Evans Ride It events have been around for some time now; there are fifty events all over the country. With a mix of on and off-road routes, everyone was happy. But with the recent-ish rise of the ‘cross/gravel bike riders are now looking at events that suit their bikes abilities. Evans have responded with events that cater for this style of riding. With routes that mix road with tracks and paths that you wouldn’t take your ‘good’ bike down, the Sportive Cross is born.
This year Evans have three events in their Sportive Cross range; first up was the Leeds Sportive Cross. This event proved to be a winner with all entries sold out with less than a week to go. Starting from the 18th century Harewood House, you couldn’t ask for a grander HQ; not sure you’d be allowed in the main house with your muddy cleats though! Evans described it as “an incredible day in the saddle. The difficulty of this ride is offset by an abundance of stunning vistas, remote sections and the overall high quality of cycling.” Sounds like a great ride.
There was just the one route available which was 36 miles long (58km), with 2700ft(823m) of climbing. Evans aim to have a 50/50 balance between road and off-road on their events; just enough that you can enjoy the mud, without it becoming a chore! Nothing worse than going out on a four-hour grind through thick mud, that’s no fun.
The next round in the series is the Gatwick Sportive Cross on Sunday 26th March 2017. Two routes are on offer, the short at 33 miles (53km) with 2300 feet (701m) of climbing. The long is 45 miles (72km) long, with 3110 feet (947m) of climbing. Evans describe it as “an established ride with a very well refined route.” Apparently it has been “Researched and developed by various members of the Evans outfit,” so it should be a good one! Some of the route uses the same roads as their flagship road event, the King of the Downs; so you could come back in the summer and have a crack at that as well. Be warned though, I have ridden it and it’s a tough one!
Last up in the series is the Thetford Sportive Cross, which is on the same day as the Evans road sportive, Sunday 26th November 2017. Starting from High Lodge in the heart of Thetford Forest, the route follows the road sportive for a while before splitting off to make it’s own way. The short route is 42 miles (68km), with 1370 feet (417m) of climbing, while the long is 53 miles (85km) and will climb 1580ft (481m). Part of the route is along the Icknield Way, which claims to be Britain’s oldest road; something to chat about with your riding buddies, should conversation falter. The route runs along The Kings Forest, with feed stops at West Stow Country Park and Knettishall Heath Country Park. Eventually the road and cross sportive routes rejoin for a final road run to the finish.
As with all Evans events there will be way-marked routes, High5 feed stations, Mechanical Support, GPX files published pre-event and rider times published post-event. And if you’ve got any kids that would like to ride one of their sportives, Evans offer free entries to children when accompanied by a full paying adult; so you can drag the nippers along!
If you’ve yet to try a Sportive Cross event, then this could be your chance. Sportive Cross is a great way to keep you fit and focused over the winter; they’re great for improving your bike handling skills as well. Don’t be put off by the thought of slogging through mud, road sections break up the brown stuff, which stops it from becoming a slog. You can expect to meet every kind of road surface on a Sportive Cross event; tarmac, ghastly back lanes, bridle paths, muddy farm tracks, grassy heaths, wonderful gravel forest tracks and energy sapping sand. You’ll never be bored.
Bike choice is up to you. You can ride it on a full on carbon cyclo-cross bike, a steel gravel bike, hard tail mtb, full-suss or your mum’s shopper! Well maybe not the last one. A ‘cross/gravel bike will handle the road sections better and the off-road parts aren’t usually super technical, so suspension is a little redundant. I have ridden ‘cross sportive where riders have turned up on steel tourers and made it round; carefully, with some walking, but they made it. Once you have decided on the type of bike, you can then obsess over what tyre to use.
If it’s been wet, you’ll be wanting something with grip, but remember you won’t be riding as aggressively as in a race and you’ll have road sections to help clear your tread. So a mixed tyre with side knobs and a file centre tread would be good. If it’s been dry for a while then you could go with something faster, like the Schwalbe G-Ones that I’ve been using. Fit the widest tyres that you can, the extra comfort and grip are worth it. Of course you’ll be running them tubeless? Bouncing around on low pressure tyres is just asking for a pinch puncture and were the bane of my rides, until I saw the light! Whether you go tubeless specific or ghetto style, you won’t regret it, promise.
Hopefully you’ll be riding this and be thinking ” I fancy some of that!” and who could blame you? Sportive Cross is a blast, riding on mixed surfaces constantly challenges you and pushes your handling skills, handy for later in the season. Also if you’re mainly a roadie, then you’ll find a whole load of new routes and views open up to you. Roads that you would never have ridden down because they’re too rough or end in a farm track, suddenly become accessible.
And if you need a little encouragement, the nice people at Evans Ride It are offering a 2 for 1 entry special. Valid for any Ride It event this year, you simply need to enter the code CT50 when entering. Go on, try one of Evans Sportive Cross rides, you won’t regret it!
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