Pacing your ride is an essential element to any sportive and could be the difference between a ride in the broom wagon and a personal best.
When it comes to pacing, knowledge is power and at its most basic, a little research on the route will mean you’re prepared whatever’s in store.
It will always be good practice to cover your intended event distance pre Sportive, however it is understandable that this is not always possible. It does however give you a good insight and feeling for the fuel you’ll need; the fluid you will drink; and mentally the miles you will check off, and of course the physical exertion you will endure. It may be accepted that you will go a little bit quicker, or a little bit further than on previous rides, but it is worth trying to cover the sportive event miles to gauge the pace of your sportive on the day. After all, there is no substitute for preparation and experience and this should make for no surprises, just remember to take your eyes off the computer screen and enjoy the scenery once in a while!
Most organisers provide a route card on event day with elevation changes and knowing where the route will be at its most challenging - or if there’s twenty miles of downhill all the way to the finish is certainly welcome – especially if you’re out of food and water at the time.
On hillier sportives there will always be climbs that will push you into the red – but you can only do this so many times before there’s nothing left. As a basic rule, the harder you go on the climbs, the more time you must allow to recover. And a succession of hard ascents will demand you pace each one sensibly – even if that feels too easy at the time.
Above: Checking out the route maps and profiles (like this one supplied by Northern Rock Cyclone organisers) will help you pace yourself and conserve energy for the climbs.
The same is true on longer rides and a 100-mile sportive makes pacing and self-discipline essential. Chasing every club-racer down the road just to prove a point will likely leave nothing left beyond halfway.
But pacing doesn’t just depend on the route itself; weather conditions – especially wind direction, the opportunity to ride in a good group during the hardest sections of the sportive and which roads are used will all impact how long it will take to complete the ride.
After checking the forecast, route card and road conditions (B and C roads will often cut your average speed by 1mph) the night before, you might even tape some course notes to your top tube as a reminder of what’s to come.
Want more information on pacing your ride? Take a look at the British Cycling Insight Zone for advice from the same experts that work for the Great Britain Cycling Team.