The 6 Toughest UK Sportives


Some of the most scenic views from the saddle

We're big fans of the beautiful British countryside, and we can't help but feel that Britain is even more beautiful when viewed from a saddle, with lungs on fire and legs that have long since turned to jelly. So we've scoured the country and hunted down the 6 toughest sportives out there:


When: Sunday 13th May, 2018

Where: Grasmere, Cumbria

What to expect: Gruelling climbs, winding roads, steep descents and top British scenery

Although this years’ challenge has already taken place, we couldn’t leave the Saddleback Fred Whitton off the list. Besides, you’ll likely need a bit of time to get in shape for next years’ event, which follows a gruelling 110 mile route through the Lake District, taking in every major climb in the area, totalling 3,950 metres of ascent.

The icing on the pain-cake comes at 99 miles, when you arrive at the foot of what organisers call ‘the daddy of them all’ - Hardknott pass. Although only a 393 metre climb, the 30% gradient in the final section has brought many a rider to their knees. If you manage to stay on your bike the entire way through, you’ll be among the few who do.

We love the FAQ section on the Fred Whitton website, including the inevitable query: ‘Will it hurt?’, to which the answer is of course a simple: ‘yes’. It’s a popular event and entry is via a ballot system. Keep your eyes peeled for the 2018 ballot opening in December 2017.

More information: Fred Whitton

Photo credit: Fred Whitton Challenge


When: Saturday June 24, 2017

Where: Llandovery, Wales

What to expect: A very long day on the bike and more metres of ascent than you can shake a saddle at.

Last year, the organisers of Wales’ already brutal Monster sportive became a little concerned that their ride was no longer going to be the toughest in the UK. So they went and added a new ‘Ultimate Monster’ 300km route, which takes in 6,500 metres of climbing. What we love most about this sportive is their dedication to ‘pushing every rider to his/her limit’.

The event starts in the Welsh town of Llandovery just after dawn, offering you every scrap of daylight available to complete a ride which follows a stunning route through mid-wales, including Llyn Brianne reservoir and Nant y Moc, plus brutal climbs ‘Devils Staircase’ and ‘Dylife’.

Of course, if 300km sounds a little too much for a nice Saturday out - you can always opt for the original route at 200km long with 4,500 metres of ascent. We’re sure that’ll be walk in the park too….

More information: A Cycling

Photo credit: A cycling


When: Sunday 9th July, 2017

Where: Ampleforth, Yorkshire

What to expect: Exposed, steep climbs, stunning scenery and a touch of ‘horror’

We love a good Yorkshire sportive, and Struggle The Moors is up there with the best. It follows a 110 mile long route, taking in six significant climbs in the North Yorkshire Moors and a total of over 3,000 metres of ascent. All of the major climbs have an average gradient of over 10%, including the aptly named ‘Glaisdale Horror’ at 14%.

To put the icing atop the pain-cake, you’ll find yourself battered from pillar to post by strong winds on a largely exposed route. Still, you can cross the finish line safe in the knowledge that you’ll have taken on a ride every bit as a tough as a stage of the Tour de France. Whether you’d want to repeat it day after day… we’ll leave that up to you.

More information: ride the struggle

Photo credit: Ride the Struggle


When: 8th June 2018

Where: Port Talbot, Wales

What to expect: A stunning route, a well organised event and a man with a trident

For the second year running in 2017, Dragon Ride L’Étape Wales was an official Tour de France sportive, and part of the global L’Étape series. Riders have a choice of four routes, and our favourite is of course the 300 km Dragon Devil, which comes with a whopping 5,000 metres of climbing.

Being an official Le Tour event guarantees a slick, well organised ride and a carefully selected route through stunning mid-wales scenary, but there are a few other extras too.In 2017, when riders approached the short n’ sharp Devil’s Elbow climb, they were greeted by Le Tour’s legendary Didi the devil. What more can you ask for on a sportive, than a man dressed as a devil, and armed with a trident.

Registration for the 2018 event is open now, and it’s advisable to get in there early. The event sells out quickly when places go on sale in the autumn, and you’ll want to be among those who can say that they’ve ‘slayed the dragon’ next year.

More information: Le Tape Uk



When: May 26th - 28th, 2018

Where: Somerton (near Yeovil) and around

What to expect: Iconic west country scenery, 34 stunning climbs, castles, national parks and a friendly, festival atmosphere.

If three days of back-to-back quad-punishing riding is your idea of bank holiday heaven, then mark this one in your diary for next year. Taking place over the late May bank holiday, the Tour of Wessex is the ultimate multi-day sportive event in the UK.

There’s no shortage of climbing over the long weekend, and you’ll be treated to some especially spectacular ascents through the iconic Cheddar Gorge and up the winding Pollock Toll road, on the edge of Exmoor National Park. The standard three day route splays out in three different directions from the ‘capital of Wessex’ Somerton, and is comprised of:

  • Day 1: 107 miles, including 11 ascents, Cheddar Gorge and King Alfred’s Tower, with a max gradient of 18%
  • Day 2: 116 miles, including 9 climbs and taking in the short-but-steep Black Hill.
  • Day 3: 112 miles, including 14 climbs and featuring the 25% gradient at Bryant’s Hill.

Perhaps one of the best things about this sportive are its amply stocked feed stations, friendly basecamp atmosphere and the excuse to indulge in pub dinners and a stay in one of the many traditional B&B’s in the area. Well worth the trip for what is a quintessentially British experience.

More information: Tour of Wessex



When: Saturday 2nd September, 2017

Where: Applecross Peninsula, Scotland

What to expect: Rugged remote roads, steep climbs, windswept coastline and panoramic views of the Isle of Skye

Named after one of the toughest and most iconic UK climbs, this sportive takes in over 2,000 metres of ascent, following a 90 mile route through the remote roads of north-west Scotland’s rugged Applecross peninsula.

Bealach Na Ba itself is a bucket-list climb for many cyclists, leading riders up and away from the sea and around alpine-like hairpins for a grueling 10 kilometres. The reward at the top is a brief moment to take in spectacular panoramic views over the west coast and the Isle of Skye, before plunging back down to sea level again.

Much of the second half of the ride follows the undulating peninsula coastline, past rocky cliffs and ducking in and out of sandy coves. The views are a guaranteed spectacular, but there’s little respite from the wild Scottish wind.

For the sheer rugged, windswept beauty of this event, and the chance to ride some of the UK’s most remote roads – we think this sportive is well worth the trip north of the border.

More information: Handson Events



If you fancy a more leisurely jaunt around the British hills this summer, take a look at the inaugural 'Let's Do This' Chavenage Sportive, brought to you by Le Col and Eisenberg. It's a fantastic opportunity to meet and ride with pros from the Bike Channel Canyon team, including James Lowsley-Williams, a star of the recent Tour De Yorkshire.

Our founder, former Team GB national champion Yanto Barker, will also be there all day - on hand to answer any of your questions about cycling, Le Col or the BIKE Channel team.