When is a race not a race? When it is a Cyclosportif!

By Brian Ignatin

If you’d like to experience a day in the life of a pro cyclist without the elbow-throwing mayhem of a field sprint or without a cigar-chompingBelgian Team Director screaming at you out of a car window, then perhaps you should try a Cyclosportif.

Cyclosportif is a Euopean term for organized, mass-participation, timed recreational cycling events .A Cyclosportif falls between a traditional road race and anon-competitive ride such as a charity ride or century.

Typically held annually, Cyclosportif participants experience the organization, atmosphere, and challenges of a pro event, while ridingwith friends, at their own pace.They get to ride through the barricades, past the announcers, andacross the finish line, with spectators lining the entire course.

Though not races in the traditional sense, Cyclosportif riders wear racenumbers and timing chips, so finishing times can be recorded. Thereis usually an upper time limit within which the course must becompleted, and the front runners are often competing for exclusiveprizes.

The courses are challenging, and frequently take place on courses thatcomprise classic professional races, often featuring mountains, longclimbs, or other difficult conditions.Depending on the event, roads may be closed or open to normalvehicular traffic, but most courses are well marked and/or marshaled.Riders are able to use feed zones positioned along the route;mechanical and medical support are also provided.

Cyclosportifs are cycling’s equivalent of running’s marathon; as with the 26-milerunning event, rather than racing other participants, cyclosportifriders challenge themselves in a personal battle against the course, thedistance, and ultimately the clock.While some faster riders often push the pace, the majority ofparticipants are typically happy to complete the distance within theallotted time.

Some Cyclosportifs attract thousands ofparticipants- L’Etape du Tour, held each July over a mountainous stageof that particular year’s Tour de France, offers places to 8,500riders. The AmstelGold Race and Ronde van Vlaanderen offer Cyclo Sportifs of varyingdifferences over the race route, the day before the professional race.

While there are hundreds ofCyclosportifs each year in Europe, there is only one held in the US, theUnivest Grand Prix Cyclosportif is held in nearby Souderton, PA.2008 marks the 11th year of the event, and will beheld on September 6th. For more information, see www.cyclosportif.com

BrianIgnatin is a new PFW member. He finished 1299th out of 8500 in the 2007 L’Etapedu Tour.Brian is the Cyclosportif Director of the 2008 UnivestGrand Prix to be held on September 6, 2008. Look for details to beposted on the Events Page here soon.