Highclere Sportive races into trouble

When does a sportive become a race?

Organisers of one of the UK’s most popular sportives, the Highclere Castle Victor Ludorum, scheduled to run this weekend were yesterday accused of “stepping over the line” that divides a race from a sportive. So, when does a Sportive become a race? When you start awarding prizes based on a rider’s time according to British Cycling which is exactly what the event website was doing until late yesterday afternoon when British Cycling stepped in to resolve the situation.


Amongst the prizes on offer to riders at the Highclere were:

“The Male 200km Victor Ludorum: Male cyclist that achieves the most minutes gained under the gold standard from all age categories.

Female 200km Victor Ludorum:

Female cyclist that achieves the most minutes gained under the gold standard from all age categories.

Male and Female 120km Victor Ludorum:

Male and Female cyclist that achieves the most minutes gained under the gold standard from all age categories.”

There were also team awards and an inter-services challenge.

However, as members of the BikeRadar forum pointed out many of these prizes were on offer last year too, with no repercussions from either British Cycling or IACO.

There are two problems for anyone taking part in a sportive that is actually a race: first, if all or part of the event takes place on a public road the police might simply ban it; and second, if the event is insured with British Cycling as a sportive but actually meets BC’s definition of a race, the organiser’s insurance will be void. That’s something which could have serious implications for any participant involved in an accident.

Responding to the complaints, both British Cycling and the Independent Association of Cyclosportive Organisers (IACO) were adamant that if they remained on offer, the prizes made the Highclere Sportive a race. British Cycling went on to confirm that the organization would then have removed its endorsement of the event and that the organiser’s insurance would have been void.

Today’s events underline the increasingly competitive nature of the sportive scene in the UK, not only amongst riders but also amongst organisers.

According to British Cycling’s Events Manager, Andy Cook an event in which riders complete a challenging course in a pre-determined time is not a race. This would seem to allow the publication of rider times, even in chronological order – something which caused comment in the case of the recent Fred Whitton Challenge.

Accoding to Cook an event only becomes a race when prizes based on a rider’s time are awarded which is why, he says, the Highclere Ludorum went too far.


This morning the offending prizes had been removed from the Highclere site and British Cycling issued a statement saying they were now satisfied that the Highclere Victor Ludorum was once again a sportive and not a race. Entries for the event close today (5 June) at 6pm.