Sportive vs Road Race

Continuing with our look at sportives, we’ll aim to clear up any confusions around sportives vs road races.


We’ve previously discussed what a exactly a sportive is, so we won’t go into too much detail here. In summary, a sportive is a non competitive, mass participation cycling event.

That emphasised point above, is the key point when you’re thinking about sportives and road races. Even though sportives are often called or thought of as races, they aren’t. Even though you are sometimes timed across the course, it’s not a race. Even though you sometimes get a results list ordered by fastest times, it’s not a race.

A sportive is no more a race, than a marathon is a race. They’re both (often) timed events but like a marathon is not a race in the same way as an 100M sprint, a sportive is not a race either.

Road Race

Road racing at the Ride London Classic

Road racing at the Ride London Classic

Road races differ to sportives in that they are very definitely competitive events. There are certain regulations surrounding road races, they often require insurance or membership to cycling organisations like British Cycling.

There are also many different types of road races. Some are held on open roads while some are on closed roads. Some road races are from one place to another, like many of the professional races you might see on TV, while others are multiple laps of a circuit (criterium races).

In a road race, everyone starts at the same (specified) time and they go off together. Sometimes small groups escape from the main pack (peloton) but typically there is a large group riding the course together.

Road races are open for riders of different abilities (categories). Some races might be for beginners while others are for more advanced racers.

Sportive vs Road Race

So as we’ve discussed, even though sportives are sometimes thought of as races, they are not technically races.

It’s fine, and fairly normal, to try and ride a sportive quickly, aiming for a specific time. However, It’s not a race so don’t do anything unsafe in the name of speed.

Road races are a different beast and require specific training and experience to ride safely. Sportives are not as demanding and most moderately fit cyclists should be fine riding them.

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