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Olympic Champion Steven Burke's Top Tips for Riding Sportives

by Nick Gregory

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Olympic Gold-winning cyclist, Steven Burke has recently been named as one of eight Olympic champions in the England cycling team for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Burke is currently racing on the road for Haribo-Beacon, and in April he rode part of the Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Pennines route with fellow Olympian and Triple Jump World Record Holder, Jonathan Edwards, offering the retired athlete tips and advice ahead of his first cycling event. 

Etape Pennines is widely regarded as one of the most challenging yet stunning sportives in the UK. Starting and finishing in County Durham, the 60 mile course takes riders through the rugged and undulating North East scenery. Etape Pennines is a tough ride, with 2,366 metres of climbing to overcome, but with panoramic views and speedy downhill sections to look forward to, hard work is duly rewarded. It's an incredible challenge enjoyed by thousands of people each year.

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Etape Pennines is part of a world class series of events including Etape Caledonia which was the first closed road cycling event in the UK when it launched seven years ago. 

Having recently ridden Etape Pennines, Steven offers his top tips in preparation for a big sportive:  

What would you eat for breakfast before a big ride such as the Etape Pennines? 

"Before a significant event I usually have porridge topped with agave nectar or honey and some nuts and fruit mixed in. I also have a coffee - normally a double expresso to wake me up. I then start to drink plenty of water to hydrate well before the ride." 

On a long ride, what's your nutrition strategy? 

"I tend to eat about one item per hour. I normally consume bars first, saving gels for the last couple of hours, and then a caffeine gel just before I get in a race situation with 45 mins to go. Sometimes a bit of cake is just as good, or any item with a high sugar and energy content." 

What are your top tips for gear selections on a hilly route? 

"If it's a long route then it's generally best to keep gears low for the first couple of hours - you'll feel better and stronger for it. Keep the cadence high and the gears not too hard, otherwise you'll pay for it later." 

Do you still get nervous before a big event? 

"Yes, I do! It's a good thing though as nerves and adrenaline keep you focused and your heart rate elevated. I'd recommend all Etape Pennines participants think positively on the day. Yes it's a challenging ride, but the descents and views make it all the more rewarding." 

What's your advice on the best way to recover after a hard ride? 

"The most important thing is a protein drink within 20 minutes of finishing a ride. After that I'll give it a half hour before enjoying a good meal. Sometimes after a ride or race I use compression tights as they help muscles recover for the next day." 

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Marie Curie Cancer Care is the official charity partner of the Etape Series. The money raised by participants will enable the charity to provide more free, hands-on nursing care to people with terminal illness either at home, or in one of the charity's nine hospices, while giving their families emotional and practical support.

Places are still available at: www.etapepennines.co.uk.