Cyclo-sportive: Flatout in the Fens

Bourne, Lincolnshire, June 27 2010

Entries for this 156-mile monster – the longest event on the UK sportive calendar – reached 450, yet only 350 signed on.

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Many stayed at home, due perhaps to the weather forecast of temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celsius. Riders that did show, however, were eager and could leave straight away with a new registration-free number, posted out previously to be stuck on your helmet. A bunch of sunscreen-induced milky white Brits in Lycra set off – not a sight to be missed!

The shorter, super-flat distance of 112 miles, strategically placed six weeks before Ironman UK, was a paradise for Ironman athletes to TT their last long ride. Many chose to set off individually and stayed in the TT zone all day.

No easy rider
Flat terrain does not mean easy! Constantly on the pedals and working at a high cadence for most of the ride, many were fantasising about the luxuries of a cadence change in a hilly sportive. Much of the Fenland is just below sea level and includes the lowest point on the UK mainland.

There is debate about which is lower; Holme Fen or Ramsey Hollow. Riders got to go through both on the course and came back with varying negative readings on their Garmins, ranging from -2.75 metres to -4 metres. On such a hot day it was hard to think of the land flooding, and thanks to the brilliant civil engineering expertise imported by the Earl of Bedford in the 17th century, it never does. Until that time, the land was a wasted marshland.

The tarmac for miles ahead played tricks on the riders’ minds. There was a feeling of being at the furthest place on earth from any hill at all – not one could be seen on the horizon.

Flat out in the fens

A Pidley hill
The maximum rise was found at Pidley and at 35 metres could hardly be called a climb. It was a slight relief from the constant cadence, but barely enough to stretch the legs.

It wouldn’t be a sportive without a climb to finish, and the best the organisers, Kilotogo, could find was 31 metres, six miles from the finish at Rippingale. Gasping riders drained the four feed stations, riders later down the pack found little left as the temperatures soared.

General chatter at the end of a sweltering day proclaimed this to be the longest, lowest and flattest sportive anyone had ridden.

My ride: Sarah Maidment (26)
Lives: Peterborough
Club: Peterborough CC
112 miles in 5-28

“For me, this sportive was all about digging deep, and when I really had nothing left, digging even deeper! It was a scorching hot, sunny day and it was quite a challenge to stay hydrated. I rode it ‘flat-out’. I was rather amused that my average speed was higher than I would average for a 10 mile TT!”

My ride: Danny Watkins (36)
Club: CC Breckland
73 miles in 4-09

“I found the ride mentioned in a forum so entered and had a great day. It was very hot – a lot suffered. I am definitely doing it next year.”

My ride: Neil Prendergast (45)
Lives: Hull
73 miles in 4-17

“It was a brilliant day with excellent organisation. I had a really enjoyable day. It was very flat and I prefer the hills. Being flat made it very easy.”

Ride stats
Distance: 156/112/73 miles
Climbing: 900/550/344
Major climbs: 0
Terrain: Flat
Participants: 342
First finisher: 6-33/4-07/3-44
Last finisher: 12-19/10-41/10-08
Best: No hills
Worst: Hot day

Event website:

Extra challenge: The long weekendSpreading two sportives across the longest weekend of the year gives riders maximum daylight to complete the Long Weekend’s back-to-back challenge.

Extreme sportive riders can test themselves to a new level by completing both of the longest events on the calendar in one weekend – 282 miles of riding.

Slick logistical planning is needed to finish the riding and the 163-mile transit between the hilly Wiggle ride in the south to the flat Fens around Peterborough. No one was brave enough to take on the challenge this year.

If you are keen to enter the history books for completing the Long Weekend then you will receive free entry to both events if completed, a commemorative certificate, a High5 Race Faster Pack, and free photos from Sportive Photo. Race entries can be made at the beginning of 2011 at and