NOT ENOUGH TRAINING BEFORE THE EVENT
Setting realistic sportive goals that reflect what you have achieved in training is essential. Although you don’t necessarily have needed to have completed the event distance in training, you should have ridden close to it, have done so fairly comfortably and at a pace and over similar terrain to your target event.
You should have a solid winter’s training behind you and for longer or more arduous events, skimping on training is definitely a recipe for a poor result, not finishing or at least a long day suffering in the saddle. There are always stories of riders successfully winging an event on minimal training but these are always a tiny minority compared to the ill advised epic failures of under prepared cyclists.
Be honest with yourself about the training you’ve done and if you haven’t put in the kilometres, consider postponing your sportive challenge and targeting an event later in the year.
Your training will have taught you the pace and intensity that you’re able to sustain on the bike. Heart rate and power provide an objective and reliable measure of intensity and either or a combination of both should be used to pace your sportive. Don’t expect a miracle event day boost and, right from the start of the ride, stick to the heart rate or power zones you established in training.
If you’re riding with mates or find yourself in a group of stronger riders, if you’re being pushed out of your target zones, don’t thrash yourself trying to stay on their wheels. Sit-up, ride at your own pace that you know you can sustain and wait for a group more suited to your ability to come along.
As with pacing, your fuelling strategy for pre, during and after long rides is something that you should have practiced, refined and nailed down in training.Stick to your plan religiously, don’t do anything different and, if you’re unsure what food will be available at feed stations or haven’t been able to try the products on offer in training, plan to be self-sufficient.
Pacing and fuelling are intrinsically linked so, if you push harder than you’re used to, your fuelling strategy will probably fail. This will leave you feeling boated, unable to stomach food and potentially with gastric distress.
NOT DRINKING ENOUGH
Keeping well hydrated is not just essential on hot rides but also on the coldest winter day. Again, training is the time to determine your hydration needs and to experiment with which drink mixes and concentrations work best for you. Event day is not the time to try new products so, consider making up measured doses that you can simply add to the water supplied at feed stations.
If you’ve trained really hard for a specific event, you don’t want your bike to let you down on the big day. If you’re mechanically gifted, give it a complete overhaul in the lead up to the event or, if you’re not confident in your own skills, book it in with your local bike shop a couple of weeks before the sportive. Don’t leave it until the last minute as they may need to order in some parts and any new cables will also need some time to bed in. Give it a thorough clean before you travel to the event, check all bolts are properly tightened, ideally with a torque wrench if you have a carbon frame or components, and that chain, cables and pivots are properly lubricated.
As well as taking steps to avoid punctures, carry spare tubes, levers, pump/CO2 inflator and know how to use them. Also, make sure you have a decent multi-tool that has a chain-tool and that you have a “quick link” that is compatible with your chain.
THE WRONG CLOTHES
It’s always better to have too much spare clothing rather than too little, especially if your sportive takes in mountainous or upland roads. A sweltering day in the valleys can easily be freezing up high and getting chilled on a long descent can easily end your ride. At the very least always carry a windproof gilet but, with modern wind and waterproof jackets packing down so small and weighing so little, consider carrying something slightly more substantial. Arm and leg/knee warmers are great on mixed days and for cool early morning starts and a pair of full finger gloves and a windproof beanie for under your helmet can make a real difference when descending.
YOU DO ALL THE ABOVE RIGHT AND IT’S STILL A NIGHTMARE?
You could follow all of the above to the letter and, due to some uncontrollable factor, still not have the ride you were hoping for. If this happens, take any positives, you may still have got a decent training ride in, learn from any mistakes you did make, honestly re-appraise your pre-event expectations and move on.