For many cyclists in the south-west region, the Santini Cotswold Autumn Classic marks a final end-of-season fling, often in decidedly autumnal weather – although last weekend’s 2014 edition was mostly in wonderful sunshine, with around 500 riders enjoying a great day out on the bike.
But, rain or shine, the arrival of winter doesn’t mean the big rides have to stop. For the last few years, Velo Events, the team behind the Cotswold Classic, have promoted six ‘mini-sportives’, with one event per month from October to March and dates now set for the 2014/15 series.
What’s a mini-sportive? The idea is simple: keep the main ingredients of a ‘normal’ sportive – challenging route, good signage – but trim out some of the extras. So no feed stations, no numbers, no timing-chips, no medals. And the best bit: the entry fee is just £8.50 - perfect for cyclists that baulk at 25 or 30 quid for a full-service sportive. That price even includes a free hot drink and bacon buttie at the end.
There’s a choice of distance – around 60km and 100km – plenty long enough when the route takes in several steep Cotswold climbs, and a great way to keep the legs turning over during the off-season.
All the mini-sportives start at Shorncote, just south of Cirencester. There’s plenty of parking, as well as showers and changing facilities. To get extra miles in, a few local club groups ride to and from the event as well.
Thanks to the lack of timing chips, the atmosphere very friendly and relaxed, and a good proportion of folk are on proper winter bikes with mudguards, so riding in a group doesn’t mean a mouthful of Belgian toothpaste.
For all dates and full details see: www.minisportiveseries.co.uk