I’ve Found A Sportive

Many of you may not know what a “sportive” is.   I had never heard of them until I started reading European cycling blogs.  In short, a sportive is the middle ground between a hyper-competitive road race and the very uncompetitive touring ride.  Individuals do not race each other, per se, but rather shoot for a specific time goal.  In this way, many riders can earn gold, silver, or bronze medals for achieving a specified time standard.  For more information, click here.

This seems like a very interesting concept to me.  Sadly, sportives are not as popular in the US as in Europe and I have been unable to find any outside the state of California.  I like the idea, but not enough to travel 3,000 miles to participate in one.  I accepted the fact that such things simply didn’t exist near me and went on with my life.

Until Sunday, when I found this:

click for details

The Air Force Cycling classic is held in Crystal City, Virginia, just up the road from where I live.  Saturday’s events feature a professional race on a 1km lap (if you want your cycling race to be cool, you must measure the distances in kilometers).  On Sunday, they have created a 12.5km course for cyclists of all abilities.  I’m pretty sure I fall into that group, so I think I’ll sign up.

The course is laid out around the Pentagon, the U.S. Air Force Monument, and nearby Crystal City.  It should be extremely cool to ride on city streets with tall buildings and by the Pentagon.  As a retired Army Officer, the prospect of pedaling by the Air Force Monument is less enthralling, but still pretty neat.  Rest assured I will be wearing my U.S. Army cycling jersey.

To get a gold medal, all I have to do is complete eight laps (100kms) in 3.5 hours.  That’s an average pace of 19mph.  This is an outrageously fast pace for me.  The highest pace I’ve ever managed was 17mph over 45 miles.  I’ll need to go even faster for an additional 21 miles.  Maybe, just maybe, my fitness will be sufficiently improved and I can stick with the peloton (thus increasing my speed) and my adrenalin will be pumping and I don’t have a heart attack.  If all those things occur, I might be able to get a gold medal.

In any event, it should be fun.  My calendar is marked for June 11th.

8 thoughts on “I’ve Found A Sportive

  1. If there are very many people in this “race” you will find groups forming at various speeds and be able to take advantage of the drafting potential thus created. If so be sure to make use of it and don’t hang out between groups trying to bridge up to the next fastest unless you are pretty certain of being able to make it. Group riding at 19 will actually seem easy comared to soloing at 17. Offhand I’d guess the group dynamic will be worth more like 5mph rather than the 2 you need to make up. Enjoy the day and as an army boy you can just be smug about the fact the airforce didn’t even exist while army and indeed navy fliers were winning WW2. Try not to rub it in to the newbies too badly though cause they can sure bomb the crap out of you now.

    1. I expect there to be several thousand riders and my only hope will be to find a good group and draft with them. I’ll try to be a good guest and control my smugness, though it must be said that I seriously doubt the zoomies would be very aggressive towards me if I was an irritant. It’s just not in their nature!

  2. I’ve got a cycling magazine from England and it seems like Sportives are all the rage there and in Europe.

    I can’t see anyway you won’t make the cut off unless the course is significanlty hilly or has lots of turns. A 19 mph average isn’t fast in a group. The problem will more then likely be that you find it to easy and start jumping into faster groups.

    I’ve got one piece of advise before the ride. Try and find a semi-fast group ride you can hang on to and get some practice before you do the real thing.

    Wish i could do that ride, it’d be super fun!

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Matt. I’m pretty sure I can maintain the required pace over 20 miles (I’ve done it once in a paceline already) but I wonder what will happen over three times that distance. Another thought is how big will the delays be when I stop at the feed station? How many times should I stop? If I stop three times over the 8 laps for fluids/food and take 10 minutes at each stop, then my average pace needs to increase to 22mph.

  3. Urrgh! Pedalling with Crabs? (British Army slang for the RAF, but any airforce will do). Mind you don’t catch something, and make sure your Army T Shirt is visible to all! 😉

    Go Army!

  4. Hnnnm, that is a long way. I didn’re read you’re post right, I thought you had to do 45 miles not 66. Still doable, but harder. I think I’d plan for two stops, after the third and sixith lap. Get something strong for those initial waterbottles and nmaybe look into a gel flask. I’ve never used one but alot of guys I ride with use them. I think that’s how some guys seem to keep riding without ever appearing to stop and eat.

    10 minutes is way to long, 3-5 is the ticket. In 10 minutes your body is thinking about kicking over to recovery mode.

    If you’re in a good group and they are stopping more often I’d stick with them, they likely have it timed out.

  5. I think there are more of these around than you think. The El Tour de Tucson I did in November would be classified as a “Sportive” under this definition.

    There are many timed events that may not be calling themselves sportives.

    144 miles this month is great considering your weather!

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