A real test of endurance and the opportunity to ride in large groups in different, challenging locations.
Sportives have boomed in the last few years and now there is hardly a weekend in the year when there isnt at least one taking place somewhere in the country. To ride a sportive you usually enter and pay on line, turn up at the start venue where you are given a number to wear and an electronic timing chip to attach to either your bike or yourself. Depending on the number of riders you may be given a start time or you just simply join the queue to ride over the start line. As you cross the start line your time is recorded electronically as is your finish time as you cross the finish line. In between there are usually two or three check points that you have to ride over to make sure you're not cheating! The route is usually availble as a GPS file and is signposted with the organisor's arrows at every turn.
Sportives vary in length to suit all abilities. Some like the Dragon Ride in South Wales can be as much as 222km with a lot of climbing, others can be as little as 40km and relatively flat. The results are usually published on the organiser's website in alphabetical order. Sportives aren't supposed to be competitive but many riders take part to try to achieve the fastest time or beat the time they did the year before.
The costs of taking part in sportives has risen with their popularity and prices can range from £25.00 to nearly £60.00. For this you get a timed ride; feedstops where sports drink, water and snacks are provided; a meal, usually pasta, at the end. You may even receive a certificate and a medal in a bag full of sponsors promotional give aways. However, the price seldom includes closed roads and sportives have become the misery of many a Sunday motorist.
Sportives also take place all over the world and many club members have taken part in rides such as La Marmotte and L'etape du Tour in France. These are extremely challenging rides that take place in the mountains of France each year and consist of over 5000 riders from all over the world. Ride-London is a new and exciting sportive that takes place anually on closed roads. It follows the Olympic Road Race route into Surrey and back and is exactly 100 miles. In 2013 over 16,000 riders took part and even more entrants did not get a place. The experence of riding on closed roads, with spectators cheering you on, is not to be missed.
Wiggle, the online bike shop, organise lots of sportives throughout the year and many like the local Castle Ride are organised by charities to raise money. Other local sportives include the Circuit of Kent, Tour of the Weald and the Hell of the Ashdown - a popular hilly pre-season challenge. A full list of sportives can be found at http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/sportives