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We talk to Lee Valley VeloPark’s John Scripps on why and how you should sign up to one of these fun, challenging cycling events

So you’ve rediscovered your childhood love of bikes, with or without Lycra, maybe via a one-off charity ride, or tube strike-enforced cycle commute. Now what? You need something to aim for; a goal to focus your riding on – you need a sportive.

Derived from France’s timed, long distance ‘Randonnées Sportive’ rides, in the UK the term ‘Sportive’, or ‘Cyclosportive’ has evolved to cover almost any mass participation cycling event.
“These aren’t races,” explains John Scripps from Lee Valley VeloPark, where new riders can train or be coached on a traffic-free road circuit, as well as in the high-tech indoor training facilities of the VeloStudio.

“Riders generally do sportives to challenge themselves and give themselves an event to centre their training around. Typically, as riders complete more sportives they take on longer distances, more difficult terrain, and the clock, with many timed sportives rewarding riders with gold, silver and bronze standard finishing time medals.”

“Event size varies,” says Scripps, “from a few hundred riders, right up to major Sportive events like Ride London and Cape Town’s Cape Argus which have tens of thousands of riders.”

“Distances can vary from 40 to 120 miles but there are events to suit everyone all over the country, practically all year round. With rider support and signed routes, riding sportives is a fantastic way to discover new parts of the British countryside, and new countries too – not to mention get fit! The event calendar of British Cycling (britishcycling.org.uk) is a good place to start looking for one near you.”

“If you don’t feel ready for a Sportive, there are organised rides such as Sky Rides (goskyride.com). Many cycling clubs have ‘club runs’, and the Cyclist Touring Club (ctc.org.uk) also has organised events.”

“Closed road circuits like ours at Lee Valley VeloPark are ideal for learning basic sportive skills, like riding in groups and bike handling. We also have organised coaching sessions, women’s bike and brunch, and coached training sessions in our VeloStudio.”

 

What you need…

Gear basics  
“A safe working bike is a must,” says Scripps, “but you’ll also need padded shorts, clothing that will still be comfortable after several hours of riding and some suitable for changing weather, spares such as inner tubes, a pump and basic tools. Some sportives have mechanical support to help you out but don’t rely on it.

Carrying plenty of food and drink, a bank card, money, ID and a charged mobile phone are also essential.”

Fitness advice
“Riders of any fitness level can ride sportives,” says Scripps, “but in preparation, it’s important to build a ‘base’ of fitness before taking part in a sportive. Not only will this help you to complete the route, but also get used to sitting on a bike for several hours. A prepared rider will enjoy a sportive a lot more than one who isn’t.”

For more on Lee Valley VeloPark’s sportive training, see visitleevalley.org.uk/velopark