Your Best Ride Ever

You’ve done the training and now Ride Day’s almost here, follow Kate Hodgins’s top tips to make sure the sportive goes like clockwork…

Get Stuffed

Fuel up on carbohydrate 12 to 36 hours before the sportive, and at least four hours before you go to bed, to keep your glycogen levels topped up. “Opt for high carbohydrate choices such as sweet potatoes, pasta or rice,” says sports dietitian Renee McGregor. “Avoid too much fibre or fat as this can have implications for gastrointestinal discomfort. Protein should be limited to make more space for carbohydrate.” McGregor suggests a sweet potato soup with bread, or a pasta dish with tomato sauce. Then you could have a couple of crumpets with honey just before bedtime to top up your levels.


A good night’s kip is essential. A couple of drops of lavender on your pillow should help your mind shut off. Also, taking a bath half an hour before bed raises your heart rate as well as your body temperature, which then drop again as you get out of the bath and into cooler air – a proven method to make people sleepy. Make sure you shut out as much light as possible in your bedroom too. Any light, even from plug sockets or TVs on standby, can mess with your production of the sleep hormones melatonin and serotonin.

Morning meal

Two hours before you ride is the best time to chow down on breakfast. “You can top this up with energy drinks or a banana about 30 minutes before the start time,” says McGregor. “Make your choice carbohydrate-heavy, such as porridge with a banana and fruit juice or a couple of bagels with honey or jam. If you have time, make pancakes with syrup – often the breakfast of choice for Tour de France cyclists.” Drink tea or coffee if this is part of you usual morning ritual and enjoy the benefits of the caffeine boost, but don’t try anything new on Ride Day as it could upset your stomach.

Don’t be late

You should always make sure you arrive with plenty of time to spare before an event. On the morning of your Prudential RideLondon-Surrey sportive, give yourself plenty of time to get to your Start Area and for a quick pre-ride toilet stop. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

Easing in

“Warming up before a sportive isn’t important,” says sports scientist David Bailey from Claremont Sports Medicine Performance Centre. “You should ride the first 20 to 30 minutes at a steady pace that will build you into the ride.”

The only time you should be warming up first is if you’re expecting it to start out hard. “If the route includes a climb in the first 30 minutes,” says Bailey, “then a steady short ride (10 to 15 minutes) is plenty of opportunity to check that you and your bike are ready to ride.”

Check it out

Your bike might suffer a few knocks and jolts on the way to the event, particularly if you put it inside your car. Here’s a quick pre-ride bike checklist to run through:

  • Check the front and rear quick-release mechanisms are tight.
  • Spin the wheels, checking for brake rub. You might have to re-centre the brake calipers to remedy this.
  • Bang the saddle with your first from left to right to check that it doesn’t move.
  • Grab your handlebar, with the front wheel clasped between your legs, and push it up and down and side to side to check it doesn’t slip.
  • Check the chain is not derailed. Carefully shift the rear mech onto the largest sprocket to ensure it hasn’t been bent inwards en route.
  • Give the tyres a squeeze to check they’re still fully inflated.
  • Check that your computer sensors, bottle cages and frame-fitted pump are still in place.

Rain or shine

Although the weather forecast isn’t always reliable, it’s a good idea to check it before your ride so you can estimate what clothing you should bring with you. “I’m the one who always overdresses, wearing gloves, overshoes, gilet or rain top and plenty of underlayers,” says coach David Lloyd. “It can get very cold, especially on descents after a high climb. I would advise that you always take a gilet, which you can pull on for cold descents where the wind chill can lower the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees.” If the weather improves, you can always shove your spare layers in a jersey pocket. “And if you’ve forgotten your layers, the old trick of putting a newspaper or plastic bag down your jersey front can keep your chest warm on fast descents.”

Dealing with the heat is perhaps easier as you can take layers off and tuck them in pockets. But remember, your hydration and electrolyte-replenishment needs will be greater in warmer weather – so keep regularly drinking energy drinks and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

Instant Energy

Fill your pockets with tried-and-tested energy products before you set out to ride a sportive. Carry whatever gels, bars, flapjacks or anything else you’ve been using in training; avoid upsetting your stomach with anything you haven’t previously tried. If you do run out and find yourself at a feed stop with unfamiliar products, it’s wise to avoid them. Instead, use whatever else is available, such as fruit, cake and flapjacks, or make an unscheduled stop at a corner shop or garage – there are plenty along the route of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey sportives. The following list of foods provide around 50g of carbohydrate each:

  • 475-600ml fruit juice
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 2 30g cereal bars
  • 1 medium roll with jam
  • 1 large cookie, or four small ones
  • 2 small slices of fruit cake
  • 60-70g of sweets, such as jelly babies or wine gums

Winding down

“If you have enough energy left, then 10 minutes’ easy riding after a ride promotes recovery,” says Bailey. Stretching will help to minimise muscle stiffness – try leaning forwards and backwards to stretch out your lower back, or lying on the floor and pulling your thighs towards you one at a time to loosen your hamstrings. “It’s recommended that you ride on the day after your event if you can,” Bailey continues. “It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but as long as it is very easy (90 minutes maximum) then you will actually speed up recovery.”

Back in the tank

Post-ride refuelling is a must. Tuck into some protein for muscle recovery and carbohydrate to boost your energy. If you’re planning on exercising again in the next two days, try to eat within 20 minutes of finishing, otherwise do it within two hours. And after churning out the miles, a congratulatory pint might be in order. You’ll be pleased to hear that one study from Granada University found that having one pint of beer after exercise is more effective at rehydrating your body than a pint of water… Just make sure you get home before indulging.