For beginners and experienced riders alike, targeting a spring sportive is a fantastic way to keep you motivated during the winter months. Whether you're riding your first sportive, or considering an epic challenge like The Fred Whitton, you will need the right gear for the day. There’s nothing worse than being that person who arrives an hour before the start, but spends the next sixty minutes shivering under a black bin liner - as the old motto goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. So, if you want to make sure you are fully prepared for your sportive, read the first part of our guide to training for a sportive, where we take a look at what should be in your kitbag.
Training for a Sportive Tip #1 – Dress Appropriately
The weather in Britain is anything but predictable. An early-season sportive can begin in beautiful sunshine, but within the space of half an hour be beset by showers, falling temperatures and icy winds. Knowing what to wear can be tricky!
Unless you are extremely lucky, you are more than likely to encounter low temperatures at some point during your spring sportive – especially when altitude is a feature. What’s more, rain can compound the misery of those strong spring winds, and the combination of the two can leave you in serious peril. It might sound obvious then that in these conditions a waterproof jacket, a baselayer and windproof gloves are essential, but you’d be surprised how many riders we see crossing the finishing line in a state of hypothermia. Merino baselayers are perfect to wear under any jacket, windproof or jersey and often all you need under a top layer to keep you warm and comfortable whatever the weather.
A gilet is a good choice on a mild, windy day - those with windstopper chest panels will keep you insulated, while a breathable fabric or mesh at the back will prevent overheating. You should also consider packing some arm or leg warmers, which are brilliant on days which start out a bit frosty and then warm up, as you can always roll them down if you start to overheat.
In the rare occurrence that you do get a warm and sunny day for your sportive, then a proper cycling jersey is a must. Often first time sportive riders will wear a cotton t-shirt instead of a technical jersey and whilst this might save you money in the short-term, you will pay for it after a few hours in the saddle. Instead of wicking sweat away from the body like a technical jersey would, cotton absorbs and holds onto moisture, leaving you damp and cold for the rest of your ride.
The main message really is to pack for every eventuality, as even if it does turn out to be sunny, you won’t need to carry all your warm weather gear on the ride. Plus, you’ll have plenty of dry, clean clothes to drive home in afterwards, which will help your immune system recover as well as making you smell a bit fresher.
Find a Jacket for your Sportive
Training for a Sportive Tip #2 – Make a Checklist and Tick things Off.
It’s not just the weather you need to consider when packing your bag the night before your sportive. One of the first items you need to tick off your checklist is a helmet, as all sportives make it compulsory for you to ride with a helmet. Secondly, you should make sure that you have packed your shoes. Again this may sound fairly obvious, but the number of cyclists who turn up to events without their shoes is astounding. If you own multiple pairs of shoes, in particular a number of shoes that look identical, there’s also the danger that you pack two of the right feet shoes – trust us it’s been done and you don’t want it happening to you!
Do you know how to fix a flat tyre? Do you have the tools to repair a flat? If you the answer to either of these is no, then a puncture half way around, in the middle of nowhere, with no-one around to lend you a helping hand would quite quickly ruin your day. Always take with you a set of tyre levers, a hand pump and inner tubes and make sure you practice repairing a flat before the big day.
What about water bottles? Sun cream? A wash bag? We will come onto the nutrition question shortly, but without a water bottle or two you won’t have anywhere to put your hydration of choice. And while you wouldn't dream of riding without plenty of fluids, protection from the sun is pretty much always overlooked. Spending hours in the sun is dangerous and can cause sunburn, so protect your skin. Some sportives have changing facilities and showers at the end of the race, so take advantage and bring a towel and shower gel. Wet wipes can come in handy, and are a quick way to get rid of grit and dirt should you fall off. If you have to mess about with your chain midway through your ride, you will be able to use these wipes to clean your hands of oil and grease.
See our Sportive Shoe collection
Training for a Sportive Tip #3 – Eat Well and Keep Hydrated
Breakfast on the day of your race is incredibly important, it should be light and high in carbohydrate, bagels, wholemeal toast and porridge are good examples. Try to avoid foods high in fat as they will sit heavily in your stomach – you don’t want to be stopping every few miles to find a loo! Most people will recommend eating breakfast 2-3 hours prior to the start of your sportive, but in truth this eating period is very personal and you have to see what works best for you. About 60-90 minutes before the race you will want to top up your carbohydrate stores with a banana, energy bar, or carbohydrate drink or gel – the pros will often use caffeine during this period too, but be sure to try out using caffeine in training before you implement it in your event day nutrition strategy.
How much you are able to drink during your ride will depend on the weather conditions and your sweat rate. In warmer conditions you can drink up to 500ml per hour, but if it’s cold and you drink less than 500ml per hour, you might need to supplement your carbohydrate intake, by taking a gel. The general rule for carbohydrate intake during an endurance event is that you need 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight per hour of exercise (1g/kg/h).
A 70kg athlete, for example, could consume one of the following per hour:
• 500ml of energy drink and a medium banana
• A medium slice of flapjack and an energy gel
• A small jam sandwich and 2 cereal bars
Another reason for consuming energy drinks as opposed to plain tap water, is energy drinks contain electrolytes which will replace the salts and minerals you lose when you sweat. After the event, try to consume a snack that is high in protein immediately after you finish and then eat a balanced meal one to two hours later.
The majority of sportives should provide feed stations, but they don’t always cater for your personal preferences, so always bring your own food and nutrition which you have tried and tested in training.
Top up with some energy products
Enjoy the ride!
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