The Tour de Manc Sportive is an iconic cycling event in and around Greater Manchester, and is probably the premier sportive in Manchester.

Name:Tour de MancOrganiser:Tour de Manc Limited
Location:Middleton, ManchesterEvent Website:link to official website
Date:6th May 2018Price:£34.99
Event:SportiveStart Times:7:30am (Full Manc), 8:00am (Half Manc)
Distance:100km, 100mFeed Stations:4 (Full Manc), 2 (Half Manc)
Climbing:9,000ft (Full Manc), 5,000ft (Half Manc)Ride Profile:Challenging. Hills.
GPS Route:download the Full Manc, Half Manc GPS fileRoute Map:link to route maps

Tour De Manc Sportive

Let’s not beat around the bush, the Tour de Manc is a tough sportive. The Half Manc covers 100km and has an elevation profile of around 5,000ft whereas the Full Manc not only has the challenge of the 100-mile distance but also the bonkers 9,000ft of climbing. This is what the elevation profile looks like for the latter;

Tour de Manc Full Manc Elevation Profile

But tough is what founders Danny Franks and Tony Rubins set out to achieve. They succeeded.

So now that you know what you’re letting yourself in for, it’s time to ensure you’re fully prepared and ready for supporting some great causes. Tour de Manc raises money for Forever Manchester, which help to fund community projects in Manchester, and Haematology & Transplant Support (HaTS), which support blood cancer patients at The Christie Hospital in Withington, Manchester. Although Tour de Manc is a Limited Company, it has no staff and everything is done purely on a voluntary basis, with only essential costs being deducted. It is a not for profit organisation and all profits go to the above charities.

Which Route?

This will probably be dependent on your fitness levels and climbing ability. Whilst you may feel comfortable with a true Century distance (100-miles rather than 100km), you then have to consider the 9,000ft elevation. As you can see from the above elevation profile, there are at least ten notable climbs on the Full Manc route. I completed my first 100-mile sportive last year when I rode Velo Birmingham and whilst I felt good at the end, this was due to several factors; it was late in the sportive season (Sept), my fitness was therefore better as I had had more time in saddle and it was just 6,000ft of climbing. Looking back, I’m not sure how it got that high as I only recall a few climbs.

This is clearly a personal choice and for me, it’s probably going to be the Half Manc this year but check back after the event for my Ride Report to see my final decision.

For those who are new to Sportives and have enough miles in the bag to consider the 100km route, it’s probably just a matter of looking back at rides of comparable distance and comparing the elevation gain to the Half Manc, that being around 5,000ft. Don’t forgot that this is a tough sportive so you may want to consider upping your game and pushing yourself just that extra step. Remember, no pain no gain, and it is for charity after all.

Training Preparation

It goes without saying that pre-event training is essential before any sportive but it is especially true of Tour de Manc. Good preparation is to build-up your fitness levels by doing regular exercise but given that you’ll be in the saddle for at least 3 hours on the Half Manc and 6-7 hours on the Full Manc, you will want to ensure you have plenty of time in the saddle.

For the 100km route, you should consider these steps, simply moving from one stage to another when you’re ready. If you’re already doing distances above those in Stage One, simply move on to Stage Two. You can supplement your weekend rides midweek with shorter one-hour rides but given that this is preparation for the Tour de Manc, I’d suggest you try to find some inclines. For example, despite living on the Wirral (it’s pretty flat), I have a 7-mile loop that includes 3 short climbs so I do this twice to complete a one-hour ride midweek.

  • Stage 1: 20-30 miles on the flat
  • Stage 2: 30-40 miles on the flat and then with at least one short hill climb
  • Stage 3: 30-40 miles on the flat with one or two gentle climbs
  • Stage 4: 40-50 miles on the flat with several steeper and longer climbs (at least 3-5% average gradients)

Repeat stage 4 as many times as you are able but at least 2/3 rides like this before the big day. You’ll notice that stage 4 doesn’t actually include a ride of more than 50 miles (100km is 62.5 miles). The adrenaline on the day, along with your general fitness will see you safely, and happily, across the line but feel free to ride further. Whilst many sportives include just a small handful of climbs, the Tour de Manc isn’t like this so you must ensure your preparation includes hill climbs. These should ideally be included in all rides within 4 weeks of the day.

If you’re thinking of doing the Full Manc, you won’t need me to plan your pre-event training as you’ll be an accomplished cyclist.

Tour de Manc – No Way!

So before you decide that the Tour de Manc isn’t for you, please think again. Yes it’s tough, it’s meant to be tough, but it isn’t anywhere near as tough as what the cancer patients are going through at Christie’s Hospital or anything else that makes other people’s lives tough. Please think again and commit to these truly worthy causes.

You can do this!

Sportives are fun. They bring like-minded people together and the feeling of camaraderie on the day is wonderful. If you’re in two-minds about completing the 100-mile route, that’s easy – just do the 100km route. If you’re not sure if you can complete the Half Manc then break it down into it’s component parts.

The distance may total 62.5 miles (100km) but as there are two feed stations on the route, that makes it just three 20m rides, which you can do right? Just take your time, pace yourself and take the our advice (see below).

The Half Manc has 7 climbs if you include the small ones. Just take each one at a steady pace, walk up the steeper ones if you want to. Nobody will care, in fact, the macho MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra) will secretly be wishing they were following your example!

Tour de Manc banner

Preparing the Bike

Many cyclists only visit their LBS (local bike shop) when something has gone wrong with their bike and whilst this is commendable, it’s not their only function. Bikes are no different to any other vehicle, and in the same way you get your car serviced regularly, you should do the same for your bike. It won’t cost a lot, or take too long and will be worth every penny.

However, if you prefer to do your own bike checks, here are some of the things to consider;

  • Tyres: Tyres should be properly inflated, have good tread and devoid of cracks or any signs of damage. The correct tyre pressure to use is usually on the side of the tyre itself. If you need new tyres, get them several weeks in advance so you can bed them in.
  • Wheels: Nuts or quick release mechanisms should be tight and securely fastened. Spin the wheel to ensure it moves freely. Any misalignment needs to be resolved before your next ride.
  • Seat Post: Check to make sure that the stem is fastened tightly and that your seat is set at the correct height. Whilst you may have been riding in this position for a while, it doesn’t mean it’s correct.
  • Handlebar Stem: Ensure your handlebars are set at the correct height and position.
  • Chain: Check that your chain turns smoothly through your front and rear sprockets and doesn’t rub against the derailleurs or make a grinding noise. Ensure the chain isn’t covered in rust or excessive grime. Dirty chains should be degreased and cleaned, especially if you’ve been cycling in wet weather. Remember to also check for chain slack using a ‘chain checker’ tool. New chains are inexpensive so consider replacing the chain if it’s starting to show signs of wear.
  • Gears & Shifters: The chain should move freely when moving between gears. Check this by turning turning the pedals whilst changing gears. Any clunking sounds or chain slippages should be dealt with by your local bike repair shop, unless you know how to adjust the derailleurs yourself.
  • Brakes & Levers: Test your brakes by gently squeezing the brake lever, the brake pads should apply pressure quickly and smoothly to stop the wheels turning immediately. If you need new brake pads, get this done well before you reach the start line.
  • Cleaning: Chances are that your bike needs a thorough clean so get this done a few days before the sportive. Degrease the chain, chainring, cassette and derailleurs before rinsing off with clean water. Watch that you don’t get any on your rims or brake pads.
  • Lube: Add appropriate amounts of lube to your chain to ensure its smooth action on your now clean bike.

Cycling Kit

As Baden Powell once said, Be Prepared. The clue’s in the title but just so we’re clear, the Tour de Manc is in Manchester. Whilst the event is scheduled for late Spring / early Summer, its Manchester, and Manchester gets wet. Hey, it might be the hottest day of the year for all I know but I’m from Manchester, and I know it gets wet.

Seriously, the point is that despite the time of year, the Manchester weather is unpredictable so it’s best to consider your options. It’s no fun being wet and cold on a bike and even less so when you still have several hours of climbing to do. Windproof jackets help protect you from the biting cold winds we have up North and lightweight rain jackets tucked into your rear jersey pocket will be invaluable if the aforementioned wet stuff comes down.

It might of course be a warm day but the key is to be prepared for mixed weather. It’s likely to be colder at the 7:00am start line than it is when you finish so consider wearing several layers. These trap the warm air between layers, keeping you warm when it’s cold and can be easily removed when the sun comes out.

Kit preparation doesn’t just mean you, it means your bike as well. The Tour de Manc is a sportive that’s going to take at least half-a-day to complete so you need to make sure you’ve got the right spares;

  • Inner Tubes: Carry at least one spare inner tube (I always carry two).
  • Tyre Levers: Take 3 tyre levers.
  • Cycle Pump: Pointless taking inner tubes unless you can pump them up (unless you use CO2).
  • Multi-Tool: Usually lightweight and include multiple tools, including allen keys.
  • Water Bottles: Essential. Consider two bottles.
  • Small Bag: A small stem bag is useful for carrying energy gels, jelly babies and your phone.
  • Mobile Phone: Essential to call for assistance if required. Consider ApplePay or GooglePay for cashless purchases.
  • Cash: A little bit of spare cash for emergencies. The new plastic notes are waterproof too!

Pre-Ride Stretches

peter-sagan-stretching

The key to fitness training is to stretch the muscles, build stamina and get used to riding your bike over reasonable distances. Cycling is a great way to burn calories and lose weight so there are some added benefits too. Before you go anywhere near your bike, there are some basic warm-up exercises you should do to ensure you avoid muscle injuries or post ride stiffness.

  1. Neck Stretch
  2. Upper Back and Shoulder Stretch
  3. Wrist Stretch
  4. Glute Stretch
  5. Hip and Quad Stretch
  6. Achilles and Calf Stretch

So unless you’re called Peter Sagan, our Guide to Pre-Ride Stretches gives lots of great advice on what stretches to do before cycling.

If you are going to consider a pre-event sports massage, the deep tissue ones that are rather painful but of huge benefit, just don’t do it the day before as it will take you a couple of days to recover.

We’re Off. What to expect on the day.

This is for those of you who are new to sportives or are perhaps new to the Tour de Manc event and are yet to sample the beautiful combination of the 100km distance with 5,000ft of elevation gain.

First of all, it’s not a race so don’t get swept up in the adrenaline that you may be feeling or that of those around you. The key is to pace yourself, especially during the first hour or even to the first feed station. If you cycle at an average of 12.5 mph over the whole 100km then you’re going to be in the saddle for around 5 hours. Even if your more accomplished and set a pace somewhere between 15 and 16 mph (good effort with those hills) then it’s still going to take 4 hours. So, like I said, set a pace you can finish on and still have the energy for tea and cake at the end.

Find yourself a group of cyclists that are cycling at a pace you’re comfortable with, which should feel slightly too slow at first but is likely to be the right speed for this event. Group riding will also give you the added benefit of security from passing motorists and around a 30% energy saving from cycling behind other cyclists.

You may want to brush up on your group riding hand signals so you can both understand them and pass them on to others.

Fuel. Energy. Success.

secret-training-stealth-energy-bar

This is probably the most important advice on how to prepare for the Tour de Manc and I cannot stress enough on how important it is for sportives and rides of more than a few hours.

Whilst a decent carb based meal the night before the sportive isn’t a bad thing, our bodies can only store sufficient energy for around 90 minutes of exercise, we cannot store anymore and so the so-called carb-loading is something of a myth. So in order for your Tour de Manc to be a success, you’ll need to ensure your energy intake matches your energy output.

Start the day with a decent breakfast, something like porridge that provides a good level of slow release energy that’ll help you through the first few hours. Other options include scrambled or poached eggs on wholegrain (not wholemeal) toast or wholegrain cereal and milk.

Nutrition on the bike is just as important and a steady intake of carbohydrates will ensure you don’t bonk (the moment in cycling when you hit-a-wall, both physically and emotially and feel you can’t go on). Carbohydrates provide fuel to the active muscles and help fuel the nervous system. The brain uses glucose as its energy source, so a low intake may lead to general weakness, dizziness and low blood sugar. Reduced blood sugar during exercise decreases performance and can lead to mental and physical tiredness. So, good energy levels, good glucose intake and maintaining carbohydrate levels will ensure you have sufficient fuel to power your performance and help you feel better during cycling.

Your three nutritional goals during training should be;

  • To remain hydrated
  • To replace used energy
  • To replace the salts you lose in sweat

Remain Hydrated

It always feel condescending when I say to people that drinking plenty of water during a sportive is important but it’s amazing how many people forget. If you use a Garmin, you can set an alert for every so often, say 15 mins, which is a gentle reminder to take a sip of water. Pretty obvious I know but we do forget the basics sometimes.

For a sportive like Tour de Manc, you should consider carrying two bottles, which can be refilled at the various feed stations.

Replace Used Energy

We need around 60g of carbohydrates for each hour of exercise. You can achieve this using sports energy drinks, foods and gels. This can be achieved by adding an energy powder to your water bottle (one bottle equates to around 50g of carbs) or by consuming energy gels (this is around 2 to 3 gels depending on which brand you use).

So for the Half Manc, perhaps consider two water bottles with an energy powder (two hours), one or two spare packets of energy powder (one or two hours) and around 3 to 6 energy gels (one to two hours). This, coupled with the sumptous spread of the feed stations and Colin’s famous scones should get you home.

It’s important to remember that whilst the energy supplements provide instant (pretty much) energy, they don’t suit everyone and should also be balanced with proper foods. I always carry a handful of rice cakes or Soreen loaves to balance the high sugar content of the gels to prevent overloading my stomach. The Tour de Manc has plenty of feed stations so remember to eat sufficient foods and eat early, don’t wait until you’re hungry as that’s too late.

Another tip is not to try something new on the day of the event itself as you don’t want to risk it affecting you adversely, especially new gels.

Replace Salts Lost in Sweat

During moderate exercise, we produce something like 1 to 2 litres of sweat per hour. This contains essential fluids and electrolytes that our bodies require to function properly. If these fluids and electrolytes aren’t replaced, we get dehydrated and our cycling performance starts to suffer. As we dehydrated, our body temperature rises, our heart rate increases, we deplete carbohydrate stores quicker and we perceive the exercise to be more intense.

Eating salty foods like crisps can help with the salt loss but there are also a range of electrolyte tablets available, which simply drop into a bottle of water.

This Guide to Energy Drinks, Gels and Foods for Cycling provides some really good advice on what’s good to eat both before and during a bike ride, and this article on the Best Cycling Snacks to eat during a ride offers some more top tips, including a whole host of data.

Have Fun

Tour de Manc is a challenging sportive but one that looks to be well organised and well supported so it should be a great day. If you’ve followed our preparation advice, all that’s left to say is, have fun, enjoy the day and thanks for supporting some great charities.