Sportive clash forces postponement of Bristol South Road Race as police refuse permit

A "rare occurrence," says British Cycling, but with more sportives on the calendar could it become a more regular one?

by Simon_MacMichael   March 13, 2012  

Blenheim Sportive 7

The Bristol South Road Race, initially scheduled be held on Sunday 22 April 2012, has been moved to Sunday 27 May after police refused a permit because the original date clashed with the Mario Cipollini Gran Fondo taking place the same weekend.

With new sportives continually being added to the calendar, and not requiring a permit, the forced postponement underlines the need for organisers of new events to conduct thorough research beforehand to ensure they do not clash with established ones on the calendar.

In the case of the Bristol South Road Race and the Mario Cipollini Gran Fondo, the issue is that both events were due to pass through Bishop Sutton on the same day. Since the sportive did not require a permit, Avon & Somerset Constabulary was unable to stop it from following that route, so instead a permit was refused for the road race.

A spokesman for British Cycling told "With the current situation of road races requiring police authorisation but sportives not, such date clashes can occur although it must be stressed that this is an extremely rare occurrence.

“Clear communications and effective sharing of information between organisers and the authorities is required to ensure this remains the case."

In the UK, road racing was illegal until the Cycle Racing on the Highways Regulations 1960 came into force. That legislation, as subsequently amended, continues to apply today, and imposes a number of what are termed ‘standard conditions’ as well as further conditions that police may impose.

The latter can often be an issue of contention, with the approach taken varying from force to force, and British Cycling has an ongoing campaign, Keep Racing on the Roads, which seeks to have the law updated, achieve consistent and reasonable costs of policing, and which addresses other issues such as marshalling and signs.

Under current British Cycling rules, clubs, associations and other organisations planning road races are required to apply at least eight weeks in advance to their local region, which then applies to the Chief Constable of the area concerned (in practice, a police officer appointed to act on his or her behalf) with information including the route, timings and number of competitors.

To avoid sportives being classified as road races and therefore be subject to those rules, including the requirement to obtain a permit – although police and other relevant authorities do of course need to be notified that it is taking place – organisers are not permitted to introduce any competitive element.

That includes not being allowed to rank finishers in time order, who instead can be listed alphabetically, nor can prizes be awarded to those completing the course in the quickest times.

Failure to do so can result in the event’s insurance being rendered invalid, and terms and conditions of entry, as well as publicity about events, typically highlights the non-competitive nature of the ride.

That is made abundantly clear on the website of the Mario Cipollini Gran Fondo, with mention of the provision of timing chips, for example, underlining that entrants should “please keep in mind that the event is non-competitive and we don’t reward fastest times or such like.”


11 user comments

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So what about all the sportives that award goody bags and suchlike for gold/silver/bronze times? Is there a legal grey area, or is it that these always have a permit?

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
13th March 2012 - 12:32


Don't think that 'road racing was illegal until the Cycle Racing on the Highways Regulations 1960'?

Think it was just never clarified in law - as obviously races took place before then with cooperation/knowledge of the police.

posted by stevboss [19 posts]
13th March 2012 - 12:59


@notfastenough - gold, silver, bronze are broad enough that they don't fall foul of the rules (but obviously you can't start dishing out prizes to first people home in each category for example)

@steveboss - see The Cycling Silk's blog entry which provides a brief overview of the legal background

This article on the British Cycling website is particularly informative:

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9517 posts]
13th March 2012 - 14:52

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@Simon - thanks for the clarification. If you were organising a road race, you would be fairly miffed at the prospect that anyone suddenly coming up with a sportive on the same date could automatically leapfrog your best-laid plans and cause you to postpone.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
13th March 2012 - 15:53

1 Like

So a pretend race stops a real race Sad

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
13th March 2012 - 21:29

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@Simon - thanks for the links. But they support what I say in that racing on the road wasn't ever 'illegal'. The ban was largely self-imposed by the National Cyclists' Union (NCU) for fear of bicycles, let alone races, themselves being banned from the road.

There were plenty of road races from 1942 onwards until the 1960 Act.

Er, but I'm being a pedant, so I'll shut up now Wink

posted by stevboss [19 posts]
14th March 2012 - 12:32


I photographed a sportive last year that had a race going on at the same time and didn't seem to make much difference, we had another in Wales too with a RR finishing at the top of hill that had a sportive grinding up at the same time.

posted by SportivePhoto [1 posts]
15th March 2012 - 14:26


TheHatter wrote:
So a pretend race stops a real race Sad

Surprise Yeah It seems pretty unfair that any last minute sportive will have priority over a real race.

Paulo's picture

posted by Paulo [112 posts]
15th March 2012 - 15:07


Was going to use Cipo as my lead out. Plan foiled!

posted by alwaysapleasure [17 posts]
15th March 2012 - 22:03


But also. The situation is pretty ridiculous. Even more so when you read the information on their website. Gourmet feed zone.....

posted by alwaysapleasure [17 posts]
15th March 2012 - 22:05


What on earth difference does it make if it's a "race" or a "sportive"? The fast guys are going to try and "win", and the rest of us will do our best and enjoy a day out.

Seems an utterly stupid and unnecessary distintion, at least to me...

posted by mogrim [47 posts]
16th March 2012 - 19:49

1 Like