With the arrival of the first Classics of the season, the cycling fraternity are well-catered for when it comes to spring excitement. And as the likes of Sagan, Froome and Kittel prepare for another long, hard campaign, it’s an opportunity for those who prefer a more leisurely pace to plan their rides for the year.
Sportives such as the Etape du Tour and Maratona des Dolomites provide great one day events for cyclists around the world, but who wants the fun to end after just one day?
Dedicated cycling festivals are becoming more and more common, both on these shores and beyond. And it’s not just about putting untold strain on your legs as you press for a faster time – everyone is catered for with a variety of activities.
Here’s our pick of the top cycling festivals in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world…
Louisiana, USA – April 4-8
It may be too late to jet off for the 2018 of this excursion from America’s Deep South, but consider it for next year’s adventures. Billed as Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Festival, expect good food and a party atmosphere on this leisurely amble across Bayou State.
Taking in the region’s vast sugar cane-producing landscape, flat roads mean the 42 (or 62 if you’re feeling adventurous) mile daily ride are fairly accessible. It’s not just about eating, partying and cycling though. The organisers like to bring out the competitive spirit in everyone with an organised Scavenger Hunt lasting the duration of the four-day-ride. Find a clue, and you earn an entry into big prize draw on the final day.
Throw in complementary massages, popcorn and tours of local attractions, courtesy of the various sponsors, and the experience is complete!
France – June 1-2
For those that like to sample the local produce on an overseas ride, La Medocaine is perfect. Riding through south-west France’s Gironde region, participants are on no ordinary mountain biking tour. Dotted along the way on the various routes (there are seven choices in total), every rider can enjoy what the area is famous for – wine!
The local vineyards open their doors to allow cyclists to refuel on their exploration of the pretty region just north of Bordeaux. Not only that, but the area is famed for it’s chateaux, with no less than 30 castles lining the route.
Unlike some other cycling events, fun (and not times) is the name of the game. The organisers encourage fancy dress from all riders, with prizes dished out to those deemed to be the wackiest.
Regardless of your attire, for those who get to the end of the course still sober (please cycle responsibly!), see out La Medocaine in style. A banquet fit for a king, more of the local red wines and plenty of live music mean that the 20th anniversary of the cycling festival is not to be missed.
Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
Edinburgh – June 7-24
This two-and-a-half week extravaganza in the Scottish capital is certainly well regarded, having been previously named as one of Britain’s best cycling festivals by both the Guardian and Total Women’s Cycling magazine.
The 2018 schedule is still being put together, but based on previous years the activities you can enjoy are extremely wide-ranging. With last year’s festival featuring over 30 organised routes, including night races, scenic routes outside of the city and the World Naked Bike Ride, there’s an excursion for everyone.
You don’t have to exert yourself if you don’t wish too though. Cycling workshops such as velodrome taster sessions and talks on increasing your confidence when cycling on the road, a vintage cycling market and many more exciting activities mean Edinburgh really does stake a claim for the undisputed festival capital of the UK.
Gstaad, Switzerland – August 25-26
Like the famous L’Eroica sportive that travels back in time via the Florence countryside, the Bergkonig festival is all about celebrating a certain vintage. Translated as ‘King of the Mountains’, the two-day event in the Swiss Alps sees an altogether ban on equipment made after 1990.
This celebration of the ‘glory days’ of cycling is not for the faint-hearted though. A circuit of 103km may not sound overly extreme, but add in 2,400 meters worth of climbing, and it becomes a real test of pedal power. If that sounds a bit too much, the festival does offer five other routes to enjoy some spectacular alpine landscapes.
To keep with the theme of back-to-basics biking, there are prizes for the best vintage bikes as decided by the festival judges. The categories for Pre-1932 bikes, 1933-1950, 1951-1977 and bikes from 1978-1989, mean that however senior your particular transport is, it has a chance of winning you a prize.
There’s also a chance to experience the journey with some former pros too. Former world champion Urs Fueller and Olympic silver medallist Franco Marvulli were just two of the 200+ participants in 2017.
Isle of Wight Cycle Festival
Isle of Wight – August 25- September 2
We end our round up closer to home with the cycling festival that takes over the whole island across the Solent. The Isle of Wight Festival collates more than 70 different rides including a 100 mile cyclo sportive, and the “Hills Killer” mountain bike event which delivers great views over the island.
For those who are feeling really sporty, there is the Around the Island Triathlon. From the starting point, riders cycle the 16 miles to Totland Bay, where a sea swim is sure to cool down anyone that has worked up a sweat. From there it’s another 50+ miles bike ride circumnavigating the island back to Cowes. Finally, competitors must keep their energy levels up for just a little while longer, with a six mile run through Parkhurst Forest bringing a close to the race.
If that doesn’t sound like it’s for you, you’re still catered for. Throughout the festival plenty of cycling events that don’t feature long rides take place across the island. Visitors can check out the cycle powered cinema, but if you stop pedalling, the film stops playing. Or maybe a perusal of the retail village is your thing. However high your energy levels, the Isle of Wight Cycling Festival delivers on all fronts.
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