Are you looking for a once-in-a-lifetime cycling event you can really get excited about? These 10 epic races will require some travel, but they’ll also provide you with memories that will last a lifetime.
Photo credit: mikkelz
Cape Town Cycling Tour
March 6, 2016 — Cape Town, South Africa
There’s a reason why the Cape Town Cycling Tour is the largest timed cycling event in the world. The 68-mile route begins in the city center before heading south to Smitswinkel and then north along some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world. The only problem is the 35,000-rider entry limit, which sold out in just eight hours in 2015 — so you’ll have to plan accordingly if you want to experience the picturesque scenery for yourself.
April 9, 2016 — France
Wonder what it’s like to race on the pavé of northern France? The Paris-Roubaix Challenge will cover each of the sectors the pros ride, totaling 54K (34 miles) of cobblestones along the traffic-free 170K (106-mile) route. Two shorter routes are also options, but no matter which distance you choose, you’ll end in the iconic Roubaix Velodrome, which is steeped in cycling lore.
Tour of Flanders Sportive
April 2, 2016 — Belgium
You haven’t really experienced cycling until you’ve done it in Belgium. Taking place the day before the pro Tour of Flanders, you’ll tackle the same legendary 160-mile course, including the climb up the cobbled Koppenberg. Though you’re unlikely to be fully recovered, stick around to witness the pro race with over 100,000 other fans lining the course for a full-on cycling party and event that is unlike any other.
Photo credit: Mallorca 312
April 30, 2016 — Mallorca
This event gets its name from the 312K (194-mile) course, which circles the entire stunningly beautiful Balearic island. Mallorca has long been a winter paradise for pro cyclists because of its long climbs, scenic landscape and well-maintained roads. If you can make the 14-hour time cutoff, you’ll be able to take in the whole shebang in a single unforgettable ride.
The Dragon Ride
June 5, 2016 — South Wales, UK
One of the premier cycling events in Europe, the Dragon Ride in South Wales is a race where the beauty of the countryside meets true cycling torture. While there are several distance options to choose from, the 189-mile Dragon Devil Gran Fondo will present the ultimate challenge. With stunning climbs up the Rhigos, Black Mountain and Devil’s Elbow, expect close to 10,000 feet of climbing, including a 15% gradient up the infamous Devil’s Staircase.
Photo credit: Mark Kelly
L’Etape du Tour
July 2016 — France
Perhaps the most famous of all amateur cycling events, the course of L’Etape changes each year to mimic the toughest stage of the Tour de France. This year, cyclists will get a chance to tackle the queen stage of the 103rd edition from Megève to Morzine, where the yellow jersey could be decided. You’ll climb the same mountain passes and ride under the same conditions as the pros, with ride support and feed stations at your disposal. The exact L’Etape course details will be released in June.
Photo credit: will_cyclist
Maratona dles Dolomites
July 3, 2016 — Italy
To register for the epic Maratona dles Dolomites, you’ll have to be a little bit lucky. With over 31,000 potential entrants chasing just 9,000 spots, the demand is a direct reflection of the race’s legendary status. Though the longest route is 85 miles, don’t let the shorter distance fool you — there’s close to 15,000 feet of climbing to be conquered here, and the Dolomites are known for crushing the spirits of even the fittest cyclists. On the menu this year are the Passo Giau (10K or 6.2 miles at 9.6%) and the Passo Valparola (11.8K or 7.3 miles at 6.7%), among others.
Photo credit: will_cyclist
July 3, 2016 — France
If cresting the most iconic climbs in Europe is something that you’ve always wanted to do, La Marmotte will offer you this exact opportunity. From the Hors Catégorie climbs of the Col du Glandon to the Col du Galibier, you’ll ride 105 miles through the French Alps on your way to the final climb up Alpe d’Huez. Known as one of the most organized cycling events in the world, travel tour packages are also available (and include entry to the event) should you want to stick around and enjoy the Tour along with the rest of France.
Gran Fondo Gottardo
July 24, 2016 — Ambri, Switzerland
Not the longest or the toughest race at just under 70 miles, but what the Gran Fondo Gottardo lacks in difficulty it makes up for in character. You won’t find any boring sections of road that are often found in longer races, and the relatively “easy” 5% climb up Saint Gotthard is made a bit more challenging by cobbled roads. The gentle gradients will also allow you to soak in the dramatic views of the region, which are definitely worth the trip.
August 28, 2016–September 3, 2016 — Nice, France, to Geneva, Switzerland
There are plenty of races that claim to be the toughest, but this one truly takes the cake. With seven stages over 800K (497 miles) through the heart of the Alps, Haute Route will conquer climbs like the Col de l’Izoard and the Madeleine to test your fitness day after day. But for the effort you’ll also get the one-of-a-kind views that come with the territory. Summit finishes in alpine towns like Courchevel and Megève are sure to provide days you will not soon forget.