Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Whither Sportives?

I'll be honest. I'm not entirely sure the title of this post makes sense. What does "whither" actually mean? In the absence of being bothered to look it up, I'll define it as "Why do I bother entering".

For the non-cyclisty people reading, a sportive is a road bike event, with a marked route, timing and food stops. It's not a race. People don't all start at once. Sometimes there is mechanical support. Sometimes you get a medal for finishing (or at least, turning up at the finish). They often offer 100 km and 100 mile options.

I quite often do 100 km or 100 mile rides by myself. I take a Garmin with the route on it. I carry food. I stop for water. Sometimes I buy myself a medal for finishing, or at least a beer - which in all ways is superior to a medal.

Ah, but Sportive food stops offer lovely cake, biscuits, flapjacks, ham and cheese rolls. Exactly the kind of things that I'd love to eat but I know they'll sit in my stomach, festering. Because of this, I take my own bars and gels - things I know I can eat while riding without diverting too much blood from my legs (where it is useful, good, oxygen carrying blood) to my internal food-processing systems (where all it does is fill up with fat and sugar).

Mechanical support? Never needed it. I can fix my own bike thanks.

Riding somewhere new? OK, I'll admit that one. I get to drive for sixty miles, ride 100, then drive sixty back home. Makes sense. Actually, there are plenty of routes available on your local internet that will allow you to do the same thing.

I also get to pay £25 or so for all of these things that I don't need or don't make use of.

Hmm.

I did a sportive on Sunday - the Endura Lionheart. I can't fault the organisation, the route marking, the food stops, the timing. There was even an attractive medal. Yet I can do pretty much the same thing by myself. I can even get my bike this muddy:


So.. whither?

I'll tell you whither. Other riders. I got in with a small group of 5-6 others and we worked well together - swapping turns at the front, sharing the effort. It did get a bit hurty on the climbs - I tend to measure my effort rather than attacking everything - but it meant I pushed myself more than I'd ever do on a solo ride. We picked up a couple more, dropped a couple, dropped a couple more. At the 75 mile mark only two of us carried on past the food stop... and up the biggest climb of the event I found myself easing away from the other guy. By this time we'd met up with the riders on the 100 km route so there were plenty of people around to chase. More motivation.

At around 80 miles, something in my hip went "ping". And not in a "microwave has just made the popcorn" good ping way. More of a "was that a ligament or a muscle" bad ping way. Still, only 20 miles left. I could still pedal but putting any significant force in with my left leg wasn't comfortable. Thank god for all those single leg pedalling drills I did in the winter.

I struggled. I MTFU'd. I got cramp. I MTFD'd.

I got to the finish. I got my medal. I got my free food. I basked in the post-ride glow of 100's of other people all taking about the ride, swapping stories, being bikey. That's whither.

Time to drive home. The heated seats were once again awesome. 

(My next sportive is my local one, where I get to ride the roads I train on. How screwed up is that?)
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