Cyclo-sportives

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Introduction

These are probably the most popular road cycling events nowadays. Their popularity stems from the fact they are a cross between a 'fun-run' type event and a race. You can try and ride as fast as you can, but if your off the pace of the group your with, no matter - you'll pick up another group behind, so you'll not suffer the ignominity of straggling off the back as you would in a road race.

They're not a race....yeah right!

Although not officially races, most events automatically record a time for each rider, and some offer Gold, Silver, Bronze awards according to the entrant's age and time.

Many people ride at their own pace without trying to break a particular time, many elite and pro riders will enter for fun and use it as a training ride, but many more people will try and get the fastest time they can, and try to work out what position they finished in relative to the whole field.

Unlike a race, there is often a staggered start, rather than a mass start, with riders setting off in groups at 1 - 2 ,minute intervals, or in dribs and drabs in a 1-2 hour window at the start.

In the larger events - those with entrants numbering in the thousands rather than the hundreds - it is definitely valuable to have experience of riding in a group. The best way to get this in advance of course is to ride regularly with a club. You'll find it easier to save energy in a bunch then, as you'll have more confidence in drafting other riders quite closely, and you'll also be able to spot those riders who are not used to group riding, and so give them a wide berth on descents and corners.

Who are they for?

Anyone.

Lots of riders do longer ones as preparartion for some of the big continental sportives. Many others do sportives every weekend through the Spring and Summer, and plenty more do the odd one as training in between races.

The Etape du Tour, La Marmotte and the Italian Gran Fondos are some of the biggest target events for serious sportivistes, and require a lot of training and a high level of fitness to complete. However, there are often shorter routes available in many of the UK evenys, where you'll get away with a bit less training and a lower fitness level.

Recommended sportives

This is a list of sportives which club members have completed and enjoyed. In due course we'll post up a list of Sportives members are planning to complete next season.

There is a comprehensive listing of Sportives on the Cyclosport website

Dragon Ride
Our local sportive - also one of the biggest in the UK with around 3000 entrants. A choice of two routes taking in Ogmore Valley, the Bwch, Rhigos, the Neath and Afan Valleys (and Storey Arms and Abercrave for the longer route). Particularly popular with hill-starved London clubs. Well known because of the number of Alpine type climbs (long gradual ascents rather than short steep ones). Of course the climbs are nothing like as long as those in the Alps.

Tour of the Black Mountains
Very hilly route in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains around Abergavenny - includes Gospel Pass, teh highest paved road in Wales.

Trans-Cambrian
Based in Rhayader, it takes the spectacular mountain road between Llanidloes and Machynlleth, then down to the coast just North of Aberystwyth, before sending you back into the mountains at Plynlimmon and then the Elan Valley. Six '1 in 7' hills in the first 25 miles make sure yuor legs are feeling it by the end.

Etape du Tour
The grand-daddy of sportives. A mountainous stage of the Tour de France ridden a few days before the pros do it. 8000 entrants - book early!

La Marmotte
Some claim this is the hardest of all one day sportives. Galibier, Telegraphe, Croix de Fer, and finishing on Alpe d'Huez.

Forest of Dean Spring Classic
Local eraly season event with lots of short sharp climbs.

Etape Caledonia
The only sportive in the UK to take place on closed roads.

Tour of Pembrokeshire
For those that don't cycle, Pembrokeshire is synonymous with specatcular coastlines and beautiful views. For those that cycle, it is synonymous with plentiful steep climbing, as well as the coast and the views.

Sportive stories

Okay, so this section is for reports from club members on sportives the've ridden, to either whet the apetite of other riders, or warn them of what lies ahead. If you want to write a report, send it to me and i'll post it - photos would be good too.