With thousands of sportives in the European calendar, these are the 7 that really stick out. These include the oldest, longest, hardest and most popular rides in Europe. On these rides you will cover some of the most famous cobbled sectors, bergs, climbs, velodromes and finishing straights in cycling. If you are looking for a great sportive in Europe to ride, you can’t go wrong with any of these:
Routes – Long (220km, 2200m) Medium (129km, 1587m) Short (71km, 901m)
Riders – 16,000
About – This sportive is all about short, sharp cobbled climbs. The route is absolutely littered with them with climbs coming fast and often. The most famous are the Koppenberg, Paterberg nand after a gap of 5 years, the Muur all with gradients close to 20%. At each summit, the next climb is signed so you are straight into preparing for the next challenge. Riders come from all over the world to ride this bucket list sportive. The next day is the classic pro race and the local fans are among the most passionate in the world.
Why is it on the list – Legendary route full of classic climbs and cobbled sections coupled with a great pro race to watch live the next day.
Routes – Long (172km) Medium (145m) Short (70km)
Riders – 7,000
About – Hard to explain in words the brutality of the pave. This is a rare opportunity to ride the infamous cobbled sectors of the world’s most famous one day bike race. A relative newcomer to the sportive scene, the event has been instantly popular. The long and medium routes take in all three 5* cobbled sectors and all routes finish in the old velodrome at Roubaix. This sportive favours the powerful over the light rider. There are no climbs to navigate but the cobbles are relentless and make this arguably the toughest event of the year.
Why is it on the list – A unique sportive fitting of the world’s greatest one day race. We can’t promise you will enjoy the cobbles at the time, but this is a must ride sportive.
Routes – Long (312km, 4547m) Medium (232m, 3813m) Short (167km, 2534m)
Riders – 5,500
About – Originally designed as a loop of the island, Mallorca 312 has evolved into a completely closed road event with routes to suit all types of riders as well as the endurance fanatics that made this sportive so popular in the early years. Late April is a great time of year to visit cycling’s most popular island and the route takes in most of the great, smooth climbs in the Tramuntana mountains. This can either be the main ride of the year or the perfect end to your early season training. The hotels on the island have great bike facilities and there are lots of other routes to take in before and after the sportive if you want to come for a longer break.
Why is it on the list – Completely closed roads over an amazing route in one of the most popular spots for road cycling.
Routes – Long (200km, 3840m) Medium (130km, 1871m)
Riders – 13,000
About – The oldest major sportive in Europe having been going ever year since 1971. This event sells out in minutes and is Italy’s most popular event. It is a big amateur race shown live on TV and the pace is quick. Nove Colli is Italian for 9 hills so there is no suprise what the main challenge of the ride is. After a quick 30km from the coast, the route then hits hills of all shapes and sizes before a rapid descent back to Cesenatico. The entire route is closed to traffic and the scenery is beautiful. Emilia Romagna is one of the foody capitals of Italy, which is saying something, so it is the perfect place to carb load and refuel after a great ride.
Why is it on the list – Closed roads, the chance to ride the quickest 30km of the year at the start and finish with some great hills in the middle. Bellissima!
Routes – Long (174km, 5180m)
Riders – 7,000
About – Another of the oldest sportives in Europe having started in 1982, La Marmotte is the toughest major one day sportive in the calendar. The route takes in four of the most iconic climbs in the Alps, all legends of the Tour de France and in any other sportive each one would be the feature climb. Starting from the base of Alpe d’Huez, the route takes in the Croix de Fer before going the Telegraph / Galibier double before heading back down the valley to a gentle finish up Alpe d’Huez. If that’s too soft for you, there is a time trial up the Alpe the next morning. One for the climbers!
Why is it on the list – The route is stunning & challenging in equal measure. This is the ultimate one day test for amateur riders.
Routes – Long (138km, 4230m) Medium (106km, 3130m) Short (55km, 1780m)
Riders – 12,000
About – Over the same weekend as La Marmotte. While the Alpine sportive has the famous climbs, the Maratona has an even more beautiful route. This is one of the stunning places on the planet to ride a bike. The route starts with the four climbs that make up the Sella Ronda – judged by many as the best 55km of cycling in the world. Longer climbs then follow including the nasty Passo Giau before a little 400m ramp with 19% sectors right at the end reminiscent of a Tour of Flanders climb, very unwelcome with tired legs! The whole route is closed to traffic and the valley puts on quite a show to welcome all the riders for the week.
Why is it on the list – Warm hospitality, amazing route with great climbs and apple strudel at the feeds!
Routes – Long (177km, 3570m)
Riders – 15,000
About – This is your chance to ride the year’s hardest stage of the Tour de France. Organised by the same people that run the Tour, this is a completely closed road event which is always perfectly run and brutally hard. This is the most famous sportive in the world with over 75 nationalities represented. Typically the route alternates between the Pyrenees and the Alps with 2 – 4 big climbs and between 3500 – 4500m of climbing. Summit finishes are popular, past Etapes have finished on Mont Ventoux, Tourmalet, Alp d’Huez & Hautecam.
Why is it on the list – The most famous sportive in the world, always over a spectacular route and your opportunity to be part of the Tour de France.