Cyclosportives in the UK are non-competitive road cycling events in which participants are often motivated to test their limits.Many continental European cyclosportives are races, though some are not officially timed and are non-competitive. A typical distance for this sort of event is around 160km / 100mi, though there are often shorter routes for the less adventurous and many events are well over 200km. Terrain is varied, but generally somewhat hilly. The best non-cycling analogy for a sportive is the marathon, in that the highest profile events tend to be won by former professionals or semi-pro riders, making the chief competition for many riders themselves rather than the rest of the field. Also, because your colleagues will likely think you've gone slightly nuts for wanting to spend so much time exercising in one day.
Some of the highest profile cyclosportive events include the Etape du Tour, where thousands of amateurs ride a Tour de France mountain stage, La Marmotte, which includes in excess of 5000m climbing in one day, over several famous alpine passes, and Italy's Gran Fondo series.
It is a great excuse to travel with your bike and ride other than on the same roads you regularly use to train. Much of the world's best cycling is a few short hours from the average Londoner's doorstep, yet this person may need the extra motivation of having paid an entry fee and been assigned a race number just to go use this amazing cycling resource. Having a sportive marked on the calendar can be this motivation.
Seeing a different part of Britain or another country by bike is a great way to tour any destination. You will get a better sense of the terrain, the sounds and the smells than you ever would traveling by car. If your event takes you to continental Europe, you will be exposed to cultures that readily embrace cycling and are keen to make a festival of a cycling event.
French & Italian food & climate. Anyone? Anyone?
In 2008, Twickenham CC organized its first-ever cyclosportive, the Surrey Rumble. The event was a rousing success by all accounts, and the 2009 edition is takes place on the 1st March.
A weekly TCC events bulletin includes a cyclosportive section and has kept club members aware of each others' plans. This communication has highlighted TCC riders' participation in several UK events this year already, as well as events in Belgium, France and Italy.
Twickenham CC has participated in the Gran Fondo Pinarello annually for the past 5 years, creating a highlight in many members' seasons. A number of riders have again entered this year, either planning a 126km medio Fondo or targeting the 200km Gran Fondo.
Where a number of us travel to the same event together, we tend to source accommodation together and hang around to provide encouragement and friendly company in the event village. With events like the Pinarello, where we have a few years' experience to draw on, we tend to have found convenient places we like to stay and good restaurants. In any case, riders participating in a sportive tend to post a report on the TCC message board, detailing their experience. A club-mate's willingness to share tips on food and lodging can take much of the stress of travel away for a first-time participant in making a run at one of these cycling challenges.
We have produced a suggested Kit List in pdf format so that you can check whilst packing for your event.