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Sportives - How to Prepare Brain, Body and Bike 

February 02, 2018
Sportives - How to Prepare Brain, Body and Bike

BikeExchange is back and partnering once again with the great folk at Skoda Celtic Series. You’ll see us at both the Connemara and Clare events. Although Connemara is a sell-out there are still places available for the Ring of Clare - so enter here.

We’re teaming up with MBW Bikes in Moycullen, County Galway, to offer a Kona Rove NRB bike, valued at €1,799,which is up for grabs in celebration of the Series. Make sure you enter the competition here!.

So with the Skoda Celtic Series Tour de Conamara taking place on 26th May 2018, and the Ring of Clare rolling out on 28th July 2018, there’s still ample time to not only prepare for these great sportives, but give them a good nudge as well.

If you’ve a few sportives already to your name, you might be looking at the Skoda Celtic Series to take things that next step up. With that in mind we’ve pulled together advice for your brain, your body and your bike so that you can get the most out of your sportive in all the senses!

Preparing Your Bike

Garry Davoren from MBW Bikes in Moycullen is no stranger to the panic felt by sportive participants who make the mistake of attending to their bike far too close to event day. He shares with us ‘rookie errors’ we can all avoid, be it for a sportive, a sprint or just getting the bike spring ready.


March is all about Maintenance

As the sportive season starts to gear up, you should look to check your bike in for a service at your local bike store during the month of March. For many of us this is when we swap from our winter bike to our spring and summer stallion, so a thorough check-over after the cold weather hiatus is crucial. New chain and new cables are likely to be de rigueur at this point. In short - don’t leave this until a day or two before the event. You may come away with a bike that’s moving a little differently, a difference that will of course be an improvement but might require you to take time getting used to - you don’t want that to happen during an endurance event. Moreover, your local bike shop may well be fully booked, especially if the sportive is in your local area.


Time for New Tyres?

Think about sizing up your tyres. If you currently use 23c tyres, then see if you can fit 25c or 28c tyres instead. There is practically no performance differences but there is a massive comfort difference. For example 28c tyres run much less pressure, therefore absorbing more of the bumps in the road. This in turn is less work on your body, which saves energy that you can instead invest in using to turn the pedals. Your local bike shop will be happy to help you out here if you need it.


Conduct the Once-Over

The Monday or Tuesday before an event do a basic look around your bike. Double check all bolts are tight, check your tyres are healthy, check your brakes are good. Whatever spares you plan on carrying try and get them as much as possible on your bike, pump attached to bottle cage, tubes and multi-tool in saddle bag etc.

Below are Garry’s five top pro hacks for your bike to ensure it - and you - are ‘sportive-ready’:

1 Stash a tenner in your handle bars behind your bar plugs.

2 If you don’t have one, get a valve adaptor for Presta to shradar. This means that if you do get a flat you can repair it and at the next Petrol station by using their air compressor to get up to your desired tyre pressure. A hand pump will only get it most of the way, but you can’t tell as there is no gauge. I just leave my adaptor screwed onto the front wheel valve, it’s just always there.

3 Use an “ass saver.” It’s practically weightless and will keep you dry-ish from an unexpected rain shower, this is after all Ireland.

4 If leaning your bike against a fence, wall etc at a rest stop always place the drive side inwards, if someone knocks it over it won’t land on your rear derailleur.

5 If you’re worried about bike safety at an event, get yourself a tiny padlock, and I really mean tiny. When parking up your bike, lock the padlock through one chain link. The padlock will jam up the chain if someone decides to try and cycle off, however just remember to remove the padlock before you cycle away.


Preparing Your Body

Meet Neil Martin. With more than 100 sportives under his belt (his first sportive was the Dublin-Belfast-Dublin Maracycle at age 12), Neil is better placed than many to comment about how to get the most out of your body for a day-long sportive. Living in County Galway, Neil is not only super familiar with the spectacular roads of Connemara (this will be his third Skoda Celtic Series sportive), but he also rides a Kona Rove NRB (and Kona WOZO Fat-bike), which has been responsible for getting him over many a finishing line.


It sounds so obvious it’s almost ridiculous, but if you want to take a sportive to the next level, then you need to train next level. Going for a weekly enjoyable spin for the bunch won’t deliver you a pointy-end finishing time. In fact, such infrequency at such a casual pace might mean even the sportive itself is a gruelling event for you.

This weather too miserable for you to venture out? Get yourself a wind/turbo trainer and get powering! Neil recommends:

“If using a trainer or rollers do 1-minute intervals, so for example depending on your fitness levels push harder for 1 minute every 5 minutes or 10 minutes and gradually reduce the time between the intervals as you get stronger. If all of this is easy for you then consider buying an online training program from the likes of A1 coaching etc.”


Invest the Time

Aim for approximately six hours training a week, comprising one long weekend ride up to four hours and the remaining couple spent doing shorter more intense spins during the week.

Some more motivation from Neil:

“Don’t just train for the sake of doing it, do some actual training, challenge yourself. On your long weekend spin do some sprints, when going uphill change gear 20 seconds later than you first think about changing, get up out of the saddle and pedal hard up the hill and again don’t sit down till 10-20 seconds after you first think about sitting down.”


Meals on Wheels

Ever tried experimenting with your own recipes as well as purchasing energy bars and gels that work for you? Sometimes having something home baked in your jersey pocket can be as much of a mental pick-me-up as it is a physical one. We’re a big fan of trialling flapjack recipes - the more the merrier. We welcome receiving any of yours!

Neil’s sage advice for the day of your Sportive is well worth keeping in mind:

“Breakfast before the event should be finished at least two hours before you start for the same reasons nothing worse than you being bloated for the first hour or two. Once on the bike regardless if you feel like eating or not you need to eat or nibble throughout the event, I try my best to eat a bite from a sambo or fruit cake etc every 30-mins on a big day out.”

Preparing Your Brain

Make it Count

Neil touched on this above as well, but it applies as much to the brain as it does the body.

Set yourself goals!

You can do this by creating your own goals, working with a biking buddy to create joint goals, or even using an app like Strava to create goals that are part of a wider community. Don’t just go out and meander aimlessly unless of course that’s what you really enjoy, or that’s how you plan to approach your sportive. Set yourself some targets. They may be heart rate related, speed skewed, focussed on distance; there are so many ways to approach this. Setting and achieving targets is going to not only give you a regular buzz and make you feel like you’re progressing (which you are) but it is also money in the bank for the real day. Looking back over your Strava profile and seeing all those kms under your belt, or thinking about the hours you’ve spent in the saddle getting ready, really helps you approach the event day with the right frame of mind. You’ve got this.


Experience is Knowledge

You’re not new to this, so what has been working and what has not? Think back over last season’s sportives and recall your immediate impressions. Put that learning into play early in the piece, not on the day of the event. For instance if you found yourself bonking after the first three hours, what do you think was the culprit? Get to the bottom of it and implement some kind of alternative solution during your training. Seek out options until you land an approach that is right for you, then use your experience to your advantage.

Keep Your Cool

Nobody trains with the kind of participation numbers that greet you at the starting line of a sportive. No matter how many times you’ve done one, most of us feel the adrenaline kick in as the music pumps, the collective air of anticipation frizzles and people get ready for a big day ahead. Remember to keep your cool. Keep an eye on other riders - especially at the congestion of a start line - and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Settle into the saddle and keep your cool.

Please do not regard this article as definitive advice. Seek professional guidance from a doctor, and/or sports nutritionist and visit your local bike store to ensure your plan is correct for your needs.

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