With cycling continuing to increase in popularity, cycle sportives are starting to give marathons a run for their money.
Former professional cyclist turned coach Dean Downing, a previous winner of the Beaumont Trophy race in rural Northumberland, has given cycling amateurs and enthusiasts his top tips for how to approach these events, which include the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival in June.
Timing is everything: Look at your calendar and decide when makes most sense to try a new challenge. Aim for a summer event like the Virgin Money Cyclone for the best chance at fair weather and favourable road conditions.
Location, location: Where does the sportive take place? Consider travel arrangements from your home on event day. If you are aiming at an event further afield, factor in time to visit the local area and recover from your ride. A festival like the Virgin Money Cyclone runs over three days, so you can count on a weekend of activity celebrating all things two-wheeled.
Mind the pennies: Go for an event that is affordable to you in all respects. The best sportive will be the one you are happy to attend, so budget for entry cost as well as small extras like a bike service and celebratory toast.
You can also ride easy knowing you’ll be supporting local businesses with your custom.
The lay of the land: If you are unfamiliar with the area a sportive runs through, get closer to the route through the event’s website. Virgin Money Cyclone routes can be downloaded direct to your GPS device to help target your training.
Check for hill climbs as well as the overall distance to feel confident you are signing up to something you can achieve.
Get ready: A steady 34-mile ride like the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge will still warrant a little preparation. Start now with a 15-mile ride twice a week and build this up to 20 miles by early spring – your road confidence will quickly develop, as will strength and stamina.
Riders tackling a bigger distance should aim for a structured training plan, including rides over 50 miles to get used to those longer journeys.
Better together: Talk to family, friends and colleagues about your sportive challenge. People love a good cause, so you may find encouragement and a few extra training buddies by using your summer ride to raise funds for charity.
The Virgin Money Cyclone Festival returns to Northumberland and Newcastle this summer. The events and races will take place on June 19, June 20 and June 21. For full event information and to register yourself or a team, visit www.virginmoneycyclone.co.uk