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Sportives and road racing

dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
I wrote a piece about road racing and sportives you might be interested in reading.
http://www.veloveritas.co.uk/2013/02/25 ... ad-racing/
Scottish and British...and a bit French
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  • Nice article. Some good points well made.
  • Excellent work - Some really good points - you've hit the nail on the head with idea of sportives being marketed as kind of 'amateur' races. A few years ago a sportive was a way for a club cyclist/racer to test their fitness against a difficult course, as you say to 'stretch their ability'. Thing is if people are willing to spend 30+ quid to treated like wiggins for the day theres very little to be done. Still, better to have more people on the bikes than not. Nice piece anyway.
    The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns
    momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • If you could enter a Cat 4 race with the ease in which you can enter a sportive I think you may find the Amateur race scene starts to flourish. The old club traditions, licences , long apprenteships etc are relevant to a smaller and smaller percentage of cyclists every year and amateur racing needs to find a way of embracing this . Look forward to how it needs to be rather than looking back to the 'traditional' paths.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,567
    You'll get people that treat a club run like it's a race. Put riders together in a group and some will race. Don't suppose it's anything new is it?
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    Brakeless wrote:
    If you could enter a Cat 4 race with the ease in which you can enter a sportive I think you may find the Amateur race scene starts to flourish. The old club traditions, licences , long apprenteships etc are relevant to a smaller and smaller percentage of cyclists every year and amateur racing needs to find a way of embracing this . Look forward to how it needs to be rather than looking back to the 'traditional' paths.

    Yeah I agree. I think as long as clubs are the ones organising the races that this should be the route you take to take part. But the person who is on the non-club side of cycling doesn't have an easy way of fathoming how they get started or even why they should get involved with clubs. This is something I was very resistant to when I started as I'd had bad experiences with club politics.

    The process of getting into it could be made clearer but there still needs to be some way of getting bunch practice before you pin a number on. If you simply make the path to starting easier without managing it a bit you'll end up with even more people racing before they are ready to do so.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • I certainly don't have all the answers but there are probably almost as many people getting thier group riding experience on sportives now as there are on club runs and there should be a way of welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant. Like I say I don't have the answers but on any summer weekend there are literally thousands of cyclists on sportives (many of them good experienced cyclists) and it would only take a few percent of them to cross into entry level racing for amateur racings fortunes to change very quickly.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,567
    I'll gladly confess to not knowing a great deal about racing, but the impression I got when I briefly looked into it was that few races had anywhere near the kind of routes you often get on a sportive.

    It doesn't really appeal going round a circuit somewhere or time trialling, but if you could throw something in with some climbs then I'd be interested.

    I mean there aren't any races that provide anything remotely similar to (as an example) the Dragon Ride or the Fred is there?
  • I joined a club to get some experience, because i wanted to get into racing, but i was treated like a leper because i wasnt able to keep up with the fast lads, they used to drop me, offer no help at all. In the end i jst didnt botherbut got better and faster, but now wen i am out and see some of thier colours out on road , i jst fly by them leaving them behind and it makes me feel smug, as for experience it put me off cycling clubs and racing
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    issacforce wrote:
    I joined a club to get some experience, because i wanted to get into racing, but i was treated like a leper because i wasnt able to keep up with the fast lads, they used to drop me, offer no help at all. In the end i jst didnt botherbut got better and faster, but now wen i am out and see some of thier colours out on road , i jst fly by them leaving them behind and it makes me feel smug, as for experience it put me off cycling clubs and racing

    This is part of the problem. The first club I joined were a bit similar, it's just a case of finding a club that suits you. They all have their own personality so what's right for one rider isn't necessarily right for the next.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    phreak wrote:
    I'll gladly confess to not knowing a great deal about racing, but the impression I got when I briefly looked into it was that few races had anywhere near the kind of routes you often get on a sportive.

    It doesn't really appeal going round a circuit somewhere or time trialling, but if you could throw something in with some climbs then I'd be interested.

    I mean there aren't any races that provide anything remotely similar to (as an example) the Dragon Ride or the Fred is there?

    There are plenty of road races with climbs in them but thankfully nothing like the Fred where I am. This is my point about the course being the challenge. When you do a race the challenge is against the other riders whereas a sportive is meant to be about a challenging course. Also climbing in a race is a bit different than a sportive. You don't get to dictate the pace and you can't have a wee breather at the top or take it a bit easier because one of your competitors will go hard (oo er) at the top just as you think you've managed to hold on. You might be a bit surprised about the speed at which even a 4th cat race goes up a climb.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • I agree with Isaac. It is the same at running clubs too. It's a shame really but hardly suprising guven that cycling is such a macho, alpha male type sport which will attract a lot if ego's & snobbery & ergo, knobs. It doesn't help new potential club members if this is the feeling they get & also when groups & cliques have already been firmly established.

    Having spent time riding with people belonging to clubs & race too, it is interesting. Although i think i would fare well & can ride in a group well, racing just doesn't interest me, silely for the reason that i get the impression that a lot of the racers take themselves & the race too seriously & come across as a knob.

    Spirtive riding will never resemble a race as there is never any close group riding. Also from what i have been told, races are much more intense & of course much much quicker! I am a competitive person (with myself & against others) but am put of racing sadly as it doesn't sound 'fun', which is why i ride my bike. This is why i ride sportives, they are fun.
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    I agree with Isaac. It is the same at running clubs too. It's a shame really but hardly suprising guven that cycling is such a macho, alpha male type sport which will attract a lot if ego's & snobbery & ergo, knobs. It doesn't help new potential club members if this is the feeling they get & also when groups & cliques have already been firmly established.

    Having spent time riding with people belonging to clubs & race too, it is interesting. Although i think i would fare well & can ride in a group well, racing just doesn't interest me, silely for the reason that i get the impression that a lot of the racers take themselves & the race too seriously & come across as a knob.

    Spirtive riding will never resemble a race as there is never any close group riding. Also from what i have been told, races are much more intense & of course much much quicker! I am a competitive person (with myself & against others) but am put of racing sadly as it doesn't sound 'fun', which is why i ride my bike. This is why i ride sportives, they are fun.

    If you don't want to race that's fine. Nobody's asking you to, you don't need to justify the decision to anyone.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    I come from a running background with a very accessible local scene. Anyone could come along, join a beginners class, get a bit fit and have a go at the local 10k and not worry too much about finishing down the field

    I would not in my wildest dreams attempt a cycling road race which seem to be all about riding very fast in a large group with a real risk of serious injury and sprinting to the finish. It seems very elitist and only suitable for the 'racing snakes' . So pootling around the countryside on a sportive and trying to avoid the same 'racing snakes' as they whizz past me at great speed is all I have as a competitive outlet which I think is very sad...
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    Mikey23 wrote:
    I come from a running background with a very accessible local scene. Anyone could come along, join a beginners class, get a bit fit and have a go at the local 10k and not worry too much about finishing down the field

    I would not in my wildest dreams attempt a cycling road race which seem to be all about riding very fast in a large group with a real risk of serious injury and sprinting to the finish. It seems very elitist and only suitable for the 'racing snakes' . So pootling around the countryside on a sportive and trying to avoid the same 'racing snakes' as they whizz past me at great speed is all I have as a competitive outlet which I think is very sad...

    It isn't competitive though. That's my point. Try cyclocross it doesn't have the elitism that's putting you off and it's actually a race.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 3,830
    I don't really see that there is a conflict between sportives and road racing. Yes there are problems with domestic road racing but I don't think sportives are one of them.

    As for whether sportives are competitive or not - to a large extent they are what people want them to be. Certainly some of the big continental ones are and I'm riding the Fred Whitton this year with a definite target time so I guess I'm riding it competitively. No they aren't competitive in the same way road races are - more like a mass participation running marathon I suppose - but there is an element of competition there.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • I don't see a conflict between racing and Sportives as I do both and enjoy both.

    I get the fact that racing is hard to fathom for some people, it is expensive but the main thing I have found is the level of fitness needed at 4th cat is way higher than I could have comprehended when I started to race whereas a sportive has none of that pressure and can be done at your own pace whether you are "going for a time" or like the fact you are taking part in a mass event with like minded people. Most people who race are not nobs, but do take it seriously as the levels and discipline involved rrquire you to commit.
    I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental when I eat French toast...
  • Brakeless wrote:
    I certainly don't have all the answers but there are probably almost as many people getting thier group riding experience on sportives now as there are on club runs and there should be a way of welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant. Like I say I don't have the answers but on any summer weekend there are literally thousands of cyclists on sportives (many of them good experienced cyclists) and it would only take a few percent of them to cross into entry level racing for amateur racings fortunes to change very quickly.

    In theory there already is a category of races below 4th cat racing, it's called Go-Race which are open to essentially anyone (no race licence required, I think you may need to be a BC member, can't remember) and held on closed circuits.

    I say 'in theory' as they are few and far between, at least in my Region (East Midlands). Just checked and there are 50 on the BC calendar for the season so far, although some of those will probably be kids races.

    The point is that the structure is there if people were prepared to put a race on.
  • My two penneth as a late thirties returner (to road anyway)...

    Not to sure about the idea of confusion between sportives and racing. They strike me as very different animals indeed.

    Without restating what others have said, the route into road racing comes across as downright convoluted and opaque. Clubs don't really appeal for a variety of reasons*, and whilst I'm sure I could find a decent a club (there are plenty around here), the process of finding it would come down to trial and error and that really doesn't float my boat.

    What does surprise me is there seems to be no road racing equivalent of the endless "MTB Skills" courses out there. There are a hell of a lot of individuals and small businesses who'll happily lighten your wallet to give you some pointers as to how to ride down a muddy slope**, but there doesn't seem to be any sort of road race equivalent. Personally, I'd be more than happy to shell out a fair bit for some sort of road racing beginners day course (or series of courses, or "racing experience", or whatever) on a closed circuit, and I suspect I wouldn't be alone in this.

    * My tolerance for politics and cliques is directly proportional to how much I'm being paid to put up with it.

    ** That's being pretty unfair really as I'm sure there are plenty of people who get a lot of benefit from the courses. That said, everything that's being taught can be self taught whilst riding solo in your own time, so they are very much a luxury that quite a few people are willing to part with some potentially quite large sums of money to take part in.
    Mangeur
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 3,830
    I think it would be hard to have a more entry level form of racing than GoRace or 4ths only - a road race doesn't just demand fitness it demands a degree of experience to be safe - if you have that experience then really a 4ths only race isn't physically all that hard (for a male under 50 anyway - I accept that older riders and women have to be relatively that much better to keep up with a 4th cat bunch).

    It'd be like saying lets have entry level boxing - no you need a level of skill before you should go in a ring and the same with road racing. If anyone really lacks the experience and/or fitness for 4ths only or GoRace then take up cyclocross.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • kilokilo Posts: 174
    .. and there should be a way of welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant.... it would only take a few percent of them to cross into entry level racing for amateur racings fortunes to change very quickly.

    Bit of devils advocate here but why should there be a method "welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant". In my area the road races are put on by the clubs and primarily for other club riders, although non club riders can enter- it's a cooperative effort to ensure racing takes place. AFAIK my club makes no money from the road races we run. What is in it for the club in trying to stage races for people who aren't necessarily putting anything back into the sport - we don't really need any more members, we're not going to make any money out of it and it's a great deal of hassle staging a race.

    Is there a problem with amateur racings fortunes? - round here Herne Hill is busy, the Surrey League remains popular and our club and open tt's all got good fields last year
  • kilo wrote:
    .. and there should be a way of welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant.... it would only take a few percent of them to cross into entry level racing for amateur racings fortunes to change very quickly.

    Bit of devils advocate here but why should there be a method "welcoming the experienced non club cyclist into cat 4 races ( or even a new lower 'try racing' type of category) as an individual non affiliated entrant". In my area the road races are put on by the clubs and primarily for other club riders, although non club riders can enter- it's a cooperative effort to ensure racing takes place. AFAIK my club makes no money from the road races we run. What is in it for the club in trying to stage races for people who aren't necessarily putting anything back into the sport - we don't really need any more members, we're not going to make any money out of it and it's a great deal of hassle staging a race.

    Is there a problem with amateur racings fortunes? - round here Herne Hill is busy, the Surrey League remains popular and our club and open tt's all got good fields last year

    The first paragraph of the OPs article is about the lack of growth in amatuer racing compared to the growth of cycling in general. If British Cycling ever decides that it is going to prioritise entry level racing then it will need to look at new ways of attracting participants. There's no reason why race organisers shouldn't be commercial and outside of the traditional club system. I know it's unlikely to happen but amatuer racing is not capitalising on the current situation. How good would it be if the popularity of Amatuer racing became such that counties HAD to provide closed road courses a couple of times a year and there were large fields with loads of Spectators round the course. The Ride london event this year could be a springboard for pressure to be put on other cities and counties to provide closed road courses for both Races and Sportives. Or in ten years time amatuer racing can and probably will be exactly where it is now doing laps of fairly boring courses with no spectater interest and two men and a dog wondering what is going on.
  • It's not clear to me whether you're complaining or simply musing. But let me add my voice to those who don't want to race a race but enjoy testing themselves against others on a challenging course.

    For me, the main appeal of a sportive is the food&water stops. I can (and do) go ride an audax or on my own and I can time myself, but I'm happy to pay for someone to provide a little service on the route. Many cafes are fine but others are a pain when you just want to snatch a banana and fill a bottle. I don't bother with UK events much but the big French events (Marmotte, Etape) are a great day out and something to build a holiday around.

    Notice I used the word event. If you want a road racing revival cycle clubs and British Cycling need to get out and sell themselves. Tell folk why they will enjoy a local club race even more than the Polka Dot - because I don't think most will.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,567
    I'll echo that. I mainly do the European sportives now and combine them with some riding and a bit of a holiday in the region. I'd much rather ride up the Gavia with a thousand or so others than go around a rather non-descript circuit somewhere in Kent a few times.

    Fair play if that's your thing, but it doesn't really appeal to me at all.
  • gsk82gsk82 Posts: 3,144
    Road racing here in Yorkshire (cat 2/3/4) seems to have been on the up the past couple of years. Most of the clubs and teams with racers have their own race and nearly every race sells out.

    To be honest i don't really want more people to start racing. I started about 3 years ago and noticed that the poor riding and subsequently number of crashes increased massively last year. I won't be going anywhere near a closed circuit this year for fear of been wiped out. There's a fair chance i'll stick to my local handicapped TLI league (if a league coordinator comes forward) as the smaller groups are far safer, i'm surrounded by people of similar ability and its far more fun than riding near the front for 48miles just to get swamped into the final corner.

    I have nothing against sportives, i'll probably do more of them this year than BC road races, but people calling them races really makes me shake my head.
    "Unfortunately these days a lot of people don’t understand the real quality of a bike" Ernesto Colnago
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    People, there is no need to get defensive about why you do sportives. If you want to do them that's fine nobody is judging you for it (well I'm not anyway). Road racing doesn't need or want to attract people who don't want to race and prefer sportives for reasons of convenience, friendliness, facilities etc.

    But it does need to be more accessible to people who have a competitive hunger that's not being satiated. Many will give racing a go, get pumped out the back and never come back. That's fine. But some will decide to come back for more because they see in it what a lot of other people do. Some of them will go on to be very good at it. For those people, the path to this end is obscured by some the things I mentioned in the article (and quite a lot more). In some cases it's a lack of clarity but also it's just not talked about in the cycling press so there is no enticement. It's lost in the chatter about numerous, largely similar sportives. A more balanced version of events is necessary in my view.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • dulldave wrote:
    People, there is no need to get defensive about why you do sportives. If you want to do them that's fine nobody is judging you for it (well I'm not anyway). ...

    Then there's no problem but not a lot of point to your post either. Perhaps you should have titled it "Hey, come and try a road race. They're greaattt!".

    Now, if your intent was to highlight confused and inaccurate presentation in the cycle press, that's fine. Though, as with the Daily Mail, all you can do is ignore them and take your custom elsewhere.
    However I think many will have come away with the impression that you feel superior 'cos you're "a racer" and the rest of us are just pretending. Maybe it's your competitive spirit coming through. I know where you're coming from (except those bikes have engines). But we're all enthusiasts having our bit of fun; we just have to accept it as changing taste and fashion.
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    stanthomas wrote:
    dulldave wrote:
    People, there is no need to get defensive about why you do sportives. If you want to do them that's fine nobody is judging you for it (well I'm not anyway). ...

    Then there's no problem but not a lot of point to your post either. Perhaps you should have titled it "Hey, come and try a road race. They're greaattt!".

    Now, if your intent was to highlight confused and inaccurate presentation in the cycle press, that's fine. Though, as with the Daily Mail, all you can do is ignore them and take your custom elsewhere.
    However I think many will have come away with the impression that you feel superior 'cos you're "a racer" and the rest of us are just pretending. Maybe it's your competitive spirit coming through. I know where you're coming from (except those bikes have engines). But we're all enthusiasts having our bit of fun; we just have to accept it as changing taste and fashion.

    Have you even read the article? It doesn't really sound like it or you've chosen to hear what you want to hear. I'm not saying you should try a road race. Do what you want, it's a free country. Honestly I can't see which part of what I've written leads you to believe that I think I'm superior to you. I want the competitive side of the sport to be more visible to those who might want to try it. No amount of my ignoring the press will make that happen.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • To the OP, or anyone else. Is it possible to enter races without being club affiliated. Having got the required licences etc...?

    I think this might be the ideal for me. I rode with some people from a London club recently & they said i was welcome to join & that i would do well if i began racing. Obviously we were staying in the same place in a trip & rode together a fair bit so they trusted me & my riding, aswell as getting on well. The club is quite a way from me so that might be a non starter. However, although i enjoy sportives i am constantly drawn to racing, i am nsturally competitive & i can imagine the adrenaline & buzz would be great. Contradicting myself a bit, but thats just me!
  • dulldavedulldave Posts: 949
    To the OP, or anyone else. Is it possible to enter races without being club affiliated. Having got the required licences etc...?

    I think this might be the ideal for me. I rode with some people from a London club recently & they said i was welcome to join & that i would do well if i began racing. Obviously we were staying in the same place in a trip & rode together a fair bit so they trusted me & my riding, aswell as getting on well. The club is quite a way from me so that might be a non starter. However, although i enjoy sportives i am constantly drawn to racing, i am nsturally competitive & i can imagine the adrenaline & buzz would be great. Contradicting myself a bit, but thats just me!

    Yes you can race without being in a club. In the results you'll be listed as 'unattached' where other's clubs are mentioned. If you like it I recommend joining a club but find one you like first and make sure it suits the type of riding you want to do.

    Just go in there with no expectations other than to enjoy it. You've just made my day.
    Scottish and British...and a bit French
  • Good to hear it! Cool, thanks.

    Think i'll just bite the bullet & see what happens!
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