Friday, May 27, 2022
HomeInterviewsRob Simpson - the Man Behind "Velo Sportive"

Rob Simpson – the Man Behind “Velo Sportive”


Cycling is changing, there’s little air of mystery to the big riders now – Tweeting, FaceBook and camera phones have seen to that.

There are races in the desert, in the jungle; the Middle East and south of the Equator – the season carries on so long and starts so early that it’s hard to say when the “off” season is.

And people are turning to cycling, not to ride mid-week ‘tens’ or APR’s (do they still exist?) or to go on ‘clubbie runs’ for a drum up and a ‘habble.’

The ‘Sportive’ is where it’s at, a ‘kid-on’ race which they’ve had on the continent for years.

We’ve spoken to Paul Coats and Jamie Burrow in the past about riding Sportives – albeit at a much tougher level in Italy where they have semi-pro ‘Fondo‘ teams.

But back to Blighty – you can dress up just like your favourite racer, saddle up on your crazily expensive Pro Tour replica bike and share the roads with droves of like minded individuals.

And there are no nasty numbers like ‘1:07:37’ beside your name after the race or those horrible letters; “DNF”.

But despite my bemusement at the popularity of Sportives – as Vik says; ‘you go out on your bike to get away from folk, not ride round with 500 others!‘ there’s no denying their popularity.

Rob Simpson is the man behind ‘Velo Sportive’ who organise participation in Sportives and will be promoting his first sportiv in April – we decided to reach out to him and seek enlightenment.

Rob Simpson
Rob Simpson.

Which sportives do you organise, Rob?

“We’ve been planning what was to be our first one, The Tour of the Shire in Lanarkshire, over 80 miles in September, for some time.

“We’re hoping to mirror the success of the Kinross Sportive which sold out 700 places in a couple of weeks. They’re pleading with the police to allow bigger numbers.

“But we’ve also just confirmed that we’ll be running the first Sportive on the Scottish calendar; The Tour of Angus, April 2014 with events over two distances – 45 miles and 90 miles.”

What’s the attraction of Sportives?

“They’re just getting bigger and bigger, a reflection of how big cycling has become in the UK – there will be 30-plus in Scotland, this year.

“The reasons for the popularity are threefold, I think.

“There’s the challenge aspect; you’re not going to get left behind, like can happen in a race ; and many of the locations for the events are cracking.

“We had a couple of experienced Sportive riders test ride our course and they said it was a really good route.”

And Velo Sportive is a club for folks who want to ride Sportives?

“Yes, it’s a Sportive club for folks who may be apprehensive about joining a normal club because of the competitive element.

“We’ve had a chap from Washington join, and a lady from Tenerife.”

How many have you ridden?

“I’ve ridden five, all in Scotland, including the Etape Caledonia.

“It’s on closed roads in beautiful countryside, but that puts the price way up.

“I really fancy riding the Pennine Sportive, that’s through spectacular scenery, too.”

How many do you plan to ride, this year?

“I hope to do 20, I want to get out and personally promote our club and our events.

“I’ve discussed it with organisers and I hope to get a promotional post card for Velo Sportive in event goodie bags.

“We have four ‘elite’ riders who’ll be riding Sportives for us – you might have a weekend where you have two events taking place and we want a presence at them both.”

Do you ever see continental-based Sportive ‘race teams’ coming to the UK scene?

“Never say; ‘never.’

“We’ve had an invitation to ride a Mallorcan Sportive, the one that’s a complete lap of the island.

“You have to walk before you can run, but we’d like to have an elite Sportive team.

“Curle Cycles in Airdrie wanted involved and have supplied four carbon Raleighs for our elite guys.”

Rob Simpson
Perhaps we’ll see the likes of Jamie Burrow arrive in Scotland with his teammates to ride one of the country’s sportives.

What’s the situation with police permissions?

“You don’t need police permission but British Cycling advises that it’s best to get a thumbs up.

“It’s not like it’s a race, you can set off 700 riders, but not all at once, they’re set off in tranches.

“But you have to do a risk assessment and go and see the police.

“Next year I’d love to run a series of Sportives; Moray, Aberdeen and Arran would be amazing.”

What’s the insurance situation?

“British Cycling will organise it for you; you make the application to them and they pass it to Scottish Cycling.

“The cost is around £60/100 riders.”

It strikes me that they always include monster climbs…

“Yes, many do have big climbs, I think that floats some riders’ boats.

“But folk do like a challenge…

“Out Tour of the Shire is pretty hilly.”

Do you think that the interest in the events has peaked yet?

“No, I think it will continue to grow and a lot more folks will ride them.

“Look at the USA, they’re massive and growing – especially the ones with a pro’s name attached.”

With thanks to Rob, but we won’t mention any pro riders’ names on that one – their USADA suspensions haven’t finished yet !

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Gran Fondo Scotland; social and scenic cycling with pals, pasta, and a piper!

Foregoing my usual Saturday night at the movies I set the alarm for 05:00 am, reminded myself how much I like being in the Trossachs of a Sunday morning, sighed and switched off the light. Davie thought we were leaving his house at 06:45 am not 05:45 am - but we were soon on our way along the Hill Foots en route the Gran Fondo Scotland - Summer Edition.

Sestriere-Colle delle Finestre Gran Fondo on 24 July

Turin, 29 June 2016 – The iconic gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre and the finish line at Sestriere, scene of epic gestures by generations of pro riders, are two of the features that define the story of the Gran Fondo La Marmotte – Sestriere – Colle delle Finestre. The sportive ride organised by RCS Sport / RCS Active Team, now in its second edition, will be held on Sunday 24 July.

Road racing, Rhododendrons, Sportives, and Sunday Shopping

We look at the popularity of Sportives in this article. In 2014, both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia will visit the UK. The 2011 World Road Race Champion was a British rider and the current Tour de France champion is British also.

At Random

Heaven is… Tus Vueltas!

It was like Xmas, hustling the Transit across town to John Anderson's shop - to get my 'Vuelta presie' courtesy of Al Hamilton. The last one was my Vuelta gillet; only used abroad, somehow a Vuelta gillet doesn't work at Wallyford.

Ollie Wood – “The Tokyo Olympics are the Big Goal”

On the track Ollie Wood has been a consistent top performer with national team pursuit and scratch titles to his name as a junior in 2014. In 2015 he again was in the winning team at national level and added the European U23 team pursuit title. Last year he was on the European podium in both the U23 and Elite team pursuit competitions – bronze on both occasions. And this season saw gold in the Manchester World Cup team pursuit. We caught up with the now 22 year-old – his birthday was the week after the Gent Six Day finished – to discuss his 2017 season and his plans for 2018 and beyond.

Final Defense: Eneco 2010 Stage 6

Final Defense. The final road stage of the Eneco race was again lumpy, this time including roads from the Amstel Gold spring classic. In particular the Mur de Huy, a nasty climb that starts on an increasingly steep grade until a left turn kicks the road up to around 20%.

Mark McKay – Scotland’s Talent Scout

The "Chris Hoy effect," is Scottish Cycling capitalising on it? We decided to speak to British Cycling's new Olympic talent scout for Scotland, Mark McKay.

John Archibald – Reflecting on his World Championship Pursuit

Here at VeloVeritas whilst we have the utmost respect for John Archibald and his performances we didn’t seek any pre-Worlds interviews from him, his sister Katie, Neah Evans or Mark Stewart. We felt that the ‘they just need to turn up and ride then bring home the rainbow jerseys’ vibe was putting them under pressure – of which they would experience more than enough in the cauldron of Pruszkow. We let the dust settle post-Worlds, gave John a call and found how it went...

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 18: Briançon – Izoard, 179.5km. Barguil conquers the Izoard

As James Bond might say; ‘there musht be shom mishtake!’ Louis and Rigo doing a spell? Steady boys! In fairness to the UAE man from the RSA his pull didn’t last long. And neither did the Cannondale Colombian’s - but the former National Time Trial Champion and Giro TT winner had real power in his spell to close Froome down on the Izoard.