Cyclosportives (sometimes spelled Cyclo Sportifs but correctly Cyclosportives, since the full name is randonnée cyclosportive and randonnée is a female noun in French) are long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling events typically held annually. Sportives are the cycling cousin of running’s marathon: as with the 42 kilometer (26 mile) event, rather than racing other participants, sportives see many cyclists use the event to challenge themselves in a personal battle against the distance and then ultimately, the clock.
Also like the marathon, the top placed riders in a Cyclosportive ride the event like a race and there are prizes awarded and considerable prestige for top place finishers in events like the Marmotte, Etape du Tour and the Ardechoise (which was won in the past by a young Alexander Vinokourov).
A cyclosportive falls between a traditional road race and a non-competitive randonnée or Audax event. Riders normally carry a number and the time they take to complete the course is recorded. There is usually an upper time limit within which the course must be completed (unlike many randonnée events, there is no lower limit preventing riders from completing the course quickly). The already lengthy course will traditionally include climbs and difficult riding conditions, adding to the merit of the event (e.g. the cobblestones of the Paris-Roubaix).
The routes will usually be well sign-posted and/or marshalled (some cyclosportives take place on roads which have been closed to motor traffic for the duration of the event), riders will be able to use feeding stations positioned at intervals along the route to replenish their food and drink supplies and mechanical and medical support may also be provided. Some attract thousands of participants - since 2000 l'Etape du Tour has offered places to 8,500 riders each year.
Sportive event timings Edit
Although sportives are not races, entrants’ times are recorded and riders are given their finishing position. This can encourage the fastest cyclists to push the pace, with faster riders working together to increase speed in a pro-peloton style. The majority of riders will simply be happy to complete the distance within the time allowance. It is common in France and Italy for prizes to be awarded to the winner and to those winning age-related categories.
Established sportive events Edit
The first ever French cyclosportive was La Marmotte, which was first run in 1982 on a route starting in Bourg d'Oisans and taking in the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and Col du Lautaret before climbing to finish at the top of one the most famous Tour de France climbs at Alpe d'Huez. It remains one of the most popular cyclosportive events today in Europe and is often considered to be the hardest cyclosportive.
Arguably the most famous of the cyclosportives today is the French l'Etape du Tour, held each July over a stage of that particular year’s Tour de France, usually a mountain stage. This over-subscribed event sees approximately 7,500 riders attempting to duplicate the professional cyclists. The Ardéchoise is one of Europe's largest event with 15,000 riders taking part but this time participants are able to choose from a range of circuits, from 66 km to 268 km. The Ronde van Vlaanderen had 18,000 participants in its 2007 edition and 17,000 in 2008. Riders can also choose from different circuits including mountainbike courses, from 28 km to 256 km. These events often enjoy roads closed to traffic for the duration of the event, allowing riders to enjoy the full width of the road and to profit from the often technical sections of the route.
Another coveted French event mimics the legendary one-day classic Paris-Roubaix. Held bi-annually, this 260 km (162 miles) sportive increases the test of reliability and endurance yet further with 26 sections of pavé which total some 42 km (26miles). It is not uncommon for riders to break bikes and even bones over these cobbled roads.
Other notable events are the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in South Africa which celebrated its 30th year in 2007 with 40,000 entrants. Italy’s Gran Fondo Pinarello, Maratona dles Dolomites and Spain's Quebrantahuesos are well known among the scores of torturous but popular European events. The largest cyclosportive in the UK is the Dragon Ride Wales, held each June over a challenging 200 km mountainous course in South Wales. The only UK cyclosportive to be held on closed roads is the annual Etape Caledonia which attracted some 3,500 cyclists in its 2009 edition and follows a route around the Perthshire highlands. 
List of cyclosportivesEdit
- Etape Caledonia
- The Dragon Ride - website
- Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge
- Gran Fondo Cymru
- Highclere Castle Cyclosportive - website
- Tour of Wessex - website
- The Forest of Dean Spring Classic - website
- ArcherGP Sportive - website
- Ride the Route - website
- Etape du Dales - website
- Fred Whitton Challenge - website
- The Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge - website
- Southern Sportive - website
- The Autumn Epic - website
- Cheddar Cyclo Sportive - website
- The Legbreaker Challenge - website
- The Tour of Tweeddale - website
- Burgess Hill Rumble Cyclosportive 31/08/08 http://www.everydaycycling.com/edc/events/20080831_burgess_hill_rumble.aspx
- United States
- South Africa
- Cyclosport.org - The Most Comprehensive List of Cyclosportives on the Internet over 900 events worldwide and up-to-date
- Cyclosportive calendar Over 600 events worldwide up-to-date
- Le Comari - List of Italian "gran fondo" events for road bike and mtb - website
- Cyclosport.org - The Home of UK and International Cyclosportives (over 900 events) website
- YouTube Cyclosportive Community - website
- The Sportive Survival Guide (Vimeo Channel) - 5 Episodes
- CYCLEFILM - Cyclosportive Reconnaissance and Ride DVDs - website