How do you define "races"?

We are all talking about the “races” that we are training for, and I just wondered how people are defining “races”. I’m in the UK and there’s lot’s of different types of mass participation cycling events, not all of which are “races”. For example we have TT’s, road races, crits, sportives, “fondos”, reliability trials etc. The list goes on, and that’s just on the road.

What do folk actually mean when they talk about training for a “race”?

Sorry if this is a bit pedantic, but it can often make it a little easier to offer more tailored advice if we know that we are all talking about the same thing. For example, someone entering a 100km sportive will not neccessarily need that much top end punch, but someone doing a 100km road race will…

A race will have some sort of recognition for the top performers. Be it the overall, or age group, male vs female, etc… An organized event without that is really just a supported ride. Those are not bad, and there are some around here which are really fun, but they are definitely not races.


When there is a defined start and finish and everyone knows there is a defined start and finish and the goal is to cross the finish first/best time.


This will be my first year actually signing up and participating in these kinds of things. I thought a lot before I started signing up about setting my expectations correct for each one. What I came up for myself was:

  • A “Race” is something I am going to put my best effort towards actually placing well against others.
  • An “Event” is something I am going to participate in where I am only competing with myself. There are some I’m signing up for where I want to work hard and do my best, but have no expectation to try to win. There are others I just want to get out there and do because the atmosphere around them is something I want to experience.

This is just my take of how I view them for myself.

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For what it’s worth, I’m with @Landis on this.

This was actually one of my only gripes with the TrainerRoad podcast - they seem to define a race as something much broader than I would. Took me a while to get used to how they use the language.

For me, a race is a field at an event (most likely with a sanctioning body) where everyone participating in that field is trying to win or help a teammate to win. This is, I recognize, a very narrow definition. It means when I sign up for a local charity ride or gran fondo with timed segments I don’t think of it as a race, it means when I go do a huge mass start event like one of the MS fund-raising rides I don’t think of it as a race.

I think this difference is most stark when you talk about events with non-cyclists or non-racers. For instance - plenty of people go and ‘race’ a 5k or 10k - but really they are not doing what I would consider racing - only about 25-50 people are actually racing these events.

The TrainerRoad podcast guys have a much more inclusive definition - they include gravel grinders where people are aiming to finish - think Dirty Kanza or Leadville


A race is sanctioned by a governing body, has either road closures or a police lead car for each field, has upgrade points for results, and officials present (either on site or on motorcycles).

A TT is a race if it is sanctioned and has officials present. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of folks doing a 10mi/40k/whatever test.

Everything else is just a fast ride with a group of your best friends and/or enemies.

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An easy way to simplify this mentally is by categorizing all of your “events” as A, B and C races. Then, they are all categorized as Races, but they are sorted according to importance.

For example, perhaps the Road Racing State Championship is your A race. Or a stage race you want to peak for. Your A races(s) will be the race(s) that you primarily base your training on.

Then, you have B races. These events are races or events of lower importance, such as gravel races, road races, TT’s etc.

Lastly, you have C races. These are the least important types of event, and they could include fondos, weekly race-rides, or any other event where you will be riding hard, but the result is not of utmost importance to you.

You can also categorize your races in your Calendar using this terminology to help keep your goal events prioritized :slight_smile:

Hope this helps!


For me, it’s a race if there are license points to be won and you’re pinning a number on your back.

Everything else is miles and smiles.

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Hi Andy, I don’t think this will ever happen - there has been the ongoing argument in the cycling community since before I got into it and it shows no sign of going away.

Some people will always think sportives are races…there’s just no helping them! :wink: :joy:

It’s difficult to pin down but I think there are a couple of general categories which account for the intention of the organisers or the intention of the riders.

I agree with @Landis above - there are sportives/fondos/gravel events which are timed and which a selection of riders will ‘race’ simply because there is a line to cross and timing. Equally there will be participants of licensed races who are just there to take part.

I did L’etape du Tour last year and I wouldn’t call it a race (15,000 participants set off in waves, but still timed) as I was just out there to finish and try to enjoy myself. There are riders who go to these events and they race hard to be the first over the line, often young aspiring pros who put down exceptional times - tell them it’s not a race.

The same event can be a ride or a race depending on the participant and their perception of what they are doing.

I used to get pretty wound up by people calling sportives or TTs ‘races’. I realised that it was mostly because I felt like road racing was the pinnacle of bike events and using the word ‘race’ to describe other types of event diminished the status of racing.

I was being a bit of an arse.


I think in the trainerroad calendar world races are purely rides/events/races that you are planning on achieving some sort of physiological level or peak for.

My A race this year is strictly defined as not a “race” by the organiser. There are upper and lower time limits set on the finishing time. The lower time limit will in effect slow faster riders down if they want to complete the event.


I race ‘everything’. A lot of local stuff is tagged as a sportive or ‘reliability trial’ because it might use public roads or rights of way and therefore cannot be categorised as a race without going through the governing body etc. But that doesn’t stop a ‘lot’ of the riders pushing to finish high up the pack.

‘A’ race is something I plan my training around, ‘B’ race is something that I will modify a workout or two around to keep fresh, ‘C’ race I just throw into the mix.

I have a C race tomorrow but I’m doing mcadie +1 today…


If I finish any ride ahead of my buddies, it was a race.

If I finish behind them, it was a group ride :slight_smile:


I do gravel grinders that are very much races at the front - pro’s and ex-pro’s are racing each other very hard for real podium spots.

And while many like to say the rest of the hundreds (or thousands even) of riders are just there to “ride” it and survive, for me anyway I disagree. I’m still racing myself, the course, and even the people right around me near the finish line for 325th vs. 326th!

It’s a race for me because I treat it like a race.

You’re free to ride next to me and call it whatever you want.


I totally agree with @dbf. Race vs. ride is a mindset thing for the 99% of us that aren’t contesting the win at things like Epic Rides events or DK. If you’re chilling at aid stations and chatting with people along the way, sounds like a nice ride. If you’re planning your season around it and turning yourself inside out to do the best you can do, that’s a race even if there’s no prize at the end.


That’s why I love CX. You are chasing the guy in front and trying to stay away from the guy behind. Doesn’t matter where you are!


Pedantically, a “race” would only be a timed event that is sanctioned by a recognized governing body (e.g., UCI, USAC, ITU, NICA, etc.). But does that really matter?

I no longer “race”, but I do do events (e.g., Haute Route, Gran Fondos, getting into Gravel this year) that I treat (how I train, how I approach the event, how I ride the event) as “races”.

At the end of the day, what does it matter how pedantically or not we limit what a “race” is?

As @dbf said “It’s a race for me because I treat it like a race.”


A Race - important to me for whatever reason. Do a full taper beforehand.
B Race - somewhat import so do some tapering to keep fresh
C Race - no taper just replace that day’s workout