How fit do I have to be to do a sportive?

by wjputt   August 28, 2012  

I have about 800 kms under my belt from cycling in July & August. I am doing a night ride from Manchester to Blackpool for the British Heart Foundation on 29/30 September - 52 miles. I spotted the sportive for the Stoke on Trent stage of the Tour of Britain on 23 September and I am tempted but am I fit enough. I'd do the 100 km one. All thoughts & ideas gratefully received.

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I generally work on an 80% rule. If you can ride 80% of the distance then you will be fine. But it is not so much the distance, it is the pace that could be a problem. Meaning that you need to set a reasonable pace for you and not be drawn into mini races. The route does not seem too hilly; just enter and take it easy(ish). What is the worst that can happen?

posted by SideBurn [787 posts]
28th August 2012 - 23:20

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I would echo what SideBurn has said. Ride within yourself, keep nibbling and drinking (and several short stops if you feel like it) and you'll be fine. You don't have to be epecially strong to get round a course like that. If you can hook up with a group riding at a sensible pace you'll not be riding into the wind all day.

Get some lumpy 30-50 mile rides in over the next couple of weeks, push the pace a bit if you're feeling up to it, and you'll surely have enough strength and stamina. Hope you enjoy yourself.

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posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
29th August 2012 - 10:22

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Thanks SideBurn. Some helpful encouragement there. Tend not to eat or drink much when I am out riding.

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
29th August 2012 - 10:53

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Thanks Simon E. What is a steady pace in terms of kms per hour? By lumpy I assume you mean hilly! I don't eat or drink much when out. What sort of stuff do you eat? Whereabouts in Shropshire are you? I'm in Nantwich. Are you doing the Stoke stage sportive?

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
29th August 2012 - 10:58

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If you're doing 100km then you'll need to learn to eat on the bike. It takes a bit of time to find out what suits you - but essentially you want stuff with high carb content that's easily digestible.
Have a look on bikeradar.com for nutrition tips, maybe? For me, I tend to take a couple of energy bars, a couple of gels, and a packet of jelly or haribo. And one bottle with water, one with glucose/fructose/salt mix in it. I don't eat or drink all of that, but it's worth having more than you might need.
Obviously, the fitter you are, the less you need to eat. But for anyone, if you're riding more than about an hour, it's essential to drink and eat, little and often. Hydration is the most important, but to avoid the dreaded bonk you need to keep your sugar levels topped up.

posted by bashthebox [639 posts]
29th August 2012 - 11:07

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I do not want to confuse you, but, have a look at 'optimal nutrition 4 sport' this site suggests that not eating too much is not necessarily a bad thing. I am trying these ideas at the moment. Also, you are more likely to over-hydrate than under-hydrate. But as I always say (but not always do) 'nothing new on race day'! Try different ideas and find what works for you. I train and race without eating or drinking much and would not like to think it does me or my results harm; if you are not hungry or thirsty then it is not necessarily a problem.

posted by SideBurn [787 posts]
29th August 2012 - 12:42

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I've done the challenge ride for the last two years (although it was 80km rather than 98km then).

IME, there's a range of riders that do it - I rode with my brother in law (who'd done 25 miles as his longest ride beforehand) at a 14mph average, and we were by no means the last ones in. The feed stops have been well stocked, and there's usually bananas on offer if you're unsure of the energy bars and gels. You'll be able to fill bottles at them all too, iirc, each one had fresh water & energy drink on offer. Feeds this year look to be at 25km and 60km (according to the ride manual).

If you're in Nantwich, you can do some decent rides on the Cheshire Cycleway to get a feel for the distance on similar terrain - I usually ride it from Crewe and it's pretty easy to get 60 or 70 miles - the route is well signposted, so route finding tends not to be a problem.

My own nutrition "strategy" revolves around the consumption of jelly babies, co-op wine gums, or Percy Pigs. Generally I have one every so often if I'm riding for more than an hour - if I'm out over 3 hours, I'll eat a flapjack, or something similar around the 1 1/2 / two hour mark.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
29th August 2012 - 13:41

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John the Monkey's dad here! He trundled around with his brother in law last year and this year he'll have me.

I'll be 65 by the time of the event,started cycling this spring and am coming up to 1,000 miles total since then - hardly a well honed athlete Big Grin

My longest ride is about 40 miles but that seemed so comfortable that I've no worries about the 60 miler, except if some hills appear. The Cheshire Cycleway is very flat and the steepest ascent I can find is Artists Lane at Alderley Edge.

It isn't a race, so get off at the feeding points, have a stretch and enjoy a free slice of Soreen.

Don't worry about being too slow, somewhere behind you there will be an OAP trying to keep with a Monkey Big Grin

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posted by Crosshouses [183 posts]
29th August 2012 - 16:38

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Thanks bashthebox. What are gels really like? Do they give a short burst before the onset of the dreaded bonk? Which energy bars do you use? Are Jordan's cereal bars any good? What about eating before? Oats? Slow release etc. I'll take a look at bike radar.com too.

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:17

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Thanks John the Monkey & Crosshouses. Need to liaise with my good lady now as tempted by the Sportive.

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:21

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First up. Enjoy yourself Big Grin find your pace and stick at it. Don't be intimidated by others who treat it as a race. Latch onto groups and if they drop you wait till the next lot. If you are keeping pace with them do your turn at the front. If you feel the need to stop between feed stations to stretch or whatever do so.

Fuel up at the FS and blag a few gels/bars for between things. As for nutrition well there's plenty of thoughts. Before you start the sportive have a bowl of porridge and fruit or a pasta dish of some description a couple of hours before hand. Have a flapjack or something similar half an hour before you roll out. Also good to get some liquid in you as well at that point. Gel wise. It would be good to experiment before so you know what your system can handle. My preference is mule bars or high5 when using gels. Though some hand made flapjacks/fruit cake is hard to beat. Jelly babies are also a nice boost Smile

Enjoy your time out and let us know how the sportive goes.

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posted by giff77 [1048 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:37

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wjputt wrote:
Thanks Simon E. What is a steady pace in terms of kms per hour? By lumpy I assume you mean hilly! I don't eat or drink much when out. What sort of stuff do you eat? Whereabouts in Shropshire are you? I'm in Nantwich. Are you doing the Stoke stage sportive?

Steady pace means maintaining some effort (as opposed to trundling along) but not going too hard that you suffer for it later. Speed will vary due to a number of factors - an individual's fitness, training goal for that ride, whether you're solo or in a group, wind direction, whether it's hilly... and by 'lumpy' I mean stuff that keeps going up and down but not by many metres - what I find in the northern half of Shropshire. BTW I am based near Shrewsbury.

When it comes to food while riding choices vary hugely, but I'd suggest banana, flapjack, raisins, jelly babies, malt loaf or my favourite - fruit bars by Tropical Wholefoods or Torq. I don't like most cereal bars, too dry or bitty and a decent flapjack does a better job IMHO. For winter training rides, when it's cool enough that the choccy doesn't melt, a Snickers is a nice thing to have in the seat pack. Some people swear by peanut butter sandwich or a croissant with PB or jam but I've not used either myself.

Gels are an expensive way to get a few calories, I'd save them for racing when you are going too fast for your body to digest real food.

I take a bottle of water for an hour or two, for longer rides I refill it or carry 2 bottles and a bar or two. I think it's more important to make sure you get enough fluid afterwards than before or during the ride unless it's a hot day or a particularly long, hard ride. I think many people underestimate the work that is done by the body after you get off the bike.

Don't rely entirely on feed stops as they have been known to run out of food (and some cheapskates supply crappy stuff like sausage rolls. Call that nutrition? Give me a break!).

But also don't overcomplicate it all, this is not much further than you've done already. Cover the essentials (ensure brakes, tyres & drivetrain in good order) carry basic tools, spares & some food, wear appropriate clothing and, most importantly, enjoy the ride.

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posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
29th August 2012 - 23:57

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wjputt wrote:
Thanks John the Monkey & Crosshouses. Need to liaise with my good lady now as tempted by the Sportive.

Worth doing - the last two have been brilliant events, and coming into the finish with the ToB gantry &c up over the finishing line is a great experience. It seems like a pricey sportive to me, but worth the money.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
30th August 2012 - 8:24

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Thanks all. Some really sound tips & advice here. Looks like I am up for it. Just need to do the negotiation at home.

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
30th August 2012 - 8:57

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Well thanks to you for all the advice I have received here. I have decided to go for it. I entered online and it was only £29.75 as opposed to £35. So, John the Monkey & Crosshouses, I'll see you there but probably not as I shall be the one at the back...lanterne rouge! Allez!

posted by wjputt [44 posts]
1st September 2012 - 6:29

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I would not really bother with gels. For a 100k sportive a plate of pasta and a little sauce about three hours before hand will give your system a boost and maybe one sandwich along the way in tin foil not cling film (assuming your riding whilst eating) and cut it into squares. As for drinks, Orange squash diluted to taste, pinch of salt and add some honey(body builders use it to spike their energy before an event). It is just as effective as all those energy gels and much easier on the stomach. Just make sure you try whatever combo you like in advance and not on the day of the event. Sick

posted by Seoige [104 posts]
20th February 2013 - 17:12

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