Sportives are long distance organised events, the cycling equivalent of running the marathon, which involve completing a set route within a particular time limit. Sportive events typically range from anywhere between 50 and 150 miles and, although at their most popular in summer, there are events run all year round. Sportive routes usually take in the most challenging roads in their area, with long, steep climbs and descents, testing all round bike riding skills rather than flat out speed.

The most famous sportive event is L'Etape du Tour, which takes thousands of riders over the hardest mountain stage of the Tour de France. Other famous sportive events include the La Marmotte in the French Alps and the Raid Pyrenee. In Italy sportives are referred to as Gran Fondos, a term which as also been used on some UK based sportives.

A typical Sportive might include transponder timing, generous feedstations, breakdown recovery and a fully signed route, perhaps with GPS downloads of the route also available. Many events have multiple route options, Small, Medium and Large' routes, meaning that the whole event is attractive to a wide range of riders. The Sportive phenomenon is now well established with events ranging from 3000+ rider sell-outs right down to events with only a couple of hundred participants. This gives the options to riders of doing the event for the camaraderie and thrill of being part of a huge group of riders (sometimes on fully closed roads) or of simply finding a part of the countryside that they might not otherwise think of riding in.

Sportives are a great way of challenging yourself, learning about road riding and getting fit, and can be a great stepping stone into grass roots Road Racing. Take a few moments to look through the Sportive section of the British Cycling website, read the hints and tips about riding one, find local events and read the stories and press releases of upcoming events and find out how the British Cycling "Ride" membership is specifically geared towards participants in these events.

More: The Sportive Bike - Advice on bike choice for sportive events.

More: Sportive Riding Tips - Tactical advice for sportive riders.

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