The Endura Trek Lionheart sportive proved to be an instant hit in its inaugural year, and in 2012 has doubled its capacity to 1,200 riders.
Starting and finishing in the grounds of Longleat House, the event, with routes of 100 miles and 100km, takes its name from the big cats that have become synonymous with the stately home in Wiltshire.
Richard Evans and Emma Slevin are the partnership behind this sportive, born, says Richard, of frustration with less well-organised events. He expects this year’s rider limit to remain for future Lionhearts to retain an emphasis on the quality of the event.
We asked Richard for his thoughts on the huge popularity of sportives, the direction in which that popularity is likely to lead future events, and for advice for newcomers to the world of mass participation rides.
What makes a great sportive?
“It’s about having well signposted routes, well-stocked feeding stations, and quiet, traffic-free roads. It’s about offering a diversity of scenery: plains, wooded sections, hilly sections. If you wanted a snapshot of the British countryside, a sportive should be a fantastic way to find it. There should be good mechanical support. We have the NEG motorcycle guys to ensure no one is left stranded.”
What is the driving force behind the massive growth in the popularity in sportives?
“It’s a bit like marathon running. Twenty years ago, if you said to someone jogging, do you fancy running 26 miles, they would have laughed at you. The marathon was seen as something only for elite athletes. The growth in road cycling has come about partly through the popularity of sportives where you can ride a demanding distance in a supported environment. It’s taking people out of their comfort zones. A hundred miles is completely do-able if you put your mind to it.”
What advice do you have for someone riding their first sportive in 2012?
“Find your local club or local bike shop and take their advice on bike preparation, training and nutrition so you don’t get caught out on any of those three factors, or dive too deeply and get overwhelmed.”
What will be the next stage in the development of sportives?
“I would like to see the quality of sportives rise. There are too many bad sportives that are about generating money rather than putting on a great event. There are too many sportives that don’t deliver and could give sportives a bad name.”
What’s the most inspiring comment you’ve heard from a rider taking part in your event?
“It’s not so much phrases as feelings. When people cross the line, they have huge smiles on their faces, and can’t stop grinning. They’re shattered, but their eyes are bright and they have huge smiles. We see a lot of that.”