Sportives by Clash City Womble

A cyclosportive, or often simply sportive, is a short to long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling event, typically held annually. Many DV riders have taken part in a variety of sportives, both individually and as part of a DV group. A sportive is a great opportunity to ride somewhere new with a large group of other cyclists of all abilities in an organised and supported environment.

They are definitely not races, but many sportives will publish a range of bronze, silver and gold standard times to give you a target to aim for. The majority of sportives are held over open roads shared with normal traffic, but some of the premium sportives are on closed roads where no traffic is allowed. All sportives will provide varying degrees of mechanical and medical assistance,  marshalls and food and drink stops along the route. In this blog post I will try and give you a flavour of some of the most popular sportives that tend to attract DV riders and suggest some additional sportives that you may also want to add to your cycling bucket list! Many of these sportives will be publicised as events in the DV Facebook Group where you can see who else is going and make sure you have some ride buddies lined up.

Surrey Rumble

Let’s start the year off with the Twickenham Cycle Club Surrey Rumble. Generally held in the middle of March, it starts and finishes in Cobham and offers 96km and 128km routes. It’s a friendly and relatively small sportive with maybe a couple of hundred riders taking part. One advantage of this sportive is that it is very local and over some familiar roads. In 2019 there were around 10 of us from DV who participated.

New Forest Spring Sportive

Around early April is the New Forest Spring sportive. This is a very popular sportive run by UK Cycling Events every year and attracts around 1,500 riders over a weekend. You choose to ride the Saturday or the Sunday, both days offer three routes: Short (50km), Standard (107km) and Epic (130km). The Standard and Epic routes will take you out through some beautiful scenery across the New Forest, the route is relatively flat and rolling but you can be at the mercy of the wind on the exposed sections. In 2019 there were 14 of us from DV who took part over the weekend, sharing car rides down the M3 and helping each other get around.

IoW Randonee

The first May Bank Holiday weekend sees the annual Isle Of Wight Randonee sportive. The route takes you on a circuit of the Isle Of Wight with 100km and 55km routes available. It’s a very relaxed and fun day out with many food and drink stops offering great home cooked food. There is no entry fee to take part but you donate money for food and drinks and you can buy a badge at the end to commemorate your ride. At least 10 of us from DV took part in 2018 and with DV Members Nick & Maxine now living on the IOW it’s sure to be a popular event in the diary.

The South Western Road Club May Flyer is traditionally the sportive that attracts most DV riders. It runs every year in early to mid May with 86km and 153km routes, starting and finishing in Oxshott and a reputation for better food and snacks than most!  In 2018 there were just over 50 riders from DV participating out of a total of 500 riders, the sportive also tends to sell out in advance.

For those that are looking for something a little different, the Tour Of Cambridgeshire might just be for you. A number of events run over a weekend at the start of June every year, starting and finishing at the Peterborough Arena, with fully closed off roads.

There are now two events you can participate in on the Sunday, the Sportive or the Gran Fondo. The key difference here is that the Gran Fondo is very close to being an actual race, with the top 25% of finishers in each age/sex category qualifying for a place in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. It’s a super fast and flat ride on very exposed roads, groups tend to ride in bunches and you definitely need to keep your wits about you to get around safely.

At least 15 DV riders have taken part over the last few years with Gerda qualifying and taking part in the World Championships in Italy in 2018. It’s incredibly well organised and highly recommended.

The end of July sees the daddy of all sportives with the Prudential Ride London weekend. There are two rides available, the Ride 46 and the Ride 100, both of which will be heavily oversubscribed and entry is decided by a “random” ballot process from those who apply.  You can also secure an entry through riding for a charity if you commit to raising a large sum in sponsorship and DV may also secure a team place for 4 riders through our affiliation with British Cycling.

The routes are entirely traffic free, start in the Olympic Park in Stratford and finish on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace, not to mention passing Cafe Rouge with an enthusiastic DV Supporters club waiting to cheer you on!  Around 25,000 riders take part in the Ride 100 event and it’s fair to say that everybody should try and ride this event at least once. It’s incredibly well organised and an experience you’re unlikely to forget. I would estimate up to 50 DV Riders have participated in Ride 100 over the last five years.

That’s a whistle stop tour of some of the most popular sportives that DV riders tend to take part in, but there are literally hundreds of other events happening around the UK and overseas. If you’re looking for other events in the UK then here are a couple of great places to look:

If you’re really looking for a big challenge then why not take a look at some of these:



Preparing for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

RideLondon training tips by Gerda Mathews

I hope you’ve all applied for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 for 2018….?

I entered the ballot last year for the first time and got accepted for this year’s ride and it was an awesome experience. Not only because of the closed roads and great support along the route (especially in Esher – thanks DV!), but also because I had trained hard for it. The training made it an enjoyable rather than a painful experience. Considering that I only joined the club in August two years earlier, with a hybrid bike and needed to be rescued by one of the social ride leaders a few times; plus I only starting riding my first road bike in Dec 2015. So all in all, I was very pleased with being able to ride 100miles in a pretty decent time.  I would not have achieved this without the support of the club!

This blog is about how I approached my training and how I managed to achieve my target (well almost; I’m still annoyed about missing my target by just 1 min 57 secs!).

When I got the email to tell me I was successful for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 2017, I thought: ‘I have plenty of time for training’ so I didn’t really start with the training plan provided by the organisers (which I should have!). So, February and March came and went and I continued to do the regular Saturday rides with the club. At the start of May I rode in the May Flyer with a group from the club and got a pretty good result but was in real pain: I suffered cramp in my legs and was left feeling quite exhausted after only half the distance. This was my wake up call; if I wanted to achieve my 5hr target in the RideLondon I had to up my game!

However, half of May went by and I still had not done additional training, but then I started to do a few extra sessions: a Wednesday evening training loop with Dittons Velo (thanks guys for dragging me round!) and some spinning classes. In early June, I asked David one of the stronger DV riders if he would ride with me once a week for some speed sessions. I did get better but by mid June I still felt I was lagging. I panicked and did the thing I thought was not possible: I over-trained and actually found myself getting slower!!

After talking to David, my training buddy, he advised to have at least one day a week without exercise. I cut one session out and started to see the benefit from this.

I stuck with my schedule for the rest of June and July. I also did a few sportives, even did one on my own to make sure I had done a 100mile ride before the end of July . I also made sure I did some great rides with the club.

The night before the RideLondon, when I eventually arrived at my hotel (after getting totally lost from Waterloo to Stratford in the pouring rain!), I drank a lot of water to ensure I was properly hydrated, I ate a Nutella sandwich and eventually went to bed.

The morning of the ride I drank more to ensure I was well hydrated, plus I ate granola with yoghurt and one banana. I took a Nutella sandwich with me which I ate while queuing at the start, had another half banana and drank another bottle of water.

For the ride itself I carried with me

  • 6 gels (I used 4)
  • some small flapjacks
  • some cashew nuts (for the salt)
  • some peanut butter sandwiches (cut in mouth size chunks)
  • half a banana (which I didn’t eat!)
  • some Trek Protein Energy Chunks
  • two large bottles of water (with electrolyte tablets)

On reflection, I took too much food and would take less next time. The drink was just about enough but only because I was well hydrated the day before and before the start.

[Note from DV: as a rule, we would normally recommend drinking more water on a hard ride; typically, one bottle per hour]

Sleep is also important but that part went wrong: I couldn’t sleep on the two days before the race and two days after the race. I think excitement and nerves played a big part.

Thank you to everyone in the club for their support and help with my training – I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Preparing for a long distance solo ride

by Mark Hawkins

In 2011, I set myself a challenge to cycle from London to Africa for 2013 when I turned 50. Up until that point, the longest ride I had ever done was the London to Paris ride.

So, how do we tackle a large ride?  Well, it depends on your budget. A supported ride is a great option, but expensive to set up the logistics. On the other end of the sca

le, we have the classic touring mode where a cycle is loaded with paniers crammed with tons of kit. Supported rides makes it easier to cover great distances quickly but when the cycle is loaded up with 40KG of kit, then the 80-100 mile per day target a bit of a far reach.

I opted for the middle option, which is to travel really light and to stop in hotels. It worked well, and I have used the same strategy for the long rides I did in 2014/15. So here are some of the things I think about when planning a long ride:

  • First of all, it has to be fun, so I plan interesting and challenging routes. Spain is my favourite as the weather is often more predictable. Late August/early September is good as it’s cooler
  • The detailed route planning is part of the fun – don’t rush it. Routes can be created carefully when you have time in winter – use Google street view to verify the quality of the roads
  • What to take? My rule is this “if it does not fit in a back pack, then it does not go. So I minimise on clothing (which I wash each day). As I have a few days at my destination, I post things ahead such as the bag I need to fly the bike back to the UK
  • Basic first aid, tools, tubes and an ultra-light laptop is carried
  • The rucksack is actually lashed to a rack. On a 14 day ride, I would advise against carrying a heavy backpack
  • I do not book all of the hotels ahead, just one day at a time. This gives me the flexibility to alter the route to discover something new, speed up the pace, or slow down and take a day off
  • Use very rugged tyres and know in advance where the bike shops will be to buy spares or go for help

On the 25th August 2017, I set off on a ride from Bordeaux to Gibraltar via Lisbon. It’s just about 2,000KM and I have allowed 18 days to do it. You can view the route map and track my progress on my blog:

Dr David’s Secret Sauce

Following from the previous blog post on hydration, energy and salt strategies…

A rough guide to using maltodextrin powderwitches-and-brew

Maltodextrin is ideal for adding to your water bottle as a relatively pure and cost-effective source of energy during a ride. It can be flavoured with your favourite squash with some added salt or used with electrolyte tablets (which could be flavoured).

Maltodextrin is a high Glycemic Index (GI) polysaccharide that is soluble in water and not sweet. It provides a fast acting energy source and is rapidly absorbed and less likely to cause nausea than glucose or sucrose.  It is relatively cheap and used in the food industry. The maximum GI is 100.

Most energy gels contain a mix of sugars including glucose (GI=100), fructose (GI=25) and maltodextrin (GI=100) plus flavours and other additives.

Cost compared to commercial gels

In terms of the cost per gram of pure energy, Maltodextrin costs only 1/10th to 1/20th the price of gels!  (Maltodextrin = 0.27p/g; Wiggle gel =2.1p/g; SIS Go = 4p/g)

Cost compared to commercial powders

SiS Go Energy powder £26: 50g per serving, giving 47g carbs (1.6Kg, gives 32 servings of 50g = 81.25p/serving of 47g carbs = 1.73p/g), meaning Maltodextrin costs a mere 15% of SIS Go Energy powder.



sucralose-3d-ballsMaltodextrin Powder

Each 39g/scoop  (3.8 kcal /g) = 150kcal

2 scoops per 750ml bottle = approx 10% (300kcal)


Typical Usage


Try to drink 500ml of fluid (an energy drink or fruit juice) 45-60mins before exercise.

If you’re having breakfast before the ride, make sure it’s at least 1hour before – porridge is always a good choice. Don’t drink large quantities otherwise you’ll be stopping every 5 minutes for a nature break.


During exercise

popeye-spinachIdeal is around 60g low GI carbs (288 Kcal) per hour and 600mg Sodium.

That might look like this:

Summer drinks 5% (1 scoop) plus Sodium 700mg (2g salt)

Winter drinks 15% (3 scoops) plus Sodium 500mg (1.3g salt)

Drink 625-1250ml per hour (one to two bidons per hour…yes, that much!) – depends on weather, the person, how hard you’re riding.


Post exercise

When you get off the bike, you will be in energy deficit so I recommend you consume 75g High GI carbs (330kcal) immediately after the ride and another after 1hour to make up deficit of calories. Also protein is essential to rebuild damaged muscle fibres.



1litre of sweat contains up to 1g of sodium (=2.6g of table salt). Sweat loss can be 500ml – 1L per hour

Table salt contains 387mg/g. So 1 teaspoonful = 6g = 2300mg

Energy gels generally contain 22-30g carbs which is 80-115kcal plus Sodium 10-40mg. So 2-3 gels per hour will supply the maximum calories one can absorb but not enough Sodium.

High GI carb intake after exercise stimulates Insulin release that encourages muscle growth and thus strength! 

Useful links for further information:




Cycling hydration: it’s not all about water and coffee

Hydration, energy, salt and food strategies for longer, harder rides

by our own Dr. David 


Water: am I drinking enough? Probably not…underwater-cycling

Roughly 60% of the human body is water, so to guarantee peak performance on the bike it is important to maintain the balance. During exercise your body loses water in the form of sweat (mainly), urine and water vapour through breathing (ask a dog!). Evaporation of sweat from the skin is the main way your body sheds heat. Without that cooling the increase in your core body temperature (from heat generated by your working muscles) would kill you fairly rapidly.

To determine your sweat rate, weigh yourself before and after a typical 1 hour ride without a drink (naked, dry with empty bladder before and after). Most riders will typically lose 500-1000 ml per hour.  If you’re at the upper end of this range, it might not be practical or necessary to try and replace it all but you should aim for a minimum of 75%.

Surprisingly small fluid losses can significantly affect your performance. A 2% drop in body weight due to sweating (1.6 kg for an 80 kg rider) will impair performance noticeably. Studies carried out in cool laboratory environments have shown a 5% decrease in VO2 max with a 3% decline in body weight through dehydration. At 5%, heat exhaustion can become an issue and your capacity for work will drop by up to 30%. Hit 7% and you’ll start experiencing hallucinations and, at 10%, circulatory collapse, heat stroke and even death become possibilities.

The physiological reasons for performance losses due to dehydration are:

  • Reduction in blood volume
  • Decreased skin blood flow
  • Decreased sweat rate
  • Decreased heat dissipation
  • Increased core temperature
  • Increased rate of muscle glycogen use
  • Decreased digestive function

So, what does all this mean I should do…?

In the hour leading up to a long ride sip 500-750 ml (one full bidon*) of fluid (* bidon = your water bottle)

Drink at least 500ml (one bidon) per hour on the bike. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty but drink but little and often right from the start of your ride. Aim to take 2-3 good sized gulps from your bottle every 10-15 minutes right from the moment you set off. You’re not drinking for that moment but to ensure your body stays properly hydrated 10-20 miles down the road.


During heavy exertion calorie consumption can range anywhere from 600 to 1500 kcal/hour. Energy consumption will vary depending on many factors e.g. the size of athlete, intensity of exercise, climatic conditions and level of fitness.

It has been shown that an average athlete can only readily absorb (process) between 200-600 kcal/h resulting in a negative energy balance. For longer rides, it makes sense to combine drinking with calorie intake. Remember, for a sportive or long training ride, you’re aiming for 0.5-1g of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per hour and should aim to spread that over 2-3 micro feeds every 20-30 minutes.

500 ml of typical sports drink mixed at 6% will give you 30 g of carbohydrate which, for an 80 kg rider requiring 40-80 g per hour, is a decent and easy to take on proportion of that energy requirement.

Energy gels generally contain 22-30g carbs which is 80-115 kcal. So 2-3 gels per hour will supply the maximum calories one can absorb but may cause nausea.

Maltodextrin is a non-sweet high GI sugar ideal for supplying energy during cycling. I’ll share more thoughts on the use of maltodextrin in my next blog along with recipes for making up some lower-cost energy drinks.


Much has been made about combining fructose with other high GI sugars e.g. glucose and maltodextrin in energy drinks and bars. One study suggested a benefit but this has not been substantiated. In fact fructose is much harder to digest and may slow stomach emptying and actually reduce energy absorption!

My simple advice to get the energy you need on the bike

  • Use both energy gels AND energy in your drink (don’t just carry water in your bidon) 

Ideas for consuming adequate energy during a longer ride: bike-overloaded
The following are examples of how to take on 60-80g of carbs per hour

  • 400 ml of energy drink mixed at 5% solution (35 grams) + one energy bar (35 grams) = 70 grams
  • 800 ml of energy drink at 6% solution = 70 grams
  • 3 energy gels (25 grams each) = 75g
  • 3 bananas (25 grams each) = 75g (you’d need a big pocket in your jersey!)

You can neither carry nor digest 10-12 bananas in one 3-4 hour ride….so, a mixture of the above options is possibly the best strategy e.g. two full bidons of energy mix, a banana or two, plus a handful of gels. Take a few electrolyte tablets then add them to your water when you refill the bidons at the half-way cafe stop.

Salts: when do I need them, and how should I get them?


Sodium concentration in sweat varies from person to person but is typically 1g/litre. Sodium loss will vary depending on many factors e.g. the size of athlete, intensity of exercise, climatic conditions and level of fitness. Sweat loss can be between 500ml – 1L per hour (500mg – 1000mg of sodium) – you can generally expect to lose more in summer, less in winter.

1 litre of sweat contains up to 1g of sodium (= 2.6g of table salt).

Table salt contains 387 mg/g. So 1 teaspoonful = 6g = 2300mg

Energy gels generally contain carbs plus sodium 10-40mg. So 2-3 gels per hour will supply the maximum calories one can absorb but not enough sodium (30-120mg).

Table salt, electrolyte tablets or food will be required to replace sodium loss. Electrolyte tablets typically supply 250 -360mg sodium.

My advice

  • Use both electrolyte tablets and carbohydrates in your water
  • Consider eating salty snacks on long rides


Magnesium: do I need it?

Magnesium seems to be “en vogue” with promises of increased performance and reducing cramp. While many studies on magnesium supplementation and exercise have been carried out, the results have been inconsistent and may indicate that there is nothing to be gained by supplementing an already magnesium-sufficient diet.  But for those already deficient in magnesium increasing magnesium in the diet may improve performance.

My advice

  • There is no hard evidence for consuming magnesium during exercise



The exact reason for cramping is still unknown. Many people blame inadequate hydration or electrolyte levels and, although some studies have shown that consuming a 6% carbohydrate sports drink can help prevent them. Regular training does improve the time before the onset of cramp.

My advice

  • Ensure adequate fluid and energy intake. Nothing beats regular training to help endurance!


Protein: can I digest it during a ride, or is it only for recovery?

During a long ride at high-intensity your body burns glucose from its glycogen stores (and digestion) as the preferred energy source. When this is depleted (mine lasts approx. 2 hours at anaerobic threshold) it will look to other sources of energy i.e. fat and protein. These both require a lot more oxygen to obtain the energy from the longer molecules.  Recent research on 10 trained cyclists performing an 80K trial showed that riders drinking carb-only did just as well as those drinking carb-protein drinks, and both groups did better than those consuming flavoured water!

If you’re on a long ride where you’re also eating, you’ll be taking in protein already so it’s unnecessary to also have protein in your drink.

My advice

  • Save protein for your recovery drink
  • There is nothing to be gained from consuming drinks containing protein during a ride


Fats and fibre

The pies and sausage rolls in the farm shop may look like a good source of energy when you are feeling the hunger pangs after riding over the North Downs but they take a long time to digest and will actually slow down the absorption of the carbs you need to get you home. The same applies to fruit and muesli bars.

My advice

  • No meat pies. A jam sandwich would be better
  • Not too many bananas


Caffeine: to caffeinate, or not to caffeinate, that is the questioncoffee-beans

Caffeine improves carb burning. Researchers found that riders who drank a caffeinated sports beverage burned the drink’s carbs 26 percent faster than those who consumed a non-caffeinated sports drink, likely because caffeine speeds glucose absorption in the intestine.

Also worth noting that the stimulant doesn’t worsen the effects of summertime heat. In fact, caffeine makes you feel better. Numerous studies have shown that it lowers your rate of perceived exertion while improving your strength, endurance and mental performance.

My advice

  • Drink coffee!
  • Stop for coffee!

My next blog will be a recipe for making your own cost-effective cycling drinks using maltodextrin.

Enjoy your cycling

Some links if you wish to read more on the topic


Disclaimer: Please note the information in this article has been researched in good faith or from my experience and is for guidance only and not medical advice.

David Matthews – Nov 2016

Let Santa make your winter riding more comfortable

Enjoyment from the right position
We all know the importance of getting your bike fitted properly in the first place but usually leave it from then on. As we get used to cycling, our position on the bike naturally changes and rightly we often switch to a lower handlebar (removing spacers) and perhaps buying a longer stem. This, coupled with new saddles and different pedals, means a totally different set-up to the one you started with and this can cause problems. Local shops like Sigma, Specialized in Kingston and Pearson all do decent bike fits but this can cost £100+. Although this is money well spent, you can probably haggle a free fit when you buy new shoes and cleats – it worked for me at Sigma recently.

Sore bum
A few suggestions to stop Mr. Sore Bum spoiling our winter cycling fun…

First, as David has been suggesting recently, switch to winter tyres with a bit more grip. Swapping to 25mm tyres on a road bike these will be more comfortable and this is accentuated as you can run them at slightly lower pressure. Even if you stick with your 23mm tyres it’s prudent to run them at slightly lower pressure in the winter and this will make the ride a bit softer.

Switching to latex inner tubes is also worth considering. These cost a bit more and loose air quicker than your usual tubes and are a bit of a pain to fit (not recommended for your saddle bag) but as well as being lighter and more puncture resistant, they’re much more comfortable.

Treat yourself to some decent cycle tights (‘longs’ in winter, 3/4 ‘knickers’ for milder days). The best ones I’ve tried are Assos due to their fit and comfort, no matter how long the ride. They are expensive but you know you’re worth it. Slightly less expensive but also good are Café du Cycliste (like a French Rapha) who use the same pads as Rapha but are a bit cheaper and in my view, more stylish. A cheaper, but excellent option, are those from Santini.

If you have a budget bike, switching from an aluminium to a carbon seat post can help improve ride comfort. Really good ones are available from £80 to £100.

Snowy Bike

Protect those extremities
Most important is to keep your core warm and the best strategy is with a tight fitting merino long sleeve baselayer; Icebreaker or Craft both offer a decent range. But don’t overdo it, as the body warms up during a ride. A windproof packable jacket will help to keep you warm if you get colder again on descents.

Your extremities however don’talways warm up to the same degree. A couple of suggestions for your more exposed bits are to wear ski glove liners for the fingers, and you can always take them off if it warms up. For your feet, the standard remedy to cold toes is to use overshoes, and there are varying thicknesses depending on climate and weatherproofing. Though I would say no overshoes are truly waterproof since the water eventually drips down your legs and into your overshoes.

But my top winter tip for toes: buy some Toasti Toes by Heatmax. These are amazing! They are adhesive pads that stick to the front (outside) of your socks and are air-activated staying warm for a few hours – long enough for any DV deep-winter expedition. If you buy them in bulk they’re about £1 each from Amazon and most outdoor shops.

Where should I buy Simon his Christmas present?
This is the easy bit! Two excellent on-line retailers are the place to go:

This is a great value and super efficient site. They specialise in “old school” cycle shirt design but also stock excellent value for money modern clothing. Of note, they have a good stock of Santini who produce the best arm and leg warmers and make really good value padded cycle tights referred to above.

Always Riding
Quite different to Prendas; these guys stock some super brands – including Café du Cycliste – but often ones that are less well known. There is something here for everyone (including me).

For more on preparing you and your bike for winter riding, do have a read of this article