I rode my first sportive 4 years ago (see pic).
I remember it very clearly. I felt like a right novice around all these confident, ‘pro’ looking cyclists. I was really scared; what if I fall off? What if I can’t make the distance? Is this going to really hurt? What am I doing up so early?? (that last one is particularly is still bewildering) yet I knew I couldn’t back out now because I’d already eaten like a horse the night before and I needed to get rid of the pent-up energy somehow.
My first foray in to road cycling was 12 months before - prior to that cycling to me was a 45 minute pootle along the canal after work to get to the Bluebell cider house!
Dan had been riding for a while and had been trying to convince me to give it a go for some time - “its kinda like skiing,” he promised. I was a runner and not used to all this gear. I borrowed a bike from Dan's mate (and his size 10 SPD’s), stuffed on 4 layers of socks to fill the shoes, borrowed some of Dan’s cycling shorts and set off. It hurt. I have a vague memory of being 40 miles in, getting really hangry, being close to throwing the bike in a bush and lecturing Dan that, “Bikes aren't made to sit on for more than 2 hours. This is ridiculous. I will NEVER spend more than 2 hours on a bike…” I realise now I was bonking - plus the man's saddle, men's bib shorts and size 10 shoes probably didn't help the comfort levels!
I bought a bike. I persisted. I learnt to fuel my rides. I learnt to dig deep. Dan allowed me to cycle with him again (I wouldn’t have!) and I completed the sportive - yes it did hurt. But I loved it and I’ve completed many, many more since (and even organise a few with Dan now!) I’m now a little addicted to the riding and am training to ride 1,000 miles from St Malo to Nice in September.
At the Mad Summer Hare we’re lucky to have a really broad range in abilities but I know that there are people who will be having similar thoughts and feelings to what I have had at my first sportive.
With 5 weeks to go before the event there is still plenty of time to make a really big impact on your day with some prep – therefore I thought I’d share...
My biggest training tips:
1. Group riding.
For me, the one thing that has had the biggest affect on my ability and confidence has been riding with others.
It’s amazing how much quicker the time passes just by having company – even if you’re blowing too much to talk… When I first used to go out with my group I was like this Darth Vader audio effect who could barely speak until the end!
I started riding with Dynamic Rides – an awesome forum for a beginner like me as there are staged rides for different abilities and people meet up there a lot during the week.
It’s meant I’ve ridden further and pushed myself more than I ever would on my own and I've made some great friends who share a love of bikes, beer and good food.
If you’re not riding with others consistently then you really should - there are so many clubs around for us to choose from these days. If you don’t know of any then get in touch and we’ll let you know where the local ones are to you.
2. Midweek blitzing!
[7am on a 'Fryday' and the Missiles beg our way in to Wedges for a bacon bap]
In the beginning I used to ride once a week at the weekend. I was okay but I wasn’t getting much stronger. I would tire out pretty quickly as soon as I tried to pick up my pace.
I then discovered the Moseley Missiles (basically a group of mates, strava and a jersey) and their 6.15am pre breakfast ride. Suddenly I had the ability to do midweek rides from my doorstep every morning and be back by 730am.
After only 4 weeks of 2 morning rides a week at a tempo pace I found I was able to ride a lot longer and further on my weekend rides. It was awesome and gave me a lot of confidence.
3. Hill training.
I’m quite competitive so really I didn’t like being dropped on every hill we came to and wanted to get stronger.
I knew I needed to ride up more hills.
So off I went with Dan to the bottom of my nearest significant hill, Lea End lane in Wythall (a nasty little kicker), and would try to get up it as quickly as I could.
Hills hurt. But no pain no gain. I would do them until I was tired – maybe 5, 6 or 7 times and then reward myself with a pint at the top (just to be clear - right at the end – not every time I reached the top of the hill!!) Within 3 weeks of doing this once a week I wasn’t getting dropped (so much).
Implementing these have made a huge difference to my riding within a short period of time and would do for you too.
If you’re the kind of person who need something a little more structured then check out this 5 week training plan developed by the coaching team at the Cycling Fitness Centre.
The plan is designed to give you the fitness and strength to get you through the Base Route. If you would like something more tailored to you, then feel free to get in touch.
(Click on the image for full PDF version)