March on RCUK: sportive season begins in earnest

The sportive has grown from the humble reliability ride or randonnee to the biggest discipline in UK cycling.

The satisfaction of a personal challenge is one of many reasons for the increasing popularity of sportives

Mass participation offers the sociability of riding with others, while the personal challenge aspect means your competing only with yourself.

It’s an irresistible mix to literally thousands of people who roll out for organised events each weekend, and we’ll be celebrating the rise and rise of the sportive across RCUK this month.

We’ll be examining event preparation, both physical and ‘on the day’, equipment, and nutrition among a host of other angles.

Our test kit will reflect the theme. French manufacturer, LOOK, the first to place a carbon fibre steed in the peloton, have produced the 675 for just such events, and having attended its launch last year, photographed the first model in the country, we thought it was high time to give it a spin.

The Giant Defy has become a ‘go to’ bike for many a sportive rider. It’s tall head tube and relaxed geometry have won fans among those for whom  a low-slung, and inflexible racing bike may not be the machine of choice. We’ll be testing the latest edition to the Defy range, the Defy Composite, Giant’s entry into the increasingly competitive market for entry-level carbon bikes.

Another competitor in that same market is the Sensium 200 from Lapierre, which offers Shimano components, many from the 105 range, and a carbon frame for £1299. Too good to be true? We’ll be finding out.

Winter is still with us, and this month’s clothing tests will reflect that. Pearl Izumi has a well-earned reputation for quality, and we’ll be testing a softshell jacket, long-sleeve base layer, and bib-tight from the Japanese-American brand. Elsewhere, we’ll have clothing from Italian brand, Northwave, who have impressed us previously with their shoes (worn by Jens Voigt, no less) and from One Ten.

If the sportive season is stepping up a gear this month, the racing calendar hits full stride. Some of the most important races will be held this month, including the key early-season stage races, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and historic one-day Classics, including the ‘Monuments’ of Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen). We’ll have daily coverage of all, with full-colour and full-screen galleries from official UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti.

March means miles. With lighter evenings creeping in, supposedly accompanied by better weather, outdoor training can resume in earnest. We’ll be bringing you further installments in our coaching series, From Bronze to Gold in 2013, with respected coaches, Jo McRae and Tom Kirk, advising on technique and fitness, respectively.

The end of March promises the end of winter, and we’ll be making the most of this busy month by packing in all of the items mentioned above. Stay tuned for tips, reviews, reports, and more.

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