With January drawing to a close, sportive entries are piling in as many riders turn their attention to 2019 goals and calendar planning.
Whilst there’s a host of excellent sportives in Britain, sometimes it can be exciting to enter an event overseas – giving you the chance to explore uncharted landscapes, not to mention cuisine and riding communities.
There’s a wide variety of international sportives, many of them in Europe and easy enough to reach whilst others as far away as South Africa will offer riders a real opportunity to cycle somewhere completely different.
Here’s a look at some of the best international sportives to whet your appetite..
Cape Town Cycle Tour
When: Sunday March 10 2019
Where: South Africa
More information: capetowncycletour.com
The Cape Town Cycle Tour gives 35,000 riders the chance to cover 109km through some of South Africa’s best scenery..
The route circles the Cape Peninsula, starting and finishing not far from Table Mountain. Riders will pass the Cape Town Castle, hitting Nelson Mandela Boulevard. The route visits the Cape Point Nature Reserve, and covers a few well known climbs including the two stage ascent of Chapman’s Peak, before the Suikerbossie climb.
The event is charitably run, benefiting Pedal Power Association (PPA) and Rotary Club of Claremont
Entries cost 1000 Rands (about £56).
Ronde van Vlaaderen Cyclo (Tour of Flanders sportive)
When: Sunday April 6 2019
Where: Flanders, Belgium
More information: sport.be/rondevanvlaanderencyclo/en/
The Tour of Flanders event runs the day before the professional Monument and the majority of those taking part will stay over to watch the best riders in the world take on the same course a day later.
There’s four route options: 237km, 200km, 141km, and 74km. All routes will cover some of the famous cobbled sections and there are feed stations at 30km intervals. The two longer routes start at Antwerp, whilst the shorter options will start and finish in Oudenaarde.
Participants can make a weekend of it by visiting the Tour of Flanders museum and by sticking around to watch the pros do battle on the cobbles and bergs of the Flemish region.
Prices range from €40-70 (around £35 to £61).
When: Saturday April 13 2019
Where: Northern France
More information: sport.be/parisroubaix
Similar to RVV this mass participation event takes place the day before the pro race, on the same course as the professional teams.
There is a choice of three routes – in this case 70km, 145km or 172km – and all end in the iconic Roubaix Velodrome, arguably the best finish to any sportive on this list.
The longest route covers every secteur pavé on the way to the finish. The shorter routes of 70km and 140km start and finish in Roubaix, from where they loop out and take in the best known secteurs.
Entry, costing between €28-62 (£23-54) is available here.
When: Saturday April 27 2019
Where: Wallonia, Belgium
More information: sport.be/lblcyclo
Also part of the Skoda Classic Challenge series is the Liège-Bastogne-Liège sportive. The ‘epic route’ covers 274km and gives riders the chance to cover nine significant climbs on their way from Liège to Bastogne and back again, the total ascent being 5200m.
You can choose to take on a shorter route – either 154km or 75km, with 2700m and 1200m of climbing respectively. These options still start and finish in Liège, they just don’t quite make it to Bastogne.
The longest route actually covers a greater distance than the men’s professional race the following day.
Entry isn’t pricey at all – €20-65 (£17-54) – it’s cheapest if you enter early in the year.
Get your preparation right to ensure a successful day’s riding
Mallorca 312, Mallorca 225 and Mallorca 167
When: Saturday April 27 2019 – SOLD OUT – waiting list available
Where: Mallorca, Spain
More information: mallorca312.com
For this sportive, the name tells the distance: either 312km, 225km or 167km. The longest of the three routes used to be a full lap of the Balearic island, but now all routes are concentrated to the north of the island. This is to allow for closed roads sections.
The 312km option is front loaded with climbs and riders will need to be well trained before taking on this challenge if they are to get comfortably inside the 14 hour time limit.
Entry for 2019 is now closed, but you can get on the waiting list, or add it to your bucket list for future reference..
When: Saturday June 22 2019
Where: Sabiñánigo, Spain
More information: quebrantahuesos.com
This Spanish sportive gives riders the choice between two very different distances. The full Quebrantahuesos Gran Fondo follows a 200km route, whilst the Treparriscos Medio Fondo is less than half the distance at 85km.
Entries are done by a lottery ballot due to demand outstripping supply, so if this event is of interest then it’s best to enter early and cross your fingers. Entry closes on February 19 2019 – so you really need to get on quick if you want to ride this year.
The route crosses the Pyrenees into France before looping back in Spain to finish where it started.
When: Sunday June 29 20189
Where: The French Pyrenees
More information: cyclosport-ariegeoise.com
Another Pyrenean adventure, this one stays firmly on French soil. This sportive offers a selection of routes, from 74km with 954m of climbing to 172km with 4414m of upwards elevation.
Over 1000 riders took part in the long route in 2016 and the numbers increase annually. Prices vary from €45-68 (£39-60).
Maratona dles Dolomites
When: Sunday July 7 2019
Where: Northern Italy
More information: maratona.it
Three route options of 138, 106 and 55km for this hilly ride through the mountains of Northern Italy, not too far from the Austrian border.
All three courses are almost entirely up or down with little in the way of flat road. The Maratona is a Gran Fondo and all those coming from outside of Italy will need to provide a medical certificate to ride (there’s a template for this on the site).
Pre-registration for 2019 is now closed, but it’s one to add to the list for future if you’re not in the draw.
When: Sunday July 7 2019
Where: French Alps
More informtaion: marmotte.sportcommunication.info
Unlike the Étape, the Marmotte’s route does not change from year to year.
The route covers over 174km with 5000m of climbing, from Bourg d’Oisans to Alpe d’Huez and the amount of climbing puts amateurs through their paces on a Tour de France style high mountain day.
The sportive is usually a sell out despite there being 7000 places available. You’ll need a medical certificate and insurance to ride.
Étape du Tour
When: Sunday July 21 2019
Where: Briançon to Izoard
More information: letapedutour.com
The parcours follows the same route as stage 10 of the Grande Boucle, covering 169km and over 4000m of climbing.
When: Sunday July 21 2019
Where: Ambri, Switzerland
More information: granfondosangottardo.com
The Granfondo San Gottardo is set in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. You can choose routes between 42 and 110km, and the long route takes you over three classic cols: the Saint Gotthard, Furka and Nufenen.
The relatively easy five per cent average gradient of the Saint Gotthard is made more challenging by the uneven, cobbled surface adding character to the ascent, setting it apart from the usual upwards grind.
Entry costs 52 Swiss Francs, about £39.
Haute Route Alps
When: August 25 – 31 2019
Where: Megève to Nice, France
More information: hauteroute.org/events/overview/alps-2019
One of a growing selection of Haute Route events, along with the Pyrenees and Dolomites, this multi-day ride is at the tougher end of the international sportive scale.
Seven consecutive stages take riders nearly 800km through the Alps to a finish in on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice
Admittedly it’s not cheap – with entry starting from €1,450 (£1,267) – but there’s a huge amount of support available with riders needs looked after to the extent that you’ll feel a bit like a pro at a stage race.
When: Sunday October 6 2019
Where: Gaiole, Italy
More information: eroicagaiole.com
Taking in the white roads of Tuscany, this sportive runs a ballot system due to its growing popularity.
Bikes must have been built no more recently than 1987 and riders are expected to dress in period cycling clothing – riders can be disqualified for inappropriate clothing. The only exception to the rules is the choice (but not obligation) to wear a modern helmet.
The event has also spawned several spin-offs: Eroica Britannia, California, South Africa, Primavera (Italy), Japan, Spain, the Netherlands and Uruguay.
Entry opens on January 29 2019, 15:00hrs, CET – they will go quickly.
Get your event nutrition right
For something a bit more challenging…
These aren’t quite sportives – but they’ll certainly test you…
Race Across America
When: June 11 2019
Where: West to East across the USA
More information: raceacrossamerica.org
This 3000+ mile epic ride from the West coast of the USA to the East has been running since 1982.
The RAAM is run as a continuous time trial: the clock starts when the riders roll out and stops when they cross the finish line. The time includes all stoppages for sleep, food and mechanicals.
Perhaps one for a ‘bucket list’ rather than a mid-season target, to complete this event would be quite an achievement.
When: beings Friday July 26 2019
Where: TBC – join mailing list for details
More information: transcontinental.cc
As with the RAAM, the clock doesn’t stop until the rider crosses the finish line, and some challengers are reported to do the whole thing on very little sleep.
This race has no set route, just compulsory checkpoints along the way. Months of careful planning go into each rider’s chosen route to ensure they get to each marker as efficiently as possible.
The race has just 10 simple rules, including ‘riders must ride from the start point to the finish point and visit all mandatory controls en-route’ and ‘riders must act in the spirit of self-sufficiency and equal opportunity for all racers’.