Sportives – advice for the novice

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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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