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Taking part in cyclosportives

Beacon members can often be found riding in cyclosportives across the UK and sometimes on the continent.

If you are a member of the Beacon or another local club looking for advice on riding a sportive, or for somebody to team up with at an event or on a training run, please refer to our message board.

What is a cyclosportive?

A cyclosportive is a non-competitive challenge ride that has to be completed within a certain time limit. People start together, but cover the course at their own pace. Although cyclosportives are not races, the strongest riders in the field are usually competitive cyclists, who try to get round as quickly as they can. Also, there are sometimes awards - e.g. gold, silver and bronze medals - that are linked to the time taken to complete the event. See also 'What's the difference between an Audax and a cyclosportive?'

There is no governing body for cyclosportives: each ride is an independent promotion, usually organised on a sponsored and/or commercial basis. Individual event organisers normally have their own websites, place adverts in cycling magazines and distribute information via other channels. It can be interesting and helpful to gather information by buying a few magazines, or by entering words such as 'cyclosportive', 'cycle challenge', 'toertocht' and 'granfondo' into a search engine. Perhaps the best place to start, however, is the Cyclosport website, which tries to provide a comprehensive overview of the rides on offer, with links to the organisers' own sites. The entry requirements and procedures vary from event to event, so you have to separately check out the arrangements for each ride you are thinking of doing. You shouldn't have a problem getting in, though, provided you plan well ahead.

In the UK, there is now quite a calendar of events, most in the hilly areas of the south, the northwest and Wales. There are some in the Midlands, too, mainly the Cotswolds and the Peak District. Typical distances are between 150 and 250 kilometres. The most popular events have to be entered well in advance - several months before, in some cases. So it's a good idea to plan your campaign in the winter, and think in terms of a weekend away, rather than a day's riding. Other Beacon members can often give you useful info about an event: ask on the message board. If you fancy doing a ride with a few pals, you can also use the message board to see what other people are planning or invite others to join you on a particular ride.

Long-term planning is even more important when it comes to continental sportives. For example, the Etape du Tour, which follows the route of a different - but invariably very tough - Tour de France stage each year, can now be entered only through a package tour operator, and places can be hard to find as early as the previous autumn. Other big European events are often over-subscribed as well.

Nevertheless, it can be a real experience taking part in these continental rides: often following in the wheel-tracks of the sport's biggest names, through scenery so different from home, in the company of thousands of fellow enthusiasts from all over the world. These factors have persuaded groups of Beaconites to make trips to France, Italy, Holland and Belgium in recent years. If the idea appeals, talk to some of your club-mates in person or on line about plans for the following summer.

All-in trips to continental cyclosportives can be arranged through companies such as Graham Baxter's Sporting Tours and Sports Tours International. Alternatively, in most cases you can enter the event independently via the organiser's website and make your own arrangements. This approach is more time-consuming and less convenient but, if you're confident about finding and dealing with foreign service providers, it's unlikely to be more expensive and gives you more control.

If you're new to this type of cycling, you may find it helpful to read our 'Tips for taking part in challenge rides'.


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