well I guess it depends how quickly you want to ride it. Also how much time you have to train.
If you just want to finish without suffering to much just get used to riding for a few hours at a time, steadily increasing the distance over a period of a couple of months or so. I would start on easy terrain and introduce some hills when you have some miles in your legs. Most sportives are hilly so check out the course for an indication of what to expect. Dont make the rides so hard that you cant complete them or cant ride for days afterwards. But dont just bimle along stopping for cake every few miles if you want to get fit.
One thing that makes things a lot easier is learning to ride in a group. In the actual event take your turn on the front though. Its really annoying to pull people along for miles on end without any help.
Check out www.easycycling.com it's full of advice and is run by a true cycling enthusiast. There is a sportive training guide on the site.
I rode my first sportive last year after re-starting road cycling after a long lay off. I agree with "ilovemytinbred" but would add discover the pace you are comfortable with and can maintain from your "sunday rides". A bike computer or simple log helps here.
When it comes to groups you may well find that their pace is a little too hot for you and although it can be tempting to try and keep up you could find yourself burnt up before you get round. I think this particularly so in the first miles so don't go off too fast, better to start slower and finish strong i think. Most of all enjoy yourself.
My chances to get miles under my belt are only my twice weekly bike commute and the occasional mtb ride with mates... Road riding in a pack is going to be something completely new.
On a practical level I found when I first started doing Audax that eating was key to getting around.
If you aren't used to long consistent rides then you may find you 'bonk' and run out of energy.
It's not like just getting a bit tired. It's a Very Bad Place. Once you get into that place you can't do anything or make any effort at all, and it takes some time to get out.
It will vary for each person but I found I needed something on average about every 25km, so if I was doing a 200km ride I would make sure I had enough to cover that. Not much, just a bite size flapjack or a quarter of a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Energy drink in between.
On a fast ride or a race I would use gels but they are not cheap and frankly the idea of having more than a couple makes me question why I am doing it in the first place.
Go prepared (tools, tubes, bottles, gels and bars). I agree with 'Fasted' aim to enjoy yourself.
Join your local cycling club and start going out with them.
You'll get fitter and learn lots of things you didn't know you didn't know.
You'll also make friends and get much more out of your cycling.
Hydration & nutrition shouldn't be an issue, I used to do Mountain Bike Orienteering ( trailquest ).. up to 6hrs storming round The Lakes.
What's the organisation of the events like?
Start the event early. If you're not so fast you'll have other people catching you up and have someone to ride with. I was late starting one last year and had to do virtually the whole thing alone, not much fun especially as the weather was grim.