My first Sportive - a review and thoughts .....

This is my first Sportive, and as new to them, thought some people might like to know what I thought, why I did it, what it was like and what I learned ! This is the kind of stuff I wanted to know before hand and used this site to gain as much info as I could.

I started commuting by bike last June, 34 miles each day and generally under an hour journey time. To this day I have now covered over 5,000 miles. As a result I am now weigh only 13 stone, from being over 17 and a half at the start of 2009.

However although I chase down commuters all the time and try to not be overtaken, I had no real idea just how fit I was or whether I had the 'right stuff' to mess with the big boys ! That was my primary reason for trying the Sportive, my goals were

Not finish last
See how I measured against other riders
Experience of such events
See if I liked them

I plumped for the Richardson Rumble, 100 mile course as it starts from my local town of St Ives, and at least 20% of the course would be familiar to me. I have done quite a few charity rides with mates from work, but they are very different, we would always stop and wait for each other and there was never any mega urgency.


The day before, checked over the bike again, cleaned it as I hate a dirty bike and packed up the spare inner tubes, cash, tyre leavers, rubber gloves in the little saddle bag, so that I had as little as possible in my pockets. I am lucky that I have a great bike, one of the Trek Carbon USPS cycles, its is still a great bike.

Got all my clothing ready and the bike was sat in the house ready for the off, along side my wife's commuter bike as she would be with me to the start.

Did not sleep much that night, as I was nervous and excited, my biggest fear would be being dropped by a group and rolling in last. I had done no specific training for the event at all, I simply cycle 2 hours each day generally at a fast pace and clock in 170 miles per week. So I finished my Friday commute and had Saturday off before the Sportive the next day. No hill training, although coming from Sheffield, I do love cycling up hills, especially long ones.

Sunday – The event.

Up early, Alpen for breakfast, and got ready in my gear. It was cold and chose to wear my wind jacket, along with my Oakley's for the first time in years. Thats when I knew it was serious as everyone was wearing shades, where as I rarely wear mine. Me and the wife cycled to the registration, and everyone had sun glasses on and I was glad I had mine on. First thing was to 'Sign In', which made me feel a bit excited, like when the Tour riders sign in ! Then I was given a number to tie to the handle bars, and the electronic timing chip for the front wheel.

I had never seen or fitted one of these, so ended up turn the bike upside down, and taking the front wheel off to get it fitted, but I will be better next year. There were around 130 registered for the 100 mile event and around 50 for the 100k event. I expected them all to be there at least 7.30 ready for the off and expected a big queue for the registration, but people turned up in one's and two's and so me and the wife had time to kill before the 8 am off.
8 am arrived and the organiser said who wants to go first, and test the electronic timing, so someone went over a few followed and then me. There was no mass start that I had expected, people just set off and at 8.03 I was off.

I knew the first 20 miles and knew what to expect, rolling hills, and quiet roads, after about 2 miles a group formed of which I was in front. It was a fast pace and we came to the first hill, I stayed in front but I expected to be passed, but the group stayed together. There were only a few riders in front. It was all going very well, people would take turns on the front, point out road hazards, and generally got their head down with their own thoughts I guess.

At about 15 - 20 miles or so, came the first steep hill, and the group I was in started to splinter, 2 cyclists passed us and continued up the hill as though it was flat, but I got to the top in good condition, the group reformed and I was not the first up nor the last. With the undulating terrain what I was finding was I was loosing contact with this group of 5 on the descents.

Twice I remember thinking to myself, what Paul Sherwin always said on the TDF commentary, 'don't panic, but reel them back in gently'. I did this twice, splinter on the uphill, re group on the top of the down hill, and then out the back more or less at the bottom of the descent, and then I would reel them back in when back on the flat.

After this occurred twice, I thought that if I keep this up, I am going to be exhausted by 100 miles, and on the third occasion of being out the back I decided not to force myself to reel them back in but cycle at my own pace. After a few miles I was joined by two gentlemen, and we quickly made a 3 man group taking turns on the front. This was working out well, and the first stop at Stamford, again I was dropped on a descent, never on the hills, and about 4 miles left to Stamford I cycled in on my own.

Along the way I remembered to eat a nutri grain bar every 30 minutes and to keep drinking even if I was not thirsty. I kept the empty wrappers under my shorts and then put them in the bin at the stops.

I had done the first 42 miles in 2 hrs 26 minutes. The first stop, I was able to re fill my bottles with this stuff called High5 and they provided us with bananas, energy bar, cake and energy gel. The 2 gents I had cycled with waited for me and in 7 minutes the three of us were off again. Next stop was another 30 miles away and we cycled as a group.

The next 30 miles however were very hilly, even by northern standards I thought they were hilly. As a result, on one hill, that for me was so steep I had to zig zag across the road to get up, I was dropped and so we went from a group of 3 to all riding alone, and I never saw the guy in front again.

The countryside here, in Rutland was superb, a magnificent railway viaduct near some lovely hamlets, there was no one in front, and no one behind, but I kept following the signs to Corby put up by the organisers. Someone had mentioned about the hill at Corby, which I overheard, and never thought much of it. I reached a T junction, turned left and knew what they meant. It was 12% or 1 in 8 as I would gauge it. But I dug in, got in first gear and made my way up. Got to the top and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of it especially after 60 or so miles.

Reached the next and last food stop, which I got lost finding! But more cake, re fuel the water bottle, energy gel and a energy bar, which really are brilliant, and after 6 minutes I was off again. A found myself in a group a 3 or 4 riders and we took turns on the front and chatted along the way. At about 75 – 80 miles we were passed by a group of about 7 riders, and then another pair came along. I joined this group and naturally assumed the 4 I had been rising with would do the same, but after a few miles this group was really going some, I looked round and I was the last in the bunch.
I was summarily dropped as I could not keep the pace, and my god was it a dreadful headwind, so I let them go and did my own thing again.

Few miles later I was joined by 3 other riders, and I joined this group and we all cycled together to the end. At the last big climb I was first over the top, but still struggled a little on the flat, but we all took our turns, and we finished early afternoon. We cycled back and the wife and daughter were there to meet me, which is always great, and I felt a little emotional that I had done the ride, and not let myself down, and that all those winter miles were worth it. Days of being so cold you can't feel your hands or falling off in the snow.


It was 106 miles in the end.
I completed it in 6 hrs 35 mins, with 14 of that at rest points.
The results came out and 88 took part in the 100 mile route and I was 20 th.

My thoughts after the event.

I was more than pleased with my performance, I did not let myself down, and felt quite chuffed at how well I had done. I was so pleased with my performance on the hills, and I really enjoyed that part of it.

I learned that energy bars are the future !

Afterward I was very tired, very saddle sore, but my legs were not as bad as I expected, but I still cycled to work the next day, which I think helped them more than resting.

The strangest feeling was that when I look down at my bike, or see the USPS jacket on my back, I feel as though I have now earned the right to be able to wear them, and not embarrass the team of riders who wear them, strange I know and you may think 'what a cock', but we can all buy the gear and a lot of people do, but who can do them justice? But thats what I think now, my level of fitness and bike skills I think make me a 'Roadie'. 16 months a go, I was just a fat git on a posh bike, looking the typical 'All the gear and no idea' but after this I don't think that anymore. I think that after 9 months of commuting I have earned the right to wear the kit and do it some justice.


Great post Kevin, especially for someone like me who hasn't done a Sportive before.


Here for rides.
Great write up mate and well done.

I won't wear replica team kit, full stop. I know I am not worthy to carry water for them. But clearly you've now earned your colours.


Nice read, thanks for taking the time :laugh:

I'm personally not a fan of sportives, but I can see how it helped you to focus.


Chandler's Ford
Gave me a bit more motivation for my first Audax at the weekend. well done.


Must Try Harder
Fife, Scotland
Well done Kev and a great read, has helped me feel better about my up and coming first Sportive - I cycled (almost all) the 81 mile route last Sunday (bike broke with 1 mile to go!) so know I can do it but now to try and do a decent time to help justify asking for sponsorship!


Active Member
Hi good write up , enjoyed reading it ! Looking to ride a sportive next year so nice to have some idea of what to expect.

Near Cambridge
Alien8 said:
Nice one Kevin - but what next?

Up the ante - how about Kilotogo's Flatout in the Fens at the end of June?

If you did the 156miler a large bit of it would be on roads you know - and I'd probably see you there.

Might be an idea for that , I keep thinking of doing the Northern Cyclone !


New Member
100+ miles for your first sportive - chapeau! You did well.

I have the reverse problem to you - I get dropped on the hills, and then catch & pass people on the descents. I guess I have weak legs, but good aerodynamics. :becool:

I'm doing a sportive each month right now, building up to a trip to the Alps for l'Arvans Villard sportive in July - 117km, with 3000m of climbing over 4 cols. That will mark the one year point since I got my first road bike, and only 18 months since I started commuting by bike - and I'm really looking forward to it.

All the best,
Top Bottom