Featured Features

Sportive and Cycling Challenges

sportive_and_cycling_challengesWhether for the personal glory and the pushing of boundaries or for the noble act of charity fundraising, taking on your first major sportive or organised cycling challenge can be a daunting prospect, but with a little preparation and a common sense approach there’s nothing to fear in taking the plunge. To help ease the way into stepping up to the challenge Cyclo talked to a range of experts to bring you the help and advice you’ll need to succeed…



‘Before you get to the start make sure your bike is in good working order – oiled, cleaned, brakes and gears working well. In fact you should make sure you stay on top of your bike maintenance all year round… Also make sure you’ve tried and tested your nutrition, whether it’s gels or bars. Make sure you like it and that it agrees with you. The same goes for liquids – it’s really important to keep ahead of dehydration by taking fluids in regularly. Once you start to get dehydrated it’s difficult to catch up again.


‘Chat to other riders around you and ride in a group if you can, as this is what cycling all about; it’s the fastest way to the finish too (after all there’s a reason the pros do it.) Everyone riding is there to have fun and cycling is great for getting to know other people.’


David Bryant, Head Ride Captain – HotChillee



‘Familiarise yourself with the event route; full details will almost always be available before the event – have a look, note major way points, note any hazards. Also prepare to be self-sufficient at an event, at the very least this means a puncture kit and pump, but think about some other essentials that you might need, a rain jacket or a spare inner tube perhaps. Even if there is on-course assistance, no one enjoys being soaking wet and cold or a having trip back to event HQ in the broom wagon!


Make sure you’re fully fuelled before the event too. Think about how much food and drink you’ll need to consume along the way. Sports foods are very portable, such as energy gels or bars, but there’s always room in my jersey pockets for a banana or a hot-cross bun.


‘Pace the ride and enjoy yourself; don’t rush off with the speed merchants or get swept along by them as they pass, don’t see people in the distance and chase them down. Work out your own desired pace and stick to it, there’s nothing worse than blowing up halfway round a sportive.’


Chris Royston – Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club



‘My advice to anyone approaching a sportive for the first time is be realistic in your expectations; always be prepared to drop down to a shorter route if your legs are tiring.


‘Amongst the multitude of commercial sportives, there are many challenging charity events that deserve close inspection. The GSD Giant is one such event and it’s close to my heart because it supports people living with a very rare group of metabolic disorders concerning every keen cyclist’s obsession: glycogen storage. With insufficient glycogen in the liver and muscles, even a healthy and well-trained cyclist will rapidly “hit the wall” or “bonk”. So you should always take great care to store this complex sugar, perhaps by eating a good pasta meal the day before and topping it up regularly throughout a long ride.


‘To keep your legs alive you’ll need to top up your fluids and nutrition at the feed stations but also on the bike. On longer events you need to find what works for you; personally I find that flap-jacks are excellent for giving me a quick boost followed by a sustained flow of energy for 20 to 25miles, and they don’t upset my stomach; I also use one or two energy gels well in advance of steep inclines.’


Allan Muir – Gentle South Downs Giant



‘Always turn up on time to the start of your event – there’s nothing worse than missing out or having to play catch up; it’s stress you can really do without. Across the Divide always provide event manuals with everything you need to know about a specific event – with any reading materials you are given, take the time to actually read them.


‘If you train appropriately for your event, do some research, ask some questions you should minimise any stress and give yourself a great opportunity to complete a fantastic challenge and perhaps, most importantly, have some fun!’


Steve Cooper, UK Events Manager – Across the Divide



‘Pacing is always one of the most common challenges faced by event participants. The key to getting it right is taking a good look at the route profile before the event day. Try to get a grasp of when significant climbs occur on the route and the rough distances between them so you can be prepared; like any endurance sports event it’s important not to go too fast too soon!


‘Nailing your nutrition and hydration strategy is hugely important. Consider that most sportives, particularly the longer ones, will set off early in the morning, often around 7am, so be sure to take on a good amount of carbohydrates the day before – it’s not ideal, or easy to be taking on a big meal at 5am, or earlier. Take a look at the feed station layout, so you know when these are coming up and importantly try and find out what product will be available to ensure you are comfortable with it and, if not, be sure to carry enough of your own supplies to get you round.


‘A variety of clothing options is useful too, whilst it can seem sunny and warm at an event start venue, often you are climbing high into the mountains where you may be greeted by very different conditions.


‘Finally a good night’s rest can make all the difference on event day. If you are travelling to a sportive a long distance away we always recommend staying over in the area the night before so you can get a good sleep and arrive at the venue raring to go.’


Dan Lipman, Senior Marketing Manager – Human Race Ltd


If you’re looking for further advice Cyclo have supported Pilgrims Hospices with a ‘top tips’ feature than can be read here and Across the Divide’s Steve Cooper offers further information on tackling a sportive or cycling challenges here.


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Featured Features

Cycling Challenges Top Tips

Across the Divide Cycling Challenges Top TipsNew to sportives or multi-day cycling challenges? The thought of challenging yourself on the bike can certainly be daunting, but with the right attitude, a dash of common sense and the correct preparation there is really nothing to fear in taking the plunge. Across the Divide is an events management company who run a number of cycle challenge events including London to Paris and the new for 2014 Costa Rica Coast to Coast and Death Valley Cycle Ride; Cyclo asked Steve Cooper, the company’s UK Events Manager, to  smooth the nerves with these cycling challenges top tips…


Training: It is really important to develop a training programme and one which reflects the challenge you are undertaking, for example don’t train for a road event on a mountain bike.


  • Start with shorter distances and build up over a number of weeks.
  • Get some back-to-back training days done reflecting the distances outlined in your challenge literature or itinerary.
  • Train on and with the gear you are going to be using on the event. Testing new kit ‘on the day’ can be disastrous.
  • Vary your training to avoid getting bored, swim, get down the gym, but be careful with running if you’re new to it, you risk hurting ankles, knees and backs!
  • Whenever possible cycle in the terrain you are likely to encounter – if you know there are going to be hills do some!
  • Try and train with someone else – company always helps.
  • The weather shouldn’t be an issue, don’t wimp out in the wind or rain.
  • Don’t over train – keep something back for the event itself.
  • Similarly, test for a few days immediately prior to the event – make sure you have something in the tank.


The Bike: It wouldn’t be a cycling challenge without one, so get to know it and, hopefully, love it. You are potentially going to spend a lot of time on your chosen machine, so making the right choices is an essential part of being prepared.


  • Make sure you have the right type of bike for the event you are undertaking. Talk to the event organisers, take advice.
  • You don’t have to spend thousands to get a great bike, shop around, do some research and remember if your legs aren’t up to it, it doesn’t matter how much you spend.
  • Get properly fitted for a bike and insist on a test ride – any half-decent bike shop will always let you.
  • Cleats/SPD’s help your riding but train with them well before the event.
  • Get the bike properly serviced a couple of weeks before the event.
  • Although most events have plenty of mech support, make sure you at least know the basics of maintenance – fixing a flat at the very least.


Clothing and Apparel: You don’t have to spend a fortune – there are plenty of decent budget brands out there – but having the right clothing makes all the difference to comfort and, consequently, performance on the bike.


  • Train with the clothes you are going to use on the event, particularly your cycling shorts!
  • Bring plenty of spares – one for each day if you can afford it, nothing worse than putting on yesterday’s sweaty socks and shorts…
  • Clothing should be fit for purpose, padded shorts are a real benefit, tops should be lightweight and be made from material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
  • Layering will keep you warm.
  • Bring a lightweight compactable (preferably High-Viz) shower/waterproof jacket.
  • Cycling Gloves protect the hands from impact and vibration – worth considering even for hot events.
  • Flip flops or sandals to give your feet an airing at the end of the day and can help recovery too.


Gear and Tools: It’s not rocket science but it is bike science (or at least mechanics), so having the right tools and knowing how to use them is an important part of any bike challenge. Don’t be daunted, there’s almost always help along the way from either support crew or fellow riders.


  • Always bring a compact repair kit including a multi tool, puncture repair kit, inner tubes.
  • Any bike specific spares. Across the Divide always have qualified bike mechanics on our events, however we can’t carry all known bike spares – spokes for example are not standard and can ruin a ride if they snap and can’t be replaced.
  • Bike computers are great, but you don’t need them on Across the Divide events, we are however happy for you to use them if you already have one and will happily supply GPX files. Always check with event organisers to see how much ‘self navigation’ (if any) might be required.
  • Lights for use in poor weather – and don’t forget batteries.
  • A helmet, at Across the Divide the policy is ‘no helmet, no riding’ – the same goes for any event’s company that takes safety seriously.


Food and Drink: Food is your fuel, without the right fuel you aren’t going to get far. It doesn’t have to be all about those ‘specialist’ bars and gels, a sensible approach to nutrition with ‘real’ food goes a long way. And hydration is absolutely essential…


  • 2 x1 litre water bottles should do it.
  • In exceptionally hot conditions consider electrolyte (salt) replacement products – make sure you test ride them well in advance though as they don’t all ‘agree’ with everyone.
  • Don’t bring hundreds of energy bars and gels especially if you have never used them. They can upset your tummy and are an acquired taste. Across the Divide provide food at pit stops and will be sufficient to keep your hunger pangs at bay. Check carefully with event’s organisers to see what catering is included.
  • Drink plenty – keeping yourself hydrated is vital. Dehydration can end a race quicker than a flat. But also be aware of over hydration, which can be just as event-limiting (and dangerous). There’s plenty of advice online about good hydration strategies – read it and follow it!


And Finally… Turn up on time to the start of your event – nothing worse than missing out or playing catch up. Across the Divide always provide event manuals with all you should need to know about a specific event – any reading materials you are given take the time to read them. If you train appropriately for your event, do some research, ask some questions you should minimise any stress and give yourself a great opportunity to complete a fantastic challenge and have some fun!


For full details on all Across the Divide events and challenges see



Across the Divide Go Further

Across the DivideExpedition and challenge specialists Across the Divide, have added two new cycling odysseys to their roster for 2014. Building on the success of their renowned European rides the company has looked further afield for the coming year and added more than a dash of the ‘unusual’ to their offering.


Running from April 19 to 29 the Costa Rica Coast to Coast takes the more intrepid cyclist from the Caribbean coast, through banana plantations and rainforest, past volcanoes and across tropical rivers, before arriving at the Pacific. Whilst the Death Valley Cycle Ride (November 22 to 29) is the opportunity the pedal through Death Valley National Park, on the California/Nevada border, crossing three mountain passes and covering a total distance of 264miles in five days. A challenging – and almost certainly hot ride despite the November dates – but with the prospect of a night of Thanksgiving celebrations in Las Vegas at the end.


Full details available at



Follow the Wheels of the Rickshaw

Across the Divide Cycling Challenge HolidayAcross the Divide, the expedition and challenge specialists behind the Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge – which saw a team of youngsters peddle 411miles from Llandudno in Wales to Television Centre – are sharing the love still further offering 10% off all their events. The offer includes their classic London to Paris bike ride and their Edinburgh to London ride, itself inspired by the original Matt Baker Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge from 2011. 10% off initial payment simply by quoting discount code EMCIN1112 or 10% off the total cost of the trip if you pay in full now. This year’s Rickshaw kids have already raised more than £1.1million (details at; do you have what it takes to put in those kind of miles? The offer ends Friday, November 23, see for full details.



A Brussels Bargain

across the divideExpedition and challenge specialists Across the Divide have announced that there are still a few remaining saddles available on their Euro Cities trip, which is set to run June 13-17, and that by using offer code EURO12NEWS, a tidy 10% can be saved on the cost. Euro Cities is one of ATD’s most popular events and is designed to be an exciting alternative to the traditional London to Paris bike ride, which instead offers up 300+ miles from London, through Holland and on to the finish in Brussels. As the company were also behind Matt Baker’s Children in Need Rickshaw challenge – a blistering 484miles from Edinburgh to Television Centre in London – you can be sure that you’ll be in safe hands (and that a sense of humour will be involved…) Full details at



Wot No Rickshaw?

across the divideExpedition and cycle event specialists Across the Divide are capitalising on the success of their London to Paris and Euro Cities Cycle tours with the launch of the all-new Edinburgh to London challenge. The company were behind the logistics of last year’s phenomenally successful Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge, which saw TV presenter Matt Baker tackle the route for charity and have now devised a similar event (sadly not involving rickshaws) for the general public to test their legs over. The route covers 450+ miles through the rugged fells of Cumbria to one of Britain’s best loved national parks, the Yorkshire Dales, and onto the flats of Lincolnshire and villages of Cambridgeshire, before delivering participants to the Capital after 5 days of tough cycling. Days 1-4 each involve around 100miles with the final day a relatively sedate 62miles. Scheduled to take place September 22-26 full details and booking information can be found at



In The Footsteps of Baker…

across the divideEver fancied yourself as an early evening chat-show host? No? Well even so there is a chance to ride in the honourable tracks of the One Show’s Matt Baker who recently completed an epic rickshaw challenge, peddling from Scotland, through York and Cambridge before finishing in London, all in aid of the Children in Need charity. Expedition specialists Across the Divide (who organised and oversaw Baker’s original adventure) have put together a near identical route for tackling between July 4 and 8, 2012; the challenge, which totals 474miles, will pass through: “…the rugged fells of Cumbria to one of Britain’s best loved national park, the Yorkshire Dales, and onto the flat land of Lincolnshire and quaint villages of Cambridgeshire. Each day brings new sights and experiences as well as exciting cycling ranging from testing climbs to fast descents.” The finishing point is the London Olympic Stadium – just a couple of weeks before things get underway for the 2012 Games. Important to note that this challenge involves the rather more traditional bike than the rickshaw that Baker used – but it still looks like an incredible challenge to us…



Day 1 – Edinburgh to Carlisle.  92 miles

Day 2 – Carlisle to Harrogate. 111 miles

Day 3 – Harrogate to Lincoln.  103 miles

Day 4 – Lincoln to Cambridge.  106 miles

Day 5 – Cambridge to London.  62 miles


Further details available from:



Rickshaw Roadshow

The One Show’s Matt Baker will be taking to three wheels this year to raise money for the annual Children in Need campaign; attempting to ride a rickshaw from Edinburgh to London over 8 days whilst picking up a series of ‘surprise’ guests along the way. The challenge is being overseen by adventure travel specialists Across the Divide ( whose itinerates include the Euro Cities Cycle and the classic London to Paris.


Baker will embark on his arduous journey on the morning of Friday November 11from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade and will attempt to complete the 484 mile journey to the BBC Centre in London, finishing live on The One Show’s Children in Need special on Friday November 18. His route will comprise: Day 1 Edinburgh to Hawick (53.5miles), Day 2 Hawick to Hexham (59.2miles), Day 3 Hexham to Barnard Castle (49miles), Day 4 Barnard Castle to York (70.6miles), Day 5 York to Lincoln (78miles), Day 6 Lincoln to Peterborough (73.2miles), Day 7 Peterborough to Cambridge (41miles) and Day 8 Cambridge to London (59.3miles). As if all the miles weren’t enough it’s also estimated that he will climb almost the equivalent height of Mount Everest during the ride.


Further details and for ways of donating visit