The sportive calendar has evolved quickly in recent years. Not long ago the only pro race that had a major sportive was the Tour of Flanders & the Tour de France. Now, every one day classic has an accompanying sportive which is a big part of the pro race weekend. All the legendary climbs have at least one big sportive and for the serious racers, the UCI Granfondo World Championships is becoming the pinnacle of amateur cycling.
Our team of riders spend the year riding events all over Europe. Here are the 19 favourite sportives of 2019:
One Day Classics
Sportives that accompany a pro race. Typically the sportive is on the Saturday with the pro race on the Sunday. The sportive routes are normally a slightly shortened versions of the pro race & these are some of the best cycling weekends of the year.
When: 10th March
Where: Siena, Italy
What is it: The newest one day classic in cycling in the Tuscan hills. The origin of this is a bit confusing. In 1997 a sportive was started in Tuscany celebrating the heroic era of cycling (L’Eroica) where riders had to tackle the famous white roads of the area on vintage bikes. The sportive became so popular the pros wanted to copy it and so the pro race “Strade Bianche” was formed in 2007. The pro race became so popular that amateurs wanted to ride it on the modern bikes. So in 2014 a sportive of the pro race of the sportive was created. Simples.
Why Ride It: A route as iconic as it is beautiful. This unique event in stunning Chianti takes in multiple gravel sections, some steep climbs and probably the best finish to any sportive in the main square in Siena. If you have done some of the Belgian classics and are looking for something new, look no further.
Ride it in 2019 from £475: MORE INFO
When: 30th March
Where: Wevelgem, Belgium
What is it: The first race of Flanders Classics Week where the cycling world descends on this corner of Belgium for a series of one day races. Gent Wevelgem covers the west of this region with a route that dips into France and goes over battlegrounds and cemeteries of WW1. In recent years gravel sections (the Plugstreets) have been added to bring more variety to the route which is mostly on the flat farmtracks of this region. The main challenge is the vicious winds that punish the peloton all day and some super steep climbs including the classic Kemmelberg.
Why Ride It: The sportive riders’ sportive. A mostly local peloton brings this ride authenticity and passion and the route is phenomenal with a mix of gravel, steep cobbled climbs and flat sections where you dare not lose the wheel. If you have ridden the Tour of Flanders and want something more intimate, check this sportive out.
Ride it in 2019 from £249. MORE INFO
When: 6th April
Where: Oudenaarde, Belgium
What is it: One of the two biggest one day races in cycling, the Tour of Flanders (or Ronde locally) is a massive weekend in the region as 16,000 amateurs on the Saturday and the best pros in the business on the Sunday ride over the cobbles and bergs that make Flanders so famous for cycling. This is a very international event with riders from all over the world taking on the legendary climbs including the Koppenberg, Kwaremont, KappelMuur and Paterberg.
Why Ride It: One of the sportives that everyone needs to ride in their lifetime. The Ronde is one of the most fun weekends of the year with a classic, action packed sportive, lively nightlife and great atmosphere on the road watching the pro race. Perfect for a social weekend with a brilliant ride thrown in.
Ride it in 2019 from £439 . MORE INFO
When: 13th April
Where: Roubaix, France
What is it: The most famous cycling race in the world. The “Hell of the North” is mostly flat over relatively featureless countryside, but in between the start (Busigny for the sportive, Compiegne for the pro race) lies some vicious cobbled sections that are as tough as any mountain climb. The cobbles come thick and fast with each section between 0,5 and 3.5km, separated by around 5km of smooth tarmac before you are onto the cobbles again. The hardest parts are the 5* sectors including the Forest of Arenberg and Carrefour de l’Arbre before finishing on the historic velodrome. The pro race on the Sunday can be watched at the velodrome, on the course or at a local bar.
Why Ride It: The cobbles are calling and at some point you need to answer the call and experience these cobbles. Love them or hate them, you will be glad you did it and the pro race takes on all new meaning after you have ridden the pave in person.
Ride it in 2019 from £239. MORE INFO
When: 27th April
Where: Liege, Belgium
What is it: The oldest of the cycling monuments, Liege Bastogne Liege is a long race with a lot of climbing (the sportive has more elevation than the Etape or Maratona) with both longer hills and some vicious steep climbs. The winners of the pro race are more often skinny climbers rather than the big guys that win at Flanders & Roubaix. The sportive is the day before the pro race with a route that goes into a very rural part of French speaking Belgium with the steepest climbs coming close to the end. Expect some tough ramps with over 15% gradient on tired legs.
Why Ride It: One of the monuments of cycling, LBL is a great ride for climbers or anyone wanting to exchange cobbles for climbs at a spring classic.
Ride It In 2019 From £349. MORE INFO
When: 5th May
Where: Yorkshire, England (routes tbc)
What is it: After the success of the Grand Depart, the Tour de Yorkshire is a legacy event quickly establishing itself on the pro cycling calendar. The sportive takes place on the morning of the last stage so you ride the main part of the route and then get to watch the finish of the pro race. The route changes each year and the 2019 race will be announced this winter with entries available in December & January.
Why Ride It: Yorkshire is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and the riding here is world class. In 2019 the World Championships are in Yorkshire so this is a fitting time to ride this sportive. Ride some great climbs, enjoy warm hospitality and catch some great racing.
Where: Como, Italy
What is it: The last classic of the year, the Race of the Falling Leaves takes place on the banks of Lake Como. The route changes slightly each year with the pro race on Saturday and sportive on Sunday. The sportive started in 2017 with a circular route starting and ending in Como. The highlights of the sportive is the climbs of the Ghisallo and Sormano. The pro race the day before is huge with big crowds on the road. Watch this in Como or on the route on one of the big climbs.
Why Ride It: The perfect season ender. The Granfondo Lombardia is challenging but not impossible with stunning scenery and legendary climbs. And where better to celebrate your season than on Lake Como with a glass of wine and plate of pasta.
Coming Soon… MORE INFO
Stand alone sportives in cycling heartlands, these rides are run by local organisations taking in the best climbs in the region.
8. Mallorca 312
When: 27th April
Where: Playa de Muro, Spain
What is it: The biggest sportive in Mallorca with an option of a 167km, 225km or 312km route. The long route has become one of the main endurance events of the year. The 312 was originally a loop of the island but is now a closed road event in mountains and interior of Mallorca for 8,000 riders. The sportive starts at 7am with plenty of riders still on the road until 9 or 10pm – this is a long and epic event! The majority of the climbs are front loaded as the route hits the Tramuntana mountains and hugs the coast. Inland the route is still undulating and more exposed to crosswinds – there are not many free miles on the 312!
Why Ride It: Perfect for both an early season warm up event if you do the 167km route or the highlight of your season if you do the 312. This will give you motivation to train through the winter and is a fantastic event over an amazing route. It is the only time of the year the roads are closed for us on the best island on the planet for cycling.
Ride It In 2019 From £399. MORE INFO
9. Nove Colli
When: 19th May
Where: Cesenatico, Italy
What is it: The original sportive and the most popular cycling event in Italy. The Nove Colli (nine hills) takes in the climbs of Emilia Romagna and has been running since the early 1970s. Entries sell out in minutes for a largely Italian peloton of 13,000 taking in the closed roads and stunning routes of this sportive. At the front, the race is highly competitive and shown on live TV. The route starts and ends on the coast in Cesenatico and starts with a 30km blast on the plains before hitting the hills. The 9 hills come in all shapes and sizes, the steepest containing 20% gradients before a rapid descent back to the coast.
Why Ride It: This is the classic Italian Granfondo, a great event to ride if you are looking for something a bit different. There are no super long climbs so it suits all types of riders. Emilia Romagna is the food capital of Italy (and therefore the world) so the carb intake is a real highlight of your trip!
Ride It In 2019 From £599. MORE INFO
10. Dragon Ride
When: 9th June
Where: Port Talbot, Wales
What is it: One of the original UK sportives, the Dragon Ride is one of the most beautiful routes in Europe going from the coast into the hills of south Wales. There are a range of route options to suit all ability types with the longest route of over 300km for the endurance riders. There is also a 3 day Dragon Tour with rides on the Friday & Saturday. The highlight of the ride is the quiet hills including local legends the Black Mountain, Devil’s Elbow & Devil’s Staircase. A tough but glorious ride.
Why Ride It: Ride this a couple of weeks before the Tour and then cheer on the reigning Tour de France champion from Wales! The Dragon Ride is the best training event for big events like the Marmotte or Etape but is a great event on its own. Come for the day or the weekend on the Dragon Tour.
The most iconic climbs in cycling with sportives focused just on them. This is a great way to climb these legends with full mechanical support, feed stations and closed or rolling road closures.
11. Stelvio Santini
When: 2nd June
Where: Bormio, Italy
What is it: Along with Mont Ventoux, the Stelvio is one of the world’s great climbs and an icon of the Giro d’Italia. The Stelvio is 22km at 7% with so much variety – there is the tunnel section, three sharp hairpin parts, a very short flat section and a glorious Alpine saddle past sweeping meadows. On it’s own, the Stelvio is a tough and long climb but on the Santini you take in the Teglio and the brutal Mortirolo before a long drag back up to Bormio and the start of the Stelvio. It is early in the season so expect snow still at the top of the climbs.
Why Ride It: A great way to climb the Stelvio with closed roads and ride support. The Santini is a brilliantly run event with bag drops and collection at the top of the Stelvio so you can pick up a jacket for the descent home. This is one of the great climbing areas in world cycling and a must visit for every road cyclist.
Ride It In 2019 From £539. MORE INFO
When: 9th June
Where: Auronzo di Cadore, Italy
What is it: Less visited by international riders, this corner of the Dolomites is visually one of the most stunning parts of Europe and houses one of cycling’s great climbs – Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The Tre Cime is a stunning rock formation that can be seen for miles around. It has featured in the Giro and is a legend of Italian cycling due to it’s beauty and difficulty. The final 4km is over 11% summitting at over 2,300m making a fitting finish to this sportive.
Why Ride It: A real local’s sportive and one for anyone that has ridden the Marmotte, Etape & Maratona and is looking for something new. Expect great organisation (3Epic is a big brand in MTB events) and a route that will take your breath away.
13. Ventoux Santini
When: 16th June
Where: Vaison La Romaine, France
What is it: The classic climb in France. Ventoux has never had an established sportive but the recent Ventoux Santini looks to change that. The route is perfect taking in a great route from the start in Vaison La Romaine to Bedoin before the main climb of Ventoux to finish. The first part of the route is in glorious quiet countryside and includes a 9km climb to warm you up before the main event. There is a shorter route ascending the Ventoux from Sault which is ideal for newer riders but at just 135km most people take on the full route and climb from the classic side of Bedoin.
Why Ride It: A perfect way to ride the Ventoux with rolling road closures and feed stations on the climb. This event also takes in a great route with some places you might miss on a weekend trip to the area. Ventoux is one of the world’s great climbs and one of the world’s great descents, what better way to ride it than with an international peloton all helping each other up this monster of a mountain.
Ride It In 2019 From £579. MORE INFO
The big ones. These summer sportives across the Pyrenees, Alps & Dolomites are the main events of the year with closed or rolling closed roads, a large international peloton and plenty of climbing. Expect classic routes, summit finishes and some very tired legs.
When: 7th July
Where: Corvara, Italy
What is it: The jewel in the crown of the Dolomites. The Maratona has been running since 1987 and sees 9,000 riders from around the world take on one of three route options in the heartland of the Dolomites. This region is famed for it’s amazing rock formations and lush green valleys. The road surfaces are mostly excellent and the climbing is world class – a mix of long, gentle climbs and plenty of steep stuff too with legendary climbs of the Giro d’Italia including the Pordoi, Sella & Passo Giau. All three routes start around the Sella Ronda, a circular loop taking in 4 climbs which is often called the best 55km of cycling in the world before heading to the longer climbs that highlight the second half of the sportive. The main challenge is the Giau, a 10km climb averaging 10%.
Why Ride It: One of the hardest sportives to get an entry for, the Maratona is so popular that the ballot is massively over subscribed. It is one of the best routes in world cycling and a friendly event supported by the local community. A must ride for every cyclist.
Packages Coming September 2018. MORE INFO
15. La Marmotte
When: 7th July (date TBC)
Where: Alpe d’Huez, France
What is it: The original mountain sportive and still the standard bearer. The route is the star here taking in four classic climbs of the Tour de France. Starting at the base of Alpe d’Huez, the 7,000 riders take on the long and at times steep Col du Glandon before riding along the valley and hitting the Col du Telegraph and then the legendary Col du Galibier, one of the best climbs in cycling with amazing views, varied terrain and an incredible descent. The top of the Galibier is a full 2,645m, one of the highest passes in Europe, and from here is it downhill all the way back to the base of the Alpe, almost 2,000m below the Galibier. The final sting is of course the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez, on it’s own not too hard a proposition but after more than 160km and 4,000m of climbing and in the heat of the day, this can be brutal! A must ride.
Why Ride It: A real climbers sportive and an event like Paris Roubaix that everyone should ride at least once. It does take a lot of training but if you are going to push yourself through a long training plan, this event is the reward with classic climbs and amazing views.
Ride It In 2019 from £579. MORE INFO
16. Etape du Tour
When: July (date TBC)
Where: TBC – announced October 25th
What is it: The sportive of the Tour de France, the Etape du Tour is one of the biggest sportives of the year and definitely the most famous. 15,000 riders come from around the world to participate over the queen stage of the Tour. Expect classic climbs and a route including around 4,000m of climbing. More details to come in October.
Why Ride It: The route changes each year and the organisers have the best race directors in the world. This guarantees amazing routes every year with a mix of classic climbs and stunning local sections. With more and more innovations (tricky summit finishes in remote, gravel sections…) expect another amazing edition in 2019.
Packages Launch October 25th
17. Marmotte Pyrenees
When: 25th August (Dates TBC)
Where: Luz Saint Sauveur to Hautecam, France
What is it: The sister event of the Marmotte Alpes, this recent edition to the sportive calendar is an absolute beast following the same style as the original. The route rotates every year and in 2019 starts in Luz Saint Sauveur before taking on the Tourmalet, Aspin, Hourquette and Tourmalet again. After a rapid descent down the valley the summit finish is on the challenging Hautecam. Well over 5,000m of elevation, this is the hardest sportive we cover and one not to be taken lightly. But the payoff is an incredible day out in the Pyrenees taking in some incredible climbs with some amazing scenery.
Why Ride It: Only take this on if you are an experienced climber. If you have done the Marmotte and want something similar (the event is smaller and more intimate) then this is a great option. As long as you know what you are signing up for, you will have a great weekend in the Pyrenees.
Gran Fondo World Championships
The pinnacle of amateur cycling, the Granfondo World Championships sees riders from around the world qualify at their local events and then represent their country to win a rainbow jersey. In 2019 the World Champs are in Poland on a flatter course, perfect for GB riders.
When: 2nd June
Where: Peterbrough, England
What is it: The UK qualifying event for the UCI Granfondo World Championsips, the Tour of Cambridgeshire has quickly become the most popular closed road race of the year. The pace at the front is rapid with finishing times of around 3hrs being common over the 129km route. The start is done in age groups with the quickest group going off first. The route is mostly flat with some slight undulations at the start and again close to the finish. The wind can affect the race massively, in 2017 crosswinds hit riders in the middle section causing splits but in 2018 it was a calm day and groups were huge all the way to the finish. The front of the race is suited to experienced riders / racers only but the after this the event is very inclusive and perfect for riders of all abilities.
Why Ride It: This may be your fastest ever ride so the thrill of riding in a peloton of 50-100 riders at over 40km/h for 3 hours is hard to replicate. Qualifying for the Worlds is a main season challenge for many riders and a great way to focus your season.
When: 5th to 8th September
Where: Poznan, Poland
What is it: The pinnacle of the cycling season. The UCI Granfondo sees riders coming from across the world to represent their country in the Time Trial and Granfondo events. The 2019 edition is in Poznan with a route that will seem familiar to UK riders. A short course of 129km with just 450m elevation, this is close to the Tour of Cambridgeshire as you could ever wish for. Come join the official GB Team athlete villages with team mechanics, masseuses, coaches & a chef de mission. It’s the full GB Team experience.
Why Ride It: There will never be a better chance for GB riders to podium than this course. After the hills of Varese and a long haul World Champs in 2020 in Whistler, Poznan should be a target for any big power riders dreaming of rainbows…