Monday, 29 August 2011

10 tips for your first 100 mile Sportive

Entering your first 100 mile sportive is a big decision.  Inevitably you would have built up to this moment, increasing your distances covered and this is the next step, a bit like going from a half marathon to full marathon - I've blogged about this previously.  

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Cycling long distances requires a little preparation, turning up and hoping that you're legs will hold out isn't the best plan.  So, having completed over ten of these events now, here's what I've learned for you to think about "on the day."

  1. Study the route. Know where the hills are coming, what the profile looks like. By doing this you'll be able to know what sort of speed effort you can set off at or sustain. If you go firing out the blocks and waste a load of energy that you'll later need for a hill climb, you might come to regret it.  Start off steady, warm your legs up, find your rhythm.
  2. Get all your stuff ready the night before - I mean everything.  Bottles, food, clothes, route into Garmin, directions on how to get there etc.  Give yourself nothing to think about other than getting up and fuelling up.
  3. Fuelling up.  Have a good breakfast before you go to allow it time to digest.  I would normally go for porridge, a banana, toast with peanut butter and an isotonic drink for the drive over there.  Make sure you've eaten plenty of carbs on the days running up to the ride to top your tanks up.
  4. Ensure you know what the weather has in store.  Riding 100 miles can be much harder work if you're unnecessarily, cold, wet or hot.  Ensure you're packed correctly (see next tip).
  5. Wear layers of clothing that you can strip off if needed.  Example, short sleeve top with arm warmers rather than a long sleeve top.  Shorts with leg warmers rather than full length leg warmers.  Overshoes which you can put in your back pocket.  A snood - one of those small pieces of material you can pop round your neck or up over your ears if it gets really cold.  I often carry two pairs of gloves in my back pocket, fingerless and full gloves in case of rain.
  6. Know where the food stops are and plan your food input.  By doing this you need only carry the food/water you need for the bits in between.  Lots of people got caught out on the Fred Whitton sportive as the first food stop was 52 miles into the ride and they'd run out of fluids.
  7. Draft as much as you can.  Remember, you can reduce your energy requirements by as much as 25% by riding behind someone else or sharing the load, particularly if the wind gets up.  This is one of the most common mistakes that new riders make, not teaming up with a stranger to work together.  People soon get the message on the back twenty five when the energy reserves start to dry up.
  8. Eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty.  An old adage, but it's true.  A long cyclo sportive will be pulling on your energy reserves and you need to keep carbohydrates and fluids going in.  Keep emergency gels in your back pocket when you need that bit of a boost.  A caffeinne gel is always worth keeping hold of to pop before the final twenty miles.  Take a few packets of additive you can pop in water to make up energy drinks - carry two bottles on your bike in case it's hot.
  9. Make sure you're saddle bag is equipped with everything you need.  Take two tubes for replacing punctures quickly.  Pack a small packet of babywipes to wipe off grease/dirt quickly if you get caught out with a chain off or puncture- I also carry a lightweight pair of gloves, like surgical gloves to prevent grimy hands.
  10. Have a recovery drink ready in the car.  It will help to replenish some of the nutrients your body needs to recover.  I use SiS Rego which comes in a few flavours.


  1. There's some great tips there cheers. I did my first ton of the year and I found it much easier than previous ones, think it was largely due to having a tailwind on the way back which allowed my legs to spin easily.

  2. Phil - I'm pretty new to this (2 x 100km last year)but have been training hard. First 100m in 3 weeks and then a Box Hill to Paris in June. Some great tips here - thanks

    Sue McCauley