Your first Sportive - part 1: Going for Centuries - Road Cycling UK

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Your first Sportive – part 1: Going for Centuries


Completing your first 100 mile ride is a rite-of-passage event. To inexperienced riders, they’re a mythical challenge, while regular challenge-riders complete them without a second thought. And you can too.




A couple of weekends ago I was at one of my regular mid-ride café stops, enjoying a rare (for this summer anyway) moment of sit-outside-in-the-sunshine weather when the conversation came round (as it often does around the Tour de France) to this year’s Etape du Tour route(s). A number of riders present were making their final preparations for the events (there were two this year) and the conversation was the usual humorous mixture of big talk and sandbagging.

This is quite common practice amongst sportive riders; those who have not prepared well enough tend to talk themselves up, probably in an effort to convince themselves that, despite not doing nearly enough preparation, they are still going to get up the final climb of Alpe d’Huez faster than Marco Pantani, whilst those already in good enough shape nevertheless make excuses for themselves in advance, in case, for whatever reason, they might fail to perform to their expectations on the day and finish in a time slower than the other guys in their group.

A rider listening in on the conversation leaned over and whispered to me; “I’d love to be able to do an Etape, but the thought of riding up to 100 miles, in the hills, is just a dream.” This struck me as being a little odd, as the rider in question wouldn’t have looked out of place on the start line of a Premier Calendar race. OK, age wasn’t on his side, but he was lean, tanned, shaven of leg and in possession of a Dura-Ace-equipped full-carbon Cervelo with decent wheels and a Garmin Edge on the ‘bars. Clearly, then, a man who takes his riding seriously, and I found it hard to understand why someone with this level of interest should be so humble in the face of a ride of 100 miles.

Anyone can do it

I’ve always considered cycling challenge rides attainable. I mean, if you want to ride 100 miles, then providing you have a bike you can go out and do it. If you wanted to be a brain surgeon or an airline pilot this approach would clearly be problematical but, as long as you can ride a bike, you can ride 100 miles. If you don’t meet the initial fitness demands it’s simply a case of building up your endurance until you do. And even riders on a very time-crunched schedule can manage that it if they follow a few golden rules, which we’ll cover  in the next few weeks.

Preparing to ride your first 100 mile event is easy, you can do it and I’ll show you how, but we should never forget that to riders who have never completed one, a  ‘century’ is not only a mythical challenge, it can be a very daunting one. For the record I managed to convince the rider above that not only was the century a possibility, he’d be completing one within 12 weeks, entering sportives before the end of the summer and in a position to join his club-mates at the Etape in 2012 with confidence of a decent performance in his age category, rather than just plodding around the course.

I’m convinced he’ll achieve all of those things as I’ve helped dozens of riders with far less time than he has available to do just that. So over the next few weeks we’ll outline the basic strategy that will give you the fitness and confidence levels to complete your first century and become a regular challenge rider. We’ll cover a basic training plan, supplementary exercises that will help your cycling efficiency and even some nutrition and lifestyle tips that will accelerate your improvements toward that goal.

Part 1: Going for Centuries
Part 2: Breaking down the barriers
Part 3: Goal Setting
Part 4: Intensity
Part 5: Get in the Zone
Part 6: Performance Testing

Part 7: Creating a training plan
Part 8: Weekly training plans
Part 9: Be a better climber

About the author:

Huw Williams is a British Cycling Level 3 road and time trial coach. He has raced on and off road all over the world and completed all the major European sportives. He has written training and fitness articles for a wide number of UK and international cycling publications and websites and as head of La Fuga Performance, coaches a number of riders from enthusiastic novices to national standard racers.
Contact: [email protected]


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