You may need a medical certificate for cycling competitions, sportives and even some local leisure rides in France. Here's what you need to know, plus some templates you can use.
Never let it be said that bureaucracy didn't get in the way of a good day out on the bike in France. Here in France we may have kilomteres of wonderful car-free and signposted routes, bike share programs galore and friendly drivers who give you more space than at home, but we also have a few oddities as well.
One of them is the requirement to have a medical certificate – or certificat medical – for everything short of scratching yourself in bed at night. In short, anything that remotely involves organised fun may require a medical certificate, so you should always check ahead when signing up.
In eight years in France our family has been back and forth to the doctor for medical certificates for cycling, tennis, athletics, football, after-school clubs, swimming and all manner of other things we would never dream of asking our doctor to rubberstamp in England or Australia.
Here is what you need to to about medical certificates and how to get them.
When you will need a medical certificate
Medical certificates are linked to the insurance policies of organisers, so certain catergories of events or clubs require them as a safeguard.
You will almost certainly need a medical certificate when you join a local bike club. You may also need one when you sign up for a timed sportive (e.g. Haute Route, Etape du Tour, Le Mans 24-Hour Velo, the Ardechoise sportive, etc, etc, etc). Some sportive have 'randonnée' categories that may mean you can avoid getting a certificate (see feedback from Peter in the comments section below).
You may also – but not always – need a medical certificate for a local non-competition randonnée or a community bike ride you see advertised at a supermarket or boulangerie. Always ask when you enquire about signing up.
When you will not need a medical certificate
You DO NOT need a medical certificate to join an organised cycling holiday run by a private company – e.g like these ones.
What is a medical certificate?
It's just a piece of paper from your doctor saying you're fit and that there's no medical reason why you can't take part in the sportive or bike ride you're wanting to ride.
The certificate MUST be less than one-year-old (though again check competition requirements in case this timeframe is shorter for your event).
Where to get a medical certificate?
If you live in France: People living in France simply visit their doctor, tell them they're wanting to take part in a sportive or organised bike ride and their doctor will issue a stock standard certificate on GP surgery letterhead saying they're fit to ride. Your blood pressure is usually taken and sometimes you're asked to do a few star jumps – it depends on the doctor and how well they know you.
If you don't live in France: Some competitions and sportives have templates you can download from the offiical website and get your doctor to sign. Most competitions will allow certificates from overseas riders to be in English (check ahead if you are from a non-English or non-French-speaking country, or use our templates below).
Medical certificate templates you can use
I get asked all the time about medical certificates and what should go on them. Basically your doctor just needs to say you're fit to ride.
I've added some templates to the site for you to use. These are based on the certificates my doctor issues and cross-referenced with the ones recommended by the Etape du Tour and Haute Route organisers. They are at the following links (again, just double check there aren't any additional requirements that need to be mentioned on the certificate for your particular event).
What to do with your medical certificate once you have it
Check individual competition requirements, but usually you just take it along and show it on the day when you check in for the event and pick up your bib number and sign-on pack. Sometimes you'll be givien it straight back after a cursory look at the check-in table. Other times the organisers will keep it until the end of the event and you're meant to pick it back up when you return your ankle chip (if it's a sportive).
If you make sure the doctor keeps the certificate vague – i.e. like the templates above and doesn't mention the individual event by name (assuming this is not a requirement stipluated by event organisers), you can use the certificate again within that 12-month period and save yourself another trip to the doctor's.