What’s on your sportive hit-list for 2018? There’s no shortage of events to choose from, whether you are targeting a European event - and here are 15 of the best to choose from - or want to stay closer to home and focus on a UK ride.
With more and more sportives launched every year, alongside existing events and old favourites, there's plenty to choose from - cobbled Classics to iconic climbs, and century rides to close-road events.
Having a big event on the calendar to look forward to will help you when it comes to training, too – it’s a huge boost to your motivation, building your form and fitness as the big day draws nearer.
So where should you be riding in 2018? We’ve picked out 16 of the best - and toughest - UK sportives to ride this year…
April 8 – Ronde van Calderdale
You don’t need to travel to Flanders to get a taste of the cobbled Classics, with the Ronde van Calderdale Yorkshire’s own answer to the Flandrien bergs.
Shibden Wall, one of the UK's toughest cobbled climbs, is the highlight - 800m of cobbles with a brutal 15.3 per cent average gradient, as featured at last year's Tour de Yorkshire - while the longer 122km route also takes in Jowler Bank among several other testing climbs.
Distance: 80km, 122km
Entry fee: £25
Website: Entry via British Cycling
May 13 – Fred Whitton Challenge
Tackling some of the Lake District’s most brutal climbs, the Fred Whitton Challenge attracts riders from all corners of the UK. In fact, the event is so popular general entry is decided by a ballot, which is now closed for those hoping to tackle the 2018 event.
Whinlatter, Honister, Newlands, Cold Fell, Hardknott, Wrynose… the Lake District's toughest ascents come thick and fast in the Fred, adding up to nearly 4,000m of climbs - and with challenging descents to contend with, too.
Throw in the unpredictable Lakes weather, and this is not one for the faint-hearted. If you've missed out on this year's event but still fancy taking on the Fred Whitton route, there are full details on the website.
Entry fee: £60
Website: Fred Whitton Challenge
May 20 – Etape du Dales
As the Dave Rayner Fund’s official sportive, the Etape du Dales showcases the best of the Yorkshire Dales - blending challenging climbing with postcard-perfect backdrops.
You will climb a total of 3,500m on the full 180km route, with Buttertubs and Fleet Moss among the classic Yorkshire ascents awaiting riders on May 20.
Distance: 98km, 180km
Entry fee: £35, £49
Website: Etape du Dales
May 20 - Etape Caledonia
Set in the heart of Perthshire, the Etape Caledonia offers 130km (81 miles) of closed-road riding surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery available on UK shores.
World record breaker Mark Beaumont is an ambassador for the event this year after his round-the-world exploits, with the route taking in some of his former training roads, including the renowned Schiehallion climb. You can also expect rolling hills, snow-covered peaks, and the Rannoch and Tummel Lochs.
Entry fee: from £40
Website: Etape Caledonia
June 3 – Peak Epic
Organisers of the Peak Epic believe they’re in charge of the Peak District’s toughest sportive, and a ride which compares with the Fred Whitton and Dragon Ride when it comes to the UK’s most challenging sportives.
And with 14 climbs packed into the full 166km route, including Higger Tor, Bradwell Moor, Pym Chair and the Cat & Fiddle, for a total of 4,000m ascent, it’s hard to disagree with their assertion.
Distance: 101km, 166km
Entry fee: £28, £33
Website: Dark White Cycling Events
June 10 – Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales
One of the UK’s toughest and most established sportives, the Dragon Ride took on a new dimension when Tour de France organisers ASO adopted it is as their own sportive and rebranded it the Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales by Le Tour de France.
It’s a mouthful, but it’s easy to see what attracted them: sweeping climbs, including the Bwlch, Rhigos, Devil’s Elbow (which is a timed ascent) and, for the longer routes, Black Mountain and Devil’s Staircase.
Add in a wide variety of route options, from 100km to 305km, and you can see why the Dragon Ride is such a popular fixture on the UK sportive calendar - and a must-ride for many British cyclists .
Distance: 100km, 153km, 230km, 305km
Entry fee: £47.50, £52.50, £57.50, £92.50
Website: L’Etape Wales
June 10 – Cheshire Cobbled Classic
As with the Ronde van Calderdale, the Cheshire Cobbled Classic takes its inspiration from the Tour of Flanders and proves you don’t need to leave the UK to tackle bone-jarring cobbles and thigh-numbing cobbled climbs.
The Corkscrew is the centre-piece, with its twisting road and 45 per cent (yes, forty-five!) maximum gradient but it’s one of just five cobbled climbs on the route with a 20 per cent grade or steeper. Swiss Hill, a former Team Sky training climb, is another.
Ten cobbled/gravel sectors feature in all, while there are three tarmacked climbs to negotiate too – 120km may seem short compared to some sportives in this list, but it’s among the toughest of the lot.
Entry fee: £29
Website: Cycle Classics
June 10 - Evans King of the Downs
Evans Cycles has a packed sportive calendar thanks to the bike retailer's Ride It series, with events that cover the length and breadth of the country, running throughout the year and also mixing in off-road and cyclo-cross sportives among the regular road events.
The King of the Downs, in June, is one of their toughest events, with Leith Hill, Combe Lane, Box Hill, The Wall, Yorks Hill and Titsey Hill all in the mix. You can opt to ride the first three on the 98km East Loop, the latter three on the 86km West Loop or all six on the full route.
Distance: 86km, 98km, 184km
Entry fee: £30
Website: Evans Cycles
June 24 – White Rose Classic
Yorkshire has become a cycling haven in the UK, thanks to the spotlight brought upon the region by the 2014 Tour de France, the subsequently-launched Tour de Yorkshire pro race and the eagerly-awaited arrival of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.
Find out what all the fuss is about on the White Rose Classic sportive. The full 183km route includes seven named climbs: Norwood Edge, Fleet Moss, Coal Road, Dent Head, Silverdale, Albert Hill and Langbar.
Distance: 80km, 135km, 183km
Entry fee: £34
Website: White Rose Classic
July 8 – Struggle The Moors
Sticking with Yorkshire; Struggle The Moors is one of two ‘Ride the Struggle’ events in the White Rose County - unsurprisingly, this is set in the North Yorkshire Moors, while the Struggle Dales is in the Yorkshire Dales.
So why choose the Moors? Relentless climbing and exposed moors contrast with the picturesque scenery, plus you get the chance to test your mettle on the brutally steep Rosedale Chimney ascent - 0.8 miles at an average of 14 per cent and a maximum gradient of 30 per cent. Ouch!
Entry fee: £40
Website: Ride The Struggle
July 8 – Velothon Wales
Combining a closed-roads sportive with a UCI-sanctioned pro race, Velothon Wales is part of the Europe-wide Velothon series and has three route options available to riders on July 8.
The showpiece sportive is the Velothon 140, which tackles not only Caerphilly Mountain (as the other two routes do) but also The Tumble – where a timed King and Queen of the Mountains challenge is hosted.
Distance: 60km, 125km, 140km
Entry fee: £45, £62, £69
July 15 - Chiltern 100
The Chiltern 100 sportive is the centrepiece of the Chiltern Cycling Festival, with the full Gran Fondo route tackling ten climbs in all (2,085m of ascent) on a 161km course.
Set against the backdrop of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding National Beauty, the ride offers a challenging but picturesque route with plenty of ups and downs all the way.
The festival, meanwhile, will feature a retro-inspired Velo Village, with vintage market stalls, as well as activities for all ages, rides, and live Tour de France action (featuring the cobbled stage nine) on a giant screen.
Distance: 52km, 109km, 161km
Entry fee: £36, £42
Website: Chiltern Cycling Festival
July 22 – Great Dun Fell Cycle Sportive
Your invitation to 'Ride to the Radar', the Great Dun Fell Cycle Sportive is a great opportunity to tick England’s highest road off your must-ride list.
Tejvan Pettinger, via Flickr Creative Commons
The Mont Ventoux of England peaks at 835m and is unsurprisingly the focal point of the sportive, with the climb boasting an average gradient of nine per cent and a maximum of up to 20 per cent. This is one for your bucket list, no doubt about that.
Distance: 62km, 103km
Entry fee: £25, £27
Website: SiA Events
August 19 – Brecon Beacons Devil
Tackling the best of the Brecon Beacons and Radnorshire Hills, the Brecon Beacons Devil includes Wales’ highest road – Gospel Pass (549m) – and the Tumble, with the full 203km route offering 3,631m of climbing.
steve_l, via Flickr Creative Commons
All three route options take in the constantly undulating and picturesque roads of the Brecon Beacons, offering some of South Wales’ best riding, regardless of the course you choose.
Distance: 80km, 110km, 200km
Entry fee: £29
Website: Drover Cycles
August 27 – Cardiff Roubaix
While the Cheshire Cobbled Classic takes inspiration from the Tour of Flanders, the Cardiff Roubaix is Wales’ answer to the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix.
Where Paris-Roubaix has the famous pavé, however, Cardiff’s answer is a pan-flat 120km route with 11 gravel/bridleway sectors to negotiate, before a grandstand finish at the Maindy Velodrome, where pro riders including Geraint Thomas and Owain Doull cut their teeth.
The event's organisers, Cycle Classics, have three Roubaix-inspired sportives in all, with cobbled/unpaved/gravel sectors and a velodrome finale, so if Cardiff’s out of your reach you can also try Reading (August 12) or Liverpool (September 9) for size.
Entry fee: TBC
Website: Cycle Classics
September 1 – Bealach Mor
Bealach na Ba is one of Britain’s most iconic climbs - and one of the most beautiful roads in the world - snaking up the Applecross mountainside from sea level to 626m in a 10km, Alpine-like ascent.
The entire Applecross peninsula, which the 144km route showcases the best of, is brimming with stunning scenery – Loch Maree, Lochcarron and Liatach are among the highlights – but the focus here is undoubtedly Bealach na Ba. Can you tame one of Britain's longest and toughest climbs?
Entry fee: £42
Website: Hands On Events