16 Aug 2016
RACE-DAY TIPS: HOW TO CONQUER YOUR FIRST SPORTIVE
A sportive – or granfondo – isn’t a race, but it’s a challenge, especially over hills or long distances. They’re usually waymarked, have feed stations, electronic timing and mechanical help, but even so: how can you be sure you’ll make it? It all starts months before, and here’s how…
Start with the right goals – and the right sportive
Sportives are very popular, so choice is huge. Expect a choice of distances, but don’t assume picking a number is enough. Get hold of the route profile and look at how much climbing is involved. It’s particularly important if you’re travelling to a new area – it might be flat or it might be all mountains.
You can then tailor your training accordingly, while awareness of the terrain lets you pace yourself efficiently and refuel strategically on the day.
You should be able to ride around 70 percent of your chosen distance during training. And don’t just ride alone. If you’re new to pack riding, join a club. You’ll quickly get experience (and advice) on riding safely in groups, plus of course you’ll get kilometers in while you’re at it. Oh, and gain new friends and riding buddies!
Riding in a group takes about 20 percent less energy than riding alone – a huge benefit, especially if your sportive is windy or hilly. Or both… Check out our training tips here.
Take what you need
It may be ‘just’ a bicycle race, but if you think about it there are a LOT of details – so think about it! Start packing the day before, and lay it all out. This gives you time and visual prompts to realise what’s not there. Besides clothing, spare clothing, helmet, food, drinks, bottles and cages, phone, tubes, a pump and tyre levers, you’ll need money, ID and any relevant paperwork. Oh, and a bike.
Sort your bike
There’s no point preparing your body if you don’t prepare your bike. Check, and if necessary adjust or replace, brake pads, cables, chain, rings and tires before the big day – and go for at least one test ride afterwards. Give the bike a good clean, too. It’s an excellent way to spot damage or potential problems.
This is also the time to change gearing. Again, the route profile will tell you if it’s necessary.
Start at the right speed
It’s very tempting for sprint off the start, and plenty will. Not all of them will be so fast by the end! It’s better to override the adrenaline of the moment and stick to a pace you can maintain. You can always speed up later – potentially while re-passing riders who fired past earlier.
Look at an overall approach for training, before the race, race-day and recovery – this feature will help. The key is to graze: eat little and often. Avoid drinking excessively before the start (nerves can make you do it), and once underway, take in around 60g of carbohydrate and a bottle of water per hour. Eat and drink familiar things. The big day is no time to find out your fancy new gels don’t agree with your stomach… there should be feed stations from which you can top up, too, so don’t weigh yourself down excessively.
And finally, if you can enter your granfondo in Italy or France, do so – there are many to choose from and just the food will make it all worthwhile!