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Audax & Sportives
Since the Etape du Tour gained popularity in France and Gran Fondos became regular targets for ambitious riders in Italy, the Sportive scene in the UK has been growing fast. There are now Sportive events most weekends throughout the Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Typical distances will be between 100 and 200km, usually with a significant amount of climbing included. These events are attractive for a wide variety of entrants: road racers, club cyclists, hardriders, and even "non-cyclists" looking for a good sporting challenge.
In 2007, Reading CC riders entered most of the popular Sportive events, with around 15 riders taking part in the Grand Fondo Cymru, several recording Gold standard times. Reading members were also active in the Autumn Epic, Tour of the Cotswolds and many others throughout the year, We also promoted our own Sportive, with a spectacular route through the Berkshire downs.
Audax has existed as a branch of the sport in the UK for many years, but has always had something of a niche appeal to long distance riders - for example only having officially dropped the requirement for mudguards and lights in the last few years. These days Audax events are much more accessible for the casual rider, notable for being comparatively cheap to enter compared to Sportives, and usually offering well planned and challenging routes, typically from 100km up to 600km monsters. The main difference between Audaxes and Sportives is that Audaxes don't usually have signposted routes but rely on riders reading a route card, don't provide any food/drink on the ride itself (although there's usually food available at the finish), and typically don't publish results in finishing order.
Nick Crocker, Ant Maynard and Rory West set the pace in the Highclere Sportive