Sportives are a great way to challenge yourself on two wheels and put all those hours on the trainer into practice. Here in the UK, we’re spoilt for choice with great events to ride but if you look further than our borders there are some epic sportives in Europe too.
With many new and returning events for 2022, it’s finally time to get back out there, pin a number to your handlebars and take on some of the continent’s best cycling challenges. We’ve compiled a list of nine of the most iconic events that still have places. From bucket list classic routes to gravel rides and bike festivals, there’s something for everyone.
First on the list, the Paris Roubaix challenge is a chance for you to take on the infamous pavé the day before the men and the day of the women’s race. Not one for the faint-hearted, the route takes in the most famous stretches of cobbles in the whole world, including the particularly revered Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre sectors.
There are three distances on offer at 70km, 145km and 170km which each pack in some serious cobble action. Even better, you can make a long weekend out of your trip and stay to watch the women’s and men’s races to see how you stack up against the professionals.
Organised by the same committee as the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Challenge falls the day before the professional races and tackles the fabled Ardennes climbs.The ‘Old Lady’ is the oldest monument in cycling, so cresting the epic climbs of the Côte de Stockeu, Côte de la Redoute and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, should be on every rider’s bucket list.
The original Gran Fondo, Nove Colli has a 51-year history and tackles some of the most glorious European scenery. Starting and finishing on the coast at Cesenatico (home of Marco Pantani), the 205km route has altitude gain of 3,840 metres and takes in nine glorious hills (hence the event’s name). Run on closed roads, the parcours includes the famous Barbotto climb, a gruelling hill with an average gradient of 8.3% as its final challenge before a 42km mostly downhill dash to the coast and a gelato by the beach.
Global Bike Festival
New for 2022, the Global Bike Festival is organised by the Global Cycling Network and is a celebration of all things bike related. As well as the festival itself, there is also the opportunity to explore the stunning Austrian Alps on just about every surface imaginable. With group rides on road bikes, mountain bikes and gravel bikes, plus race events like the GCN KOM challenge and the car park criterium, just about every single discipline on two wheels is catered for.
At 315km, Vätternrundan is a mammoth day on the bike. The event claims to be the world’s largest recreational bike challenge and traverses Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden from which the sportive takes its name. With spectacular views, roads, climbs and even an MTB event, Vätternrundan’s popularity grows every year and is the best way to explore this beautiful corner of Scandinavia.
Quebrantahuesos translates to ‘bonecrusher’ in English and this Gran Fondo in the Spanish Pyrenees is worth the name. The country’s most popular sportive, the summer heat is certainly worth looking forward to on a cold spring morning ride. The longest route is 200km and climbs some of the most well-known climbs in the region including the Col de Marie-Blanque in the finale.
Marmotte Gran Fondo Alps
Part of a series of three events which includes Gran Fondos in the Pyrenees and Austria, Marmotte Gran Fondo Alps is the most well-regarded and most popular of the trio, pre-dating L’Étape du Tour.
Probably the most epic route on this list, you will certainly need to train your climbing legs as there is the little question of 5,000 metres of climbing including the legendary climbs of Glandon, Télégraphe, Galibier and a finish on Alpe d’Huez. The mythical mountain’s 21 hairpins are bound to sting after that menu of Alpine icons.
Maratona dles Dolomites
Packing 4,200 metres of climbing into a relatively compact 138km, the Maratona des Dolomites is world-famous. Even the shortest 55km route is super tough so there’s no easy day. Just like the Marmotte, this Gran Fondo crests the cream of the Dolomite crop including the Passo Pordoi and Passo Giau. So often snow-capped during the Giro d’Italia, at least in July it should be slightly warmer.
Finally, the gravel sportive that inspired the Strade Bianche, L’Eroica traverses Tuscany’s beautiful rolling white roads. Retro jerseys and vintage bikes are a must on this sportive and so is the mid-ride serving of Chianti wine as you fully immerse yourself into Italian culture of days gone by. The organisers are constantly tweaking and adding new loops to the programme, so even if you’ve been before, it’s always worth coming back again.
Now you know the events, it’s time to get your bike tuned and ready for a European cycling adventure. No matter your ride, there are still plenty of options for exploration this year. If you’re heading to Europe this year for one of these sportives, it’s paramount that you are covered whilst out discovering unfamiliar roads. Yellow Jersey’s cycle travel insurance includes European sportives which are often excluded on more generic travel insurance policies.