Sportive Season 2009

Ghisallo ~ Fabio Casartelli Fondo

For each sportive season, I try to have a theme or common thread between the events.  Season 2004 was the UCI Golden Bike Series.  2005 the Belgian Classics & the Alps.  2006, was the Monuments season, which saw us flitting between Belgium, France and Italy. 

For 2007 it was the Pyrenees and the 4 Aces series, which became three in the end, and 2008 saw us tackle the sporting legends sportives.  Events endorsed and attended by our cycling heroes and mainly Dianne's new friends!

Due to logistical difficulties we didn't quite manage to hit the magic 50th Sportive milestone (kilometre stone doesn't have the same ring to it does it?) in 2008 so it'll be early on the agenda in 2009.

The Prologue
I'll be 49 in March 2009, which means I'm amongst the oldest in the 40-50 age category.  The result is, I get my backside kicked all round Europe hanging on to the faster, stronger, "younger" vets of our age group.

So for 2009, I'm going big!  With a few steady rides early on, I'll be building up to "peak" (see what I did there?) for the Ventoux Masters in the middle of the year.  Then it's a choice between the Le Mans 24 Hours Cyclo or the 220k monster Helletocht.  Don't need speed you see.  It's all about endurance.

I hope to kick the season off on March 1st with Morgan Lewis' Puncheur Sportive in East Sussex in the UK.  Then it's our first visit of the year to Flanders.  Saturday it's the pro's race and Sunday sees the 133k sportive, 11 berg GP E3 Vlaanderen.  And it's my birthday.  If Dianne brings her French Maid's outfit, my weekend will be complete!

In early April it'll be our third trip to the 155k La Coulainiase (previously called La Ronde Sable Sur Sarthe), as it's (relatively) local, it's fast, and it's held at lunchtime!  Dianne finished second in the W3 class in 2007, and had a massive nosebleed last year and nearly got pulled out by the medics!  So she's got unfinished business in the 92k ladies, of a certain age, event.  We also hope to take a few friends to taste their first European sportive.

Two weeks later it's the 98k Tro Bro Leon.  Don't be put off by the "shortness" of the event.  It's the Breton Paris Roubaix, or to be honest, it's more like L'Eroica.  This event has long been a pro race in France and once more they've reintroduced the sadly missed supporting sportive that combines racing on a mixture of roads and farm tracks. Nice.  It's not all mud you know!

With April out the way.  In May it's back to Belgium for the Grinta Challenge, part of the excellent Lotto Cycling Tour.  With 16 climbs and over 2000 metres of upness in 152k, it should start the climbing season with a bang.   After that, it's to Bayonne and just above the Pyrenees for the 155k, lumpy, Luis Ocana.

June sees a flurry of activity once more with three sportives on the bounce.  First off is the 160k Limousin, down at Limoges.  A fantastic part of France that's less flat than you think.  Then it's up to Flanders again to climb an amazing 30 climbs in just 140k of the Reuzen van Vlaanderen, which includes my all time favourite, the Molenberg. 

A quick pitstop in Jersey, then it's back on the boat for another crack at one closer to home.  Due to it's closeness, fun factor(!) and stiffness of parcours, it'll be another trip to St Breiuc for the Bernard Hinault

Here comes the big one. The very big one, my attempt to climb Mont Ventoux five times in 24 hours and become a Ventoux Master.  It will truly mark my five year transformation from a sprinter to a grimpeur.  Or it won't, only time will tell.  Here's my entry confirmation, dated 30th November 2008.  No turning back now!

I'm stuck choosing between two monster events in August.  There'll be the inaugural running of the Le Mans 24 Hour sportive. or the classic based 218k Helletocht.  Another Lotto Cycling Tour event that races from Roeselare to Roubaix Velodrome and back.  Taking in climbs and cobbles as it goes.  With the first climb, the dreaded breaker of bikes and bones... The Kemmelberg.  Oh joy!

Depending on the events in August, I'm looking to throw one more in for September.  Just haven't decided which one yet.

Whatever you choose to do, or wherever you choose to do it, have a happy, safe and above all an enjoyable 2009 season.