Sunday, 1 September 2013

Manchester 100 Sportive

For many, Sportives are to be avoided at all costs. Talk of poorly disciplined riders and extortionate entry fees, putting off a segment of regular cyclists. I must confess to feeling that way about some sportives, not riding any this year, opting to just ride through the season with one specific multi-day event (London to Paris) in the Summer. 

A few years back I did the Manchester 100 Sportive. Two routes, either 100km or 100 miles in length, around many of my regular training roads. This is the ideal route for someone to tackle their first distance event as the route is pretty flat, compared to many. Seeing it advertised a couple of weeks back, I thought I'd jump on it with one clear aim, to ride it in under six hours. It would be a good opportunity to see how this particular Sportive performed, entry was around £20 so not too expensive compared to some others.

Setting off from Wythenshaw, it was true to Sportive form, with riders everywhere and poor riding skills. Around 6,000 participants being let off every three minutes in groups of around 50, made for very busy roads.  Bikes/riders of all types, shapes and sizes dispersed all over the road. My plan was to get out of harms way quickly and push on, ignoring the refreshment stops. 

At the start, everyone wants to go eyeballs out, so it wasn't uncommon to have people on either side of you under/over taking. Safety was my primary concern for the first 25 miles or so and there were some breathtaking moments of poor riding. Worst I saw was a group overtaking a tractor on a blind sharp bend in the Tatton area, it was really dangerous. Another group opted to jump a red light over a hump backed bridge, it didn't get them far, the lights changed about 15 seconds later. 

Moments like these contribute to the poor reputation that Sportives can accrue. At the 50 mile point, my average speed was 19mph (30km/h), well ahead of my planned 17mph (27km/h). Riding the event alone, meant taking on some gusty sections head on and extra effort but I was pleased with that. Passing the 56 mile stop, a group of around ten rolled out fresh from completing a JOGLE (John O' Groats to Land End). I jumped straight onto a wheel and for about twenty miles got a great drag with a well drilled bunch. 

Arriving at the 75 mile mark, average speed had jumped up to 19.2mph, the effect of a peloton. Then it went a bit awry. The 100km and 100 mile route riders Segway at a junction, near to the final refreshment stop. Busy traffic meant my drilled group broke up, there was so much congestion with riders of all abilities flooding out of the stop, that passing people quickly wasn't easy. 

The back 25 miles of the route are mostly uphill, speeds were slow generally and we'd turned into a headwind which meant many new riders were really struggling. I looked down at my Garmin and my average speed was just going backwards as I threaded through. It led to my heart rate bouncing up and down as I turned the gas up on any gaps, really wanting to arrest the decline. 

Arriving back at Wythenshaw Park, I rolled in at 5hrs 23 mins for the century, which was well within plan and a new personal best. Average speed for the back 25 miles was 17.5mph (28km/h).  I couldn't help but feel 19mph was within reach for me, but the sheer volume or riders combined with the traffic lights heading in to Wythenshaw were having none of it. I'll carry that over as a new objective. 

A few people on Twitter earlier asked me about nutrition and some other hints and tips relating to century rides. A few come to mind: - 

1)   Really keep spatially aware on the first 20 miles or so of a sportive. Excitement and adrenalin mean people do some unpredictable things. 
2)   Carry food with you for you to be able to miss at least the first refreshment stop. This will give you some clearer roads ahead as first time riders tend to stop at every break. 
3)   If you see a quick group, jump on a wheel. Don't forget to offer to do a turn. 
4)   Dress appropriately. Arm warmers/leg warmers so you can warm-up or cool down quickly. Wear a helmet. 
5)   Be careful at traffic lights. Some riders are riding cleats for the first time and take longer to clip in, leading to bunching. 
6)   Read this previous blog about riding your first 100 mile sportive. 
7)   Read this previous blog about foods to boost your energy.
8)   There were lots of punctures today.  Carry two tubes on a 100 miler, just in case.
9)   Read this blog about fuelling strategies for long rides.
10) Enjoy it and pace yourself.  Don't shoot off too quickly.  Mentally tick key points of the ride off.  For example, as soon as I click over 50 miles I mentally say I'm riding back.  With 15 miles to go, I visualise a coffee shop that I ride from to go home so that the distance seems more real.  Whatever works for you.

Ride Stats

Distance - 100 miles/160km
Avg. Speed - 18.6mph/29.7km/h (lone ride).
Ascent - 3812ft
Avg. HR - 154bpm
Conditions - Dry, Windy.
Ride Intensity (Ascent/Distance) = 38.1 (Flat/Undulating)

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