The toughest cycling sportives that Britain has to offer in 2018


Everyone likes a challenge, and if you’re after a big target for the 2018 season, then we’ve rounded up some of the hardest sportives in the UK.

>>> Cycling sportives: everything you need to know

Unfortunately if you live in London or the south east, there will be a bit of travelling involved to find some truly tough roads, but we promise that putting your legs through pain that they’ve never experienced before will make it all worthwhile.

Fred Whitton Challenge

Spectacular views reward weary legs on Fred Whitton (Photo: Andy Jones)

When: Sunday, May 13
Where: Grasmere, Cumbria
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A sportive that every cyclist should do at some point, the Fred Whitton Challenge takes in every major climb in the Lake District over the course of a gruelling 178km route. What makes it worse is that the most difficult climb of the lot, Hardknott Pass comes when you’ve already ridden nearly 100 miles, and many a strong rider has been forced to dismount on its 35 per cent gradients.

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Wiggle Mendips Sportive

When: Sunday, July 22
Where: Street, Somerset
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Behind the relatively benign name of this south coast sportive lies an absolute beast. The longest route is 99 miles (so you might want to do a few laps of the car park at the end to make it a round 100) and offers a relaxing start on the Somerset Levels, before the heading into the Mendip Hills, including the climbs of Ebbor Gorge, Burrington Combe, and, as a final leg tester, Cheddar Gorge on a day that will leave you feeling truly empty.

The Dragon Ride

The Dragon Ride features many of south Wales’ toughest climbs (Credit: Jesse Wild)

When: Sunday, June 10
Where: Pyle, Wales
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If you feel the need to ride 305km in a day and cover pretty much half of south Wales in the process, then the longest “Dragon Devil” route of the infamous Dragon Ride is for you. Covering many of the region’s most famous climbs, this will be a truly mega day out, although the 230km Gran Fondo route or 153km Medio Fondo routes should be pretty tough too.

Brewin Dolphin Peaks Tour Sportive

When: Saturday, May 19
Where: Bakewell, Derbyshire
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Doing almost an entire lap of the White Peak (the southern part of the Peak District), the Peaks Tour really does live up to its name. The brutal climb of Winnats Pass is tackled in the early stages of the ride, which you should feel in your legs for the rest of the day, and although the rest of the climbs aren’t quite as steep, there are some long ascents waiting in the second half of this 98 mile event.

Struggle The Moors

You can be sure of spectacular scenery wherever you ride in Yorkshire (Photo: Russ Ellis)

When: Sunday, July 8
Where: Ampleforth, Yorkshire
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Certainly one of the hardest cycling sportives in Yorkshire, Struggle The Moors features no fewer than six significant climbs, a number of which have average gradients of over 10 per cent, giving an overall climbing total that’s comfortably over 3,000m. That’s more than you get in some Tour de France mountain stages, so make sure you’ve done some training!

>>> 20 of the best British sportives to ride in 2018

Watch: What to eat for your next sportive

Forest of Bowland Sportive

When: Sunday, April 15
Where: Milnthorpe, Cumbria
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The Forest of Bowland is a regular feature of the Tour of Britain, and this event gives you a chance to sample the same roads and put your legs to the test in the early season. The main challenge of the longest 160km route is the Trough of Bowland, a 4km ascent that gets steeper and steeper as it reaches the top.

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Bealach Mor

Britain's best cycling roads

Scotland’s quiet winding roads in a sparsely populated landscape (Photo: Chris Auld)

When: Saturday, September 1
Where: Kinlochewe, Scotland
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The Applecross peninsula on the west coast of Scotland may be remote, but it’s making the trip to ride one of the most spectacular roads in the UK: Bealach na Ba. This hair-pinned climb is the highlight of the Bealach Mor sportive, climbing over 600m over its 10km length, with spectacular views of the Isle of Skye from the summit.

>>> Best cycling sportives for beginners

Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo

When: Saturday, June 2
Where: Fontwell, West Sussex
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Something else for those in the south of England, the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo may not have the big name climbs of some of the other sportives on this list, but if you think that this is just a cruise round the South Downs, then you’re in for a serious surprise. There’s barely a kilometre of flat road over the course of the 196km route, with the final tough climb coming with just 6km to go.