Road bike sportives have been booming in popularity in recent years, and the big-name events often sell out fast. But that's no problem because there are hundreds more to choose from, many of which will be more relaxed, cheaper and have better scenery. Here are our pick of eight of the best...
Bala Devil – May 31
There are two route options for this event based on the eastern edge of Snowdonia National Park - tough or really tough – so it's one for the fit and determined riders out there. The "short" route of 80 miles offers 2,684m of climbing including the infamous Bwlch-y-Groes, the Waen y Bala and Pont yr Afon-Gam. The full 102 mile route adds on the climb to Ffynon Eidda, and the Crimea Pass – taking the total ascent to a hefty 3,120m. The payoff is quiet roads and some of the most stunning scenery in Wales. If it's your first visit to the area, we doubt it will be your last.
Set up to show off Devon's punishingly hilly terrain, the Plymouth Gran Fondo is a new event on the sportive calendar which promises to offer a challenge for relative newbies and experienced riders alike. Routes of 37, 72 and 100 miles are on offer, with the biggest route packing in a daunting 3,500m of ascent. Dartmoor, the Tamar Valley and the Cornish coast are all on the route – with the only constant being that you won;t be far from the next climb.
Entry: £30 or £20.
Tour Of Cambridgeshire – June 7
Cambridgeshire might not be the first place that springs to mind for a big road ride, but the inaugural Tour Of Cambridgeshire this year has a big ace up its sleeve when it comes to attracting riders... closed roads. Pedalling along with no worries about traffic is an amazing feeling – and relatively rare for cycle events in the UK. Riders will tackle a 126km course over a mixture of short, punchy climbs and quiet lanes across the fens.
Buxton Spa Sportive – July 5
Taking in some of the best roads in the Peak District, this event is short-ish on distance but big on altitude gained. The long route covers a "mere" 137km miles, but packs in more than 3,000m of ascent over that distance – with a route profile that looks like a saw blade. Medium and short routes are also available, although the "easy" option still challenges riders with 1,300m of climbing in 35 miles.
Entry: £22 to £27.50
Iron Mountain Sportif – Aug 8
Located close to the English border in South Wales, Abergavenny is a thriving market town which also serves as a hub for the equally thriving local cycle scene. The Iron Mountain Sportif is organised as part of the annual Abergavenny Festival of Cycling and offers distances of 20, 50 or 100 miles. The full route includes the 390m ascent of The Tumble – which you may recognise from the Tour Of Britain.
Entry: £25 or £33.
Rise Above Sportive – August 9
Not many cyclists, amateur or professional, would relish the prospect of being at loggerheads with outspoken sprint star Mark Cavendish. But that's exactly where the riders on Cav's sportive through Cheshire and North Wales will find themselves – as they pedal through the scenic Loggerheads Country Park in the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty alongside the multiple Tour de France green jersey winner. With three routes of 80km, 120km and 186km on offer – the event starts and finishes on the closed roads of Chester city centre.
Etape d'Amwell – September 6
There's a plethora of sportive events to choose from to the south of London in Surrey, but far less happening up the opposite end of the M25. But that's something that the Etape d'Amwell hopes to remedy, with a choice of 50km and 100km "classic" or "monumental" routes showcasing some of the lovely quiet lanes in Hertfordshire and Essex. Think rolling narrow roads through green fields and attractive villages, with a series of short but testing climbs.
Entry: £20 or £25
Ullapool Sportive – Sep 19
It's a long old journey from most of the UK, but if you've never been to the north west of Scotland then it will be oh-so worth it. Breathtaking wilderness scenery, almost deserted roads and historic ruins are the trademarks of the Ullapool Sportive, which comes in 105km and 142km variants. If you get good weather – which is by no means guaranteed – you may not want to leave.
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