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Amateur Road Cycling Events & Tours <br>(The lowdown)</br>

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Amateur Road Cycling Events & Tours
(The lowdown)

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July 28th, 2014

We asked Bon, a keen club cyclist and one of our Ride25 Pioneers (who has just completed the Ride25 Geneva to Milan trip) to talk us through the different road cycling events he has taken part in – from sportives, closed road events, unsupported touring and supported touring events such as Ride25 – discussing some tips and highlights/lowlights of each.  Find out which one/s suit you!

43-Ride25-Geneva-to-MilanI got addicted to cycling when some friends challenged me to do a local triathlon. Since one was a doctor and the other a priest, I thought why not, I’ve got the bases covered.

From that point on I’ve amassed a collection of bikes, countless gadgets, and clothing I never thought I’d be seen dead in. However, most importantly I have picked up a whole heap of great memories from various cycling adventures.

I find each event tends to define the type of riding and the people participating.


These tend to be open road events. Some are timed and some not, and often there is a choice of distances.

If you are looking to get a fast time it is generally better to head out as early possible and get in a group of riders who are willing the share the work at the front.

You have to be mindful of the level of the other riders, and also contend with irate drivers who sometimes don’t take kindly to sharing the road with a cycling event (although you might get lucky as I did on the tour of Britain Ride last year when the police happened to be practising their rolling road block on the group of riders I was cycling with).

Good organised events include Action for Medical Research, Hell of the AshdownDragon RideTour of Britain Stage

Closed Road Events:

These are often more serious one day rides held on closed roads, and typically following a route ridden by the pros in a major event. Due to the additional costs involved, they are often more expensive, and frequently have a ballot entry due to the number of people that want to participate.

Generally the event starts in waves, therefore unless you have achieved a good time in a previous year, or can convince the organisers that you deserve to start in an early wave, it can be more difficult to get into a group of fast, competent riders.

Nevertheless due to the fact that you don’t need to slow down at junctions, and can make full use of the road on the descents, typically results in a very high average speed.

On the flip side however, the organisers can’t keep the roads closed all day, so there are often checkpoints you must get through before a specified time. Failure to do so will result in you completing the event in the broom wagon.  The other tricky aspect of a race that follows a pro route, is that often the routes are not circular, making the logistics much harder for getting back to the start to pick up your belongings.

Examples include: Etape De TourPrudential Ride London 100Etape Caledonia

Unsupported Touring:

If the lycra clad competitive nature of these events is not your thing, then perhaps you might consider strapping some panniers to your bike and taking off on a multi day tour. Even packing as light as possible, you’re not going to break any records with the added weight and wind resistance, although with modern racks, and assuming you have reasonably strong wheels, there is no need to leave your carbon racing bike at home.

If you are organising the trip yourself, then it is good to get a group of riders together so you can share the responsibility of planning the route, booking hotels, sharing the work on the front, carrying tools and spares, and generally supporting each other along the way.

I’ve done a number of such rides, and have always enjoyed the relaxed pace, good company and many little adventures we’ve had along the way. Things will go wrong (getting lost, broken spokes, snapped chains, twisted hangers, closed roads, irate lighthouse keepers and even the occasional crash), but the propensity for people to go out of their way to help you is what makes these rides special.

107-Ride25-Geneva-to-MilanSupported Touring:

This summer I completed my second leg of the Ride 25, cycling from Geneva to Milan and have found it offers a great balance of touring and hard riding without many of the downsides listed above.

Some of the highlights:

  • Not having to worry about route planning, and knowing that the roads have selected to avoid busy roads, nasty junctions and to take in spectacular scenery.
  • Having your luggage transported to the hotel each day, and not having to lug it up the Col yourself.
  • Knowing there is a support van within striking distance should you have a mechanical issue or and accident.
  • Being confident that the hotel room is waiting for you at the end of the day
  • Putting some effort in to see who can get the bragging rights by summiting first, or working trying to push up an average speed by working together to battle a headwind.

Best of all, I would say what makes these trips so special is sharing the day’s adventures with a diverse bunch of cyclists, over a beer or glass of wine once the miles are behind you.

See you in Sydney in 2036!

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