6 Dec 2016


One hundred miles – or 160km – is a big distance, whatever your language. As a ‘long route’ granfondo or the full distance option on a sportive, it’s also a big step up from the short route, commonly 60-ish miles or around 100km. Here’s how to bridge the gap with out plunging off the side into disaster.

The ‘long route’ can seem daunting at first, but follow our tips and you’ll soon have a smile on your face…

1. Don’t just train – train right

Riding 50-60 milers more frequently will help, but don’t reply on that to do the whole job. But equally, you don’t have to do 100 miles each time, either – the sweet spot is around 75 percent of the target distance, and the best way is to build up to training rides of 75 miles/120km. Endurance is obviously fundamental, so again, work on this – aim for hours ridden without stopping. This may actually mean riding at a lower average effort and lower average speed, but that’s OK. You can easily be in the saddle for 6 or 7 hours – or maybe more – on your first 100-mile ride.

You should also train on similar terrain. If the sportive is flat, train on the flat. But if it runs over a series of punishing hills, so must your training routes.

As always, it’s as important to rest properly as it is to train properly. Scale back the intensity of your rides in the week before the event, and avoid draining energy levels too far. Include your usual recovery days in the regular training weeks, too. Make sure you get plenty of uninterrupted sleep the two nights before the event, and avoid dehydrating alcohol.

2. Get comfy to avoid injury

If your bike fit still isn’t quite right, extra distance will bring fresh problems. Now is the time to deal with riding position – adjustment to saddle position or stem length, misaligned cleats or hotspots from unadjusted contact points – because over a 100 miles discomfort can easily turn to pain and even injury. A regime of off-bike core and flexibility exercises will boost comfort and endurance.

If you’re going to make any big bike changes – new bars, for instance – do it as early as possible, so you have plenty of rides to adjust. It’s the same even for small things, such as bar tape; don’t swap stuff on the day of the sportive itself, no matter how great the new parts look! If there’s a problem, or even if it alters your normal position, you’re going to suffer. It’s the same principle for clothing, and especially shoes and socks: get to know what works for you in the kind of conditions and temperatures you’re likely to face on the day and be prepared with layers. If you haven’t already, it’s wise to invest in chamois cream for anti-chafing protection.

3. Pace your body

If you don’t want to rely on your own instincts (tricky, especially at the start when adrenaline is high and people are watching…), you have several options. The simplest is a watch, plus times to various landmarks, which will let you check your average speed. These waypoints have the additional benefit of breaking the ride down, which is a huge psychological help. Even if you’re falling behind on time, they represent another section done and another step towards the overall goal. A speedometer (with an average speed readout) is better still, while a heart-rate monitor or power meter will let you monitor and control exertion pretty accurately.

4. Pace your mind

Knowing your intensity will allow you to finish (and finish competitively) lets you relax. That puts you on top when dealing with negatives such as discomfort, wind, rain or mechanicals, too. Not only will this make you more effective across the distance, but it makes the whole ride more pleasurable. And that, after all, is the point!

5. Service your bike

You put a lot of effort into getting in tip-top form, but if your bike doesn’t match, some of your efforts – or even all – will be wasted. Check that consumables such as tires, cables, brake pads, chain and bearings are serviceable and well-adjusted, and check all bolts for tightness with an ‘M-check’. Give the bike a good wash, too – not only will it look better, but it’s a great way to spot developing problems. Don’t forget to lube the drivetrain after. Do all this at least one ride before the event, so you can check any alterations are good. Then all that remains is one final quick wash!

6. Fill up with fuel

Obviously we don’t mean downing a few liters of diesel… but you don’t necessarily need to carb-load either. A well-balanced meal the evening before (with plenty of vegetables) plus perhaps a bowl of cereal later in the evening will do wonders. Make sure to drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol or sugary fizzy drinks. Drink several glasses of water in the morning, too.

During the ride, rely on carbs in the form of cereal bars and bananas. You only need around 30g per hour. Save the gels, or anything containing caffeine or a lot of sugar, for the last few miles (and perhaps for after the finish line too, where they can help rebuild your glycogen levels). Recovery drinks or fruit juices are better sources of glycogen, of course, and it’s important to keep taking on water. Lastly, make sure you get some protein within an hour of stopping – all this will greatly help your muscles recover and rebuild.

A 100-mile granfondo or sportive is guaranteed to put a smile on your face! (And once you’ve done one you’ll soon be signing up for more of ‘the long route’).

7. Enjoy!

Even if it rains and you get a puncture and every hill is up, a few hours later you’ll be buzzing. A 100-mile/160km sportive is a real achievement – and, of course, it’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a cheeky upgrade or two…