Wales punches well above its weight when it comes to cycling. Not only do many of the Great Britain’s top road and track cyclists come from the country, there are a plethora of stunning and challenging cyclo-sportives to feast yourself on.
Wales is not short on hills so you’ll need to make sure you have either the right legs or the right gears to ensure you can finish some of the many challenging, even brutal events.
Finally, Wales is easily accessible from much of England, so there is no excuse not to ride one of the events.
Enduraprep King of the Mountains Sportive
When: Sunday April 2
Where: University of South Wales conference Centre, Treforest, Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan
More Information: www.enduraprep.co.uk/kom-sportive
Many of Wales’s sportives focus on the country’s hills and mountains, so why not start your sportive season with this early season monster. While it is only 74 miles, there are nearly 10,000 feet of climbing to to tackle.
This is an out and back ride based on an old local mountain time trial, so what goes up must come down.
Gran Fondo Conwy
When: Sunday April 23
Where: Conwy Quay, Conwy
More information: alwaysaimhighevents.com/gran-fondo-conwy/gran-fondo-conwy-essential-info
Raced in recent editions of the Tour of Britain, the Orme is a legendary climb in this part of the world and this event gets participants to ride it without traffic and in the opposite direction to normal.
But there is more. Other than being 102 miles, the long route is not too challenging… if you think more than 6,000 feet of climbing is easy, that is.
Welsh Wild West Sportive
When: Sunday May 28
Where: Bandstand, Marine Terrace, Aberystwyth
More information: www.abercyclefest.com/sportive
The 46 mile Y Diafol (The Devil) may be short but with nearly 4,000 feet of climbing make even this, the short route a challenge for many. There are, however, two longer routes, The Monk and The Giant, which will take more of a toll. Of those two, the 105-mile Giant climbs over 10,000 feet, so you’re in for a tough day in the saddle.
The whole event is part of the Aber Cycle Fest with criteriums, mountain bike racing and other two-wheel events throughout the week.
Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales
When: Sunday June 11
Where: Margam Park, Port Talbot
More information: http://humanrace.co.uk/event/dragon-ride/
One of best established and toughest sportives in the country, the Dragon Ride is also one of the the most over-subscribed. There are a number routes, though all are difficult. The biggest challenge is the Devil, which covers 190 miles. Yes, one hundred and ninety miles. With nearly 16,000 feet of climbing this is the kind of challenge only the strongest will cope with. Even the Gran Fondo is 143 miles, so make sure you set an achievable target.
There is also the the Dragon Tour, a two or three day sportive, the final stage of which is the route of your choice from the main event.
Snowdonia Etape Eryri
When: Sunday June 11
Where: Castle Square, Caernarfon
More information: alwaysaimhighevents.com/snowdonia-etape-eryri/etape-eryri-home/
If you’re staying near the start you will be take advantage of the organisers’ pasta party the evening before. And you’ll need it. If the 46, 75 and 102-mile routes leave you wanting more, why not try the Xtrem, combining all three routes for a terrifying 222 miles.
None of the individual routes cover the same ground, so there is no repetition in this ultra sportive, which organisers believe could be the longest in the world. For mere mortals 6,600 feet of climbing on the long, Mawr route of 102 miles is likely to be enough.
When: Sunday July 9
Where: University of Wales, Cardiff.
More information: www.velothon.com/#/axzz4ZLsPS9zX
Run in tandem with the professional road race, this event is still a new one on Wales’s sportive calendar. Other than the stunning routes, the main draw is fully closed roads for both distances, along with some of the country’s best known climbs.
Of the two distances the longest is 87 miles and with nearly 6,000 feet of climbing it is no mean challenge.
Llandrindod Festival Sportive
When: Sunday July 16
Where: The Lake, Llandrindod Wells.
More information: www.johnlloydracing.com
Home made cakes await all those who finish this, one of the more low key events on the Welsh sportive calendar. The Tour of Britain has passed through Llandrindod Wells on a number of occasions, and you will pass nearby Builth Wells where Dylan Groenewegen won stage four of last year’s race.
Three routes are available, the shortest of which is just 24 miles, however, the long route is 65 miles and heads to Rhayader for a circuit of some of the Elan Valley’s reservoirs and the attendant hills.
Wiggle Wye Valley Warrior
When: Saturday August 19
Where: Chepstow Racecourse, Chepstow, Monmouthshire
More information: www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk/events/wiggle-wye-valley-warrior-sportive/
Much of this ride is England, following the banks of the River Wye and clocking up some miles in the Forest of Dean. There are no signature climbs on the 102 mile Epic route, but the 8,615 feet of ascent will test the legs of all but the most accomplished climbers.
Should that prove too much, the 79 mile standard route has over 6,000 feet of climbing which still presents a stiff challenge to most.
Tour de Mon
When: Sunday August 20
Where: Newry Beach, Holyhead, Anglesey
More information: alwaysaimhighevents.com/tour-de-mon/tour-de-mon-home
If you think Anglesey is a small why not try the 107 mile Mawr route which circumnavigates the island off the north coast. It may not be the most challenging event in Wales, but it still has more than 4,000 feet of ascending to keep you honest.
There is also the novelty of the ‘Flying Mile’, a timed segment to add spice to the route.
Five Valleys Sportive
When: Sunday September 3
Where: Margam Country Park, Neath Port Talbot
More information: www.thefivevalleys.co.uk
Inspired by the route of the Port Talbot Wheelers road race route first contested in the 1950s, this event takes on some of South Wales’s toughest climbs, including Bwlch and Rhigos. There are 54 and 72-mile routes to chose from, and even the short course has over 3,000 feet of ascent.
Cambrian Coast Sportive
When: Saturday September 16
Where: Dovey Yacht Club, Aberdovey
More Information: welshcyclingevents.co.uk/index.asp
The four routes of this event all visit one of Wales’s quietest areas, and the two longest provide a significant challenge. Of those the Big Dog course is the toughest. Those taking on the 101-mile event will also tackle well over 9,000 feet of climbing, making this a tough day in the saddle, especially with plenty of gradients above 15 per cent.
When: Sunday October 1
Where: Knighton Community Centre, Bowling Green Lane Knighton
More information: www.autumnepic.com
Though not as mountainous as other parts of the country, this Mid-Wales event is another for the climbers. The longer, Classic ride climbs 8,700 feet in its 93 miles. That and the 80-mile Short Cut route both visit the Elan Valley, an area of reservoirs built to serve the people of Birmingham, which played a part in the development of the bouncing bomb used in the World War Two Dam Busters raid.