Beyond Sportives

Jillian Mooney
January 27, 2018

Joe here – If you’re an experienced sportive rider and thinking about trying an endurance distance I want to be the first to encourage you to give it a go.

It’s a very different dimension of the sport plus a new challenge.

Endurance cycling will teach you a wider variety of skills that transfer into all aspects of life. It also works in reverse by the way. Your life experience will play out on the road in your ability to endure.

So what do you need to know about endurance if you’re coming from a sportive perspective?

1. You need to think about speed and effort differently. In sportives speed is often created by the group. There are numerous opportunities to draft so your speed is maintained with less effort. Even if you duck into a group or behind a wheel for 10-20 min rest, that counts!

In endurance your speed is 100% generated by you 100% of the time. This brings very different equations between speed and effort over time and distance. If you’re wondering what happens between 100 and 200 miles, it’s all down to these equations.

To go longer distances you must learn to manage your average speed within a sustainable window which only gets smaller during the race. This of course comes with experience.

2. You may need to rethink your gearing. Endurance is about riding efficiently and efficiency depends in part on gearing. You are now travelling greater distances over incredibly varied terrain. For certain you will be riding and climbing in a more fatigued state meaning you will perform differently on a climb that comes at 150 miles v one that comes at 40 miles.

You must have gearing that accounts for this. Poor gearing selection results in inefficiencies which accumulate over time and inevitability results in decreased performance capability.

3. Fuelling often catches people out and there is no worse feeling than bonking after a long effort. Fuelling for endurance is an intricate process of managing calorie deficit. Calories going in through nutrition can’t keep up with how many you are burning to sustain performance so the body makes up the difference by mobilising and burning both glycogen (stored carbohydrate in the muscles and liver) and fat.

Most people store about 2500 calories as glycogen which can usually make up the difference for about 3-4 hours. This gets you to the end of your sportive but it won’t get you to the end of 200+ miles. For endurance racing you need to become a better fat burner and you need to manage your glycogen stores well.

Jillian, Team Joe Barr’s performance nutritionist, will be doing more posts on fuelling for endurance so stay tuned.

4. You will have to form a crew. Surround yourself with people who are up for the challenge. It’s not the easiest job in the world to be in a slowly moving vehicle and remain on high alert for safety, navigation, nutrition, clothing changes and morale support.

It’s an adventure though and a fantastic team experience.

5. You need to think about the most efficient position on the bike. You can get away with inefficiencies in bike position over 100 miles. You can’t over 200+ miles. Small inefficiencies add up over distance and accelerate exponentially during the phases of fatigue that endurance brings. I consistently see the same mistakes…don’t get me started on incorrect frame sizes and stem lengths!

It’s worth the investment getting your bike fitted professionally. We can only recommend who we work with – Inspired Cycling

6. Prepare the space in your mind to accept discomfort over a much longer length of time – this is endurance.

Fatigue brings a different response to adversity and fatigue from endurance goes to a much deeper level than fatigue from a sportive. It will ask you to change your mindset around what you think is possible. You can go further than you think. This is the essence, the gift, of endurance.

We understand that moving into endurance racing can be daunting and can bring many questions even for experienced sportive riders. This is the reason we offer The Endurance Workshop. It’s designed to help get you started or to move you forward if you’re new to the sport.

To find out more about one-on-one coaching with Joe or nutrition with Jillian please visit us on the Team Joe Barr Website.

Interested in signing up for The Team Joe Barr 200 or The Joe Barr 500? Please visit