Five of the best European sportives you can still enter in 2016

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Five of the best European sportives you can still enter this year

Sponsored feature: Fancy a European sportive this summer? It's not too late to book

Every year, thousands of British riders head to Europe to ride a sportive; the chance to swap British roads for the challenge of the mountains and (hopefully) warmer weather of France, Spain, Italy and beyond.

The popularity of the Etape du Tour, which this year mirrors the penultimate stage of the Tour de France from Megeve to Morzine, is a testament to the number of riders who to Europe to test themselves in the height of summer.

It’s not too late to book yourself onto a European sportive (Pic: Haute Route)

And while the Etape du Tour may be the most famous European sportive, another fabled ‘bucket list’ event, La Marmotte, has now expanded into the Pyrenees and the ever-popular Haute Route is getting bigger and better, too.

The most popular events sell out quickly, but places for a number of top sportives are still available through Sports Tours International. With that in mind, here are five events you can still book on to.

La Marmotte, Saturday July 2

First held in 1982, La Marmotte is one of the oldest sportives on the calendar and the Alpine event remains one of the most popular in Europe.

The fixed 174.4km route includes several Tour de France mountains, including the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier – all must-ride climbs in their own right.

Alpe d’Huez is the finishing climbs on the grueling Marmotte sportive (Pic: SWPix.com)

And it saves the best until last, with the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez the final climb of the day offering a fitting finale to a grueling ride which packs in more than 5,000m of ascent.

Sports Tours International offer a three or four-night package, with the latter also including the option to participate in the Grimpee de l’Alpe – a timed climb on Alpe d’Huez – the following day… if you’ve still got the legs.

Book now: Sports Tours International > La Marmotte

Etape du Tour, Sunday July 10

The Etape du Tour has been running since 1993, offering the chance to follow the route of one of the Tour de France’s key mountains stages.

This year, that means the brutal 146km route from Megeve to Morzine, which is set to be the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour and where the race will ultimately be won or lost.

The Etape du Tour will follow the route of this year’s penultimate Tour de France stage (Pic: Manu Molle/Etape du Tour)

Four climbs feature in all – the 11.6km Col de Joux Plane the final and toughest of the lot, with an 8.5 per cent average gradient.

The Col des Aravis, Col de la Colombiere and Col de la Ramaz are also on the cards on a route offering just 20km of leg-saving flat terrain.

And if you like the idea of making a proper DIY trip out of it – why not include the Etape as part of a longer trip exploring the Alps? – then Sports Tours International still have entry-only places available (closing date is June 19), alongside organised packages.

Book now: Sports Tours International > Etape du Tour

Haute Route Pyrenees, Sunday August 20-Saturday August 26

Now for something completely different. The Haute Route series continues to expand, with events in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites for 2016, along with a Rockies sportive to come in 2017.

If you’re not familiar with the Haute Route, it’s a seven-stage mountain sportive which includes summit finishes and an individual time trial, with pro-level support along the way.

The Haute Route sportives pack in plenty of climbing across seven stages (Pic: Haute Route)

That means medical teams, mechanical support, rolling road security, film crews and post-ride massages, with the event open to both rookies and more experienced riders.

This year’s Pyrenees event takes place on August 26-28 and covers 800km, with some of the toughest and most famous climbs France has to offer – including the Tourmalet, Marie-Blanque, Aubisque and Soulor.

On top of the support offered by the Haute Route organisation, Sports Tours International will have experienced reps and pro mechanics on hand to offer support and attend race briefings to allow you maximum recovery time.

Book now: Sports Tours International > Haute Route Pyrenees

Marmotte Pyrenees, Sunday August 28

La Marmotte has expanded in 2016, and will also be heading to the Pyrenees for the first time for the inaugural Marmotte Pyrenees sportive.

The route is a little shorter than its older Alpine sibling at 163km but don’t let that fool you – this is a seriously tough event which includes a staggering 5,600m of climbing.

Want to tick off both sides of the Col du Tourmalet in one sportive? Then the Marmotte Pyrenees is your event

That includes ascents of both sides of the infamous Col du Tourmalet, along with the small matter of the Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan, plus the final climb up to Luz Ardiden to finish.

Sports Tours International offer entry and three nights’ accommodation in Luz Saint Saveur, which is at the bottom of the event’s final climb, and also handily placed at just 20km from the start.

Book now: Sports Tours International > Marmotte Pyrenees

Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma, Sunday October 9

Now in its fifth year, the Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma offers riders the chance to end the summer sportive season with a bang in Italy.

Two distances are on offer, with the full 123km Gran Fondo course starting on closed roads from the heart of Rome and heading out into the picturesque rolling countryside of the Castelli Romani region.

The Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma is now in its fifth year (Pic: Sportograf/Gran Fondo Roma)

Climbs include the 6km Rocca Prioria with an average gradient of 6.3 per cent, while a shorter route – the 62km ‘In Bici ai Castelli Romani’ fun cycle – heads to Lake Albano and is suitable for all fitness levels, offering an opportunity to sample a European gran fondo for the first time.

Sports Tours International also include a bike tour with ex-pro rider Andrea Tonti to ensure you get to experience the best Rome has to offer in the autumn.

Book now: Sports Tours International > Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma

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