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Cyclosport's Top Events of 2013

by Nick Gregory

Cyclosport's Top Events of 2013 
- The (Almost) End of Season Review 

As the sportive season starts to wind down, and with the annual Cyclosport industry event taking place later this week, we thought we would take the opportunity to look back over the 2013 season so far. 

The sportive market has expanded massively over the last few years, with a wide array of events now on offer at almost any time of year. Come Christmas, between our writers here at Cyclosport, we'll have covered events from January - December.

We asked our writers to recommend their favourite two events of 2013, and this is what they came up with. 

Think we've missed a great event? Tell us what your best ride of 2013 was - we want to hear from you.

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Sean Lacey
Sean has probably ridden more miles than any of our other writers this year, thanks in part to his epic John O Groats to Lands End effort.

2013 has been another great year for me; 5000 miles clocked up as I type, and most of those on the events I have covered over the year. There have been a number of memorable events, and for the first time, none of them were really under par. Most organisers have upped their game somewhat, as people get wise and vote with their feet (and pedals), but two rides stand out above the rest.

Wild Wales Challenge: Very much an old-school Audax style event with a few modern touches makes this a real 'must-do'. Spectacular routes, which change each year and pick out roads you would never normally ride, together with a serious amount of climbing make it fully deserving of the 'Challenge' in its title. The event will return in 2014 for its 30th anniversary - one not to be missed.

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Tough terrain of the Wild Wales Challenge

Deloitte Ride Across Britain (JOGLE): This year's number one event for me was a clear winner - an incredible nine days riding from John O Groats to Lands End on the epic Deloitte Ride Across Britain. It's one of those must do rides on most cyclists bucket lists, and I was fortunate to have been able to cover the event this year and tick it off mine. 

Organised by Threshold Sports, the June running from north to south was easily the biggest challenge I had ever taken on, and one I was apprehensive about initially. Every step of the organisation process from booking flights and bike transport, to the daily routine and what to take were taken care of thanks to the exceptional level of support provided by the organisers.

With routes hand-picked to take in the best of the areas we rode through, it wasn't the traditional end-to-end dual carriageway slog, but a fantastic mix of B roads and back lanes. The Scottish Highlands were a particular highlight; stunning mountain vistas and moody Lochs were a feast for the senses. Another aspect of the trip was the bond and camaraderie of the riders. I joined a small group on day two, and by the end, having ridden the whole trip together we were firm friends. 

Without doubt a fantastic experience and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It's going to be very tough to beat.

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A rather famous signpost

James Berresford
James has tackled some of the most iconic sportives on the calendar. He came up with these two favourites for 2013:

RideLondon-Surrey 100: Amongst those who rode the inaugural RideLondon-Surrey 100, I'm almost certainly not alone in pointing to it as one of the big highlights of my 2013 season. I've got to admit I went into this ride with a lot of cynicism. How are they going to cater for that many riders? What is the standard of riding going to be like? As it transpired, all of my fears were allayed and it delivered a level of exhilaration I've felt on very few rides. I hope it's the first of many and they continue to build the professional race too.

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A truly unique backdrop at the finish of a sportive

Wiggle Dragon Ride: How hard was that?! Now I've done quite a few difficult rides, be it in terms of distance, climbing or multiple Cols, but the latest incarnation of the Dragon was up there with the best of them. I finished this well-organised 210km monster with nothing left, only to find they are adding another 100km in 2014. Ouch.

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Climbing, climbing and more climbing

Jonathan Cook
Jonathan opts for two overseas events as his picks for 2013:

The Marmotte: Widely considered to be the toughest one-day Sportive out there, everyone should experience what it's like to suffer this monster at least once. With 5,180 metres of climbing over its 174km (108-mile) route, and featuring arguably four of the most famous and fearsome climbs In the Alps, this is one serious challenge. Starting in the valley below Alpe d'Huez, at Bourg d'Oisans, the event finishes at the summit of the Alpe, but not before having tackled the Col du Glandon, Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier. 

In an area steeped in cycling history, the views on offer are truly spectacular; although by the time you arrive at Alpe D'huez your feet will feel like the cleats are drilled into them. If it is hot, which it normally is at the bottom of The Alpe, it will feel like cycling into a furnace. From here you can count down the 21 hairpins of Alpe d'Huez to the finish. The hardest 13km of your life!

Expertly organised, with great feed stops and masses of supporters cheering you on, the Marmotte has a truly unique and special atmosphere. Whatever happens on the day, take your time, relax and enjoy it. It really is one of the most satisfying and rewarding rides you'll ever do. 

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Stunning views of the Alps

Marcha Cicloturista La Peña Cabarga: Starting in Solares, near Santander in Northern Spain, the Marcha Cicloturista La Peña Cabarga traverses the bay of Santander, before heading inland on scenic roads to a summit finish atop the brutal 6km climb of The "Rock" of Cabarga. 

Only in its second year, the event is based close to Santander which is a short flight or long ferry journey from the UK. Of particular interest to me was the summit finish, which also hosted the climax to stage 18 of this year's Vuelta.

It was a small, but well-organised event that saw participants guided and supported around the route by motorcycle outriders. It also offered the opportunity to suck the wheel of Reimund Dietzen, who was the guest of honour for day. Dietzen rode for the TEKA Professional Team based in Santander for a number of years. In a nice touch, the event jersey was a replica of the 1987 jersey Dietzen wore when he finished second in the Tour of Spain. 

I really enjoyed this event, it offered an interesting overseas weekend trip to a beautiful part of Northern Spain, and a chance to ride a fantastic course on virtually closed roads. Blessed with excellent weather conditions, and a very friendly atmosphere, the spectacular 360-degree panoramic view at the finish capped off a perfect event. 

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Spectacular views at Marcha Cicloturista La Peña Cabarga

Jennifer Trotman
Perhaps Cyclosport's most prolific reviewer, Jennifer Trotman narrowed down her choices to the following:

White Horse Challenge: A lovely, friendly & sociable event, well organised throughout, the route was pretty and scenic and nicely balanced with enough climbing. And then there's the fantastic White Horses of course!

Tour of Wessex 2013: I'm not sure it's my favourite for the right reasons, but I'd never done it, I'd always thought I couldn't, now I have so I know I can! Three days in a row of 100+ hilly miles in every kind of weather from the fantastic sunshine to the downright miserable wet and cold! But it's the only event that gives you that kind of challenge, and I've already agreed to do it again next year! 

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A surprising addition to the peloton at the Tour of Wessex

Sarah Lewis
Cyclosport's newest recruit, Sarah Lewis gave us her highlights of her first season of sportive riding. 

Wiggle Etape Cymru: This is definitely a stand-out favourite due to the fun (yet challenging) terrain, stunning views and ace people taking part. Really well organised from start to finish, and varied terrain over the full 88 miles, highlights included the Horseshoe Pass, closed roads(!), plenty of marshals and Welsh rarebit.

Great Manchester Cycle: This one was a bit different considering it started at the Etihad Campus and wound through the closed roads of Manchester City Centre. The route swapped rolling hills and gorgeous valleys for office blocks and a stretch of motorway, providing a really different riding experience along with thousands of other enthusiasts.

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A unique motorway riding experience at the Great Manchester Cycle

Caven O'Hara
Cyclosport's resident South Downs expert Caven O'Hara recommends the follow events:

Ditchling Devil: I've picked this event for a number of reasons. The cost of entry is low by today's standards, but that doesn't reflect the quality of the event. In fact, what you get is an excellent, well-organised and friendly event. It was epic day out, departing early in the morning with an enthusiastic bunch from south London. We all complain about feed stops, but arriving in Ardingly for bacon baps, tea and coffee was terrific. This was followed by a decent spread at the organiser's house, and rounded off by tea and cakes in a sports pavilion. Other events should take note! Throw in self-navigation (albeit with an excellent way marker sheet) over a particularly scenic route, and you have an almost perfect event. It was a refreshing change to revert back to relying on individual initiative to get yourself round a long route, rather than relying on the usual arrow fest to guide you.

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A rural challenge at the Ditchling Devil

Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring Sportive: Although situated at the other end of the spectrum to the Ditchling Devil in terms of cost, the Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring Sportive proved to be worth every penny. Boasting a huge event HQ with plenty of services on offer, a well-chosen and well-marked route and numerous bountiful feed stations, the event reached, and even surpassed the high standards that organisers UKCyclingEvents have come to be known for. The route wound its way through some splendid country lanes, offering some challenging climbs and rewarding descents. Once you finished, there was food and a well-stocked goody bag for your troubles. 

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The Lavender Line at the Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring Sportive

Emma Osenton
Emma goes for two very different events as her picks for 2013:

Ronde van Calderdale: Why does it stand out? Well, it was 80 miles of Calderdale's cobbled climbs, winding roads and places on my doorstep I'd never even seen before let alone been to. Brutally hilly and at times, and quite frankly a little daft. Be your own tourist or learn a new rat run and what a perfect way to do it. It was run by a really friendly and enthusiastic team, and all for a good cause - to help get more kids into cycling.

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The cobbled climbs of the Ronde van Calderdale

The Fred Whitton: Absolutely and unquestionably the best sportive in the country. The organisation is amazing, the setting is iconic, great food, great atmosphere and huge climbs with some even bigger and steeper ones thrown in to boot! I come back to this one again and again, see old faces, meet new ones. Each time I think I can go a little faster. It's got me and it won't let go. The work carried out from the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised for it's chosen charities it brilliant. It stays a challenge and that's what makes it.

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The big one - Fred Whitton

Very different events, but the end result was the same: big days in the saddle and even bigger smiles... Roll on 2014.

Think we've missed a great event? Tell us what your best ride of 2013 was - we want to hear from you.





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