Sportives – advice for the novice


My mate Matt Simmonds, aka Simmo, has just emailed me in search of advice about riding his first sportive (we’re doing the Puncheur together on March 7th). Here are his questions:

  1. Can you draft?
  2. Can you use aero bars?
  3. How much fluid am I likely need for 4-5 hours on the bike? Will 2 waterbottles be enough?
  4. Can I carry my bike up Ditchling Beacon? I cycled up it once in the granny ring of my mountain bike and that was tough enough.
  5. I think I need some new tyres, any advice? Mainly for triathlons and some sportives….

Last time we rode together – October time I think – Simmo actually beat me on 3 laps around Richmond Park, so clearly he’s acting the novice here to lull me into a false sense of security before kicking my ass on race day. However, I’ll humour him.

I don’t claim to have written the book on sportives but I have ridden a dozen or so. Here are my responses:

  1. Yes, you can draft. Furthermore, you have to draft to ride a good sportive. Tactics and timing definitely play a part, it’s important to time your effort whilst preserving your strength for the full distance – not to mention doing your share of the work unless you want to earn dirty looks.
  2. On some sportives aero bars are banned, and rightly so – they are a liability when riding in a bunch. Many’s the time you’re riding in a tight pack and someone drops a bottle or slows suddenly, if you can’t react you’ll wipe out bad.
  3. 2 waterbottles is enough, since you can refill at all feed stations. Make sure you keep drinking though, and try to avoid the mistake I made at last year’s Burgess Hill Classic, of refilling on water instead of energy drink.
  4. Ditchling Beacon is a hard climb after 65 miles – but really, on the scale of things, it’s not that hard. Do some hill training now.
  5. Tyres? Buy these, they’re awesome.

Any further qu’s comment below!

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