We all dream of riding our bikes on the silky smooth roads of mainland Europe, tackling seemingly endless mountains that lace their way up to the sky and then flying down beautifully fast and twisty descents.
You couldn’t play football at Wembley, cricket at the Oval or tennis at Wimbledon but you can ride in the tyre tracks of pro-cyclists.
Here are our Top 5 picks of Europe’s most stunning sportives. Which will you put on your bucket list?
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L’Étape du Tour
The Tour de France is the biggest annual sporting event in the world, and without doubt the biggest event in all of cycling. The sport-defining race is what every cyclist dreams of taking part in, and with L’Étape du Tour, you can experience a little bit of that pro dream.
Literally translating to “The Stage of the Tour”, the event often takes place in the same period of the Tour de France, but on the pro’s rest day, so you won’t miss any of the action while you’re battling on the French roads yourself. The exact route of the sportive changes each year, but the one constant is that the organisers always try to follow the “Queen Stage” of that year’s race.
The “Queen Stage” is the stage which has the most elevation in that year’s race, often in the Pyrenees or the Alps. There’s nowhere to hide in L’Étape and you’ll be tackling some of the most iconic mountains in all of world cycling. There are around 15,000 places in the sportive, with the event happening on closed roads giving you the full pro-experience.
When: Early July
Named after the large ground squirrel that inhabits the slopes of the local mountains, La Marmotte is one of the oldest cyclo-sportives in the world. An absolute mammoth day out on the bike that centres around Alpe d’Huez, La Marmotte is 174km long and features over 5,000m of climbing.
The route stays the same each year, starting in Bourg d’Oisans you will tackle the Col du Glandon first, followed by the infamous Télégraphe-Galibier double and finishing atop of the mythical Alpe d’Huez.
La Marmotte has perhaps the hardest route in all of cycling, it’s truly a beautiful beast. The mountains seem endless, the descents are fast and the scenery is spectacular. If it’s not the distance or mountains that get to you, the elevation of the 2642m high Galibier is sure to be a challenge!
When: Early July
One of Europe’s most revered cycling events takes place at the end of April each year: the Mallorca 312. At a whopping 312km long, the Mallorcan sportive is the longest event on the sportive calendar, and one of the toughest too - featuring over 5,000m of elevation.
The route takes on the climbs of the Tramuntana range and tackles the Puig Major, Col de sa Predissa and Col de Feminina. Interestingly, almost all of the climbing comes in the first 150km of this monster day out, now we’re not saying it’s all downhill after, but it is noticeably flatter!
You’ll be riding from sunrise to sunset on perfectly paved closed roads and sweeping through small mountain tunnels. It’s a truly unique endurance challenge, one where you’ll find and push past your limits. The fastest riders will complete the route in under ten hours, and there is a fourteen hour (22kph) cut off time.
When: Late April
Maratona dles Dolomites
An epic event in the South Tyrol region, the Maratona dles Dolomites tackles some of Italy’s toughest mountains and takes you to the core of one of cycling’s heartlands.
The Dolomites are known for their unique geological characteristics: steep cliffs, irregular peaks, natural rock faces and deep, long valleys. Tackling this sportive, you’ll get to see all of these with your own eyes, with the full Maratona distance taking you over seven separate mountains.
The full Maratona distance is 138km long, featuring five climbs that peak over 2,000m of elevation - if the leg sapping climbs don’t burn your lungs, the lack of oxygen will. There is barely a metre of flat with the course going up or down from the moment you get going.
The unique thing with the Maratona is that it is one of the biggest ‘Granfondos’, a serious amateur race for the front runners. You’ll find thousands of spectators lining the route and the event is broadcast live on Italian TV.
When: Early July
Tour of Flanders Sportive
Cobbled roads, steep climbs and often in bad weather. On paper, the Tour of Flanders Sportive is a recipe for disaster, but it is an iconic corner of cycling and a challenge that should be towards the top of every cycling fan’s bucket list.
Taking place the day before the legendary Tour of Flanders, one of the biggest one-day races in the world, the sportive follows the exact roads that the pros will tackle the next day. You’ll battle the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg and get a taste for what it’s like to ride one of cycling’s monuments. The longest route is 235km, with shorter versions available and all of them finishing in the picturesque town of Oudenaarde
In the Flanders region, cycling runs through the blood and is like a religion. They are some of the most passionate cycling fans in the world and you can be sure to get some good support from locals while on the famous roads.
With the Tour of Flanders sportive being the day before the pro race, many chose to stay for the full weekend and witness the experience of the pros racing in front of their own eyes. Be prepared to be amazed as you see the best riders in the world speed across the cobbles that you rode a mere 24-hours earlier. The Tour of Flanders is not just an epic cycling challenge or an incredible race to watch, it is one of cycling’s biggest parties too.
When: Early April
Thinking of taking on one of these iconic challenges? Pedalsure offers 30 or 60 days foreign travel cover to extend your insurance overseas. Get a quote for bucket list challenge-ready cycling insurance today.