Setting out from the amazing surroundings of Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch, the 70km Spring Classic ride will take in the bergs, potholes and the meanest gravè sections that the roads of County Down have to offer – while there are no cobblestones, think country lanes, numerous punchy climbs, testing roads and a coating of ‘Belgian toothpaste’ – we hope to give you a flavour of the Classics with a lot of fun thrown in.
We even have the King of the Classics, Mr Sean Kelly coming along to take on the challenge with you all on the roads of County Down.
Here are 10 reasons why you should sign up and take on a sportive like this!
1. The excuses
We’ve heard them all. In fact, we’ve made them all at one time or another. Yes, we know it’s wet outside. That’s why rain jackets and mudguards were invented. We know you ‘haven’t got the legs right now’. You aren’t going to get them sitting on the couch. We know you’re busy with kids and work. So is everybody else on that start line. We know your bike isn’t perfect. It doesn’t need to be. Stop lining up excuses and start clocking up the miles. You’re going to have to do it some day. Why not do it this year?
2. The target
Nothing focuses the mind and body like a goal to work towards, and having your place booked on a sportive in a couple of months will help motivate you to get out and train. We've included two training plans below, and many sportives – or even your national cycling federation – will offer comprehensive training plans to download for free. Alternatively you can consider joining a club where your training will be structured and you will have the opportunity to learn new skills (such as group riding) progress your fitness and make new friends as you work towards a common goal.
3. The feelings
It’s a strange mix of fear, nervous anticipation and excitement, knowing that one sunny day in the spring you will test your physical and mental stamina like it has never been tested before. It’s that feeling that will help you to get out of bed on a Sunday and ride further and harder, week after week, ticking off your training calendar until the big day looms.
4. The pain
Getting in shape to tackle a big sportive ride is no picnic, so be ready for aching legs and a saddle-sore bum, both on the day itself and in the weeks of training that precede it. But nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice, and you can mitigate the pain through smart choices – choosing to follow a sensible training and diet plan, choosing a distance for your first sportive that matches your ability (as a rule of thumb you should be able to comfortably ride two-thirds of the sportive distance in training, so if taking on our 70km ride you should have 45km+ under your belt).
5. The pleasure
Hand-in-hand with the pain comes the pleasure – the pleasure of the finish line and the pub afterwards, yes, but also the pleasure of coasting down the lee side of a climb you didn’t think you’d conquer or of a simple sandwich and cup of tea just when the tank was running on empty. And over and above all this – the pleasure that comes from knowing you set a goal, and saw it through.
6. The education
Nothing will teach you more about riding, faster (and riding faster) than taking part in group rides, whether as part of club training in the run up to a sportive, or on the day itself. You’ll get an invaluable education in safe group riding, rider etiquette, proper nutrition and hydration, pacing yourself, roadside mechanicals and much, much more.
7. The view
There is no better way to enjoy the beauty of the countryside than from a saddle, and sportive cycles, with roads sometimes closed for the purpose, put the cyclist at the top of the pyramid, at least for one day. It can be disquieting sometimes to ride through country you’ve travelled countless times by car and realise you are truly seeing it for the first time. Many and vivid are the memories made on a big ride in beautiful country. Enjoy the view. It’s not a race.
8. The people
Central to the sportive experience is the friends that are made, whether before the ride in the new clubmates you find at your shoulder as you chaingang along the byways, during the ride in the form of easy alliances with riders of similar pace, or afterwards in the shared bonhomie of the pub or event tent. It won’t be long before your sportive companions join your cohort of friends, off the bike as well as on.
9. The start line
Nothing beats the excitement of the start line, those butterflies in your stomach as months of thought and preparation come to a head, hundreds of riders all ready to clip in when the signal is given. Nothing beats it, except perhaps…
10. The finish line
… and no matter how improbable it may have seemed back in the dark months of winter, when your trembling hand typed your details on the entry form, you cross the line having achieved something genuine, real and admirable. Once the backslaps are concluded and the glow has faded a little… your thoughts turn to the next sportive in the series, The Big Italian Bike Ride.