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Five of the toughest sportives in the world

Nick Soldinger
23 Feb 2016

Cyclist takes a look at some of the longest, hardest, most spectacular sportives out there (that aren't full yet).

So you didn’t get through the pesky ballot for the Fred Whitton Challenge, and entries for L’Etape closed months ago – but you’re still clanking for a mighty test this year. Something that’ll push you further and higher than you’ve ever been before. A lung-bursting, heart-thumping sportive that’ll test every fibre of your being, as well as give you real bragging rights over your cycling chums. Let us tempt you, then, with our pick of the toughest out there that are still taking entries…

Tour du Mont Blanc - French Alps - Entry from £95


What is it?

In a word, horrific! This one-day epic features nine climbs that total just under 9,000 metres of ascent. Ouch!

When does it start?

At dawn on 16th July in the ski resort of Les Saisies, 1,610m up in the French Alps. 

How long does it go on for?

Organisers reckon the fastest will finish the 330km in 10 hours. We think that’s a bit optimistic – it’d probably take us double that. At least!

What’s the best bit?

The descents. The one down Col des Montets into Switzerland, for example. Or the one down Col du Petit St Bernard into Italy – speeds of more than 50mph are possible!

And the toughest?

The brutal, penultimate climb at Cormet de Roselend. It’s 19km long and averages 6%. 

Where do I find out more?

sportcommunication.info

Tour of Wessex - West Country - Entry £135

What is it?

A 538km challenge that’s crammed with climbs – 7,672 metres worth of them to be precise.

When does it start?

At 8am on 28th May in the Anglo-Saxon town of Somerton in leafy Somerset. This is particularly fitting, as the course follows some of Britain’s most ancient routes.  

How long does it go on for?

Three hard days. You finish back in Somerton on 30th May, having followed looping routes that take in some of the finest scenery the UK has to offer. There are also one day options though, ranging from 57 to 107 miles. 

What’s the best bit?

Cheddar Gorge? The Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure carved into the Dorset hills? The views of Corfe Castle? Take your pick!

And the toughest?

The climbs on the final day are relentless, and include the notorious Porlock Toll Road.

Where do I find out more?

pendragonsports.com 

Haute Route Alps - Nice to Geneva - Packages from £1,230

What is it?

A seven-stage, 800km beast that starts at sea level and finishes high up in the Alps. 

When does it start?

Entrants will line up on Nice's Promenade des Anglais on 28th August before being set off by a flag-waving Frenchman. 

How long does it go on for?

If you make it, you can expect to freewheel into Geneva on 3rd September, where you'll roll to a halt in the Jardin des Anglais bang next to splendid Lake Geneva. Simply Awesome. 

What's the best bit?

You get to tackle both sides of the fabled Col du Galibier. Something to boast about!

And the toughest?

Watch out for the 12% sections of the Lacets de Montvernier, and the Col de la Bonette, which at 2,700m is no pique-nique. 

Where do I find out more?

hauteroute.org

Ride Across Britain - UK - Full packages from £1,600

What is it?

A 1,545km (yep, you read that right) monster that goes from the bottom of mainland Britain to its very top. 

When does it start?

On 10th September in Cornwall's most westerly tip at Land's End. 

How long does it go on for?

Nine days. In that time you'll follow a route that will take you up the western side of England, through Bath, past Manchester and Liverpool right up into Scotland. 

What's the best bit?

Probably the last bit! After nine days in the saddle, the sense of achievement you'll feel when you roll over the finish line at John O'Groats will be possibly life changing!

And the toughest?

The last day's hills are killers. You'll need to tackle around 1,250 metres of climbing. 

Where do i find out more?

rideacrossbritain.com

Maratona - Italian Alps - Packages from £499

What is it?

The Maratona dles Dolomites – to give it its full name – is a mighty 140km gran fondo that weaves through Italy’s South Tyrol.

When does it start?

On 3rd July in the ski resort of La Villa, surrounded by World Heritage sites.  

How long does it go on for?

One day – but what a day! With 9,000 riders, this is a major event. Expect an international field, TV crews, helicopters and noisy roadside crowds.

What’s the best bit?

Apart from the incredible atmosphere, the views of the Dolomites' famous limestone outcrops are often staggering.

And the toughest?

The Mür dl Giat (cat’s wall) climb comes right at the end. At 360m, it’s short, but spiteful, with a 19% gradient!

Where do I find out more?

maratona.it 

Bealach Mor - Scottish Highlands - Entry £42

What is it?

A 145km course with 2,900 metres of ascent, including Britain’s highest road climb, Bealach-na-Ba. 

When does it start?

On 3rd September in Kinlochewe in Scotland’s wild Highlands, 50 miles northwest of Inverness. 

How long does it go on for?

It’s a one-dayer that weaves its way through staggering countryside that takes in lochs, cliffs, coves and glens brilliant with heather. 

What’s the best bit?

The view from the top of Bealach-na-Ba is truly special, giving you an incredible vista over Scotland’s west coast and Isle of Skye.

And the toughest?

Getting to the top of Bealach-na-Ba – it’s 626 metres up. Tough enough at the best of times, but once you factor in the Scottish weather even in early September? Brutal.  

Where do I find out more?

handsonevents.co.uk

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