As a dyed in the wool cycling fan, sportives were the obvious alternative once I hung up my wheels from racing. I have of course completed one or two, and have worked with lots of events through my work as the director of Primal Europe.
I raced myself until two years ago with an elite licence, thereafter I owned my own professional team until late 2015. So, while I do have a wealth of experience in the professional scene at domestic level, the sportive world is relatively new to me. And what better way to learn what it's all about than the Tour de Yorkshire Ride: the sportive version of one of the UK's newest and most high-profile road races.
The Maserati Tour De Yorkshire Sportive took place on Sunday 1st of May 2016, the same day and largely along the same route as the final stage of the three-day Tour de Yorkshire pro race. There were three different lengths for the sportive: Long (119km), Medium (85km) and Short (40km), each starting at event HQ in Scarborough.
Registration took place the day before between 09:00 and 15:00. The event village was a pretty low key affair with only Yellow Jersey insurance and the Bike Channel present. Registration itself was pretty smooth and uneventful.
My first little niggle was the time I had to turn up before I was due to ride. My allocated start time was 06:32 but I was required to be there an hour before my ride - that meant being there by 05:32, requiring an alarm call at a ridiculous hour. I thought this was a bit of overkill, but at least when I did turn up the weather was dry but bitterly cold.
I started riding and immediately thought how much I missed riding in these events. The marshals were great and the sun was beginning to warm my now frozen body.
The first 10km out of town was pretty uneventful with many groups forming and then splintering. However, the first serious test came on the timed climb of Cote De Harwood Dale. A real serious leg burner that many a rider really gave themselves a big go at.
As you can see from the little video I shot on the day, there was a rider who, without notice, stopped in the middle of the road causing a pile-up on an "uphill" - a new one on me! So if you are cycling in a group, come on guys/gals, let's signal our intentions for each other's safety.
This wasn't the only big climb, there were quite a few nasty little bumps on the course - so be prepared for sore legs on the first half of the ride. One other point of note was the crossover point at Broxa Lane; this had the potential to become very confusing for cars, riders and marshals alike with courses crossing each other.
As I reached the second half of the ride the terrain flattened out, thankfully. This meant that I could begin to enjoy the incredible countryside. I was however a little perturbed at the state of some of the country tracks. This is OK if there is a warning, but more often than not I would hit a corner or descend down a hill at speed only to hit big potholes. Just a warning, in the form of a sign or even a marshal, might help more inexperienced riders.
While I am moaning, the last 5km ride back to the finish was a real problem. As you can see from my video the traffic was awful going through Scarborough; in fact, I felt sorry for the drivers with riders weaving in and out of the cars. Not a good PR exercise that one.
The finish, however was a real great effort through the same finishing funnel as the pro race later. The crowds were great, roaring their support, and the view out to the sea was pretty epic.
In summary, the ride throughout was well signposted and the feedstations were excellent with great selections of savoury and sweet snacks alongside the normal gels, etc. Interestingly the second feed station was inside a barn.
One thought that struck me riding this sportive, was that I wish more riders would follow the example of the pro peloton and work together. Life would be so much easier if groups would work as a team rather than just ride along in a line behind the strongest guy/gal.
I had a great time, and while the course changes each year depending on the race route, the Tour de Yorkshire Ride has potential to become a real cracker - especially if it manages to iron out a few minor teething problems.
Hopefully see you all for more next year!