1 Racing only yourself
This is specifically for sportives and granfondos: remember, it is not a race. Despite a number being pinned to your top, sportives are deemed non-competitive events. This means you’re not racing against Frederick the Fearless or Helen the Hammer. Nope, it’s you against the clock, course and any goal times you or the organizers have set. That means you must show patience and consideration when needed, to the other riders, stewards and onlookers.
2 Retain your rubbish
There’s nothing worse than knowing a sportive has taken place because of the trail of used gel wrappers ignorantly thrown onto the road. If you have room, the ideal is to have full gels, bars and bananas in one pocket and pop litter into the other. Yes, we know banana skins and some ‘eco-friendly’ gels come with decomposable wrappers but please do not throw these onto the roadside. You can empty your contents when you arrive at a feedzone or at the finish.
3 Group technique
Earning the respect of your co-riders – or competitors – largely comes down to obeying the rules of group riding. This is deserving of a feature in its own right but learning how to draft effectively and pull a turn upfront will hold you in good stead.
However, one of the primary rules that you can apply to your group riding now is that if you’re riding in a large group, line your wheel slightly to the side of the bike ahead. This offers you room if they slowly down abruptly. A concertina of crashing cyclists is a scenario that must be avoided. It also allows you to see up the road rather than at someone’s backside – and if there’s spray this position helps you keep relatively dry and improves visibility.
4 Know the code
The majority of sportives and grandfondos take place on open roads but that’s something that’s often forgotten when rubbing shoulders with hundreds of other cyclists. So make sure you’re fully aware of the respective country’s Highway Code. Three areas of particular focus are traffic lights, not crossing the central white line on the road and how to act at junctions.
5 Do a route recce
Race organizers generally do a great job of marking out the route so you follow the path of least resistance, but some fools sadly play around with route signs so don’t blindly follow the riders in front (we’ve also known this to happen at run events, adding 2.5km to a 10km run). To eliminate any possibility of this, and to make sure your preparation is the best, recce the course beforehand. If possible we’d advise doing this months ahead so you can plan your training accordingly to practise, for instance, hills if there are any – and ideally ride the route at some point beforehand to check out road conditions, tricky corners, crosswinds and the like. Many organizers now also supply GPS files, which are useful if you have a Garmin or similar.