Sportive revival: how the UK scene will look post pandemic

The sportive scene is set to make a comeback this year as events get back to normal

UK sportives
(Image credit: Russ Ellis)

Somewhere, possibly in a lost shipping container, possibly in the corner of a factory in the far east sit boxes of finishers medals for the 2020 Etape du Dales. They are forgotten relics of a sportive season that never was, their purpose unfulfilled. Trinkets of goals never achieved, and smiles never cracked.

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“We all got caught out.” says Etape du Dales organiser Nigel Bishop recalling the effect the pandemic had not just on his 2020 event but the summer months when cyclists of all forms take to their bikes to pit themselves not against others as much as the clock and the terrain just for the hell of it. 

For Bishop the pandemic caused a raft of logistical headaches, postponements and cancellations - he never saw those finishers medals he ordered, the ones we presume are missing - before his event’s delayed return in August 2021.

“I've organised it for the Rayner Foundation now for eight years, and it's probably the most stressful one that we've had to deal with and all the fallout from it did make it a very stressful time,” he recalls.

CW sportive calendar 2022

(Image credit: Future)

Having been “caught out” by the onset of the pandemic a booming domestic holiday market nearly saw him, and his riders, well… caught short.

"You just don't think of these these things affecting your events but we couldn't get chemical toilets for love nor money,” he says. “When you've got the potential of 1,000 cyclists descending first thing in the morning all wanting to use the toilet the facilities just weren’t sufficient. 

Because everybody was staying at home, all these pop up campsites which were allowed under Covid regulations had taken our toilets. It's not like the centre of Manchester, Leeds or Bradford where you can ring up a building company and say ‘can we have a dozen toilets?’ If you say they’re to go to the top of Tan Hill. They’ll just respond with ‘where's that?"

Now 2022 is primed to be a successful return for cycling participation events. There is even a feeling that Covid could prove a long term blessing in disguise for the country to embrace cycling culture once again after the feeling of the post 2012 cycling boom had started to stagnate

To read the rest of this feature and get a full 2022 UK sportive calendar buy the March 3 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, on sale in store and online now. You can also subscribe to CW and get the magazine delivered to your home every week. 

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Paul Knott is a fitness and features writer, who has also presented Cycling Weekly videos as well as contributing to the print magazine as well as online articles.  In 2020 he published his first book, The Official Tour de France Road Cycling Training Guide (Welbeck), a guide designed to help readers improve their cycling performance via cherrypicking from the strategies adopted by the pros.