Want to ride some of the most classic routes in cycling? From the cobbles of Roubaix to the hairpins of Alpe d’Huez, like no other sport you can test yourself over the exact same roads as Froome, Contador and Cancellara. Best of all, you can ride classic sportives staying in cycle friendly three & four star hotels in the heart of the action for under £300 including transport. Here is our guide to the best European Sportive weekends for under £300 (based on 2 people):
1. Paris Roubaix | April 10th to 13th
One of the highlights of the sportive calendar, Paris Roubaix is a unique challenge. Almost completely flat, the test is all in the nasty cobbled sections. Like the grading of climbs, you can tell how bad the next section will be by the star rating – one star is like an old English village street, the five star sections like Carrefour de l’Arbre or Forest of Arenberg are shocks to the system. The long route starts in Busigny and follows the final 163km of the pro route. Staying in Roubaix, there is a bus to take you and your bike to the start.
The short and medium routes start and end in the famous velodrome at Roubaix so are very easy to ride logistically. The medium route joins the pro route at the Forest of Arenberg – if this is your first ever experience of cobbles you are in for quite the surprise! The weather will make a big difference – if its wet the cobbles will be slippy, if its dry be prepared for dust. The finish is in the velodrome, a brilliant, iconic end to a memorable sportive.
Some cycling weekends are a mix of culture, local attractions and cycling. This one is all about the cycling. Roubaix is nice and close to Calais (1hr25mins) so you can just about get away with leaving after work on Friday. Entries can be collected on the morning of the sportive. You should finish on Saturday early in the afternoon. The hotel is in the centre of town a short ride from the velodrome so you can jump in the bath / shower and feel human again quickly. Roubaix will be buzzing with thousands of people in town for the race.
On the sunday, you have options to watch the race. Head early to the cobbled sections to soak up the atmosphere or stay locally in Roubaix. There is a giant screen in the town square next door to our hotel or you can head to the velodrome for free and watch the action on a big screen before cheering the riders on at the finish. The race will end mid to late afternoon allowing you plenty of time to get home to put the kids to bed on Sunday evening.
Breaking down the costs:
Getting there – £49 per person based on two people on P&O Ferries.
Accommodation – £139.99 per person for two nights in a twin / double room at the four star Mercure Lille Roubaix Grand Hotel in central Roubaix.
Sportive Entry – £69.99 for long route (163km) includes coach from Roubaix to the start in Busigny.
Total – £259 leaving plenty of change for a couple of beers & a carbonnade
2. Liege Bastogne Liege | April 24th to 26th
Probably the toughest of all the spring sportives and the oldest of pro cycling classics. The longest route is mighty 273km with over 4000m climbing. We recommend the challenging but slightly easier medium route of 156km. All routes head south from Liege with a relatively straight forward first 50km before the hills set in. The most famous of these is the Cote de la Redoute – 1.6km averaging over 9% with a max of 20%. The way back to Liege is paved with sharp hills like this which makes this such a tough sportive and pro race. Plenty of Brits travel to the Tour of Flanders & Paris Roubaix, this is lesser known but very much an equal with the top sportives of spring.
Liege is approx 3 hours from Calais so if trying to get this into a weekend you may need to leave early afternoon on Friday to arrive early in the evening. Entries can be collected on the morning of the sportives. Both the medium and long routes will take most of the day on Saturday. Once refreshed at the hotel, head into Le Carre district in Liege packed with bars, restaurants & cafes. On the Sunday, you will need a late ferry / train home if you want to see all of the pro race. It is worth heading to the start of the race in Liege where you can get close to the riders. Then either find a good bar in town in the early afternoon or head to one of the hills to see the action live.
Breaking down the costs:
Getting there – £50 per person based on two people on P&O Ferries.
Accommodation – £149.99 per person for two nights in a twin / double room at the four star Ramada Plaza Liege on the river Meuse close the central Liege.
Sportive Entry – £29.99 for medium route (156km)
Total – £229 leaving £70 left over for a tank of petrol, waffles and chips with any possible sauce you can imagine.
3.Omloop Het Nieuwsblad | February 26th to 28th
Starting and ending in Ghent, this small sportive takes in a great route along the Schelde and into the cobbles and climbs more famous for the Tour of Flanders. As this is so early in the season both routes are relatively short with much less climbing than other spring classics. The pace should be quick for the routes out and back to Ghent, the path along the Schelde is a popular training route for local cyclists. The climbs and cobbled sections around Oudenaarde will test your legs but this should be a really enjoyable day on the bike whatever your level of fitness.
Unlike other sportive / pro race weekends, the race is on the Saturday and the sportive on the Sunday. The weekend is based in the stunning town of Ghent, packed with great attractions, bars & restaurants. It is also just 1hr30mins from Calais so is an easy drive. The hotel is perfectly located for the cycling with parking for both your car & bike. On the Saturday you can walk to the race start to mingle with the pros. The Saturday can either be spent enjoying the sights of Ghent or head to some of the climbs of the route to watch the pros in action. Whilst there it is worth checking out the excellent Tour of Flanders museum in Oudenaarde. The sportive on Sunday starts & finishes very close to the hotel so you can be back late afternoon in the UK.
Breaking down the costs:
Getting there – £62 per person based on two people on Eurotunnel
Accommodation – £89.99 per person for two nights in a twin / double room at the three star Astoria Hotel Ghent
Sportive Entry – £9.99 for all routes (70 or 105km)
Total – £162 which leaves almost £140 for a night out in Ghent or get ask us about VIP hospitality at the pro race from £75.
4. Gent Wevelgem | March 27th to 29th
Plenty of route options and you can choose which one to ride on the day from 60 to 215km. All of these are relatively gentle with less than 1000m climbing on the 140km route. The scenery in Western Flanders is interesting and the route takes you to through battlefields of WW1. The climbs are typically short and sharp. The most famous climb of the sportive is the Kemmelberg – over 3km with a killer last km featuring multiple 13% sections. This is often a key part of the pro race.
The base for this cycling weekend is Kortrijk less than an hour and half from Calais. The hotel is well known in the cycling world and both Tinkoff and Katusha base themselves here for the Flanders classics. This gives us a real insiders view of pro cycling. The sportive is 7km from the hotel so can either be a short ride or you can drive with parking on site. Entries are collected at the start. The route should not be so taxing so you should have energy to explore Kortrijk on Saturday night.
The hotel has an amazing spa which is well worth checking out on Sunday morning before checking out. If you want to watch the pro race, the main places are on the way back to Calais. Either head to the Kemmelberg (the mens, womens & u23 races all pass by three times between 12.45 and 4.25) and join the crowds or consider spending the early afternoon in Yrpes. Its a pretty & interesting town with a lovely town square and some interesting sights such as the Menin Gate. The women & junior races start here and the mens race passes by at around 4.30. TV coverage starts at 2pm so find a bar to watch it in or ask us about VIP options from £50.
Getting there – £61 per person based on two people on Eurotunnel
Accommodation – £114.99 per person for two nights in a twin / double room at the four star Park Hotel Kortrijk
Sportive Entry – £9.99 for all routes (60, 80, 140 or 215km)
Total – £186 giving you over £100 for a great celebratory night out on Saturday night and speak to us about VIP pro race hospitality in Ypres from £50.