How to ride your first sportive
BEFORE THE SPORTIVE
Look in the mirror and be very honest with yourself. You want something that's challenging but achievable - both in terms of distance and the hills you have to climb.
Get a bike fit
Before you get down to the hard training, get a bike fit. Your position is critical; you need to be comfortable and efficient on the bike. If you’re not, you'll be wasting power and energy rather than getting the maximum out of everything.
No shortcuts in training
This is the single most important thing. You get out what you put in, so if you want to enjoy your sportive to the full, then you must do sufficient training. Multi-day training camps can be very useful to build up your stamina - and you can also get as much or as little advice as you want, on things like climbing, gearing and descending skills.
Stephen Roche training camps
Embrace technology - and get advice
Heart rate monitors, power meters and the like are great, but you need to get knowledgable advice on how to make the most of them, whether that's from a medical or coaching point of view. I'd recommend a VO2 max test so you know where your limits are - everyone is different - and then you can train accordingly.
ON THE BIG DAY
People focus too much on what they eat on the bike, but it’s off the bike that’s more important - what you eat the night before and what you have on the morning of the event itself. I'd question the approach of relying on gels - it may sound a bit basic, but I’d much prefer a big bowl of porridge beforehand and then things like fruitcake during the sportive. Whatever you do, don't try anything new on the big day - and that goes for shorts, shoes, cleats and so on - stick with tried and trusted.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure you’re well equipped for whatever you are likely to face - being cold and wet is no fun at all. Your muscles have to be warmed up too - try and do that before you start or, if that's not possible, then ease into the ride early on.
It’s so easy to go off too quick, but if you go over the limit early on then you are in the danger zone – it doesn’t get much better, it only gets worse! If in doubt, err on the side of caution; take it steady, find a group going at a pace you're comfortable with - not too fast, nor too slow - and you’ll get there in the end.
Stephen has personally designed what could be regarded as the ultimate sportive for 2017 - L'Etape 87
. The three Alpine stages celebrate and evoke memories of his legendary 1987 Tour de France victory.