Explainers Features

The rough guide to racing in France

Everything you need to know about the men's amateur racing scene in France

We’ve worked with Rayner Foundation rider Charlie Paige to produce this essential guide to the men’s amateur racing scene in France.

The French ‘amateur’ racing scene has helped produce some of the best professional riders in the world. There is a long history of British riders moving to France in a bid to become a professional and to what is known to some as joining the ‘French Légion étrangère’. The likes of Philippa York (born Robert Millar), David Millar, Dan Martin and Adam Yates all spent time racing for amateur race teams in France before turning professional.

The levels of organisation and resource behind some so-called amateur teams in France dwarfs that of some UCI Continental teams

When discussing racing in France, I always hesitate to use the word ‘amateur’. It might be classified as amateur racing by the UCI and the French Cycling Federation (FFC), but with top-tier DN1 teams required to have a minimum budget of 250,000 euros – and some teams having seven-digit budgets – it is far from being amateur. It is not unreasonable to argue, therefore, that the levels of organisation and resource behind some so-called amateur teams in France dwarfs that of some UCI Continental teams, including those in the UK.

This guide is designed as an explainer for riders and fans alike of the terminology and classifications of the amateur racing scene in France. It highlights the key races, lists the British riders racing in France in 2021, and provides some top tips and useful links.

Adam Yates (centre) lines up at the Tour de Bretagne for CC Étupes in 2013. Photo: Petro

Rider categories

The UK has a points system which organises amateur riders into 5 categories: 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st and Elite. Races then are set up for riders of each category. In France, there are three categories: 3eme (3rd), 2eme (2nd) and 1eme (1st). Additionally, the junior categories also work the same way, as juniors in France have their own national series and races, but are allowed to race in senior races depending on their categories.

Categories are not based on a points system but are paid for by the club or individual (if not in a team). This means that if you are over 19 years old you are able to purchase a licence of your choice. However, if going into your first year as a senior you have to have a set amount of FFC points or UCI points (if a foreign rider).

The French amateur racing scene does not have any separate under-23 (espoir) races apart from the under-23 national championships. This means that both the espoirs and seniors race together, but they do usually have a separate maillot blanc (white jersey) competition for under-23s. Alongside this, Directvelo (the French equivalent of VeloUK) has a separate espoirs points leaderboard, where points are given for race results. In addition, France also has several under-23 UCI races, including the Ronde de L’Isard and Paris-Tours Espoirs.

Charlie Paige. Photo: Talia Spiandorello


Race classifications

As in the UK, there are several tiers of race classifications in France. Within each race classification, there will be a wide array of races including stage races, one-day races, time trials and criteriums.

Race classificationClassDescriptionEligible teams
Coupe de France1.12.1
The national race series
Split into three divisions
(DN1, DN2, DN3)
Very prestigious
More info below
DN1 teams only for DN1 Coupe de France races
DN2 teams only for DN2 Coupe de France races
DN3 teams only for DN3 Coupe de France races
Elite Nationale1.12.1
National races of varying prestige
Some races will attract France’s best teams
Others will be more regionally focused
French UCI Conti teams
Foreign UCI Conti teams (for French 1st cat riders)
French national team
Foreign elite teams (max 4)
French teams: 1st and 2nd cat riders only
Mixed teams (stage races only)
Epreuve nationale en circuit fermé1.40National races with circuits less than 3km As above, except 1st, 2nd and 3rd cat riders can participate
Also referred to as ‘toute categories’ races
Tend to be regional elite races
Similar in level to a Nat B in the UK
1st, 2nd & 3rd cat riders
‘Open Pass’ riders
2nd & 3rd cat riders
‘Open Pass’ riders
3-Juniors 1.25.2
3rd cat riders
‘Open Pass’ riders
Départementale 1.27
These are for less competitive amateurs, first-time racers & vets‘Open Pass’ riders

With the exception of the Coupe de France, participation in these races is not contingent on your team’s divisional rank (DN1, DN2, DN3, etc.), meaning riders from different divisions race against each other throughout the year. However, the bigger Elite Nationale races tend to have a higher percentage of top division teams and vice versa.

The Coupe de France

The Coupe de France is the most prestigious amateur race series in France. The cup is divided into three divisions, which I have already discussed (DN1, DN2 and DN3). Throughout the year, the teams in each division will come together for a series of races across France, the format usually being two one-day races, a tour and a team time trial. At each round riders will be able to score points that accumulate throughout the race series. The individuals and teams with the most points over the season are crowned the divisional Coupe de France champions for their respective divisions.

Rounds of the Coupe de France 2021


Round 1. 27 Mar – Grand Prix de Saint-Étienne Loire
Round 2. 22-25 Apr – Tour de Saône-et-Loire
Round 3. 02 May – Chrono 47
Round 4. 07 Sep – Grand Prix de la ville de Fougères


Round 1. 07-09 May – Boucles Nationales du Printemps
Round 2. 15 May – Trophée Gustave Beignon (TTT)
Round 3. 13 Jun – Tour du Périgord
Round 4. 14 Aug – GP Christian Fenioux


Round 1. 21 Mar – Tour des 2 Caps
Round 2. 09 May – Tour du Gévaudan Occitanie
Round 3. 15 May – Trophée Gustave Beignon (TTT)
Round 4. 26 Sep – Mémorial d’Automne à Chasseneuil

Finishing second at the Prix des Fêtes de Sévignacq-Thèze. Photo: Emilie Laguerre


Team classifications

As France has a long and rich history of cycling, a large proportion of the current amateur clubs have been running for a long time. The usual club setup is that you will have an amateur club that runs like any UK club, but on a larger scale. Then above this, you’ll have the team of the club. My team, for instance, Team U Cube 17, has below it a club called Apoge Cycliste. This almost creates a similar atmosphere to that of a football club, with local cyclists supporting their local team and gives people an identity.

There are three divisions of men’s teams within French amateur racing, plus a fourth ‘Hors DN’ category (more on which later). Within each division they have their individual Coupe de France series, but they’ll race against each other for the majority of races. Teams can move up and down divisions, and when their application is granted by the FFC, they hold the licence for three years.

Min. rider
Staff requirements
National 1 (DN1)14– min. of 8 1st cat riders
– two 1st or 2nd cat U23 riders
– four reserve 1st or 2nd cat riders
250k €Full-time salaried coach
Part-time salaried sports director (min.)
FFC licensed doctor
National 2 (DN2)10– min. of 6 1st cat riders
– two 1st or 2nd cat U23 riders
100k €Part-time salaried coach (min.)
Part-time salaried sports director
FFC licensed doctor
National 3 (DN3)8– min. of 4 1st cat riders
– two 1st or 2nd cat U23 riders
50k €Non-salaried coach
FFC licensed doctor

The top division teams are known as DN1. These are the best amateur teams in France with professional-like set-ups. To become DN1 they must, as a minimum, have a squad of 14 riders, a budget of 250,000 euros, a full-time salaried coach and a part-time time salaried sports director. There are currently 27 DN1 teams across France that come together for the Coupe de France DN1. DN1 teams are sometimes feeder teams for Pro Continental and WorldTour teams, e.g. Chambéry CF (Ag2r La Mondiale’s U23 squad) & Vendée U (Total Direct Energie’s U23 team).

There are 19 teams in DN2. To qualify as a DN2 team, they must have a squad of 10 riders, a budget of 100,000 euros, a part-time salaried coach and a part-time sports director. These teams also come together for their own rounds of the Coupe De France. Some DN2 teams will have just as good setups as some of the DN1 teams and may get promoted in further years.

The final division is DN3. There are 23 DN3 teams. To receive DN3 status teams must as a minimum have a squad of 8 riders, a budget of at least 50,000 euros, and a qualified coach and sports director. The latter do not have to be paid.

Alongside the divisionally ranked teams are clubs and teams that are known as Hors DN (not divisionally ranked). These are teams that do not have a divisional ranking and can’t compete in the Coupe de France. They are able to compete in all other races, however, although it may be harder for them to gain entry into the bigger races. That said, there are some very high-level Hors DN teams, such as Creuse Oxygène.

George Bazley and James Tillett. Photo: James Tillett

British riders in France in 2021

There are now British male riders racing in France, many of them supported by the Rayner Foundation. Here’s a quick rundown.


Alec Gregory
Alex Haines
GSC Blagnac Vélo Sport 31
Charlie Paige
Charlie Botterill
Jamie Morris
Team U Cube 17
Adam LewisCôtes d’Armor-Marie Morin-U
Oliver Knight
George Mills-Keeling
AVC Aix-en-Provence
Jacob VaughanCC Étupes
Henry LawtonAG2R Citroën U23 Team
Theo ModellWB-Fybolia Locminé


Alex DentTeam Elite Restauration 89
James Tillett
George Bazley
VS Valletais
Kieran Savage
Morgan Brown
Corbas Isatis Cycling Team


Daniel Pullen
Joe Reilly
James Harrison
Samuel WalshamUS Saint-Herblain

Hors DN

Harry Johnson
Red Walters
CC Plancoetin
George Beck
Lewis Whitcombe
VCA du Bourget
Matt Warhurst
Julian Roche
Xeno Young
Creuse Oxygène

Top tips

Top tips from riders past and present:

“It’s good to try and make friends in the local club because it can be quite isolated and you don’t know when you’ll need a favour”– Alex Dent, Team Elite Restauration 89

“Get the basics right, create yourself a home from home. Learn to speak French you’ll feel part of the team then”– George Bazley, VS Valletais

“Keep your options open, too many British riders close the door on DN2 and DN3 teams. To be in a French team is a great opportunity and the difference is minimal” – Charlie Paige, Team U Cube 17

“Really dig in for the first hour of a race, always seemed like the first hour is always the hardest and gets easier after that” – Matthew Warhurst, Creuse Oxygène

Photo: Coraline M Photographie

Useful links

French Cycling Federation- https://www.ffc.fr/

Directvelo- https://www.directvelo.com/