Spring sportives are back. After the understandable uncertainty around mass participation events, widespread cancellations in 2020 and calendar changes in 2021, you may have forgotten that cycle sportives are an early year pursuit. But with restrictions lifted, some of the best UK events are back in their traditional slots. We look at five of the best, confirmed sportives for 2022 that you can use your winter and spring training to target.
Rutland CiCLE Tour sportive
Date: 23 April
Location: Oakham, Leicester
Distance: 55.5km, 127.2km, 165km
Price: £27.50, £32.50, £37.50
Ever wanted to do a Spring Classic style sportive without leaving the UK? Now’s your chance thanks to this Rutland based sportive that follows the route of the CiCLE Classic race or ‘Britain’s Belgian Classic’. It gets its nickname from the four off-road/gravel/pavé sectors included on the route, amounting to a total distance of 7.6km. Participants will tackle a succession of the Barleyberg, Newbold Manor, Somerberg and Staple Park sectors as they battle both their fitness and the road conditions. Other highlights on the long route include the picturesque villages north of Rutland Water, the beautiful Stapleford Park and the historic Belvoir Castle. With plenty of feed stations, mechanical support at the end of each sector, and good signage throughout the routes, this relatively young sportive will soon become one of the most sought after entries in the nation.
Fred Whitton Challenge
Date: 8 May
Location: Grasmere, Cumbria
Price: £70 for general entry
Probably the most popular, most difficult, and most legendary UK sportives, the Fred Whitton Challenge is an epic test for any rider. That being said, this is perhaps the event that needs most dedicated preparation – you’ll need to make sure that you pack your winter and spring training full of hill reps because this Lake District-based challenge packs in almost 4,000 metres of elevation. The relentless series of climbs includes infamous names such as Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter and the devilishly steep Hardknott Pass. The gruelling day in the saddle is certainly worth it though, as you contribute to raising millions of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support. If this sounds like your kind of challenge, you’ll need to get your entries in as soon as possible because securing a position on the Fred Whitton is almost as difficult as climbing Hardknott in the big ring.
Hampshire Hilly Hundred
Date: 8 May
Location: Winchester, Hampshire
Distance: 107km, 160km
Price: £22, £28
Taking place on the same day as the Fred Whitton but at the other end of the country is the Hampshire Hilly Hundred. Based out of the South Downs National Park, this sportive promises plenty of stunning views, peaceful woodlands, and quaint villages as you traverse the fully signed and marshalled route. The name is also entirely literal as the long ride is exactly 100 miles and packs in plenty of noteworthy climbs including Beacon Hill, Butser Hill, Old Winchester Hill, Windmill Hill and Watership Down. A great early season test for the legs, the organisers even chuck in a free breakfast as well as full mechanical support and feed stations along the route.
Date: 15 May
Location: Pitlochry, Perthshire
Distance: 64km, 136km
Price: £45, £79.99
Etape Caledonia is one of the most attractive sportives in the UK and a large part of that is because it is held on totally closed roads. As a result, it is a sell-out event every year, and is well worth the pilgrimage even if you live outside Scotland. Taking place in the spectacular Scottish Highlands, the 136km route consists of rolling hills and forest-lined roads around Loch Rannoch and Loch Tummel, as well as the twisting climb beside Mt Schiehallion. The road sits 1,083 metres above sea level and is the sort of stretch that will have you pinching yourself, overwhelmed by natural wonder, and the feeling that you’ve been transported into a James Bond chase scene.
The Cotswolds Classic
Date: 23 July
Location: Moreton in Marsh, Gloucester
Distance: 54km, 93km, 124km
Price: £25, £35, £40
The southwest of England is renowned for its cycling terrain and not many destinations get close to the wide variety of riding that is found in the Cotswolds. A July sportive, by this point in the calendar you should be raring to go. The Cotswolds Classic offers a chance to reward yourself by ditching the spring gear in favour of that lightweight summer jersey. With all three routes taking you through the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there’s something for every rider as you pass through thatched medieval villages and take on the area’s famous rolling hills. If the promise of sun-kissed miles and exhilarating descents isn’t enough, every finisher also gets a locally brewed beer once they cross the line.
Now you know some of the best sportives to look forward to in 2022, you can begin to structure your winter workouts with these key dates in mind. Put your ability and training to the test, and aim for a lung-busting sportive challenge. It’s gonna hurt, but boy will it feel good.