Event season is upon us, and we don’t know about you, but we are back on our bikes and training hard for our favourite events. We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Matt Porter, founder of Sportive HQ cycling events, for a chat. Sportive HQ produces events suitable for novice cyclists through to avid fanatics be it fund-raising, sportives, corporate events, racing, holidays and training camps. This year, they’ll be producing seven events across the UK, from the Coast to Coast 150mile’r to the Wold Top Sundown which ends at the Brewery!
So, Matt, when did you start cycling?
I started cycling seriously when I was 31, although I am from a family of cyclists over many generations. My grandad used to ride from Lincolnshire to Blackpool for trips out with his brothers in their younger years in the 1920’s, my brother used to race bikes and my mum has always been a time keeper at events before the advent of chip timing so it was kind of a natural progression for me to move on from mountain bike riding to road bikes in my early thirties.
What type of cyclist are you?
I would class myself as a typical sportive rider - I’m not into racing, I never have been. I tried a few triathlons years ago but I am not competitive in terms of other people, but like to race my self and beat previous times and segments on Strava. I do like to ride with friends and if they want to ride slower (or faster) then I’m happy to keep to their pace.
Where’s your favourite place to cycle?
I like to ride anywhere, I can find challenging routes wherever I am. I live in Yorkshire and have such a varied choice of routes. I can ride flat routes, extremely hilly rides and some great mountain bike routes as well. One of my favourite routes would be from where my wife is from, Hawes in Wensleydale where I can take on some really challenging climbs and the scenery is beautiful.
What was the first event you participated in?
The first event I took part in was by chance. I was working for a vehicle rental firm and a group of police officers came in to book a mini-bus hire for a 5 day cycling trip, doing 500 miles in 5 days for charity. I mentioned that I had just started cycling and they invited me to join them, this was 2 months after starting riding a road bike and the trip was in 4 months. My brother designed a training plan for me for the next 4 months which I stuck to very strictly, and by the time of the event I was one of the strongest cyclists on the team and rocketed up every hill on the ride. We rode a road version of the pennine way from Berwick upon Tweed to Holmfirth and then home from there. It was the beginning of many adventures with that team whom I’m still friends with now.
You were diagnosed with diabetes and you still manage to cycle a lot and stay fit - how do you manage the two?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in late 2019, which was a bit of a shock at the time, and was told to rest for a couple of weeks after being put on insulin and getting used to the diagnosis. The first thing I did was get back on the bike and try to work out how to handle things. This was the point where indoor cycling really became the normal for me. I felt a bit safer learning how to handle things in the relative comfort of being at home and not potentially having problems whilst out on the road away from home. I tested and tested constantly different levels of activity against carb intake and how it affects blood sugar. As time went by, and speaking with my consultant who said that my statistics for handling blood sugar were better than he had seen before, we worked out that the level of training that I do isn’t compatible with multiple daily injections of insulin (which is the standard way of dealing with Type 1) and he put me on to an insulin pump and a flash glucose sensor to monitor my blood sugar. Since being given this tech I have managed to create a hybrid loop system which makes it a lot easier to manage a very busy workout schedule. After my earlier experimentation I know what foods to eat when I am riding outdoors, I even have a blood sugar reading on my garmin screen as well, it’s just another metric to take into account now.
What was the first event you organised and how did it all start?
I first started organising events in 2009, after being involved in the fundraising cycling trips that we did. It was becoming harder to raise money by sponsorship from the same people every year, and it was time to try something different. I’d already ridden an Evans Ride It sportive close to home and thought I would try and organise a charity sportive with the help of my local tri-club, Lincsquad, at that time. It was a great success and attracted over 300 riders, it was a bit of baptism of fire but I learnt a lot from first year. I carried on organising the charity event for a further 5 years, learning valuable skills along the way and getting a good following for my attention to detail. After years of doing this I was encouraged to start doing my own events, from which Sportive HQ has just grown and grown, even to the point of being voted the best road cycling event in the UK in 2019 at the ‘Let’s Do This Challenge Awards’ and the runner up in the best Event Organiser in the UK, only being beat by 3 votes against the Great North Run Company. I was pretty happy with that.
What would your one piece of advice be for participants looking to complete the Coast to Coast event in June?
The one thing I would tell people looking to take part in the Coast to Coast in a Day would be to get your training and nutrition right from now. Without training for an event of this magnitude then it will be a tough day (not a pleasurable one), but with the right training it’s one of the most beautiful days out on a bike that you will have.
What can people expect from the Wold Top Sundown in May aside from cycling?
The Wold Top Sundown 60 in May is something completely different. I love being involved in different things and this ticks the boxes. I’m not an early bird myself at the best of times, and the idea of getting up early to ride isn’t always appealing, I love cycling in an afternoon, my preferred time is around 3.30pm so this event sits well with me. It was started by a couple of friends of mine, Rich Baldwin and David Hought a few years ago and they brought me in last year to help expand it. Their original idea was based on the fact that the Wold Top Brewery is on the top of a hill in the Yorkshire Wolds, and late evening over the brewery the sunset is stunning and wanted to exploit this. The event is stunning and we want as many people to enjoy this as possible. It’s just a dream really; bike ride; fish & chips and a beer all included. We now have a live band, camping and the bar open late - the afterparty is going to be as spectacular as the ride itself.
Which of your events is the most challenging and why?
It depends where you are starting from as to which event is the most challenging. If you’ve never done a cycling event before then looking at something like Coast to Coast in a Day would be unfathomable, so even doing the short route on our flatest sportive the Flat 100 is challenging. The biggest event that we do, and most certainly challenging is Lands End to John O’Groats, each day isn’t anywhere near as long as Coast to Coast in a Day but getting up, day after day and riding through some tough climbs, especially at the start in Cornwall and Devon takes true mental grit.
Are you taking part in any other events this year?
Whenever I have a gap in my calendar I ride, I love taking part in events. At this time of year I’m doing lots of reliability rides catching up with friends. It’s hard to plan my time in booking other events as we get called in to help other organisers deliver events at the last minute, so I tend to jump on things at the last minute when time allows and set my own challenges. At the minute I am training to achieve Coast to Coast in a Day in June, I won’t be able to take part in the event as I’ll be busy directing it but it’s important to show the pathway to achieving it and I am hoping to ride it solo to show what a Type 1 Diabetic Cyclist can achieve.
We are sure you’ll smash it!
What’s the most exciting thing happening for you in the world of cycling right now?
The most exciting thing for me in cycling at the minute is the fact I have regained my self confidence in riding outdoors again. It took time to be comfortable with the diagnosis and handling it. I feel that nothing can stop me now I have all my tech lined up. The most surprising part is the amount you have to eat whist riding to stay at an optimal level, and i’ve realised that most riders are not eating enough whilst on the bike.
This is great advice on nutrition. We should all take a leaf out of your book and understand what our body needs to be fuelled correctly on the bike.
If you haven’t checked out Sportive HQ and their events already, then go to their website. As Matt said, training correctly is key to completing and enjoying the events. You can find some of their events, such as Coast to Coast in a day and the Flat 100 in Pillar, and by setting one or both of those as your goals, you’ll receive a personalised training program to get you to your best on the day.
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