Borders Cyclista – May 11th 2013


I must admit it was the unusual format of this sportive that caught my eye and made me look further into this sportive on it’s web page….

“Unlike any other Sportive in the UK, the competitors will ride together as a bunch, at a controlled leisurely speed, for a significant amount of the overall distance. The peloton will be lead round by a vehicle to ensure no-one gets dropped, motorbikes will help ensure that junctions are safe, and a mechanic will follow in a vehicle behind.

There will be a number of sections on both days where competitors will ride as a group, with the feed station coming roughly half way around just after the first timed section.

Along the routes there will be “free “sections – every major climb on day 1, and three differing sections on day 2. Everyone will re-group at the end of each free section, and be given the opportunity to take on food and drink. A portion of all the free sections will be timed, but there will also be a couple of stretches on both days where the free sections continue on un-timed. This will normally be down a descent.This is not a Closed Road event. This is not a race! The route has been planned around the area’s quiet roads to maximize the experience for you. Despite certain sections being timed this is not a Closed Road event or a race.”

This description was enough to intrigue me…I had the day free – why not? ….a day out on the bike!   I signed up….for 1 day only however as I still had things to do Sunday.

The Ciclista was a 2 day event with a days hillclimbing on day 1 and a longer 75mile trip on days 2.

Well….work had been horrendously busy in the run up to the day, so i didn’t manage to get ANY of my usual pre-sportive routine done at all…everything therefore had to get done on Friday night instead, as follows:-

1. Wash down and clean of the bike – de-grease and fresh lube of chain and gears front and back.

2. Visual check of tires – check pressure and pump up – gather and check tools in the small seat pack.

3. Clothes – pulled out half my cycling wardrobe and dumped it on the settees in the living room. Clothes choice is probably the most essential thing that will directly affect you on the day. I had lived through the Tour o’ The Borders experience because of it, I am sure.  Tour ‘o the border sportive 2013 (

The problem was the weather forecasts weren’t helping me…some said rain, some said patchy, some said rain and overcast, some said sunny spells with only occasional rain. One thing was sure, I was going to wear long leggings…Spring hadn’t made it to Scotland yet,  never mind Summer. My wonderful lightweight Gore jacket with removable sleeves – definately.  As a tall chap (6′ 2″) I had found from experience that if I kept my extremities warm the rest of me stayed warm ( no jokes please!). This meant that I was going to take my full gloves and wear my usual two pairs of London Running socks within my cycling shoes. I was also going to take my shoe covers (best bit of equipment bought per pound ..ever) in case the roads were wet. Oh the innermost secrets I’m letting out of the bag here eh! 

4. Food  – 2nd most important thing that will directly affect you on the day. You’re constantly going to be expending energy  on the bike, so your body will need you to give it a good and reliable source of energy back in. The Borders Sportive promised food available at various stations but I’v e found that it is always better to have enough of a source of food with you just in case. Accordingly my third jacket pocket always has a few gels and energy jelly cubes in it. I’ve also found that ASDA do some really nice (and cheap) pocket packets of trail mix, nuts and seeds and dried fruit (apple, pineapple, apricot, cranberries) that can be held loose in the pocket so you can take and eat a handful of it gerbil style whenever you have a moment of easier cycling or steering.

All done late on Friday evening I retired for the night (1 am – not exactly ideal) only to rise at 7am. I needed to mount the bike on the car and travel down the A68 to Hawick to sign on  at the Borders Cycle shop around 9.30am. The guys at the bike shop were great – very friendly, efficient at getting me signed in and in giving me directions and advice on free places to park the car for the day. I picked up  a souvenir Borders Ciclista cycling T shirt as well.

The start of the event was round the corner from the cycling shop in front of the Beanscene coffee shop. I’m guessing about 100 riders had gathered for the 1st days  ride.

The Borders Cycle Shop van was the lead vehicle behind which we would cycle as a pelaton. There was a mechanics and broom wagon which would travel up behind us to help anyone in difficulty and about 4 or 5 motorcycle wardens that would travel before and behind us making sure we were directed appropriately, would stop traffic at junctions, and direct us accordingly.  I have to say it all worked incredibly well, and was very efficiently organised . Recommended.

There are two potential downfalls :-

1. The pace of the whole group tends to be dictated by the slowest cyclists. This could be a distraction if you have any cyclists who are new to cycling and not as potentially as fit as they could be.

2. When the van at the head of the pelaton sees that we’re getting strung out on hilly  sections, it will slow down to allow the pelaton to “bunch up” – this is fine for experiencved cyclists or club cyclists trained at cycling in a group. It does however increase the risk of an accident for someone less experienced at group riding.


Pros and cons with everything really….


What I can say is that despite intermittant showers and a puncture necessitating me pulling over and having a quick tyre change, the day went really well and I enjoyed it throughly. Judging by the comments from my fellow riders (yes we were chatting- see?) it appealled to them too.


One to be recommended and will be repeated next year.



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