16 of the best UK sportives to ride in 2020: when, where and why! Back to top
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16 of the best UK sportives 2020

It's January, that time of year when we all make resolutions about shedding some of the excesses of the festive period and look ahead to plan our 2020 cycling calendar. If you're looking for a goal, a sportive makes an excellent target.

In this article we share our pick of the best UK sportives.

Some are well known and will need no introduction, whilst some are relatively new to the scene but provide something different.

For the benefit of cyclists all over the UK we have selected sportives from each geographical region. We know there will be plenty of other events that would undoubtedly qualify as being one of the best sportives in the UK, but unfortunately, we can’t cover them all; let us know in the comments below which ones you think we should add on our next update of this article!

Written by John Vicars

This articles includes details of hotels we think would make a great base for each event (though you'll need to double-check with them on bike storage etc). If you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. We only suggest places we'd want to stay ourselves! Please read our disclosure policy for further information.


London and south east sportives

Hampshire Hilly Hundred

Location:  

Winchester, Hampshire

date:  

3 May 2020

Distance:

 60 and 100 miles

Where to stay:

The Running Horse, Winchester (Book here)


Our view:

Here’s a great opportunity to train with a purpose through the spring months with a focus on getting an early season 100 miles under your belt.


The Hilly Hundred is set in the beautiful South Downs National Park. It features three challenging climbs: Butser Hill, Beacon Hill and Old Winchester Hill. With elevation on the 100-mile route at around 1,250 metres (there is a 60-mile alternative)  you don’t need to be a mountain goat to get around, so it’s a perfect appetiser for the summer.

 

The course has chipped timing, full mechanical support and, believe it or not, a free breakfast before you start! One of the best Hampshire sportives around.


Conclusion:

The Hilly Hundred is a great early season 100 miler with challenging climbs.

Prudential Ride London

Location:  

London/Surrey

date:  

16 August 2020

Distance:

 19, 46 and 100 miles

Where to stay:

central London hotels (book here)

Our view:

Due to the men’s and women’s professional road races taking place over the same weekend and because you get the opportunity to ride on closed roads through the streets of the capital city, the Prudential Ride London is regarded as one of the best sportives in the UK. It is however extremely difficult to gain a starting berth, with the 25,000 places being snapped up very quickly, unless of course you are prepared to apply for a charity place.


At around 1,300 metres of elevation on the 100-mile route it’s not too heavy on the climbing front but you do get the chance to experience the well-known ascents of Leith Hill and Box Hill when you get out of the city and into rural Surrey.

 

It’s more expensive than the standard sportive at £79 per entrant but it’s one of those events that cyclists aspire to complete at least once in their life. There are two shorter circuits available aimed at youngsters and those who don’t want to take on the longer route.


More information:

Check out our guide to the hills of RideLondon, here


Conclusion:

Prudential RideLondon is an excellent choice for rubbing shoulders with the pros and riding on closed roads.

🏁🏁🏁 #RideLondon

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South west sportives

Ride Cotswolds Sportive  

Location:  

Moreton in Marsh, Gloucester

date:  

30 May 2020

Distance:

41, 80 and 100 miles

Where to stay:

Fire Service College (book here)


Our view:

There aren’t many destinations in the UK that beat the Cotswolds in the summer, and one of the benefits of this event is that the three routes barely leave this area of natural beauty as they meander through the undulating terrain.

 

The Cotswolds is a hill climber’s dream, full of short and punchy climbs (under 10 minutes duration) with none more feared than Snowshill Road. Part of an 8-kilometre ascent, it starts off gently and gradually gets more and more intense before you take your first glimpse at the fields of lavender which mark your arrival in the pretty village of Snowshill.

 

The event has a chipped timing system, mechanic support and post ride massage facilities in the event village. The Ride Cotswolds Sportive is a very popular event so if you fancy a good test in spectacular surroundings you need to book early!


Conclusion:

An excellent option if you want to enjoy the Cotswolds in the summer. 

Dartmoor Legend Ultra

Location:  

Dartmoor

date:  

25 July 2020

Distance:

200 miles

Where to stay:

Duchy House, Princetown (book here)

Our view:

A new breed of sportive that is already popular on the continent has started to make its way into the UK sportives calendar: the ultra endurance sportive.

 

The Dartmoor Legend Ultra is certainly not for the faint hearted, with 200 miles, 5,500 metres of elevation and gradients of 25% on some climbs. This event is for extremely fit and competent riders who are comfortable with a very long day in the saddle.

 

Not only is this an ultra-endurance challenge it is also against the clock, with riders who don’t maintain a certain average speed being asked to retire. You can start between 4am and 5am and are required to finish before midnight.

 

The field is limited to just 200 riders who must pre-book in advance of the event. The route includes geo tracking, five feed stations and mechanical support.


Conclusion: 

This event offers a severe test in stunning countryside.

Midlands sportives

Tour of the Peak

Location:  

Bakewell, Derbyshire

date:  

10 May 2020

Distance:

99 and 185 kilometres

Where to stay:

Rutland Arms Hotel, Bakewell (book here)

Our view:

One of the best Midland sportives around, this classic event was named after the Tour of the Peak Road race which took place between 1943 and 2005 and is steeped in history. It’s in the Peak District so you know it’s going to be tough and have an idea of what to expect before you turn a wheel on those grippy roads!

 

Starting and finishing in the small market town of Bakewell, the long 115 mile route has 3,000 metres of elevation, including the killer climb of Winnats Pass, and not to mention Holme Moss and the Cat and Fiddle!

 

The ascent of Winnats Pass, on the edge of the beautiful village of Castleton includes the ‘killer mile challenge’ which is a timed section on a fully closed road. You will not be able to speak as you cross the cattle grid at the top – trust me!

 

As the organisers state – only the brave should choose the long route!


Conclusion: 

Choose this event for the killer climbs and closed road hill climb.

Rutland Cicle Tour Sportive

Location:  

Oakham, Leicester

date:  

25 April 2020

Distance:

40, 79 and 100 miles

where to stay:

Wisteria hotel, Oakham (Book here)

Our view:

The CiCLE Classic elite race is known as ‘Britain’s Belgium Classic’ and the sportive is your opportunity to ride much of the same route, including the pavé sectors (but just once, unlike in the elite race).


The event starts at Giant's Rutland store and the route takes you around Rutland Water and the small villages heading to Melton Mowbray. It's great countryside and you're supported by mechanics, medics, feed stations and signage.


The organisers promise that it will "soon become a must-do in the calendar" - if you live in the area, it could be a good one to try this year.


Conclusion: 

One to test yourself against for the novelty of cobbles alone!

Yorkshire sportives

Etape du Dales

Location:  

Grassington, Yorkshire

date:  

17 May 2020

Distance:

family route, 60 and 110 miles

Where to stay:

Ashfield House, Grassington (book here)

Our view:

The Etape du Dales is a classic sportive that passes through some of the most remote and scenic countryside in the country. The long route covers many of the county's well-known climbs as well as allowing the rider to explore the dales of Wharfedale, Littondale, Wensleydale, Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, Birkdale, Garsdale, Dentdale and Ribblesdale.

 

The climbs of Fleet Moss, Buttertubs and the ascent of Tan Hill to the highest pub in the UK, the Tan Hill Inn, make this one of the cycling sportives to enter.

 

The event supports the Dave Rayner Foundation which is a charity that provides financial assistance to promising young riders to compete in Europe.

 

There are some really challenging climbs on the 110-mile route with 3500 metres of elevation and is not for the novice cyclist. That said the organisers have for 2020 included and family friendly route to encourage participation from youngsters and to introduce others to the delights of the Yorkshire Dales.

 

More information: 

Check out our guide to the Etape du Dales route, here.


Conclusion:

An iconic sportive in stunning, traffic light/free countryside.

The Flat 200

Location:  

Newthorpe, Yorkshire

date:  

19 July 2020

Distance:

200 miles

Where to stay:

Milford Hotel, Peckfield (book here)

Our view:

Something completely different: a sportive that all non-climbers have been waiting for! This is a flat 200-mile route (only 1,050 elevation metres) on quiet country roads in the Yorkshire countryside without a hill in sight! 

But it’s not entirely easy - road sportives don’t come much longer than this one!

 

Setting off from the village of Newthorpe near Leeds at 6.30am be prepared for a mammoth 10-15 hours, depending on your ability, in the saddle. The distance is clearly the challenge on this one and let’s face it there aren’t many people who have cycled 200 miles in a day.

 

Five feed stations will keep you suitably fed and watered during the day with burger, chips and beer (included in the entry fee) waiting for you at the finish.


Conclusion:

The Flat 200 is great for hill-hating cyclists that don't mind long distances.

North east/west sportives

Fred Whitton Challenge

Location:  

Grasmere, Cumbria

date:  

 7 June 2020

Distance:

114 miles

Where to stay:

Lake view Country House, Grasmere (book here)

Our view: 

Probably the most famous and popular UK sportive, which is spoken about in the same esteem as the legendary Marmotte Cyclosportive in France.

 

With a 114-mile journey around the Lake District incorporating the now infamous climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes and almost 4,000 metres of elevation this is an epic test for both mind and body.

 

There is a 30% gradient on parts of Hardknott Pass with the incline on some of the hairpin bends even harsher. Given the severity of the climbs, the organisers have applied a generous time limit of roughly 10mph to allow as many people as possible to complete the course.

 

Gaining entry to this event is probably harder thought than the sportive itself, so make sure you don’t miss the ballot deadline!


Conclusion: 

This ultimate cycling test is packed full of killer climbs.  

Stockton Sportive

Location:  

Stockton, County Durham

date:  

11 July 2020

Distance:

59, 80, 116 and 170 kilometres

Where to stay:

Hampton by hilton, Stockton on Tees (book here)

Our view:

With the current penchant for sportive organisers to make their route as severe as possible to attract the pain loving cyclists, the Stockton Sportive proudly presents Le Tour de Moor.

 

There is almost 3,400 metres of climbing to be found in the 105-mile route so make no mistake this is a serious test. Starting and finishing near Middlesbrough, your journey takes you into the North Yorkshire Moors with a string of really tough climbs including an ascent of the super steep Rosedale Chimney as well as the steep ascents of Egton Cliff and Blakey Bank.

 

A ‘family friendly’ route is offered for youngsters, inexperienced riders and those new to this type of event. One of the July sportives to take a serious look at for 2020.


Conclusion:

If you're after a severe test, this is for you!

Scotland sportives

Etape Loch Ness

Location:  

Inverness / Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands

date:  

26 April 2020

Distance:

106 kilometres

Where to stay:

Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel and spa, Inverness (Book here)

Our view:

When looking for cycling events in Scotland, there is arguably no finer setting then the iconic Loch Ness. Add that to that the fact that this is a circular closed road sportive then you can probably see why the Etape Loch Ness is so popular and that you may have to rely on a charity place to gain access.

 

Starting and finishing in Inverness the route of 106 kilometres includes a timed 9 kilometre King of the Mountain section (maximum gradient 12%) and has a total elevation of around 1,400 metres.

 

The event offers electronic timing, mechanical support, a finishers medal and the chance to see Nessie!


Conclusion:

One of the best closed road sportives with a timed KOM section.

Etape Caledonia

Location:  

Pitlochry, Perthshire

date:  

17 May 2020

Distance:

40 and 85 miles

Where to stay:

The Old Mill Inn, Pitlochry (book here)

Our view:

Another Scottish cycling event definitely worth some serious consideration is the Etape Caledonian which again is so popular that you may have to gain entry with a charity ticket to have the opportunity to take part in this breath-taking ride through the spectacular Scottish Highlands.

 

The longer 85 mile route which begins and ends in Pitlochry will take you through rolling hills and forest land as you ride by the lochs of both Tummel and Rannoch as well as negotiating a challenging 2 kilometre climb up Mount Schiehallion, which tops out at 1,083 metres above sea level.

 

This is a fully timed event, and includes a finishers medal, but beware it also includes a broom wagon to pick up the slow coaches!


Conclusion: 

A closed road sportive with awesome scenery.

Wales sportives

Wales in a Day

Location:  

Caernarfon, Gwynedd

date:  

18 July 2020

Distance:

185 miles

Where to stay:

Ty Castell, Caernarfon (Book here)

Our view:

Cycling events in Wales don’t come much tougher than this event. Riding 185 miles in one day from the top to the bottom of Wales with 4,500 metres of climbing thrown in for good measure!

 

Starting in Caernarfon in the north and ending in Chepstow to the south the route takes in the Llanberis and Gospel Pass as you wind your way by the Snowdonia National Park and the Cambrian and Black Mountains.

 

This is not a mass start sportive as competitors can start whenever they choose between 4am and 6am on the day and the organisers have included a generous cut off time to allow as many riders to finish this epic ride.


Conclusion: 

An epic challenge set in a spectacular landscape.

Dragon Ride

Location:  

Margam Park, Port Talbot

date:  

7 June 2020

Distance:

98, 160, 206 and 297 kilometres

Where to stay:

The Barn B&B, Margam (book here)

Our view:

Another Welsh cycling event that is extremely popular, the Dragon Ride set in the stunning Brecon Beacons is now very well established in the UK sportive calendar and has acquired almost legendary status.

 

For 2020 the organisers have made their long route known as the Dragon Devil harder than ever! With elevation of almost 5,000 metres over a mammoth distance of 297 kilometres this is probably the hardest sportive in the UK. The lesser challenge of the Gran Fondo version is hardly a walk in the park with 3,562 metres of elevation and a distance of 206 kilometres!

 

With climbs such as Devil’s Elbow, Devil’s Staircase and Black Mountain you get the impression that this is going to be an epic test of ability and character. Only the toughest will slay the dragon!


Conclusion:

This is a bucket list event - do it if you can!

Ireland sportives

Giants Causeway sportive

Location:  

Ballycastle, County Antrim

date:  

20 June 2020

Distance:

35, 60, 85 and 115 miles

Where to stay:

The Salthouse Hotel, Ballycastle

Our View:

The Giants Causeway Coast Sportive is one of the most popular Irish cycling events in the country. It offers a choice of four routes and takes you through the Causeway Coast and Glens of Antrim area which is renowned for its wonderful coastlines and unique natural beauty and is justifiably famous for its UNESCO World Heritage site the Giant’s Causeway.

 

The area also includes three designated areas of outstanding natural beauty, nine glens including Glenariff the ‘Queen of the Glens’, the causeway coastal driving route, lush forest parks, secluded coastal tracks and numerous quaint fishing villages.

 

The long Giant Killer route boasts a distance of 182 kilometres with over 2500 metres of climbing including a series of climbs along the famous Torr Head road.


Conclusion:

A fantastic event with a coastline route through a UNESCO world heritage area. 

Skoda Ring of Clare sportive

Location:  

Ennis, County Clare

date:  

18 July 2020

Distance:

120 and 160 kilometres

Where to stay:

Hotel Woodstock, Ennis (book here)

Our view:

Starting and finishing in Ennis the Skoda Ring of Clare is an Irish sportive that forms part of the international Skoda Celtic Cycle Series.

 

There are two routes on offer with the 160 kilometre route comprising of 1500 metres of elevation and the 120 kilometre version covering 1200 metres of vertical ascent. However whichever route you choose you are likely to be blown away with the stunning scenery on offer as you cycle through amazing coastal and estuary landscape on the west coast of Ireland including the world famous Wild Atlantic Way.

 

Entrants to the 2020 event will receive a free commemorative long-sleeve cycling jersey. A medal is awarded to all finishers who can also enjoy a post ride BBQ.


Conclusion:

A beautiful coastline route and a free jersey - what's not to love?!


Final tips

If you are interested in riding a sportive in 2020 remember that the popular events will sell out on general sale very quickly. However, it is possible sometimes to gain entry with a charity place.

Want to know if a sportive is for you or know more about the general format of sportives? Check out our in-depth gran fondo/sportive guide, here - but in general, the beauty of cycle sportives is that generally speaking they cater for all levels of ability and for riders with different objectives. There are those who want to race round the course for the kudos of being the first rider home, others that just want to see if they can complete the circuit and some who will just want to better their  time from the previous year. 

Don't assume that you need to wait until summer to ride your sportive. A little like the professional scene the UK cycling sportive season seems to have no start or finish, as an abundance of winter sportives have suddenly appeared to fill the gap between September and March. A quick check at the jam-packed bike sportive 2020 calendar clearly indicates that this sector is in good health!


What next?!

Feeling inspired by what you’ve read? Up for a challenge? Going to ride a sportive this year?

Don’t miss our in depth articles on Prudential Ride London and the Etape du Dales.

Let us know which sportives you’ve ridden and which were your favourites. Any tips and advice you would like to impart?

Please share your experiences (good and bad) in the comments section below.

And finally - for in-depth guides on cycling in various regions across the UK, head to our UK cycling page. You might also enjoy our pick of the best UK cycling holiday destinations.

If you want some ideas for cycling events further afield, take a look at our pick fo the best European sportives and world cycling challenges!


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About John Vicars

Cycling up Buttertubs Pass from Hawes

John divides his time between England and Spain and, together with his wife, clocks in around 10,000 miles each year searching out Europe's finest roads. John loves to share his experiences (good and bad) from the saddle and has a particular loathing for double digit gradients, sub-zero temperatures and red traffic lights!

  • Enda says:

    Have ridden the Skoda tour of clare and its great. The Inishowen 100 run by Foyle Cycling club is a bigger challenge and a great ride for the scenery. Beware its 9000ft of climbing over 100 miles

    • Clare from Epic Road Rides says:

      Thanks for this – and great to know about the other event too. Best wishes, Clare

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