Sixteen of the best UK sportives to ride in 2018

Cobbled classics, iconic climbs and some of the toughest sportives on British shores

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.

– Fifteen of the best European sportives to ride in 2018 –

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…

Are you targeting a big UK sportive in 2018? (Pic: Human Race)

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.

The Tour de Yorkshire peloton tackled the brutally steep Shibden Wall in 2016 and the cobbled climb is the highlight of the Ronde van Calderdale (Pic: Alex Whitehead/

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.

The Fred Whitton Challenge is widely regarded as the UK’s toughest sportive (Pic: Andrew Griffiths/Saddleback)

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.

Distance: 180km
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.

The Etape du Dales takes in some of Yorkshire’s toughest climbs (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/

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.

The Etape Caledonia boasts one of the most stunning backdrops in the UK, with challenging climbs and rolling hills aplenty (Pic: Etape Caledonia)

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.

Distance: 130km
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.

The Peak District offers a stunning backdrop and plenty of climbing, so it is little wonder the Peak Epic’s organisers believe it to be one of the toughest on the calendar (Pic: CameliaTWU, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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.

The Dragon Ride is a hugely popular, long-standing and very challenging fixture on the UK sportive calendar (Pic: Human Race)

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 brutal cobbled climb of the Corkscrew – with a maximum gradient of 45 per cent – is the highlight of the Cheshire Cobbled Classic (Pic: Cycle Classics)

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.

– The UK’s 15 toughest cobbled climbs to ride –

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.

Distance: 120km
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 sportive tackles the Surrey Hills, including Box Hill and Leith Hill (Pic: marcus_jb1973, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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.

With roads like these, it’s easy to see why Yorkshire is so popular for cycling (Pic: Factory Media/Scott Connor)

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.

The Rosedale Chimney is one of the key climbs on the Struggle The Moors route (Pic: Mike Dobson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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!

Distance: 177km
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.

Velothon Wales includes a timed ascent of The Tumble (Pic: rb create)

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
Website: Velothon

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.

The Chiltern 100 sportive is the centre-point of the Chiltern Cycling Festival (Pic: Human Race)

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.

The Great Dun Fell Sportive is your chance to “Ride to the Radar” (Pic: 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.

Gospel Pass, in the Brecon Beacons, is Wales’ highest road (pic – 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.

The Maindy Velodrome hosts the grandstand finale to the Cardiff Roubaix sportive (Pic: Marc, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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.

Distance: 120km
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 sweeping hairpins of Bealach na Ba, which takes centre-stage on the Bealach Mor sportive (Pic: Stefan Krause, via Wikimedia Commons)

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?

Distance: 144km
Entry fee: £42
Website: Hands On Events

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