Deloitte Ride across Britain ()Deloitte Ride across Britain () © Copyright

Puddles, pedals, medals

As cycling’s popularity continues to boom, our country’s riders have flocked to the continent to take on a variety of sportives that give them a taste of some of the world’s greatest races. But there’s no need, really. Great Britain is a perfect playground. We’ve selected some of the best sportives this island has to offer, taking in everything from the rolling green countryside to the Scottish Highlands and the streets of London. 


Prudential ride London ()


What: 100 miles of best-known cycling landmarks in Britain, made famous by the London 2012 Olympic road race.
When: 28 July 2017
Why: Because it’s Britain’s biggest sportive, with more than 24,000 competitors and a sightseers’ to-do list of the capital.

Much like the Tour de Yorkshire, the RideLondon 100 is synonymous with another huge sporting event that put cycling at the front of the UK’s sporting psyche – the London 2012 Olympic Games.

RideLondon is now by far the biggest sportive in Britain, and one of the biggest in Europe, with more than 24,000 riders competing in the 2015 event.

The race closely follows the route that London 2012 men’s road race took, weaving in and out of the capital’s most famous landmarks, before heading out towards Surrey via Richmond Park. Riders will then climb the infamous Box Hill (which really isn’t that bad), Leith Hill (worse) and then head back up and through south west London, where the race culminates in a sprint finish on the Mall.

RideLondon is probably one of the best events to participate in if you’re new to the world of sportives. There are all levels of riders, it’s well catered for and the route takes in some of the best topography in the south east of the country.


As RideLondon is the most popular sportive in this country, there are a range of skills and abilities to contend with. This makes the race deceptively technical – not just because of the mix of landscapes you’ll be riding.

If you haven’t already done so, learning how to ride in the bunch will help you dramatically. Spatial awareness at speed will significantly reduce any likelihood of causing a pile up, and, if you’re lucky, might help you hitch a ride on the back of the wheel of a more seasoned rider, saving you time and saving your legs a bit of effort.



Deloitte Ride across Britain ()


What: A 960-mile epic from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in nine days. No biggie.
When: 10-18 September 2016
Why: Because nothing else in this country is more epic than riding from one end of it to the other.

While it’s not strictly a sportive, riding from Land’s End to John o’ Groats is a feat of cycling endurance that should cause any amateur rider to salivate. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, however: it’s 960 miles of pure adventure, with everything from the windswept coastal roads of Cornwall to the rolling valleys of the Peak District, and the stunning vistas of the Scottish Highlands. A lot can go wrong over 960 miles.

This ride takes nine days to complete, with approximately 110 miles of cycling to be done per day. You can expect to climb 15,000m over the ride’s duration, and experience technical descents as well as scenic schleps through Britain’s beautiful countryside.

While the ride may seem like it’s more suited to the preparation of an elite-level Tour rider, organisers Threshold Sports live by the mantra “More Is In You”, saying their ride is available to all abilities. Included in the £1,600 price tag is accommodation (you’ll be camping), breakfast and dinner every day, expert guidance through each route, medical assistance, mobile mechanical help and baggage transfer from one end of the island to the next.


As you may have guessed, this one is all about sustaining yourself. Included in the package is a plan to help you build up to the long distances you’ll be doing for nine days solid.

What will help more than anything is embracing good nutrition and recovery. Even after five hours straight in the saddle, a light spin on a trainer for half an hour will warm you down properly, while a meal rich in complex carbs for dinner and breakfast will keep your energy levels high day in, day out.



Lapierre tour of the black country ()


What: 62 miles touring the Black Country, 12 of them cobbled. Think of it as Britain’s very own Paris-Roubaix.
When: May 2017
Why: It’s closer than France for bone-jangling chaos.

If one of the cycling classics will make men out of the riders competing in it, it’s Paris-Roubaix. If there’s one sportive in Britain that will do the same, it’s the Lapierre Tour of the Black Country.

Racers weave their way around 62 miles of country lanes, bridleways and farm tracks across Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands, facing 19 sectors of pave (cobblestones) on their way. Just like Paris-Roubaix, each sector varies in length (between 600m and 1,800m) and difficulty, with a one-star rating being “easy” (apparently) and five being the hardest (obviously).

And just like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of the Black Country has a stylish finish, with those managing to make it doing a lap of Aldersley velodrome to complete the race.

Competitors can expect all the help and support of a pro race, including feed stations, mobile mechanics, medical assistance and a broom wagon, as well as early onset arthritis, if you’re lucky. More than anything, you’ll be able to experience the same feeling of dread as the pros preparing to take on the cobbles of northern France.


While most of cycling’s classics favour riders of slighter builds, the cobbled classics most definitely favour those who are from bigger stock. In addition to that, those who can maintain their power through the cobbles and keep a steady cadence of around 90rpm will profit over those whose rhythm tends to be a bit more erratic.

Working on strengthening your quads and core in the gym will help improve your power-to-weight ratio, while mixed interval training at higher cadences
at speed will leave you well equipped for the cobbles. 



Maserati Tour de Yorkshire ()


What: A 70-mile epic across dales, moors and picturesque Yorkshire countryside.
When: April 2017
Why: Experience the legacy of the 2014 Tour de France and ride similar stages as the pros across Yorkshire.

The 2014 Tour de France (TdF) left a lasting legacy in the UK that extends past the three fantastic days of racing that started in Leeds and finished in London – we were given the Tour de Yorkshire (TdY).

The three-day stage race takes in some of the best routes the pros travelled in 2014, and now, thanks to ASO (the organisers of TdF) and Human Race (one of the UK’s largest mass-participation event organisers), you can try a carbon copy stage of the TdY, on the same day as the pros do.

There are three routes – 73 miles for the most ambitious to 24 miles for those looking to take it a bit easier – which all have pro levels of mechanical, medical and nutritional support. 


As one of the shorter sportives on offer in England, the Tour de Yorkshire gives its riders the opportunity to get as competitive as they like. With a decent mix of long sweeping roads through the dales to the more rugged landscape of the south Yorkshire moors on offer, perfecting in-ride recovery is a must.

Build up with low-intensity work with intermediate distances, gradually building up speed and distance with every ride. That means starting out rides with a consistent cadence of about 90-100rpm, before cranking it up at points to 110rpm. Learn to recover actively, moderating your heartrate by breathing properly.



Marie Curie Etape Caledonia cycling ()


What: 81 miles of the most breath-taking Scottish scenery, including lochs, mountains and valleys.
When: May 2017
Why: They don’t call the Scottish Highlands “God’s Country” for no reason, you know. Explore it better on a bike, in one of Britain’s leading closed-road sportives.

If riding the length of Britain doesn’t float your boat, keeping to the Scottish Highlands might be a good alternative. Etape Caledonia has everything from Highland vistas, categorised climbs, hair-raising descents and even its own classification system. 

Starting in the Victorian village of Pitlochry and travelling west past Loch Tummel, the landscape opens up to the stunning Loch Rannoch before hitting a category three climb up the Schiehallion.

Those who ascend quickest will pick up points in the Endura ‘King of the Mountain’ classification, and are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the beautiful Tay Forest Park. After an 8km descent, you have one final climb before being roared toward the finish line back in Pitlochry, by family, friends and locals who can often be found dotted along the last four miles of the forest-lined approach.

Considering the technical ability required for some sections of the race (especially the steep descents), novice riders may struggle, but this is not a sportive to be missed if you’re a more seasoned rider.


The Etape Caledonia is a ride that will best suit competent all-rounders, so one of the best ways to train is over a variety of terrain. The Etape Caledonia functions as a fantastic warm-up for any other sportives you may be doing on the continent, such as the Haute Route Dolomites.

Technique matters, too, so learning how to descend a mountain (or even hill) safely will save you any potential damage (or embarrassment) on the Schiehallion. Likewise, on the way up, it’s a good idea to do some cadence training and learn how to properly pace yourself up those steep Scottish hills.



What: A gruelling 112-miles charity sportive around the Lake District, in memory of club cyclist Fred Whitton
When: May 2017
Why: To prove you are the dog’s proverbials when it comes to cycling, even if you are a bit of a weekend warrior

If one sportive has the ability to make you a hero, it’s the Fred Whitton Challenge. The 112-mile ride has a reputation for putting even the avid amateur riders through the wringer, taking in the highs and lows of the deceptively beautiful Lake District.

Expect to grind out double digit gradients, and push against windswept roads of Windermere and steep sinewy descents of the Honiston. There are a few particularly spiteful climbs, including Holbeck Pass and Hardknott, some reaching gradients of 30 per cent over several hundred metres. Conditions are usually cold, and you’ll experience nearly all elements across the course of a day.

Don’t let this put you off, however. Other than getting to lap up the Lakes in all their glory, the sportive has a noble cause. Named after Fred Whitton, the former racing secretary of the Lakes Road Club, proceeds from the sportive are donated towards charities Macmillan Cancer Support and the Dave Rayner Fund, with more than £840,000 being donated since the first race in 1999.


There’s little doubt that the Fred Whitton challenge is one for climbers, if not the more technically inclined. As there are several notorious climbs, training is as much about pacing as it is mastering the challenges.

Make sure your gearing is right and learn how to love climbing (you’re going to need it or you’ll be in tears by the summit of Hawkshead Hill). Use descents to recover, and approach your climbs at a comfortable pace. 


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