Why Enter The Classic?
10. Because you are NOT a racer: These are rides that you can choose to do at your own pace, with friends or training partners, yet experience the look, feel and atmosphere of a pro race. The course is hard, and so a true challenge, but that’s what cycling is all about. And if new to the sport, you are guaranteed to learn some great cycling lessons from the more experienced riders around you. These rides are a real step up from a normal century ride, allowing competitive juices to flow in an inclusive and friendly manner without the cut and thrust of a true race. Perfect for the enthusiast rider looking for a new goal and fitness test. No “spandex meanies” allowed!
9. Because you ARE a racer: One of the problems confronted by developing riders in the U.S. is that there are not enough long and hard road races for them to do. A good GF/Sportif provides all the hard training one could wish for, and in a competitive atmosphere that makes the miles flow by. Strong new riders can find themselves in groups with experienced ones and learn terrific lessons on road riding. Seeing hundreds of riders dropped behind you is great for morale too. Many European Continental teams do GF/Sportif rides when their racing schedules are light in order to keep the rhythm of racing and get a stress-free and deep workout. You tend to really go for it on these rides.
8. So that you can confidently tell your riding partners the difference between a Gran Fondo and a Cyclosportif: In fact there is none…a Cyclosportif (Sportif, Cyclosportive, Cyclo…) is what these timed rides are called north of the Alps. Our Sparta Cyclosportif events, for example, have more of a northern European atmosphere. But, just in the same way that the French invented the concept of the Grand Tour before the Italians did (le Tour predates the Giro by six years) Cyclosportif events are the original form. Famous Cyclos include La Marmotte, L’Étape du Tour and the Ardechoise, as well as the Verenti Dragon Ride Wales.
7. It’s the best excuse to get some new equipment: You’ve trained for your event and you want to make sure that everything is clean, working and reliable. So why not get that pair of special shorts you’ve been looking at, or even go crazy on a set of light wheels. A new chain and cassette (well tested the week before the ride!), new tires (25mm is what everyone wants these days) and brake blocks will make an older bike feel great and, more importantly, safe and road worthy.
6. Having a big goal will focus your riding and training: Whether beginning rider or old pro, it’s fun to prepare for a big event. One tends to watch diet and habits more closely, each training ride has real purpose, and the excitement of feeling improved fitness as the event approaches is one of the most satisfying aspects of sport.
5. You will experience a true professsional racecourse: Our Sparta races have always been famous for their beautiful and selective race courses (Ask any pro). From the Univest Grand Prix to the Housatonic Valley Classic and the Litchfield stages of the Tour of Connecticut, not to mention the U.S Open of Cycling from Williamsburg to Richmond, we know pro racing and how to make true European-style races. A proper Cyclosportif/Gran Fondo has a memorable course. We’ve taken our 20 years of pro race course design experience and brought it to the enthusiast cycling market.
4. You will be supporting the American development of the fastest growing aspect of the sport: In the UK and Continental Europe, the GF/Cyclo format has become enormously popular, with big rides of 1,000 to 10,000 being sold out quickly. Early registration for the London-Paris filled in less than two minutes…. We are just getting going in the U.S with this new direction, and the thought of a year-round vibrant GF/Cyclo circuit is tantalizing.
3. They are an excellent way to get kids into cycling: A Cyclosportif ride is done in safe, traffic-controlled conditions, and offer young persons the chance to ride, in a semi-competitive event, without the sometime forbidding and off-putting atmosphere of the racing world.
2. They are GREAT for the local economy: Large cycling manifestations like GF/Cyclosportif rides are wonderful for the general acceptance of cycling in society. Host towns and cities reap strong economic impact, local citizens see hundreds of happy cyclists staying fit, and young people see cycling as being “cool.” It’s legal critical mass.
1. Most of all, they are FUN and FULFILLING: On a personal note, I became serious about cycling again in 2011 and rode a combination of races and Cyclosportif rides including London – Paris and the Gran Fondo Philadelphia. As much as I love racing, and still do, I found Cyclosportif rides the more satisfying. One could go really hard and long, but at the same time there was camaraderie. I was able to help some newer riders – who were delighted with the advice – and really get that old road race feeling in my body.
Whether you are a century rider looking for something more, or a hard-bitten racer who just wants more, these events have what you are looking for. Do give one a try, I promise you will be delighted with the result. -John Eustice