Trail Break: Sunday Sportive gets going

Now in its third year, the event has established itself as one of the UK's most popular cyclosportives. And with entries for this year already tickling the 1,000 mark and filling up fast, 2008 will be its biggest staging yet.

Starting from the impressive courtyard of Churchers College in Petersfield, the perfectly balanced 155km course has proved an overwhelming hit with riders in its first two years. Combining challenging hill climbs with long, flowing rollers, it's designed as something to savour, rather than suffer.[Oh yeah? Ask Rich Land about last year - ed.]

The outward half of the loop zig-zags east across the ridge of the South Downs, confronting you with three sharp, testing climbs of the Downs along the way, before you drop south onto the return, a rolling run up and over Goodwood and down to the lowest point of the route at Rowlands Castle. From here, it's a long stretch of broken climbing up and around Old Winchester and Butser Hills (the highest point on the Downs), a breathtaking descent into the stunning Meon Valley and the final push back to the finish.

The event marks the centerpiece of a three event season finale to the calendar, falling between the last two rounds of the increasingly popular Sunday Sportive season, that has grown up to compliment the Southern.

The Sundays are designed to keep you riding throughout the season, offering all the support and course options of the big 'sportives, in a more informal atmosphere and at a reduced ticket price.

The Woodcote Sunday Sportive on August 17th makes a perfect warm up event for the Southern itself, with a great course winding through the Chiltern Hills above the banks of the Thames.

And the season wraps up at Bramley, near Guildford on October 12th, where the cream of the North Downs climbs await to test your end of season fitness.