What is a Cyclosportive?

Cyclosportives, Gran Fondos, Big Rides, call them what you want they amount to the same thing, challenging fun.  You may not think they are while you're climbing the 30 kilometre ascent of the Col de Hoz but you'd surely agree when descending the 40 kilometres off the Galibier.

Most are electronically timed and all are challenging.  Although how challenging is up to you.  They range from 90 kilometre Medio Fondos to the the 256 kilometres of the Ardechoise, with most having a choice of distances and gradients to ride.  All have feed stations and medical assistance and most have mechanical assistance.  Very rarely are you riding alone, which is particularly difficult on the Tour of Flanders where 14,000 took part in 2004!  The timed events have graded finish times to allow the awarding of gold, silver and bronze diplomas or medals. 

Most events benefit from closed roads and neutralised sections with police escorts and excellent marshalling.  In the Tour of Flanders and the Felice Gimondi there were police stopping cars on the motorway while cyclists rode across one carriageway to the next!  Age groups allow you to compete on an equal footing and don't let anyone tell you they are not competitive!  It's best to get a British Cycling licence, especially if competing in France as it prevents you having to get doctors notes and stuff and of course you benefit from insurance.  More and more events are now incorporating dope controls.  Sad but true.

Nearly all events are linked in some way to a professional rider, team or classic event. either way there is always a celebrity or two on hand.  The big events go the whole hog and have pasta parties, discos, bands, photographers, kids races, family events and loads of goody bags and race jerseys. 

Four people could drive to Belgium, do the Tour of Flanders ~ believe me you've experience nothing until you descend on wet cobbles at 40 mph ~ climb the Koppenberg and the Muur, get a medal, and get back to Jersey for a 100 each and a day off work.  Add another 20 and another day off and you get to watch the pros ride.

Surely you have to ride one classic event in your cycling career?  Just don't leave it too late because you'll only kick yourself.  I did.