Challenges for 2017

with No Comments

As the long dark nights begin to draw in and we begin to look forward to riding in 2017, Dave Morrison has put together some inspirations for challenges away from the world of racing that you might want to consider for next year, or want to add to the bucket list to have a go at in future:

sportograf-83738106_lowresAre you looking for a non-racing event to target for 2017? There are numerous events to choose from in the UK, across Europe and beyond but here are some of our favourites to inspire you. Each will be attractive for different reasons, closed roads for example mean that your time will benefit from not having to slow down at junctions. Although Sportive promoters will emphasise that they are non-competitive events, they are timed and the majority of entrants will be looking for a good personal time. In contrast, on the continent, Gran Fondos are both races and rides in one  event. Usually the front pens will consist of racers whilst those not racing will start behind them in a similar manner to how runners are graded for the London Marathon.

Tsportograf-83664227he amount of hills will be a factor for some, are you looking for a climbing challenge? Ultimately, the challenge that many of us are seduced by is riding famous cols from, say, the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia. There are numerous European Gran Fondos/Sportives and we’ve only included a few below but the ones highlighted are huge closed road events in the high mountains. They are fantastic events with thousands of entrants and huge expos where you can buy lots of bike bling and gismos!

Training for long Alpine mountain climbs is not easy in Britain and, bizarrely, a long flat ride in the Fens may actually be the way to train as the headwinds and the lack of downhill slopes (restricting freewheeling) replicates the constant pedalling required for a long Alpine climb! We recommend the Tour Of Cambridgeshire and The Double Dutch as good Fenland events.

The iconic climbers’ sportives in the UK are the legendary Fred Whitton, which is a tough ride including 30% gradients in the Lake District. The Dragon Ride in South Wales is challenging with staggering views and great descents in the Brecon Beacons. sportograf-83663819The Dragon ride also has a 3-day option, as does the Tour of Wessex.

Of the five One Day Cycling Monuments, four of them have sportives where amateurs can ride the route on the Saturday then watch the pro-race on the Sunday (the Tour of Lombardy is the exception). Riding cobbles in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix is very challenging and you should set up your bike accordingly and get some hints on how to ride cobbles before leaving… these are not the smooth cobbles you see in city centres!

Aside from the big iconic events, we would recommend the local reliability rides early in the season and it is possible to ride through January and February starting with our own Winter Warmer, followed by the Chiltern Classics series to get the fitness levels up.

Return journey, pop up and people coming the other wayAt real ‘grass roots’ level you can’t beat the Dunwich Dynamo, an informal overnight ride from Hackney to the Suffolk Coast ridden by thousands of people. Pubs stay open and pop-up food stalls appear en-route, including a barbeque at a fire station. Chase the Sun takes the alternative approach of Sunrise to Sunset following the Sun from East to West (Kent to Somerset)

Finally, there are the Audax Challenge Series awards. Most Westerley members should be able to achieve the Grimpeur du Sud award, but the Wessex SR Series is brutal and not for everyone!

There should be at least one for you below and, if not, there are 100s more we haven’t mentioned!


15th Westerley Winter Warmer – Find out more information about our iconic winter sportive here.

Free for Westerley members

Various Chiltern Classics TBC – reliability rides

21st The Willy Warmer 200km AUDAX Chalfont St.Peter


Various Chiltern Classics TBC – reliability rides

MARCH 2017

5th Strada Bianche Gran Fondo Sportive on the Saturday, watch the pros on Sunday. Italy

APRIL 2017

1st Tour of Flanders Sportive on the Saturday, watch the pros on Sunday Belgium

8th Paris – Roubaix Sportive on the Saturday, watch the pros on Sunday. France

15th       Double Dutch 200km Audax from Huntingdon (Cambs).  Although Audaxes are not the primary focus of this list, this flat ride incorporating the fens can be ridden fast and will suit time trialists and anyone who is training for the Tour of Cambridgeshire and/or Ride London-Surrey.

23rd Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive on the Saturday, watch the pros on Sunday

MAY 2017

1st WESTERLEY AUDAXES 200km and 100km options. RUISLIP into the Chilterns £9 for Audax UK members and £11 non-members. Accessible Audaxes built with ‘first timers’ in mind. Food at start and finish included in the price. Get more information here.

7th Fred Whitton Challenge This legendary Lake District sportive is regarded as one of the UK’s most challenging and ‘must do’ events. Be warned, the climbing is not for the faint hearted!

27th – 29th Tour of Wessex 3 days of 3 sportives ensures that entrants get a bit of a ‘stage race’ experience across some testing terrain.

JUNE 2017

4th Tour of Cambridgeshire 84 mile closed road sportive from Peterborough. Anyone finishing in the top 25% of their age group will be invited to the UCI World Gran Fondo final in France. A fast flat course, across the Fens, but beware of the headwinds.

4th Milan – San Remo Gran Fondo Sportive along the route of the pro cycling monument. Italy

11th Dragon Ride One of the UK’s most iconic sportives with some stunning climbs and views. Distances of 100km, 153km, 230km and 305km plus the Dragon Tour option over 3 days.

17th Chase the Sun Sunrise to Sunset (FREE) , Isle of Sheppey (Kent)  to Burnham on Sea (Somerset)

24th Coast to Coast in a Day Seascale to Whitby via Hardknott Pass! 150 miles, 4,500m ascent

JULY 2017

2nd BENSON VETERAN BIKE RALLY We will again ride this as a Westerley Club Ride for 2017 (FREE) to witness the truly amazing bikes, many over 100 years old. Find out about our trip to this year’s event here.

2nd Maratona Dles Dolomites Probably the best sportive/Gran Fondo in the world. Italy

2nd La Marmotte The original grand sportive in the French Alps

8th Dunwich Dynamo Overnight ride to the Suffolk coast 200km from Hackney. Proposed as a WESTERLEY CLUB RIDE  for 2017(FREE)

9th Velothon Wales Closed Road sportive Cardiff wales.aspx#axzz4OHza7aL3

16th L’Etape du Tour Closed Road Mountain stage of Le Tour de France Briancon

16th Chiltern Cycling Festival Amersham – various events

22nd Wales in a Day Sportive Caemarthon to Chepstow 185 miles and 4,500m ascent

30th Ride London – Surrey 100 mile Closed Roads sportive Stratford London

30th London-Edinburgh-London 1400km Audax held every 4 years


26th Le Mans 24 Hour Cycling Around the famous motor racing course in France.


9th Deloitte Ride Across Britain Land’s End to John O’Groats over 9 days

24th Velo Birmingham Closed Roads sportive Birmingham


Grimpeur du Sud

Complete 5 Audax routs of over 100km in the South East which qualify for Audax climbing points (AAA) and you can claim the Grimpeur de Sud badge. You do not need to be a member of Audax UK.

Wessex SR Series

This involves riding 4 extremely challenging Audax events in one Audax season. The 300km Hard Boiled, followed the next day by the 200km Dorset Coast (8th and 9th April). The 400km Porkers is on 30th April and the 600km Brimstone on 27th May. This combination makes a Super Randonneur series both for Audax Points and AAA points. This challenge was first set in 1994 and, at the time of writing, only 130 people have actually completed it!

Leave a Reply