It's group riding, Jim, but not as we know it

Sportives recommence: but why now, and how have they been reshaped to manage Covid-19 risks?


Next week's first Club Peloton organised group ride since lockdown is going ahead, despite changes to the Government's guidelines on group activities which take effect on Monday 14 September.

"We need to wait to see if any of the published advice from British Cycling or the Department of Culture, Media and Sport changes," Club Peloton chief executive Nick Hanmer told Velocity. "My hunch is that it hopefully wonÂ’t as the move appears to be targeting individuals that flout the rules rather than businesses operating within published guidelines."

There is no mention in the Government's announcement of restaurants, pubs and other venues having to limit capacity, Hanmer observed. "The devil will be in the detail so we will wait to see what is officially published."

The event, in Surrey, is for 24 Club Peloton members, gathering in two open-sided marquees and riding in groups of six. Riders will fix their own minor technical issues, with support from a "floating" mechanic for more significant problems. The route is a "figure-of-eight", to make use of a single venue for start, refreshment break and finish. That obviates the need to load and unload vans with rider luggage and equipment.

"The riding is within guidelines," Hanmer said. "We want to build confidence in group riding, with small steps."

Outside the property industry, the organisation SportiveUK held it's first post-lockdown event, the Hertfordshire 100, on 30 August. It plans a second ride-out on 13 September. "We are running to Covid-secure guidelines but we'll have to see where we are once more info comes out," said co-founder Luke Rayner. "I really hope we don't have to stop everything again."

Changes to the SportiveUK pre-Coronavirus offer include pre-packaged, wrapped food rather than buffet: Club biscuits and packets of crackers and cheese instead of homemade flapjacks, for example. Registrations and timing chips are mailed rather than picked up on the day and the organiser provides 10 chemical toilets and marquees rather than village halls, with extra staff to enforce social distancing and riding in groups of six - and prevent unregistered riders from taking part.

"The Hertfordshire 100 was the only event in the UK since the end of March," Rayner claimed. "People were ravenous to do an event." Marketing solely to previous riders, 180 signed up in the first day. "We capped it at 600 on British Cycling's advice. Sign-ups on the day were by appointment only, and only when we already knew someone had dropped out."

One rider taking part said: "As an NHS worker I am more at risk at work serving the public or at the grocery store than at this very well organized and safe cycling event."

Club Peloton reported a smililarly enthusiastic response. "The ride sold out with a fortnight to go," Hanmer said. "It's not exclusive, but there are limited spaces. We will turn a small profit but the intention of our day rides is to bring people together. They just have to wash their face."

Hanmer observed that Club Peloton membership had increased by almost 50% to about 670 during lockdown and more rides are planned, unless new guidelines prevent them, starting with a route from Bristol in October. "We're really encouraged that people want to come back and ride and the smaller format hasn't put them off," Hanmer said. "There is still a networking aspect and I've never known another industry that thrives as much on socialising as the property industry."



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