Chances are, if you are reading this you are planning your season for 2017. This is one of the most exciting times of the year. Thoughts are not on the hours of training and inevitable weight loss goals but instead on the excitement of choice and deciding which great sportives you will tackle.
The sportive calendar has some classics that have been around for years and sell out immediately. These include Tour of Flanders, Nove Colli, Etape du Tour, La Marmotte & Maratona dles Dolomites. Over the past few years, three new sportives have emerged that are becoming just as popular with thousands of Brits signing up each year. These are Paris Roubaix, Mallorca 312 & Stelvio Santini. Then there are the even newer events which will soon become classics. 2017 sees the third edition of Canyon Cambrils Park over a stunning route in the Costa Daurada, the second edition of Marmotte Pyrenees over one of the toughest courses of any one day event with two ascents of the Tourmalet & the first edition of the Il Lombardia sportive in October – the race of the falling leaves has been one of the last big races to have a partnering sportive and riding around Lake Como is heavenly.
We spend all of the cycling season in Europe researching & riding these events and sourcing the best local bike friendly hotels, bike transfer providers, local guides and bike rental companies so please get in touch if you want to discuss what events are best for you in 2017. Happy reading and we hope to see you on the route…
March and April are full of great sportives in Belgium, Holland & northern France mirroring the spring classic races of the pro peloton. We have favoured a couple of sportives based in Flanders as well as Paris Roubaix over the Ardennes events due to the ease of getting there and the passion of the local fans.
The Flanders Classics week begins with Gent Wevelgem. This is becoming more and more popular with international riders and makes for a great weekend coupled with watching the pro race the next day. The sportive is all about mastering the local winds and sheltering yourself in groups. The route is slightly rolling and goes over a couple of mild cobbled sections including one tough climb of the Kemmelberg. The route takes you past many First World War battlefields and through the Menin Gate in Ypres. On the Sunday Ypres is a good place to watch the pro race and take in some history making this a great varied cycling weekend. More Info
In its 26th year, the Tour of Flanders is one of the most popular sportives of the year. In 2017, there is an all new route after years of a Bruges start and four years of a very similar route around Oudenaarde. Now the start will be in the hip town of Antwerp and the route heads back to Geraardsbergen for the legendary Muur, a nasty cobbled climb hitting 20% at its steepest section. We will find out the details of the route by November but we understand the finish will still be the Kwaremont / Paterberg loop before a sprint finish in Oudenaarde. More Info
Unique. Painful. Legendary. However you feel about Paris Roubaix, its the one event that every cyclist needs to ride in their lives. The pro race is the best one day race in the world with luck, skill and strategy playing a part like no other race. The sportive is a great replication of this classic. The three routes offer something for everyone taking in all of the 5 star cobbled sectors and finishes in the historic velodrome. There are plenty of good places to watch the race the next day including at the key cobbled sectors or at the velodrome where entry is free and there is a small screen showing the action. More Info
Want an early season ride but prefer sun on your back and snooker table smooth tarmac to wind and cobbles? No problem, the last few years has seen a rise in great early season sportives in southern Europe in locations normally associated just with spring training. There are a couple of very tricky events in this list that could be your season defining sportive, or these could be great preparation rides for the High Mountain sportives particularly when ridden as part of a spring training week.
The first warm sportive of the season is in the beautiful Costa Daurada in northern Spain. This is packed with professional teams in January & February who take advantage of the abundance of winter sunshine and incredible road surfaces and perfect climbs. By early April, average temperatures is close to 20 degrees and conditions are almost perfect for cycling. The route takes in some great climbs though none of the routes are too hard and there are lots of other amazing routes in the area to more than fill a week of spring training (great local guides are available). The sportive is sponsored by Canyon who provide new bikes to test the day after the ride. More Info
Quickly becoming one of the biggest sportives on the calendar. Demand for Mallorca 312 grows rapidly each year. Last year the route was changed to make this a closed road event and a new middle route was added (232km) to go along with the full route and the 167km version. The ride starts and finishes in Playa de Muro where there is a great beach but not a lot else, though the hotels here are large with plenty of good facilities for cyclists. Options for this sportive are to either base yourself in Playa de Muro for convenience or in Port de Pollensa closer to the mountains and in a more lively town. Get in touch early for this one as it will sell out quickly! More Info
Into Italy for the first time and to the glamour of Lake Garda. This is one of Ernesto Colnago’s favourite places so makes a fitting location for his sportive. There are three routes, none particularly challenging and all stunningly beautiful. Again, this can be either a weekend trip or part of a week’s spring training. The sportive is close to one of the world’s best bike hotels – Garda Bike Hotel, where the two brothers who run the hotel personally take guests out every day to discover the best local routes. More Info
Finishing off the spring season is the classic Italian sportive Nove Colli. This event has been going every year since 1971 making it by far the oldest of the big European sportives. Like the other sportives in this group, it can either make a great long weekend break or can be the culmination of a week of spring training. There are some amazing bike hotels in this part of Italy including Lungomare in Cesenatico, Oxygen in Rimino & Hotel Dory & Fedora in Riccione. All of these have local guides taking guests out everyday to the beautiful hills of Emilia Romangna. Nove Colli starts and finishes in Cesenatico and the has a medium route with four climbs or the full, challenging route with nine hills and close to 4,000m of elevation. Ride with 13,000 riders from around the world at this legendary sportive. More Info
These are the big ones – the season defining sportives in the most famous cycling playgrounds in the world. None of these are easy, all will take months of training and go over classic climbs featured in the Tour or Giro. Due to the elevation that most of these events get too, the season is relatively short with the big passes open only from early June to the end of summer. From the Pyrenees to the Dolomites, these are the most classic cycling sportives in the world.
The most famous climb in Italy, the mighty Passo dello Stelvio is the feature of this tough sportive. For the long route, there is also the not insignificant Mortirolo to get over, 12.4km at an average of 10.5%. There are three routes, all starting in Bormio and finishing at the top of the Stelvio so a mix of abilities can all enjoy this sportive. Bormio is one of the classic bike towns in Europe with many great climbs close by – we highly recommend making a long weekend of this to include a ride up the Gavia and even an ride up the other side of the Stelvio. For the ultimate week fly into Milan and spend a few days in Como before heading to Bormio (packages are available for this) More Info
One of the original sportives and one that has followed the same route for years. La Marmotte starts in Le Bourg d’Oisan and then takes in one Cat 1 climbs and three HC climbs finishing with the Galibier & Alpe d’Huez. This is a massively popular event with 7,000 riders coming from around the world. If you have ridden the Etape and want a harder challenge, this is the sportive for you. For the really keen, there is a time trial up Alpe d’Huez on the Sunday morning. Only for the brave! More Info
The most beautiful sportive in the world. Without question. Ask anyone that has ever ridden this incredible event and about 1,000 Brits head there each year and they will all rave about it. The route takes in the four climbs of the stunning Sella Ronda before taking in some tougher climbs – the Giau for the longer route. This is a high sportive with multiple passes over 2,000m starting and finishing in Corvara. The only drawback is the distance from an airport. For a long weekend you can fly into Venice (2hr45 away) or combine this with some riding in Garda and spend a week enjoying the best of northern Italy.
The most famous sportive on the planet. The Etape du Tour is the sportive that your friends and colleagues may have heard of and the only chance to ride a closed road stage of the Tour de France. Approximately 4,000 Brits head to France every year for the Etape adding to the great international atmosphere in the peloton. The route is announced at the end of October, chances are 2017 will return to the Pyrenees after two consecutive Alpine years. More news on this as soon as it comes out… More Info
There are numerous brilliant smaller sportives in the Pyrenees but the new Marmotte Pyrenees looks like becoming the big event here. The route is ridiculously tough, beautiful and iconic. Two ascents over the Tourmalet, the Hourquette, Aspin & Luz Ardiden. If this was a stage of the tour, the riders would protest about how hard it was! There are so many amazing rides in the region, take some time to ride the Aubisque, Hautecam and many other climbs in this beautiful part of the Pyrenees. More Info
September and October are becoming more and more popular months for cycling breaks. September is a great month in the lower Alps & Pyrenees, and October is great in Provence, the Italian Lakes and southern Europe with plenty of blue sky and light traffic. In 2017, there is a new sportive that could become every bit as popular as the spring classics of northern Europe. As the cycle travel season becomes longer we expect to see more great autumn sportives over the next few years…
Based in the beautiful town of Bagneres de Luchon in the heart of the Pyrenees, La Lapebie is an intimate sportive taking in some of the stunning climbs nearby. There are three routes from 69 to 157km with a max of 3200m, challenging but not quite as tough as the high mountain summer sportives. The main challenge is the Port de Bales with some steep sections and a rapid descent back to the finish. Give yourself an extra day to tackle the Peyresourde and to enjoy the famous spa in town. More Info
One of the sportives we are most excited about in 2017. Possible our favourite place in the world to ride, Lake Como combines amazing scenery, great climbs, incredible coffee stops, warm people and great hospitality. Il Lombardia (the race of the falling leaves) has been one of the last classic pro races to get an accompanying sportive and next year we finally get one. Starting and finishing in Lecco with a climb up the Ghisallo included in the 130km route with 2000m of climbing, this should be an amazing event. Stay in Bellagio at the stunning bike hotel Il Perlo Panorama located on the Ghisallo, the perfect place to watch the pro race, or in Lecco to be conveniently located for the start & finish. A great way to end your season. More Info