They're the most popular type of cycling in the country. There is no doubt that the UK has gone Sportive-crazy over the last few years. A boom in popularity in cycling in the country, fuelled by messrs Wiggins, Cavendish and Hoy have provided a market for those who want a challenge but not quite able to dedicate the time or motivation to the all out training need for formal competition. Racers too relish the opportunity to take on the route challenges that sportives usually present. The normal format is for a lengthy and lumpy course that conquers a number of recognised climbs.
Amongst our members there have been participations in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomite high mountains as well as domestic tests in the Torridon area, the Lake District, Campsies and Trossachs. The following page will list all the events undertaken by our members.
Simon Martin - Haute Route
Date: 29th August 2013
For those of you wishing to build good climbing legs, explore some of the famous climbs over the Alps and experience the effect of 7 consecutive stages I can recommend the Haute Route which takes place in mid-August each year. Now in its third year, 600 riders from 35 countries took part. The course of the Haute Route Alps 2013 featured19 cols and ascents, spread over seven timed stages and a total of 21,400 metres of ascent and 880km from Geneva to Nice.
A typical day involved waking at 0600, stretching, breakfast, and then a chilly ride to the start for 0730. We covered an average of 150km on average per day and climbed 3200 m spread over 3 climbs. One stage was an uphill time trial, only 24km but up La Cime de La Bonette to 2800m. Temperature and altitude were additional considerations. For example at the top of Col d'Isaran it was only one degree celcius, whilst the strong August sun meant the temperature was nearly 30 degrees lower down. A lot of the climbs were over 2000m and rising to 2700m and 2800m leading to some dizziness and extra shortness of breath. The majority of each stage is timed apart from a few controlled descents deemed too dangerous. There were up to 4 refreshment points if needed on a typical stage. Mechanical support was provided by Mavic, the road was cleared by motorcycle outriders and 2 ambulances followed the race. At the finish, showers,recovery drinks, food, and massages were provided. The hotels in the 2 star package were all of reasonable quality. This level of organisation contributed to the quality of the event and meant you only had to concentrate on riding and recovery.
My own personal strategy to deal with the cumulative fatigue was to avoid exceeding more than 85 per cent of maximum heart rate during the stage. This allowed me to finish well, its always feels better to be passing other riders in the final climb. My average heart rate fell for a given effort during the event due to the physiological effects of fatigue. Groups did form on all but the steepest sections allowing intervals of rest on the flat and drafting uphill.
The organisers, OC sport, also run a Pyrenees event and are planning a 7 day Dolomites route next year. More information can be found at www.hauteroutealps.org/en/. Places sold out quickly last year.
Kallen Kerr - Cycling For Harry
Date: 9th May 2012
A bit of charity work to report on now. My reports are generally essays and this one is no exception, so bare with me! What a fantastic ride this turned out to be. Away from the demands of training and racing, it's great to just do something different from time to time. I had heard about CyclingForHarry for some time through facebook, and only when I decided to stay in Birmingham for another week, did I realise that I might be able to take part in the ride. Let me explain what the charity ride was for.
Cycling for Harry would see 30 cyclists ride from Blakenhale Junior School in Sheldon, Birmingham, to Wembley Stadium in aid of HelpHarryHelpOthers. The charity was set up by the mother of Harry Moseley, Georgina, after Harry sadly passed away in October 2011. Harry Moseley was a remarkable kid, touching millions with his campaign to raise money for Cancer Research. Four years before his death, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and after seeing a friend pass away with the same condition, Harry set about raising money by making and selling bracelets to Cancer Research. Despite suffering himself, he was determined to help others, and raised over £500,000 on his own. This drew the attention and support from a number of high profile names, including footballers John Terry, Frank Lampard and ex footballer Gary Lineker, TV presenter Ben Shepherd, then prime-minister Gordon Brown and entrepreneurs and Dragon's Den stars, Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones. Harry also amassed just under 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Click to READ MORE
Gordon Russell - London to Cannes
Date: 23rd March 2012
A big thank you needed here....to all you Wheelers who gave me such good advice, encouragement, support, enthusiasm and to top it all your belief that I could achieve it....THANK YOU!
I could not have done it without you.
Let me share the experience...
The C2C is an organised event where real estate professionals cycle from London to Cannes in time for MIPIM (international property expo).
The Route 1st March – 6th March.
Day 1 - London to Folkestone 111km
Day 2 - Calais to Reims 318km
Day 3 - Reims to Dijon 302km
Day 4 - Dijon to Valence 314km
Day 5 - Valence to Aix en Provence 235km
Day 6 - Aix en Provence to Cannes 172km
I knew straight away, evident from the superb organisation, that I needn't think too much. My role as a participant rider was simply to eat, ride and sleep.
Click to read full report
Tour of Flanders Sportif by James Kinsella
The Tour of Flanders Cycle Classic is a sportive event organised on the day before the professional Tour of Flanders. There are three distances that you can "compete" over, the full 280k that the pros cover, a shorted 140k which covers all 18 of the climbs but not the flat 140k from Brugge to the start of the hills and a 90k ride which goes over most of the hills. This year though the ride wasn't the exact route of the pros due to the laps of Oude Kwarenont and the Patterberg planned for the pro race so the cyclotourists, as the Belgians called us, route went over climbs that have previously been included in Flanders routes but weren't in this years parcourse to keep the distance equivalent to other years rides.
David (a friend from the Glasgow Triathlon Club) and I set out from an overcast pleasantly warm Oudenarde at about 9:45 riding at a gentle pace due to our general lack of long miles over the winter. We managed to get a tow from a large group of cyclists from local club for the first 10k at a gentle pace involving spinning in the little ring, then as we felt warmed up we tried to go a bit faster, I changed up to the big ring and disaster! I managed to rip the outer part of the cage of the deraileur off thus leaving me without a big ring for the rest of the ride.
We then hit the first climb of the day, the Molenberg, which is cobbled but on paper isnt particularly hard - 462m at 7% max gradient 14%. But paper and reality have a difference and the climb was definitely a bit of a test. Even with spinning and constantly remiding myself that this is a long day don't burn your matches early and spinning as easily as I could I was slightly out of breath at the top and could feel the effort in my legs. I thought this could be a long day. Fortunately David found it harder than me and so I stopped at the top and waited for him, cunningly giving me a rest. A pattern that would be repeated throughout the day giving me the ability to try slightly harder up the climbs in the knowledge id be getting a rest as soon as the effort was over.
The next major obstacle was a 2.5k section of flat cobbles, the Padderstraat, which I found more brutal than many of the climbs as the pace is higher and so the vibrations are stronger and the sections are further so pain lasts longer. Saying that I felt I was riding the cobbles really well, going past lots of people and carrying what I thought was a good pace and a smooth body postion. That was until the BMC corporate jolly lead by a couple of pros who may or may not have included Steve Cummings came charging past at what looked like an impossible speed. Then to add insult to injury one of the pros proceeded to take his hands off the handlebars shrug his shoulders and make a comment about how easy riding the cobbles at this pace was. Imediately bursting my bubble of having any desirable talent as a Flandrian.
We kept rolling round the course at a reasonable pace, fighting up all the climbs including the Koppenberg which is brutally steep and super tough in the middle, making most of the participants get off and walk, as I was still feeling good I managed to keep my bike rolling and with a mixture of shouting and abrupt changes of direction managed to force my way to the top on my bike.
Most of the rest of the ride was uneventful with settled pace between climbs and then forcing my bike to the top the hills. At the hop of the Ten Houte there was free red bull which certainly increased the pace of my riding but gave me a headache. We also managed to get stopped at two level crossings by trains, the first time I thought this is just like Paris Roubaix but the second time I was just annoyed it broke up the rhythm.
With 20k to go and approaching the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont we were caught by Craig Dick, who was doing the 280k ride and looking a lot fresher than we were feeling. At this point David was starting to struggle he sent me off up the road with Craig. We climbed the Kwaremont at what felt like a super fast pace and glided over the cobbled false flat at the top, Alesandro Ballan was clearly trying to tried to replicate our riding on the Sunday. On the descent into the Patterberg I dropped my chain and as I was knackered and not really thinking I just reached down and put it back on while still rolling, which I think is the most pro thing i have ever managed to do. Unfortunately the proness did not extend to my climbing ability on the Paterberg, where I got blocked against the barriers and caught behind someone who had stopped was forced to walk the steepest section though by this point nearly everyone was walking up the hill.
From the top of the Patterberg Craig dragged me the last 12k (into mostly a block headwind) at a pace faster than I had ridden the rest of the ride. I am eternally grateful as I had to do very little work and by the face of David who finished 15mins after us, riding into the headwind on your own would have been miserable and probably would have broken me.
The next day I watched the Pro Race from the town of Kwaremont, at the point where the hill levels off to the false flat. With 3 times to see the male riders, seeing the women once, great beer, a big screen and thousands of screeming Belgians Ive never had as much fun watching a cycle race. The fact Boonen won just was icing on the cake. I heartly recommend this trip to anyone loves pro racing, it is certainly something ill be doing again, I might even try the 280k.
News: Just what the Doctor Ordered - Mud, Climbs and Cobbles, by Craig Dick
The logistics of getting to this event have been fine tuned over the last 3 years and I thought I had them all sorted out, down to sending someone for the bags at the airport while I go and get the car hire sorted out. Unfortunately Ryanair (get the spittoons at the ready) threw a financial spanner in the works when they decided to weigh the bike boxes this year and wanted to charge Â£20 per kg above 20kg â€“ I shall not reveal the inner turmoil that occurred when the scales touched the 35kg mark. Suffice to say we made it there, and back, avoiding the cost of a new set of wheels for additional carriage charges.
There were 4 of us heading over for this event from Glasgow; Brian Digby, Andy Christie, Torquil MacLeod and myself (I am in the process of recruiting the former 3 for the Wheelers), and I always meet up with Brian Kilbride (St Tiernanâ€™s â€“ Dublin) and an entourage which includes Seamus McDonnell of the Limerick Wheelers.
The time schedule is tight; arrive Friday 1400hrs Charleroi, get car 1500hrs, drive to Brugge 1700hrs , build bike 1800hrs, start sweating as you canâ€™t find the bag with the pedals in it 1805hrs â€“ was it in the jettisoned items that were thrown overboard at the airport, enlist help of smug friend who has his bike already built to find them 1806hrs, consider phoning wife/mother to ask where one would find such items in bike box, consider greetinâ€™ for mother. Breath a sigh of relief as the steed is assembled and you head out the door for the Italian with Ballanâ€™s signed jersey on the wall. With one eye on the weather and the other on the forecast I headed off to bed around 11pm with the prospect of a 6am rise and a can or two of rice pudding for breakfast.
Grey skies, but no rain greeted us as the alarm went off and we began the continual process of eating that was to last the rest of the day. I said my farewells to the rest (as they were heading off to Ninove for the 150km route) and headed outside to meet Brian. The scene at the start of the Ronde is fantastic on both the sportive and pro-race day. Crowds meet in the emerging light, there is the familiar cackle of cleats going into pedals, vans are parked around the square as support vehicles for the numerous clubs that ride this event. As usual we headed over to take in a bit of the atmosphere, borrow a track pump, and survey the hardware on display. Even at 7am, 6C with darkening skies, wet roads and 260km to go there were riders with shorts on, clearly feeling the part.
Jamie Drever - 2009 Vuelta Dispatch
It may lack the grandour and longevity of the tour, the passione of the tifosi but the Vuelta still has a special place in the calendar. Spain's national tour is frequently a chance for underperforming Tour riders to make amends, show their wares ahead of contract renewals or more simply hone form for the autumn World Champs. It's also one of those races that's big but not so big that you can't get up close and personal.
Those of you with partners or wives will appreciate how hard it can be to incorporate cycling into a summer holiday which is as often a break for the other half from said sport. It was with complete surprise therefore that I mentioned to Alix that the Vuelta just happened to be passing through the region of Spain that we were visiting on holiday. Flying into Malaga we hired a car with a plan to tour around Andalucia. Fortunately a hilly stage 2 of the Vuelta was passing through the area. Before you could say "donde la vuelta?" we had hired bikes and were climbing the 1st category Puerto del Leon to cheer on the peleton. For anyone in the area I can thoroughly recommend the Recyclo shop in Malaga. Now owned by an Englishman, Greg who before taking on his business cycled down through France and Spain.
There was a cafe at the top of the 1000m climb which proved handy for tapas and drinks. The local fans were out in force cheering on fans and in great spirits while basking in the 30 degree heat. The roads has already been daubed with chalk, clearly the Irish contingent were in force as the most popular slogan was for Roche. Male genitalia also featured in doodles more reminiscent of primitive cave paintings.
The atmosphere started to build as the cavalcade passed through with all the promotional tat and the Spaniards downed more rounds of Cruzcampo. Then finally after 2 hours in the sun on the top of a mountain the remnants of the day's break came through. With 18km from the summit to the finish the first riders stood a great chance of winning, though a technical descent still lay ahead. Drenched in sweat, the first few riders had glazed expressions and were visibly exhausted. Having 'merely' ridden up this climb rather than race upwards in the heat their effort was hugely impressive. When you think that these guys are racing for three weeks and climbing mightier peaks at full gas you can only be amazed. You can also understand the temptation to make a medical visit for a timely pre-race transfusion.
The heads of state rode in a tight group containing both GC riders and other team leaders. Among these riders was Phillipe Gilbert who would go onto win the stage after losing contact at the top of the Puerto del Leon. Over 20 minutes back a lethargic peleton marshalled by Cavendish and Cancellara pedalled at a more relaxed pace, the grupetto regulars being well practiced at making the time limit. Having not been at a Grand Tour before it was difficult to believe just how close the riders get to the spectators. The riders choosing a line at the side of the road were literally just inches away - you would expect more frequently accidents with spectators than there actually are!
Stage 3 rolled out of Malaga the following day, a stage perfect for the rouleurs in the peleton. We joined the other cycling geeks and headed to the start to see the team buses, watch the riders limber up and take some photos. Unlike the Tour's lock-down the Vuelta is surprisingly relaxed. There are no cordons around the buses and so it is easy to watch the riders prepare, check out their bikes and absorb the pre-stage buildup. We met Dave Hulce the Team Sky doctor and pal of our own Jason Roberts who also works for the Sky team in a part time role. Dave told us that a number of the riders had taken ill and wouldn't be able to start the stage. Unfortunately this included Ben Swift who was looking promising in the sprints. After seeing the peleton set off it was time to hand back the hire bikes and begin the bike-free part of the holiday.