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Beginners guide to the most iconic UK sportives

Will Leedham | 10 months ago

We were asked which UK sportives stood out above the others, and which we would recommend as a goal for new cyclists. After putting our heads together (and a couple of arguments) we came up with what we think are the most Iconic rides in the UK.
What do you think of our list? Is there something missing that you think should be on every new riders cycling bucket list?

Dragon Ride/ L’Etape Wales 11th June

DragonRideLEtapeWales2016-93

 

Entering its 14th year in 2017, last year the Dragon Ride was bought up by the ASO who run L’Etape du Tour to name just one of their massive events. With their purchase we might expect a surge in interest, but the super tough ride over the Welsh mountains was already one of the favourite mass participation rides in the UK.

The Dragon Ride offers four routes to choose from, with the shortest being 100KM all the way up to 305 km for the longest. If you still feel that is too feeble a challenge for your mighty dragon slaying legs, you can also opt for the 3 day multi-stage ride which has a maximum distance of 488 km.

All of the routes this year include the climbs Bwlch (six percent average for 5.8km) and Rhigos (6.2km  at four percent). There are still places left for this year, but you’d better be quick. The first batch of tickets sold out within a couple days of being released.

Prudential Ride London 30th July

Probably the most popular (and hardest to get entry to) event in the UK. The Pru-Ride London takes 25000 riders on closed roads around the Olympic road race course, via Richmond, Box Hill, Wimbledon and ending with a Sprint up the Mall.

Choosing a wave that starts later in the morning allows riders to enjoy a fairly leisurely 100 mile ride around the largely flat (save for Leith hill) Surrey country side. If you want more of a challenge however, starting in the earliest waves will put you in a peloton with some of the best club riders in the area.

The pace in the early waves can be significant, with an authentic feel of road racing on the closed roads with everything from breakaways to occasional spills during the bunch sprint down the Mall

Ride London put places aside for UK cycle clubs, so if you’ve been struggling to get a space through the lottery that might be your best shot. Your club just needs to apply, and it will be allocated a number of tickets based on the size of the club

Ride London 100

Dunwich Dynamo 8th July

The first thing to know about the Dunwich Dynamo Sportive, is that it is absolutely not a sportive. There is no official organisation running it, no numbers or timing chips, no feed stations and no support. That, of course, is exactly the point.

The ride is approximately 200km, leaving from a pub in Hackney sometime around 8pm, arriving on the beach in Dunwich after dawn. Almost like a religious festival, the actual date of the ride changes each year and is based on changing fazes of the moon through June and July. I’ve consulted the oracle, this year it will be on the 8th of July.

All sorts of riders make the trip each year, from the occasionally complained about ‘club riders’ in technical kit, to riders on complicated homemade bicycles or pulling trailers with lights speakers and a steady drum and bass beat.

Ultimately everyone is welcome regardless of their riding styles, and riding through the night to watch the sun rising over the Suffolk coast is an experience unlike any other you will have had riding.

Local club Southwark Cyclists put on coaches back from Dunwich for riders, but the spaces are limited and get snapped up very quickly. If you’re at a loss however, its only 50K to Ipswich where you can get a train for London, or you can join the surprising number of people who turn around at Dunwich and cycle all the way back again.

Dunwich dynamo heatmap

Strava heatmap overnight during the Dunwich Dynamo

Fred Whitton Challenge 7th May

The lottery for the Fred Whitton Challenge closed back in January so if you don’t have a spot, its too late for this year. It is however, well worth putting a note in your diary and trying for 2018.

The Sportive was set up in memory of the racing sectary for local club ‘Lakes Road Club’ Fred Whitton who sadly died of cancer in 1998. Since then it has developed a reputation as being one of the hardest rides in the UK and, much more importantly, raised millions of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

There is no short or easy option for the Fred Whitton. The ride is ‘only’ 112 miles, but covers a relentless series of climbs around the Peak District National Park.

L’Eroica Britannia 16 – 18th June

Not all sportives have to be the ‘toughest ride ever!’ The L’Eroica Britannia bills itself instead as ‘The World’s Most Handsome Bike Ride’, and that it certainly is. Your bike must be vintage, by which they mean 30 years or older, and your clothing should be similarly worn in.

It’s like watching a hundred years of cycling clubs all riding out together. Relatively modern bikes from the 80’s are put up against bikes that are 50, 80 or 100 years old, all ridden by riders in clothing from the same period as their bike from shoes to chapéus.

The result is a festival atmosphere with cyclists of all types coming out with their friends to share in the joy of cycling. And since it seemed to fit, the ride has now spilt out into an actual festival of cycling with beer, music and muddy fields to enjoy.

The routes to pick from are 25, 50 and 100 miles over undulating hills and sections of gravel. How much of a challenge each of these routes will be likely depends on how old the bike you’re riding is.

Will Leedham

| 10 months ago

About this author:
I wasn’t given the choice as to whether or not I wanted to get into cycling. My family bike shop (Leedham’s Leicester) was founded in the 1850’s, and to avoid bringing dishonour to my ancestors, took up the two wheels out of reluctant duty. That said I do head out for the odd spin and know rather a lot about bikes.

I take care of YJ’s digital marketing among other things. Ever noticed those ads that seem to follow you round the internet and all over Facebook? Yep, I’m that guy.
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