Types of Cycling Events in France
In France, racing is different from cyclosport, which is different from cyclotouring.
To race in France, you must have an international racing license from your country's racing federation or a license issued by the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) to participate in FFCT or UCI races, a license from the Union Française des Oeuvres Laiques d'Education Physique (UFOLEP) to participate in UFOLEP races, or a license from the Fédération Sportive et Gymnique du Travail (FSGT) to participate in their races. You can find information about races in France by contacting these organizations or the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
A cyclosport ride is mass start and each rider is timed. There are check points, food stops, and individual awards. Cyclosport rides are often part of a season-long series, with series awards. People do these rides like a race, and sometimes the pros participate if they are not racing that day. There may be a choice of distances, but usually not. Typical distances are 150-200+ km (100-120 miles).
For cyclosport events, any license or no license is OK, but people with no license or licenses other than FFC, UFOLEP, or FSGT must provide a recent letter from a doctor saying they are fit enough to do the ride.
You can find information about cyclosport events in cycling magazines published in France. In particular, Cyclo Passion has announcements, articles, and results of cyclosport events.
Rallyes and Randonnées
A Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme (FFCT) rallye or randonnée is a one-day event. It is like a century in that the organizing club usually offers a choice of distances, anywhere from 50 to 200+ km (30-120 miles). When you register, you get a map and a ride card, but I have never seen sag support. There are contrôles where they stamp your ride card and have food and drinks. There is usually food at the end of the ride. There is a range of start times, for example 8-9:30 a.m., so there is no mass start, and they don't time the riders. The organizing club gives awards, usually trophy cups, to the club with the most riders, most women participants, etc.
You don't need an FFCT license for randonnées and rallyes organized by an FFCT member club, but the entry fee is less if you have one. Typical entry fees are 15ff with an FFCT license, 25 or 30ff without a license.
A randonnée permanente usually has several stages that you do at your own speed and on your own schedule. When you register, the organizer provides a route sheet and a ride card, which you have stamped at designated places along the route. When you have finished all the stages, you send the completed card to the organizer, who sends you an acknowledgment of completion.
The FFCT administers the brevets, and you must have an FFCT license to participate.
Brevets are a good way to see France on your own. There are no fixed routes, no set program, no time constraints. You set your own itinerary and have your ride card stamped at designated locations, usually cafés, post offices, or city halls in the towns through which you ride, to prove that you were there. When your ride card is full, you send it to the FFCT, which keeps a record of your achievements. When you have completed an entire brevet, the FFCT rewards you with a diploma and a medal.
Le Brevet Cyclotouriste Nationale (BCN)
To complete this brevet, you must obtain a stamp from each governmental department in France, a project that can last many years. Each ride card has 10 blank spaces. When a card is filled, you can send it to the FFCT, which starts keeping records of your BCN. As of October, 1997, 450 people have completed the BCN.
Le Brevet des Provinces Français (BPF)
A French province is made up of one or more governmental departments. This brevet requires you to have your ride card stamped at six designated locations per department. The FFCT has chosen locations that are interesting from a tourist's point of view: historic architecture, a village typical of the region, monuments, etc. Each card has six blank spaces, thus one card per department.
For the FFCT's record-keeping purposes, each province is independent, and you receive a medal when you have completed all the departments in a province. As with the BCN, completing the BPF can occupy much of a cycling lifetime. As of October, 1997, 180 people have visited the 540 sites necessary to complete the tour of the 36 provinces. You can participate in the BCN and BPF at the same time.
Diagonales de France
These rides link the six points of the hexagon that is France: Dunkerque, Strasbourg, Menton, Perpignan, Hendaye, Brest, for a total of nine diagonals. An average diagonal represents 300 kilometers of riding per day for three to five days. The rules for completing the Diagonales are more rigid that those for the brevets, and include time limits.
Within the FFCT there exists a group called l'Amicale des Diagonalistes de France, which produces its own newsletter, Bulletin de l'Amicale des Diagonalistes de France.
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