There’s a big world out there, and those who criss-cross it on bikes are seeing more of it than anyone else. Cycling trips are big business now, and recreational riders are flocking to these gruelling yet atmospheric events to emulate the likes of Chris Froome. But the hardest part may be choosing which one is for you.
On the following pages are ten of the best in the world, starting with the greatest of all: L’Etape du Tour, tested (and survived) by Coach correspondent Craig Cunningham.
But first, events a little closer to home.
UK Cycling Events Calendar
Keep up with the best organised opportunities to hit the open road. Events are in date order. Check back soon, we’ll be adding more UK cycling events in 2017.
Red Bull Timelaps (28th-29th October)
The format of this against-the-clock race in Windsor is generally pretty standard – teams of four riders aim to complete as many laps of a circuit as possible in 24 hours. There is one key difference to other similar events, however, in that the Red Bull Timelaps actually lasts 25 hours, thanks to the clocks goings back at 2am. This also marks the start of a Power Hour, where the circuit is shortened and laps count double. £65 single entry (you’ll be allocated a team), £250 team of four, redbull.com
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Wiggle Royal Flyer (29th October)
The highest point in the whole of Norfolk is Beacon Hill, which stands at a very modest 103m above sea level (fun fact: the City of London is the only county with a lower highest point). That means you can pretty much guarantee that this sportive, which takes in the Royal Sandringham Estate and the surrounding countryside, won’t be too hilly and you can steam around your choice of the 45- and 73-mile (72/117km) routes at high speed. £35, ukcyclingevents.co.uk
Evans Cycles Biggin Hill (4th-5th November)
If your preference is off-road riding, you’ll want the MTB event on the 4th November, while road fans should sign up for the sportive on the 5th. Both events have several different distances to cater for all abilities, and both feature plenty of ups and downs as you cycle around the North Downs. Just remember that every climb is rewarded with both fantastic views and speedy downhill sections. £22-£25, evanscycles.com
Wiggle Devil’s Punch Sportive (4th November)
The natural amphitheatre of the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey is a haven for hikers, bikers and trail runners, with fantastic views available to all who make it up the many hills in the area. The three rides at this sportive (30, 50 and 72 miles/48, 80 and 115km) take in the Punch Bowl as well as parts of the North Downs. £26-£35, ukcyclingevents.co.uk
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50/50 Leicestershire Gravel Ride (5th November)
The 50/50 in the name of this event refers to the surfaces you’ll be cycling on, with half of the routes – there are two, 79 and 63 miles? (127 and 101km) – on road and half off it. Most of those off-road sections will be on a gravel surface, so you will need a mountain or cyclocross bike. Don’t despair if your preference is for smooth Tarmac, though – there are road-only events available too. All rides £20, itpevents.co.uk
Top Of The Rock (November 12th)
The views don’t come much better than from the top of Sutton Bank in the North York Moors, but you’d be wise to stop riding while you take in the vista during this off-road sportive or else you might come unstuck on the technically challenging gravel trails. There are three distances available – 17 miles (27km), 22 miles (36km) and 37 miles (60km) – which you can tackle solo or as part of a team. £29-35, ukcyclocrossevents.co.uk
Three Counties MTB Marathon (12th November)
Ride the ups and downs of the Peak District, visiting three counties – Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire – along the way, at this MTB event which starts and finishes in Buxton. Two routes are available: a 62.3km ride with 1,728m of climbing and a 42.7km ride with 1225m of uphill work. Both will be challenging, and we’d definitely recommend bringing along a waterproof given the time of year you’ll be riding. £15-20, darkwhitecycling.co.uk
Wiggle Purbeck Hill-a-Saurus MTB (18th November)
This MTB event along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is full of challenging climbs and technical descents, with over 500m of climbing in just 24 miles (39km) in the Epic ride. There are also 20- and 15-mile (32/24km) routes available, with route highlights including the historic Swanage Railway, the Purbeck Heritage Coast and Corfe Castle. £25-35, ukcyclingevents.co.uk
Cumbrian Cracker (19th November)
Riders of this 60-mile (97km) sportive set in the heart of the Lake District get to enjoy some the UK’s finest scenery, including Coniston Lake and Grizedale Forest. The route avoids all the major passes in the area too, so while you will tackle some undulating terrain, there are no fearsome climbs to worry about. £25, sientries.co.uk