One of the fastest growing activities in the UK is undoubtedly cycling. While retailers have seen sales of bikes and kit going up in the last year or two, cycling sportives and cycling holiday tours have witnessed a surge in participants. We reckon the boom in cycling is due to a several reasons. Firstly, we’ve all seen the amazing successes of our Great Britain Olympics cycling team. Then Wiggo recorded a stunning Tour de France win. Added to this, many more people are watching their pennies and swapping expensive car journeys for cycle commutes to work. And, there are still more people who believe that it’s the right thing to do their bit for the environment – cycling is one of the top ways to cut your carbon footprint.
If you are one of the many thousands of Brits who have caught the cycling bug, you’re most likely planning your cycling events calendar for 2013. Here we bring you a guide to eight of the best road biking trips and events in Europe.
Cycle like Wiggo: Well, you might not be able to achieve his speeds and amazing hill climbs, but it is possible to cycle a section or all of the actual Tour De France route for 2013. The official route has already been announced so you could head to the French Alps or Pyrenees to give a few sections a try. We fancy the look of the section in Corsica this year.
Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive: This part of Northern Ireland boasts stunning scenery and with a choice of distances to cycle this is an event for all fitness levels. The date of the 2013 sportive is still to be announced but it looks like being a great day out. Choose from the 56km Causeway See giantscausewaycoastsportive.com
La Marmotte: The legendary cycle event that takes place annually in the French Alps. The Marmotte route of 174km and 5,000m ascent is done in one day but it would be perfectly sensible to take it on over two or three days. You’ll find yourself cycling some of Europe’s most dramatic cols (mountain passes), including Alpe-d’Huez (1,880m), Glandon (1,818m), Télégraphe (1,570m), Galibier (2,642m) and Lautaret (2,057 m).
Maratona dles Dolomites: Another epic bike ride, which is also an annual sportive, is the Maratona dles Dolomites. The route is 135kms and around 4,600m of climbing and is described as some of the most sublime road cycling in Europe. You have t register to get an entry place and it could be that you have missed out already for 2013, but this is certainly one to add to your programme for 2014 and it’s a route that can be copied at any time of the year if you fancy going solo or with a few cycling buddies.
Bealach Mor, Scottish Highlands: An epic cycle route and sportive on the Applecross Peninsula and one that takes in a bealach (mountain pass) that is the UK’s biggest road climbs from sea level to 2053ft (626m) over six tough miles. The ascent actually boasts Alpine-style road bends and is situated in the middle of the 90-mile route. The Bealach Mor sportive takes place in September, while a shorter Bealach Beag takes place in May. It’s possible to cycle both of these routes at your leisure and to split them into two-day outings.
Jurassic Classic, Devon: This charity cycle event takes place in the fabulous setting of southern England. There are two rides a 100-mile Epic route or the 100km Challenge. Both start in Exmouth, with the Challenge’s most difficult climb coming at Gittisham Hill. The 2013 date is still to be announced. See jurassic-classic.org.uk
Four Days of Dunkirk: This is a stage race taking place in northern France but while it says four days, it actually means five days! Confused?! The extra day was added as the race grew in popularity, but it still has a friendly, traditional feel and stays faithful to its name in one respect – it always starts and finishes in Dunkirk. The 2013 date is still to be announced, but it is held in May. See 4joursdedunkerque.org (website in French)
Race Across Europe: An awesome 2,933 miles, this route starts from Calais and heads into Germany, Austria, Slovenia, through Italy, back to (southern) France, then to Spain and on to Gibraltar. As fabulous as it is challenging, this is no easy ride but offers amazing rewards. Riders have to provide their own support crews and must devise the best strategy for moving as quickly and efficiently through Europe as possible. IN 2013 the race takes place in June. See theraceacrosseurope.com