Sportives vs. official races / state of cycling

In the latest GCN Germany show, there was a discussion about why the number of participants in sportives are exploding while official races struggle to get 20 startes at times, especially in the junior categories.
I’d like to hear from people living in other countries how sportives are ridden vs. official races, how the racing scene works there and how the state of cycling is in general.
For Germany, I can say if you want to start in a official race, you have to get a licence and for that you will most likely have to be in a cycling club and the vast majority of official races are crits on small circuits. Sportives often come together with a pro race and are on closed roads on loops that cover the key elements of the pro race. They are ridden like a proper race by a lot of people and there are even teams with helpers along the road handing in bottles. The cycling scene has completely exploded after the doping scandals and public interest is completely gone. Only in the last years you can see a bit of change but I would not bet on that.
From the Brits, I’d like to hear how the TT and hill climb scene there work? From what I understood from YouTube videos, you can just show up at a local TT with whatever bike and give it a go and the hill climb scene seems to be similar.
Hope to get a lot of replies to learn what’s going on elsewhere.


@chris.rides.mtb I loved the club TT scene when I was still in the UK. It was so accessible. Having said that, from what I have read it has been struggling recently.

Since I moved to Germany 20 years ago, TT‘s are basically UCI compliant bikes only and that’s if you can find one. I ride some of the sportive series around where I live - no closed roads, just a few hundred cyclists rocking up for some fun.


Agree with @Kicikacsa about TT’s in the UK, it is struggling too. They seem to be reinventing it to be more accessible (road bike versions). I think a lot of it is down to the fastest courses being banned/closed. Most people lose interest when they know they will never get a PB.

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Good question Chris. It’s been a while since I lived in the UK, so will leave that for others to answer. In the US, it seems like road racing is dead, even pro stages (Amgen ToC stopped) are done.

If you check out what Legion of LA (Justin Williams) is doing, they are reinventing crit racing.

That said, for mortal cyclists, it looks like Fondo’s are doing well. Belgian Waffle Ride is expanding massively as has GFNY in previous years. I don’t think you need a license to ride a Fondo here (I don’t remember getting on for when I did Haute Route 2018), but it is EXPENSIVE. At least $200 for entry and you do not get much (no jersey, maybe a beer and medal).

The cost of amateurs participating in Fondo’s seems to provide incentives for organisers to invite pros and former pros (Phil Gaimon seems to ride them all). The purse is pretty lucrative for winning a Fondo.

Interesting how different things are in different parts of the world. I think the winner in the Eschborn-Frankfurt sportive (time 2:35!) won a helmet or something like that. There ist absolutely nothing in it but on the other hand it doesn’t cost much. (60 Euros)
I guess the big concetration on crits here is because they are easier and cheaper to organise but you won’t necessarily find your GC champion there.

I do know that a number of the UK club TT course got banned due to the number of accidents with vehicles. Take the A50 which Uttoxeter used to use and Stoke I believe. The road is so much bustier these days and I seem to remember a few accidents which ended in riders getting killed.

I also remember another TT where a rider went head first through the rear screen of a car that had parked just over the brow of a hill on the road.

Hill climbs seem to be easier as these often are smaller country roads where the can be closed for the event.

Races vs sportives. Sportives are on open roads not a race so don’t require the same marshalling or insurance. I think Races require Police involvement which costs.

I do also know that a so called group ride organised by a local bike shop in my parents village didn’t go down well as they completely blocked the centre stopping cars and even pedestrians from getting up and down the village. Especially at the start time when they had all lined up across the road blocking all traffic then riding towards on coming cars on the wrong side of the road. In other words as the shop has a race team all the riders were treating the mass shop group ride for the team and customers as a race.

This is nuts. Some varied different stuff goes on around the world.

Didn’t realise it varied this much!