22/03/2017 15:13:41

Words by Ian Jeremiah

Sportive rides in 2017: Great experiences, wild places

L'Etape du Tour 2015 - 19/07/2015 - Course - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne / La Toussuire - Les Sybelles - Ambiance depart

One of the best things to happen to cycling in recent years is the rise in popularity of the cycle sportive. Long popular on the continent, a cycle sportive is not a race, but a mass participation cycling challenge that sees participants pit their skills and fitness against defined cycling challenges. Often sportives start out as reliability rides (club events designed to test early season fitness) or as homages to classic events, either following a professional race course to the letter or building a course around similar attributes (you can guarantee any course that contains a cobble will be compared to Paris-Roubaix). So if you’re looking for a cycle event that rewards you with a great experience, a good sportive is a good place to start.

The beauty of the sportive is that unlike racing, the pressure is off. If your prep has been less than you’d like, no problem. Relax and take in the scenery. If your prep has gone better than expected, superb; give it some licks and tag on to fast moving groups. But no matter how you choose to tackle your sportive, make sure you pick an event that reflects your interests in riding.

Here is a short snapshot of some of the cycle sportives that have either rewarded us with a great experience, grand vistas or piqued our interest.

Tour of the Black country, 23rd April – Billed as a Paris-Roubaix style event, this sportive picks a very enjoyable route around the West Midlands, taking in rutted and potholed farm tracks and a section of steep ‘pave’. No route can match P-R – especially in the UK! – but the great atmosphere and unlikely course make it a very fun ride.


The Etape Du Dales, 14th May 2017 – This long and arduous sportive uses much of the same course as the 2014 Tour De France course, an event that saw an estimated 2m spectators pack the winding, undulating roads of the Yorkshire Dales. While the crowds will unquestionably be thinner, the experience will not. Challenging and rewarding this should be one to tick off on every Sportive riders list. All proceeds go to the Dave Rayner Fund to support young cyclists from the UK to race on the continent.


Wales Velothon, July 9th – The biggie. 16,000 riders tackle entirely closed roads over two course distances – 110km and 140km - that takes in The Tumble and Caerphilly mountain; climbs that have graced the stages of the Tour of Britain. At £70 it’s an expensive event, but the closed roads make it very worthwhile.


The monster, June 24th – Big in a quite a different sense, clearly living up to its name with 300km of big Welsh hills (!) this sportive is not for the faint hearted. Organised by the excellent Acycling – who also run a real shop favourite, Battle on the Beach – you can expect a very, very long day in the saddle. Prep well and eat lots.


From the shop: Sportive bikes

The Giant Contend offers great value for money in a package that is smooth, efficient and quick, with prices ranging between £525 and £1150 dependent on component choice. If your budget stretches a little further, then the Giant Defy is a terrific machine, enjoying a frameset used by the pros. Prices start at £1500 with the full Ultegra equipped, carbon wheeled model weighing in at £3700.