Hilly Sportive

2 weeks to prepare

Don't make the mistake of trying to cram in 100-mile rides every couple of days or you'll get to the start line in a state of fatigue before you even turn a pedal.

Do plan a couple of progressively longer rides, but take sufficient rest days in between them and do a few shorter rides where you repeatedly ride the longest hills in your area so that climbing doesn't come as such a shock on the day.

Evaluate where you are in your fitness and how you feel in the days leading up to the event, and reassess your targets if necessary. Would it be wise to do the shorter route this time and target an event later in the year that you can prepare better for?

Also, sportives are not like road races where you have to react to the different speeds of other riders - they are personal challenges to be ridden at your own pace and you are allowed to stop at feed stations to refuel if necessary. So, with two weeks' preparation time, perhaps you'd be better off forgetting the notion of setting a course record and plan to ‘get round' as best you can.

Key goals:

  • Make realistic decisions on the distance you are capable of completing.
  • Ride as many long hills as you can find.


4 weeks to prepare

As per the two-week plan, but the main difference is you have more time to factor in more rides and recover from them. So look to include progressively longer rides each weekend prior to the event - aim for 40, 60 and 80 per cent of event distance in the three weeks prior to the ride itself. The main focus here should be trying to complete the rides with a group of riders with similar aims as this will improve your group riding skills, give you the motivation to get out more often as well as relieving the tedium of riding big distances on your own, so look at joining a local club run.

Key goals:

  • Aim to complete 3 rides, one of 40%, then 60% and finally 80% of total event distance.
  • ν Work on your group riding skills.

6 weeks to prepare

Six weeks allows you to make serious changes in your fitness. Ask anyone who's begun a structured training programme and they'll tell you the first six weeks is where you see significant improvements. It's long enough to plan a series of progressively longer rides on each of the five weekends prior to the event as well as recover properly and do a few shorter, hill training rides during the week. It's also long enough to complete a short core strength and flexibility programme to increase your ability to stay in the saddle for long hours with no aches or pains. You also have ample time to experiment with fuelling and equipment strategies, so on your training rides work out what you need to carry in order to complete the rides with minimal stops.

Key goals:

  • Plan a mix of long rides and shorter hillier sessions.
  • Work on stretching and flexibility so you are comfortable on your bike.

Target: Hilly sportive

Starting point: you can complete a 40-mile ride at very modest pace but struggle on the climbs.

OneRest day90min @ zone 2 include 4 x 5min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 include 6 x 2min @ zone 4, 2min easyRest day50 miles @zone 2, extended hills at zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine
TwoRest day90min @ zone 2 include 4 x 6min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 include 6 x 3min @ zone 4, 2min easyRest day60 miles @ zone 2, extended hills @ zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine
ThreeRest day90min @ zone 2 include 4 x 7min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 include 6 x 4min hills @ zone 4, seated70-80rpm, easyRest day70 miles @ zone 2, extended hills at zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine
FourRest day40min @ zone 2 include 2 x 7min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 include 3 x 4min hills @ zone 4, seated, 70-80rpm, 2min easyRest day20 miles @ zone 2, extended hills at zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine
FiveRest day90min @ zone 2 include 4 x 8min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 include 6 x 5min hill efforts @ zone 4, seated, 70-80rpmRest dayRide 80 miles @ zone 2, extended hills at zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine
SixRest day90min @ zone 2 include 4 x 10min @ Zone 3A20min core strength and flexibility routine60min zone 2 but include 6 x 6min hill efforts @ zone 4, seated,70-80rpm spin easyRest day90 miles @ zone 2, extended hills at zone 3A1hr @ zone 2, 15min flexibility routine

This article was first published in the May 30 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!