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The Sportive Phenomenon

posted 4 Apr 2016, 05:36 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 4 Apr 2016, 05:40 ]
(By Shay O'Toole)   
With the clock now changed and air temperatures on the rise it won’t be long before the winter leggings and the wind-proof jackets are put away for another few months. These are two great signs for cyclists and often herald the start of the Sportive season.

A Sportive is a short to long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling event, open to cyclists of all abilities and they usually range in distance from 30km up to 200km. As with racing, the early season ones are generally of shorter distances to get the legs going again after a period of rest and recovery. However, as the year passes, Sportives grow in length and this is often their attraction for ordinary club cyclists. Many cyclists use Sportives to challenge themselves in a personal battle against the distance and then ultimately, the clock.

Lakeside Wheelers members have long been associated with participation in these events and for many years now the club has had its own Sportive, the Tour of the Lakes. This year’s Tour will be held on June 12th and if numbers in recent years are anything to go by, there will be record attendance again in 2016.

On a National level, Sportives have become extremely popular and it is not unusual to see literally thousands of cyclists signing on for some of them. The An Post series and the Wicklow 200 are two of the most popular but on any given weekend there are several to choose from all over the country. The Wicklow 200 is, as the name implies, a tough 200km spin through the Wicklow Mountains which is organised by the Irish Veterans Cyclists Association. Lakeside Wheelers members have been attending this particular event for many years, but one member stands out whenever it is mentioned. Sean Magee must have the record for the most “Wicklow’s” as until recently, he had participated for over 15 years in a row. 

Internationally, a Sportive may be known as a Gran Fondo, or a Cyclosportif depending on which country it is being held in. Some of the better known ones such as the Tour of Flanders in Belgium or Paris-Roubaix in France are staged in conjunction with professional road races which gives amateurs the opportunity to test themselves on the same circuits as the professional riders and then watch the Pro-Tour race the following day. Other well-known Sportives such as La Marmotte, Maratona dles Dolomites or the Santini Gran Fondo are staged purely to test a cyclist’s ability to climb some of the steepest and most famous mountains in Europe. 

Lakeside Wheelers members have also attended many of these in the past with one of the largest travelling groups of Wheelers ever to depart Mullingar going to the Tour of Flanders in 2011. Arising from this trip, when 17 members converged on Gerrardsbergen in Belgium the club now has its own version of this famous race. This is staged each year on the Sunday of the Professional race and traces 100km of the hilliest and tiniest of roads and tracks in and around Mullingar. See separate report on this year’s “Flakanders” and let nobody tell you the midlands is flat!

This is just a brief review of the phenomenon that is the Sportive so, do not be intimidated by the distances or the terrain and set yourself a target this year. Check the Cycling Ireland Leisure Events section for dates and locations and if you only do ONE, do the Tour of the Lakes on June 12th. Who knows, you may get hooked and in no time you will be cycling up L’Alpe d’Huez in France or the Stelvio in Italy. 

Tour Of The Lakes 2015 makes its way through Mullingar
Tour Of The Lakes 2015 makes its way through Mullingar