If you want to accomplish something extra special this year, try completing a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast bike race. Or maybe just go for a leisurely weekend ride. One that’ll have you home for lunch. Yeah, that sounds good, too.
If you’re up for it, here are four of the hardest bike races you can enter in 2018. And if you’re not up for it, each is paired with a perfectly sane alternative. So no matter which camp you land in, you can hop on your bike and tick off some miles.
THE RACE: TRANS PYR
This is a ridiculously hard climb through the Pyrenees. Over a seven-stage, 500-mile course, riders must fight through nearly 66,000 feet of elevation gain to reach the finish line. If your quads are up for it, great. Otherwise …
THE ALTERNATIVE: TRANS PYRENESS MTB
Don’t let the similar name fool you because while this trek through the mountains and Basque countryside is also a week long, it’s an intermediate, almost leisurely affair that includes plenty of stops, sightseeing and three catered meals per day.
THE RACE: RACE ACROSS AMERICA
This race is exactly what it sounds like: a race across the entire contiguous 48. It begins in Oceanside, California, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland, covering 3,000 miles, about 800 more than the Tour de France. There are no stages. Instead, it’s just one long, exhausting ride that must be completed in 12 days or less — sleep be damned.
THE ALTERNATIVE: THE NORTH-SOUTH TRAIL ADVENTURE
Why ride across the entire country when you can ride across its smallest state? This annual race takes bikers on a relaxing route from northern Rhode Island down to Charlestown, complete with aid stations and finish line food.
READ MORE > 10 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST BIKE RACE
THE RACE: TOUR DIVIDE
June, exact date TBD
This race is a self-supported ride that begins north of the border in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and ends in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. If you’re counting at home, that’s 2,745 excruciating miles across lonely stretches of the Continental Divide. With no fanfare, no designated rest stops and no prize money, it’s a true test of endurance and grit.
THE ALTERNATIVE: VAIL PASS
This scenic Colorado ride takes you up a paved trail to the Vail Pass summit. The main climb is 8.7 miles, but starting from different towns allows you to add distance as you see fit. And the best part: When you get to the top, you get to turn around and coast back home.
THE RACE: DEATH RIDE
The name pretty much says it all. This brutal one-day race covers just 129 miles, but crosses five mountain passes across the California Alps and requires 15,000 feet of very steep climbing. It’s going to hurt.
THE ALTERNATIVE: THE 3F CENTURY
Those three Fs stand for “flat, fast and fun,” which are very welcome words when you’re riding through usually-hilly Northern California. And with easygoing routes of 38, 63 and 100 miles, there’s a distance for everyone.