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12 March 2021   |   Blog   |   

Our Top Pick – Cyclo Sportives and Gran Fondo

Here at Sports Travel International, we have spread our wings. Not only are we still Ireland’s running travel experts, but we are now proud to offer a wide selection of European amateur cycling events. Here’s our top pick of the best. This list was compiled by Alex de Waard, himself a keen runner and cyclist, and Director of Product and Operations.

We provide guaranteed entries for many of the biggest cycling events in the world. Often, we can even offer entry to those that have already sold out through their official event websites. You can avoid the stress of ballot entries when you book with us!

As well as your entry, on many events, we can also provide the best event support services in the business. This means you won’t have to worry about a thing. You can simply focus on enjoying the event. We’ll take care of all of  the (sometimes complicated) logistics that come with taking part in a major event.

Single travellers, couples, and groups are all always welcome in our groups. You can be sure that you’re Booking with Confidence when you book with us. For many of our events, we provide travel and accommodation options. On selected events we also offer, a bike rental service and overland bike transport. We also offer a convenient online Medical Certification Service, so you don’t have to go to see your doctor before you race. If you need it, we can also provide specialist sports travel insurance, meaning you can travel with total peace of mind.


OUR Pick of the Best Cyclo Sportives and Gran Fondo Events

No 1 – The Etape du Tour

When: 4 July, 2021, TBC July 2022
Where: Nice 2021, TBC (France) 2022
Field: 15,000 riders
Distance: 177 km
Ascent: 3,750m
Climbs: Col de la Colmiane, Col de Turini, Col d’Eze
Fly into Nice or drive
Entry Availability: The Etape du Tour is always a sell out! Due to the 2020 event cancellation, and the resultant entry roll overs, only very few new entries are available for 2021. You can however get guaranteed entries with Sports Travel International.

What’s so special about it?

This is your chance to ride in the tyre tracks of your heroes. The Etape follows the exact route of a Tour de France stage, that’s right, the greatest cycle race on Earth! Each year, around 15,000 riders are given the opportunity to test themselves against the riders of the Tour’s peloton on fully closed roads. With professional standard race services (including additional services from Sports Travel International) this is as close to the Pro TDF experience as it gets. The 2021 route will follow stage 2 of the 2020 Tour, held in Nice. With many Pros now present on Strava, after you have ridden the Etape, you might be able to see how you compare against their speed, power output and heart rate.

No 2 – La Marmotte Alps

When: Sunday 27 June, 2021 and Sunday 3 July, 2022
Where: From Bourg d’Oisans to Alpe d’Huez
Field: 7,500 riders
Distance: 170 km
Ascent: 5,000m
Climbs: Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, Alpe d’huez climb
Accessibility: Fly into Geneva or Lyon or drive
Entry availability: On Sale NOW for 2021, with guaranteed entries from Sports Travel International

What’s so special about it?

The Granfondo Marmotte is the pinnacle of challenging events. It is a 170 km Alpine climbing bonanza! The route runs between Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez, and features over 5,000m of ascent. The event does not take place on closed roads, but there are rolling road closures.

The Marmotte is a firm favourite for foreign riders.  Only 20% of the field is made up of French riders. Previous winners of the Marmotte include Dutchman Laurens ten Dam, and Belgian Sander Armee, who both won before they turned pro. There are no cut off points en-route, but you do have to get to the bottom of Alpe d’Huez before 18.30.  If you fail to do so, you will not be allowed to start the climb and will be taken up to your hotel by car.

One of Europe’s oldest Gran Fondo events, the Marmotte was established in 1982. Places are limited to 7,500 entrants, so this event is sure to be a sell out every year!

Usually this event is held on the first Sunday in July. However, in 2021, they brought it forward a week, presumably due to the date clash with the Etape and the Maratona.

Marmotte gran fondo cyclosportiveMarmotte Pyrenees

No 3 – Maratona dles Dolomites

When: Sunday July 4, 2021, Sunday July 3, 2022
Where: Italian Dolomites
Field: 8,500 riders
Distance: 138 km
Ascent: 4,230m
Climbs: Passo Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella, Gardena, Giau, Valparola, Mur dl Giat
Accessibility: Fly into Venice Marco Polo or Treviso airport and take our airport transfer
Entry availability: This event usually sells out within a day. Due to the 2020 cancellation of the event, and subsequent entry roll overs, we anticipate that demand for 2021 will be higher than ever! Guarantee your place on the start-line with Sports Tours International NOW!

What’s so special about it?

The first Italian event on our list is the Maratona dles Dolomites. ‘The Maratona’ is widely regarded as one of the toughest cycling events around, packing in a lot of climbing despite its relatively short distance. The Maratona is held in the beautiful Italian Dolomites. This is a top quality cycling experience. There’s the event itself, with its flawless organisation, to the hotel standards and famous Italian hospitality. What this event lacks in length it makes up for in climbing! It manages to pack 4,230m of climbing into just a 138 km long course. You’ll also soon discover that the climbs are generally steeper than those in both the Alps and Pyrenees!

The race can be done by 3 different routes, each of varying difficulty: the Sellaronda course, the Middle course and the Maratona course. All riders start at 06:30am in the village of La Villa and the Sellaronda course with 4 mountain passes will be completed first. After completing the Sellaronda course, riders can either choose to finish the race, or carry on and do the Middle course. The full Maratona course is basically an extension of the preceding shorter Middle course, so riders who want to tackle the full Maratona dles Dolomites have to do the middle course after the Sella Ronda.

Maratona Dles Dolomites

No 4 – Mallorca 312

When: Sunday 24 October, 2021, Saturday 30 April, 2022
Where: Alcudia, Mallorca
Field: 8,000 riders
Distance: 312 km
Ascent: 5,000m
Climbs: Puig Major, Col de sa Pedrissa and Col de Feminina
Accessibility: Fly into Palma airport
Entry availability: This event is the biggest cycling event on Mallorca, and always a sell out. The 2020 event cancellation will no doubt mean that places for 2021 will be even harder to come by than usual.

What’s so special about it?

The 2021 Mallorca 312 will take place on Sunday 24 October after having been postponed from its usual April date. This fantastic event allows cyclists to discover the cycling paradise of Mallorca at a well-organised, and challenging, Cyclo-Sportive event. There are 3 routes available: 312, 225 km and 167 km, so something on offer for all riders. Mallorca is one of the most spectacular islands of the Mediterranean. Climb the nicest Mallorcan Mountains and enjoy the weather spectacular scenery. Both Spring and Autumn are seasons that allow you to discover Mallorca at its best. There tends to be a cool breeze, and the sun is bright but not too hot! Mallorca 312 is a cycling festival for any keen amateur cyclist, offering an incredible atmosphere and superb event services. Your registration allows you to participate in any route, so depending how you get on with your training, or even how you feel on the day; you have until you race to decide which one you will do.

No 5  – Paris- Roubaix Challenge 

When: Saturday April 9, 2022 (Cancelled for 2021)
Where: Start in Busigny, Finish in the Roubaix Velodrome
Field: 5,000 riders
Distance: 172 km, 145 km, or 70 km
Ascent: 495m
Climbs: This race is not known for its climbs but rather its cobbled sections, or pavé. All of the most famous sections of pavé from the pro race are completed as part of the Paris Roubaix Challenge, including the Carrefour de l’Arbre and the Trouée d’Arenberg.
Accessibility: BRU (Brussels International Airport) Transfers to Roubaix available from Sports Travel International.
Entry availability: Guaranteed entries into your choice of distance available with Sports Travel International

What’s so special about it? 

Dating all the way back to 1896; the Paris-Roubaix is one of the oldest and most historically noted cycling events on the UCI calendar. The race has picked up many nicknames, over the years including; ‘The Hell of the North’, and ‘Queen of the Classics’.  Although this race leaves riders covered in mud and exhausted by hours of riding cobbles, it is not the race itself that earned the title ‘Hell of the North’. This phrase was coined back in 1919, when journalists travelled to the route to see how much of it had survived the devastation of WW1.

‘This wasn’t a race. It was a pilgrimage’. Henri Pélissier later said of his 1919 victory.

From the 60’s the route started moving east, to use the cobbles that remained there, as riding the pavé was seen as an essential part of the ‘spirit of the race’. Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix (friends of the Paris – Roubaix) spend around €15,000 annually on repairing and restoring cobbled sections. The race organizers are always seeking new cobbled sections to retain the character of the route. This is a unique and historic cobbled classic that is a sure highlight of every spring season!

No 6 – Tour of Flanders

When: Saturday September 18, 2021 and April 2022
Where: Flanders, Belgium (Antwerp to Oudenaarde)
Field:  15,000 Riders
Distance: 235 km
Ascents: Oude Kwaremont, Molenberg, Paterberg, de Muur van Geraardsbergen
Accessibility: take our airport transfers from Brussels Airport.
Entry availability: Guaranteed entries with Sports Travel International

What’s so special about it?: 

The Tour of Flanders is the pride of Flanders. With cobbled climbs, incredible local support, and legendary Flanders’ hospitality, cycling fans are in for a treat at this event. Chips, beer and music accompany the Tour of Flanders wherever it goes. New from 2017, Antwerp became the start location of the race. With this came the inclusion of the infamous Muur van Geraardsbergen, before doing the now traditional finish circuit around Oudenaarde with all the famous cobbled climbs before finishing in Oudenaarde.

With Sports Travel International, you have the opportunity to ride the Tour of Flanders route in the amateur Cyclo event the day before the pros tackle the course. There are several different courses: 75km and 130km, both from Oudenaarde, and a 180km and the full 230km distance from Antwerp. All the events end in Oudenaarde and include the most notable climbs of the pro race with the longer distances also including the ‘Muur van Geraardsbergen’

No 7 – Gran Fondo Strade Bianche

Pro race – Saturday 5 March 2022
Gran Fondo – Sunday 6 March 2022
Distances available: 124km Gran Fondo and 87km Medio Fondo

Where: Siena, Italy
Field: 7,500 riders
Distance: various
Ascent: various
Climbs: various
Accessibility: Florence and Pisa Airport
Entry availability: Guaranteed entries with Sports Travel International

What’s so special about it?

Get up and close with the Pros! In 2016 Spartacus himself (Fabian Cancellara) decided to ride the Gran Fondo event. Riders taking part were quite literally rubbing shoulders with a legend of cycling the day after he won the Pro race. In 2017 we met up with Ivan Basso and Peter Sagan at our hotel. By the time you take on the ‘white roads’ or ‘sterrati’ you will be raring to rip them up!

Although a fairly new event, having only been established in 2007, Strade Bianche has fast become one of the most popular classics, thanks to a combination of exciting racing and stunning scenery. The gran fondo takes in some of the key ‘strade bianche’ or ‘white roads’ of the pro race, winding through the picturesque Tuscan countryside, before finishing in the historic Piazza del Campo in Siena.

Strade Bianche made its debut on the UCI World Tour recently in March 2017 so the prestige of the race is growing and more of the superstars of the pro cycling circuit will be on show. The 124km Gran Fondo is identical to the route of the women’s race on the Saturday. The shorter ‘Medio Fondo’ route has less climbing but you will still tackle quite a few of the gravel roads.

No 8. Amstel Gold race

Pro race – Sunday 17 April, 2022
Sportive (Tourversion) – Saturday 16 April, 2022
Distances available: 65km / 100km / 125km / 150km / 200km / 240km

What’s so special about it? 

The Amstel Gold Race has been taking place in the southernmost province of the Netherlands; Limburg every year since 1966. Every year ‘De Markt’ in Maastricht is the start venue of the Amstel Gold Race. The finish of the Amstel Gold Race is located in Valkenburg and the Amstel Gold Race is part of the UCI World Tour. The Amstel Gold Race is the only Dutch World Tour Classic and attracts a large number of Dutch and International cycling fans each year because of its interesting list of participants. Some of the world’s best cyclists strive for victory in the race by conquering the hilly countryside of Limburg.

The Amstel Gold Race Tour version is an incredibly popular sell-out amateur cycling event. You can take part in the Amstel Gold Race Cyclosportive event which follows the latter part of the pro race race route including all the short, sharp climbs like the Cauberg. There will be numerous organised feeding stations and a mechanical service present. Included with your Amstel Gold Race sportive entry: Guaranteed participation in the Tourversion of the Amstel Gold Race, a (Sportive) Breakfast at the VIP-pavilion, a  speech by Race Director Leo van Vliet, special reserved parking near the VIP-pavilion, special reserved shower- and changing facilities and a photo with the Dutch ‘flower girls’ followed by  an extensive buffet after Amstel Gold Race Toertocht (sportive).

Gilbert winner Amstel Gold race

No 9. Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Pro race – Sunday 24 April, 2022
Sportive – Saturday 23 April, 2022
Distances available: 271km, 158km, 76km

What’s so special about it?  

Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the oldest of cycling’s classics. First run in 1892, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, or LBL as it is also called, takes you through the hilliest parts of Belgium, along routes typical of the ArdennesLiege-Bastogne-Liege is nicknamed ‘La Doyenne’ or “the old lady”, as it is the oldest race of the classics which is still taking place today. Don’t be fooled and think that Belgium is flat. This race takes in plenty of steep, hilly sections and makes for some dramatic racing. The new route with the uphill finish sections and the cold and wet weather whittled the Peloton down until just a small group was left.

The full distance amateur event is definitely one of the toughest one-day cycling events that you can take part in although shorter distances are also available. All of the sportive distances start and finish in Liege.

Liege climbLiege-Bastogne-Liege

No 10. Multi Day Cycling Events

With the conception of the Haute Route series of events began a whole new trend for tough, multi-day competitive cycling events. The idea of these is to live like a Pro cyclist for a week. It all started with the Haute Route Alps, however the concept has now grown to include 7, 5, and 3 day events, both across the world and in virtual reality.

Haute Route Crans Montana team

Official tour partner for the biggest races on the planet