With less than a week to go before entries close, we spoke to British Cycling Regional Events Officer Sara Flatt, one of the people behind the Norfolk based Boudicca Sportive.
Sportives are thin on the ground in the Eastern region, a situation Sara is keen to rectify, drawing riders in from throughout the country to sample the unique scenery that Norfolk offers. A ‘locally sourced’ feel is something that Sarah and event organiser Ken Jolliffe are both keen to foster, in terms of suppliers and beneficiaries, as Sara explains.
“Ken’s a really active organiser in the region,” said Sara. “He keeps his finger on the pulse of what’s going on and he was thinking that a sportive would definitely fit the bill the Eastern region.”
The motivation for running the sportive is based on putting back funds into the local ‘cycling economy’. “The main reason behind it was to start to generate a fund that the local clubs could pitch for if they wanted to start promoting additional competitive events in the region,” said Sara. Closed circuit racing and training facilities are scarce in Norfolk and extra funding would help local clubs take young people to races or hire nearby local authority or MoD facilities.
But the Eastern region’s young riders are not the only beneficiaries of the Boudicca Sportive. The ride is based at the World Horse Welfare Centre HQ, whose cafeteria proceeds on the day will go towards the equine charity, which is very supportive of cycling in the area. So make sure you dig deep for coffee and cake on the day, riders! The Boudicca Sportive’s main sponsor however is one that’s dear to many a cyclists’ hearts, as Sara explained - “We’re supporting the East Anglian Air Ambulance, with whom Ken and the Lotus Cars Racing League has a long standing relationship.”
The ‘local’ theme continues with suppliers, with signage, chip timing and event vehicles all supplied by local companies - “What we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to stay local wherever we can”, said Sara, keen to develop buy-in and rapport with the communities through which the ride passes.
And what of the locale? The major draw for any sportive, aside from the rider support, is the landscape through which the routes pass. Here, Norfolk-born Sara is shamelessly biased. “I’m a Norfolk girl born and bred and I just love it here. Of course, I love going to Wales, Scotland and the Lakes but I always love coming home and I always love going for a bike ride in Norfolk because it’s just so relaxing.” Sara continued, “You don’t have to fight and struggle through traffic and massive urban areas – you’re just straight out into the countryside and it’s absolutely lovely. So I am biased but Norfolk has got a very special place in my heart and I’d like to share it with people.”
There are three routes on offer – 30, 70 and 100 miles, with the 30 mile route also encompassing a ‘Breeze’ women’s challenge.
The 70 and 100 mile routes share similar routes, with the longer variant looping out to the coast. Both routes take in the market town of Swaffham, the pretty village of Gt Massingham and plenty of idyllic Norfolk farmland in between.
The 100 mile route heads north towards the coast and the Sandringham Estate, reaching the sea at half distance, where you will be rewarded with dramatic coastal views from Beacon Hill before dropping down onto the coast road at Thornham. From here the route returns to the HQ via East Rudham, Litcham and Beeston.
30 mile route highlights include East Harling, home to England’s only whisky distillery, and Quidenham with its Carmelite Monastery. The feedstation at Morley will provide welcome respite before heading through Deopham on narrow twisting lanes, after which the route turns tail and heads for home, joining up with the 70 and 100 mile route for the final leg.
On the day riders can expect the full ride support for their entry fee. “On the 100 and 70 mile route there are two feedstations and there’s one on the 30 mile route,” explained Sara. “There’ll be Torq energy drink at the feedstations and a range of bars, snacks and bananas, plus there’ll be a hot meal and a hot drink back at HQ at the end. That’s all included.”
Nutritional matters are well catered for, as is support out on the road. “We’ve got mobile and fixed first aid provided by St John’s,” said Sara. “We’ve got a broom wagon, electronic timing and mechanical support at the first feedstation.” Add in a fully waymarked route and a downloadable GPX file of the route and there’s little chance of getting lost.
In conclusion, the Boudicca is a fully supported sportive, using local suppliers and benefitting local good causes - the only ingredient left in the mix is a host of riders to descend upon Norfolk and sample its cycling delights, which Sara personally endorses. “We’re keeping a local theme where we can but what we’d like to do is get more of a national audience in terms of people pitching up to ride it, just to sell the benefits of cycling in this part of the world. It is a lovely area to ride in.”
For more information on the Boudicca Sportive go to www.lotuscycleracing.org/boudicca-sportive. Entries close on 27 May 2012.