It's that time of year when people are talking about what races their doing, what goals they've got - how they'd like to do this or that event etc.
Over the years more and more people have gone from just talking about it to really doing stuff. Many people, who previously never saw themselves as planners, or people who would sign up to bike events a long time in advance are suddenly doing so. Why ? Because they have to. In the old days you could talk about riding a bike event, do nothing about entering it, then maybe a week or two before, you see how you feel and make your decision at that moment.
Nowadays, with the exponential rise in popularity of long distance challenge rides, or cyclosportives events organised in the UK are filling up faster than rats up a drainpipe - literally within hours.
The Fred Whitton Challenge, The Etape du Dales, and The Dragon Ride all filled up within hours. People are even already making plans for the Devil Ride in August, and the Ride of the Falling Leaves, in October.
So why the sudden zeal over cyclosportives ? And more importantly, is this really the shape of things to come, or is it just a fad ?
Answer: the zeal is probably explained by the fact that for the first time people can ride competitively in a "comfortable" environment. Ok, so riding 140km or mor over hilly terrain is not exactly a walk in the park, but it's still more laid back than the sharp end of a 100km. A cyclo sportive has hundreds, even thousands of competitors so you still get to ride in a peloton of sorts - and you're unlikely to be the slowest.
We can also thank the low cost airlines for the growth - the new found accessibility of places like Treviso, Marseille or Pau has meant that the popularity of European cyclosportives by British based cyclists has meant that organisers over here are tempted to copy the models over there - which is great news for us, especially as it avoids the expense and hassle of going abroad.
I don't think this is just a fad. That's what was said about aerobics in the 80's, marathon running in the 90's and triathlons in the noughties. They're all still going strong. And cyclosportives look set to go the same way in the UK.
I'll see you at one near you soon !