By Nigel Wynn
London is probably not the first place you would think of as being the centre of sportives, but there are plenty of great organised cycling events either in the capital or just a short pedal away.
We round up some of the best events for 2017.
Hell of the Ashdown
When: Sunday, February 19
Where: Charles Darwin School, Biggin Hill, Kent
More information: www.hell.gb.com
The 'HOTA' is a well-established, early-season ride that incorporates not only a climb-packed 107-kilometre route, but also the high chance of very cold conditions – possibly even snow. Whatever the weather, there's little to beat the Kent and Sussex countryside navigated by the route, which takes in testing climbs such as Toys Hill, Twyford Lane, Hogtrough Hill and Kidds Hill, also known as 'The Wall'.
Wiggle Ups and Downs
When: Saturday, March 11
More information: www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk/events/wiggle-ups-and-downs-sportive
As its name suggests, The Wiggle Ups and Downs sportive is another early-season test that takes in its fair share of hills. There are three routes to choose from, ranging from 48 to 80 miles, all taking in the picturesque chalk downland of the North and South Downs south of the capital.
St George's Sportive
When: Sunday, April 23
Where: Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
More information: www.southernsportive.com/st-georges-sportive
Although devoid of a stand-out big climb, the St George's sportive takes place in and around the Chiltern Hills, which means the roads are constantly undulating. Its late April date, on St George's Day (April 23), means that the weather should be picking up after the dreariness of a British winter – often the perfect time for a sportive.
Cycling Weekly Surrey Hills Cyclone
When: Saturday, May 20
Where: Lingfield Racecourse, Surrey
There's something for everyone in Cycling Weekly's own Surrey Hills Sportive, conveniently located to the south-west of London. The three routes range from 48 to 160 kilometres, but all tackle some of Surrey's most well-known hills and with the well-appointed surroundings of Lingfield racecourse hosting the start and finish.
When: June 10-11
Where: Lee Valley Velopark, London
More information: www.nightrider.org.uk
One of the few cycling events to truly take place in the capital, the NightRider traverses London's streets overnight and takes in some of the most iconic landmarks. Starting at the Lee Valley Velopark, the circular 50 or 100km routes travel past the likes of Picadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, St Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge. And the event includes a well-deserved breakfast.
When: July 8-9
Where: Pub on the Park, Martello Street, London Fields, Hackney
More information: www.facebook.com/groups/DunwichDynamo
This is a very different event, for a number of reasons. It is a 'turn up and go' ride, so it doesn't have an entry fee. It's at night and is not way-marked. You are handed a map at the start in Hackney and you find your way to Dunwich, approximately 200km north of London in Suffolk. Around 2000 riders took part in 2016.
Prudential RideLondon Surrey 100
When: Sunday, July 30
Where: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
More information: www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk
The London 2012 Olympic legacy event goes from strength to strength, attracting thousands of riders to its closed roads route out into the Surrey Hills and back for 100 miles, following the route of the 2012 cycling road race. The ballot entry system means that getting a place can literally be like a lottery, but it's a ride that all cyclists should try at least once.
Palace to Palace
Where: Buckingham Palace, London
More information: www.princes-trust.org.uk/support-our-work/events/palace-to-palace-2017
This fund-raising ride for the Prince's Trust starts at Buckingham Palace and finishes in Windsor Castle, offering a unique trip by bike. In between, the ride takes in Richmond Park and travels through the Surrey scenery with 72km and 145km routes on offer.
Wiggle Chiltern Classic
When: Saturday, August 5
More information: www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk/events/wiggle-chiltern-classic-sportive
The chalky slopes of the Chiltern Hills to the north of London provide the backdrop to the Wiggle Chiltern Classic. The three routes are hosted by the countryside sat between Oxford to the west and Aylesbury and High Wycombe to the east, and travel through remarkably unspoilt countryside and pretty villages.
Marlow Red Kite
When: Sunday, September 3
Where: Marlow Sports Club, Buckinghamshire
More information: marlowredkiteride.co.uk
Another ride utilising the hills of the Chilterns is the aptly named Marlow Red Kite, named after the magnificent bird of prey that has made the area its home. Three route distances top out with a long and challenging 160km version, which heads north-east up and over the Chilterns and back again.
Circuit of Kent
When: September, date TBC
Where: Sevenoaks, Kent
More information: www.kentcyclosportive.co.uk
One of Britain's longest-running sportives, the Circuit of Kent is still an event that offers solid organisation and a fantastic route and sees hundreds of riders return each year. The event arguably takes place when Kent is looking at its very best, with the bulging fruit orchards basking in the autumn sunlight in between the area's trademark oast houses.
ICAP L'Etape London
When: September TBC
Where: Lee Valley Velopark
More information: humanrace.co.uk/event/letape-london
The L'Etape London is organised by Human Race, who are now owned by Tour de France organiser ASO... so this event has a direct link to the Tour in more ways than just following a similar route to the 2014 Tour's stage three. After the start in Lee Valley Velopark, the route heads north-east and up as far as Saffron Walden in Essex via Epping Forest (185km route option).
Cycling Weekly Box Hill Original
When: Sunday, October 8
Where: Cranleigh Showground, Surrey
Box Hill is a popular destination for cyclists for a number of reasons, not least the zig-zag road heading to the top and the amazing view of the surrounding countryside when you get there. This sportive takes in several other testing climbs in the vicinity, including Leith Hill and White Down (TBC).
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