You’ve been training possibly all winter and spring for this one big target. Whether it's your first 50km, 100km, Ring of Kerry, or even the Wicklow 200. It’s vital that the days before these events you are careful with just how you plan it out. Bad planning can result in months of hard training being wasted and not performing on the big day that you’ve been training for.
For a big sportive, preparation is not all about physical training. The bike preparation is an area often overlooked which can wreak havoc on your big day. This preparation should begin at least a week in advance with a trip to your local bike shop or your garage if you’re confident enough to service your own bike. A quick service will quickly show up any potential mechanicals that could hamper you in completing your sportive. These can include worn tyres, brake pads, or even a worn chain and cassette. All of these have the potential to put a stop to your sportive that you’ve put months of training in for. It’s good practise to do these checks a week in advance so you can make sure you can source the spare parts in time.
Next on the list is your diet, in the week before the sportive it’s important to limit your consumption of fast food and alcohol. Both of these can limit your energy and make you feel sluggish on the day. You don’t have to be super strict with what you eat but try to increase the number of carbohydrates you intake as this is where your stored energy comes from. Pasta, sweet-potatoes and rice are all good sources to include in your lead-up meals. You should also really monitor your water consumption. Aim to drink at the very least 2 litres of water each day during the week before the event. It’s also important to take some electrolyte tablets with your water to stop your body from flushing out all salts. This will help to prevent cramping. Dioralyte & Zero are go-to products for me.
It’s also very important to focus on your nutrition during the event. It’s important to try to stick to as much substantial food as possible e.g the likes of bananas, cereal bars, energy bars and maybe even a cheeky mars bar or some jelly tots. It’s no harm to keep an energy gel or 2 in your back pocket just in case you hit a wall (We’ve all been there!).
When it comes to your equipment it’s a great idea to pack your bag the day before the event. This prevents any panicking the morning of the event, should your lucky socks be missing. I always go off the moto, it’s better to be looking at it then for it!
I’ve compiled a list of items that I always pack
- Cycling jersey + base layer
- Cycling shorts
- Helmet & Glasses
- Shoes & Socks
- Rain cape
- Nutrition & Bottles
- Pre-registration papers
- CI license
- Track pump
- Garmin & Heart rate strap
- Change of clothes
When it comes to the event there are some important things to remember:
Take it easy
Don’t start off too hard. Adrenaline is always pumping at the start of a big event. You’ve been training hard for this event for months and all you want to do is get going. With all this adrenaline flowing it’s easy to forget how hard you’re going at the start and can quickly wear yourself out. Pick someone of similar fitness level and try to stick together for the event, it can also be a great morale boost when you start to feel the distance.
TIP 1: Start out at a nice easy pace and slowly build up towards the second half of the event
Carry an extra layer
Just because the weather is good at the start of the event doesn’t mean it’ll stay like that. It’s no harm to fold your rain cape up and put it into your back pocket for the event. It’s handy to even put on at the top of a climb if you have a long descent. They take up such little space but can be a huge help for multiple reasons. If there’s no chance of rain then a gilet will suffice.
TIP 2: Stay dry
Stick to foods that you know work for you. DO NOT try a new energy product be it a gel or drink on the day of the sportive. This can have drastic consequences if the food doesn't sit right with you. Aim to start eating after 10km into the event and try nibble on food every 20 minutes thereafter. The goal is to be never actually hungry. If you feel hungry it’s too late and risks the dreaded “BONK”. Try to have at least one 500ml bottle every 30km to keep yourself hydrated.
TIP 3: Snack lightly to top up the engine
Carry the Essentials
Make sure you don’t get caught out without the right spares. You should carry a minimum of 2 tubes, tyre levers, a pump, multi-tool and chain tool. This should allow you to fix 99% of roadside mechanicals.
TIP 4: Prepare for a breakdown
It’s a great idea to bring a spare pair of clothes for you to change into after the event, not all sportives offer shower facilities but some baby wipes can do the trick if needed.
TIP 5: Comfy clothes after are deserved
Once you’ve made it to the end it’s time to reflect on what you’ve just done. It’s easy to forget about the months of hard training you’ve done to get this far and you’re probably after reaching another big milestone in your cycling. It’s important to reward yourself with a celebratory recovery pint or even that bag of chips you might have been holding off on!