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Control the controllables – top tips for preparing for a sportive

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Image of Sean Yates from LTP

He’s a former Olympian, yellow jersey holder and WorldTour directeur sportif – so it’s fair to say Sean Yates knows a thing or two about preparing for a ride.

Now head of performance for Alberto Contador’s Eolo Kometa cycling team, Sean will be guest of honour at our Champions of CycleSport Dinner in November and will be leading the peloton on our London to Paris ride in 2022.

We spoke to the long-term Action supporter at his home in Spain where he was recovering from a collision with a wild boar while out riding about his insights, both as a coach and as a rider. Here are his top tips for anyone taking on a sportive on how to be ready to ride – and never stop pushing.

Start steady

People can get fired up in the moment and get carried away at the start of a race, like running too fast at the beginning of the London Marathon. That means you have to really push it later, so it becomes really tough at the final leg and you suffer and it puts you off a bit. We’ve all been there: at about halfway you think ‘I’m never going to make this’ and the second half is a total survival mission!

If you pace yourself and start conservatively and finish stronger then you end with a much better feeling about it.

Fuel steady

You should have a feeding strategy from the outset – don’t wait until you are starving before you start eating. Fuel at regular intervals from the first half-hour onwards so you don’t constantly become so hungry you are playing catch-up with the fuelling as that’s when you’ll suffer in the later stages.

If it helps, have a protocol and say to someone ‘I am going to eat every half hour’. That is what the pros do to keep on top of things constantly.

Image of Sean Yates at previous CycleSport event

Be prepared

Make sure you always double-check the weather forecast before the ride on a reliable website and plan accordingly. If it is going to be baking hot, you don’t want to start off too overdressed. You will sweat too much and you will pay for that later.

If it’s freezing cold, don’t underdress or you will burn a lot more calories if your body is trying to keep warm. And have something to put on for the downhill sections if it is cold – it’s not such an issue in the UK, but if you’re riding in Europe where there are much longer descents then you can easily get quite chilled on an hour-long descent.

People are going to be trying pretty hard on the uphill and sweating but on the descent that wind chill factor can quickly turn that into a freezing session. Checking the weather before you ride is really important, particularly if you going to be spending a lot of time in the saddle.

Train when you can

A lot of people don’t have time to train but physical preparation is obviously beneficial and recommended, according to your circumstances. If you don’t get lots of time, you can’t do lots of miles but it is wise to make time in the run-up. If nothing else, do a dummy run the weekend beforehand otherwise your body will be doing something it isn’t accustomed to. It is going to make you a whole lot more comfortable if you can.

Control the controllables! Preparation in general, whether that’s fuel, training, clothing or pacing, is crucial to make it a more enjoyable experience. The more work that goes in, the better the outcome.

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