By James S
I’d heard that the Jurassic Beast was a demanding Sportive but wasn’t entirely sure why – it doesn’t look that bad ‘on paper’ and with the rolling Purbecks and dramatic Jurassic coastline it sounded like an ideal distraction from the century mileage involved.
Previous experience dictated an early start to avoid the huge queues parking, registering and starting, so I found myself lined up with one of the first groups to depart shortly before 8am. The starter’s briefing covered the usual road-related hazards followed by it being a ‘very technical ride’ and to watch out for ‘strong and unpredictable head & cross winds’, but it was his final comment as we pushed off the line that caused some macabre amusement: “Oh yes, the total elevation on the web site was wrong, it’s 2285m not 1600m”!
Needless to say there were poker faces all round in this group of mainly keen club cyclists at the surprise of this 40% hike in climbing, but shortly after we left the start line there were a few hurried questions between riders of where the extra elevation was, did the course change and are the hills longer or steeper? Not the ideal start to an endurance event where planning your pace, comfort, hydration and nutrition are key elements to enjoyment and completion.
It’s this aspect of the experience that make these sportives so useful as a training stepping stone. It’s not until you spend 6-7 hours in the saddle that you can really be confident in your bike setup, shorts & shoes selection and clothing layers. Any lower back, neck or leg related issues caused by a poor bike fit or wrong saddle shape will only truly reveal themselves after this length of time, as will the comfort of the all-important three contact points between you and your bike: your shoes, saddle and bars.
However, the hardest aspect of combining these distances and elevation is the difficulty planning, carrying and consuming the required level of fluids and nutrition. Over the course of the event I burnt around 5,000 calories and could only carry and consume around 2,500. This was adequate for me, but it was important to ignore time of day, take advantage of the feed stops and eat little and often regardless of appetite to keep the energy levels topped up and sustain strong legs until the end. The general rule of thumb is 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour, but you need to experiment to see what works for you – hence the importance of events such as these and to try out the various carb-heavy products that are easily carried whilst riding. It’s also important to take pace into account, as the longer the ride takes, the more fuel you will obviously need to sustain your energy levels to the end.
Equally, if not more importantly, is continual re-hydration combined with electrolytes, preferably consuming at least one 710ml bottle per hour of riding – with closer to a litre per hour in warmer weather – to prevent dehydration and cramp setting in during the latter stages.
As it turned out, the additional elevation came from a sequence of relentless, steeper-than-published, energy-sapping climbs, which combined with the distance and headwinds made this event indeed worthy of its name and reputation.