10 Tips for training for a Cycle Sportive

taunton flyer

Written by Ben Tisdall

9 December 2021

On the road cycle sportives we organise the longer distance is around 100 miles. Or on the gravel sportives the equivalent is more like 50-60 miles. Riding 100 miles or more in one go does require some training & preparation. Here are ten tips which will help you crack a 100 mile road sportive or a 50-60 mile gravel event. They also apply to the shorter distances & will get you a long way towards successfully taking part in our 200 mile Dartmoor Legend Ultra Sportive too.

  1. Build your training around a longer weekend ride on Saturday or Sunday. It’s important that the longer ride is not a smashfest which leaves you too tired to ride for a couple of days. Most of your longer ride should be in zone 1 or 2 although a few harder efforts won’t do you any harm. Zone 2 is steady training just above the easy zone. Zone 2 builds aerobic base and endurance. And improving aerobic capacity increases your ability to maintain a faster pace for longer. Zone 2 feels worthwhile. You break a sweat but should be able to have a normal conversation with a fellow rider.
  2. Join a club or cycling group. All the bigger cycling clubs have a range of different club runs catering for a range of abilities & speeds. Riding in a group with more experienced riders is a great way to improve. It’s an easy way to manage a three to four hour ride every week. It’s also pretty sociable as you get to chat with your fellow riders & inevitably at some point there is a cafe stop with a chance to load up with coffee & cake. Use the British Cycling Club Finder to find a local club.
  3. Build up your riding over time. You don’t need to do a 100 mile ride before your big sportive. But completing a ride of, say, 75 miles which mean you’re able to handle several hours on the bike & able to step up to the longer distance for your sportive. A great way to get the miles in is to do some or all of your commuting by bike. Aim to build up to riding at least three or four times a week.
  4. Keep a training diary. For many people a free Strava account will suffice. It will let you see how many hours of riding you’re doing & how it’s increasing over time. And you can join our free Strava Club to compare your training with other riders
  5. Include some intensity. Even if your game plan is to ride on the day at 14mph average it will really help if you can get used to some harder, faster efforts. Your local club probably organises a chain gang which is a high intensity training session where you take it in turns to ride on the front. Or try some kind of race. Many clubs organise evening 10 mile time trials where anyone can have a go. There are also road races, mountain bike races & cyclocross races all aimed at beginners. If you prefer a more informal approach just try some sprints for road signs or hill repeats, where you find a suitable hill & ride up it several times as hard as you can with a short recovery while you freewheel back down.
  6. Get your bike position checked out by a local bike fitter or an experienced club rider. It’s important to have your saddle at the right height. This improves efficiency and reduces the chance of being hit by knee or back pain. Similarly make sure you’re not over or under-stretched on your bike. This will keep you comfortable on your bike but also make you more aero for some easy speed gains.
  7.  Nail your nutrition. You need to plan what you’re going to eat during the ride ahead of time and test it out. For example gels don’t agree with some people so don’t start scoffing them during a big sportive unless you’ve tested them out on earlier rides. And make sure you keep hydrated. Even 1 percent dehydration can have a measurable effect on your performance.
  8. Practice cornering. You need to know which lever operates the front & rear brakes. Slightly favour the less harsh rear brake over the front. Approaching a corner lift up your inside pedal and do your braking before the corner. Avoid braking while you’re on the corner but if you have to use the rear brake only.
  9. Get your kit sorted. As a minimum you’ll need a helmet, cycling shoes, a decent pair of shorts & a cycling jersey. You’ll also need a waterproof that will fold up small enough to go in your back pocket and preferably leg warmers & arm warmers too.
  10. Check out the course of the sportive you’re taking on. The 101 mile Taunton Flyer we organise is comparatively flat for most of the course and has a total of 1680m of climb in just over 100 miles. This is a much easier proposition than our 112 mile Moor To Sea sportive which has 3000m of climbing so you’re fitting in almost twice as much climbing in just a few miles more. Sitting between the two is the Lands End 100 with 2200m of climbing in 105 miles.
  11. Our two gravel events: the Haldon Heroic and Devon Grit are shorter in distance but can be just as tough. Off-road miles are harder so expect the 100KM Devon Grit Extreme to take a similar time to the 105 mile Lands End 100.



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