October 14, 2019

13 best cycling events in the world

There are some iconic races in the cycling calendar. With the history of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, the mountain ranges of the Pyrenees and the Alps, and the passion for the sport in several countries, these events are unforgettable experiences with plenty of tough challenges along the way.

Here, we have listed the most prestigious and essential races that are on many cyclists’ bucket lists. There are ‘The Big 6’ sportives, which are hugely popular one-day mass-participation races; 5 ‘Monuments’, which are professional tour races with options for amateurs to experience the course; and then there are 2 of our favourite ‘Classics’.

Find your next Cycling event

The Big 6

Mallorca 312: 

Course: Full: 312km/193 miles (5050m/16,568ft total elevation gain); Medium: 225km/139 miles (925m/13,034ft); Short: 167km/103 miles (2475m/8120ft)

This is seen as one of the most challenging sportives on the circuit, going around the island of Mallorca. Most of the climbing takes place early on in the race on the Tramuntana range, where you will ascend the Puig Major, Col de sa Pedrissa and Col de Feminina. In recent years, the course has been adapted to make it a closed-road route. You will be well supported throughout, with 6 feed stations along the way, and the effort will be rewarded with stunning views around the island and through old towns such as Arta. There is a tough 14-hour cut-off for the race, but there are shorter options at a distance of 225km or 167km if you want a shorter event that still contains some serious challenges. 

Nove Colli:

Course: Full: 205km/127 miles (3840m/12,598ft total elevation gain); Short: 130km/80.8 miles (1871m/6138ft)

This is known as the ‘Queen of Granfondos’. Starting on Italy’s east coast, the Nine Hills of the course’s name provide some serious challenges. Some of the steepest sections reach a gradient of 18%, but you will create some spectacular memories along the way. The race has a rich heritage, and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020. To honour the 40th anniversary of Nove Colli in 2010, the world-famous Giro d’Italia used part of the course. The race is famous for its hospitality and for taking in a variety of Romagna’s most picturesque countryside. In the past, the 12,000 spaces have sold out within 4 minutes, so this is not one to be missed. 

Granfondo Stelvio Santini:

Course: Full: 151.3km/94 miles (4058m/13,314ft total elevation gain); Medium: 137.9km/85.7 miles (3053m/10,016ft); Short: 60km/37.3 miles (1950m/6398ft)

This brutal course starts in Bormio and makes the most of the steep climbs of the Alps. Although the race’s tagline is ‘Know Your Enemy’, there are in fact two enemies you should know about: the first major climb comes just over the halfway mark, from Tovo up to the infamous Mortirolo, and ascends 1200m in only 12km. After a steep descent, the race then finishes with a leg-busting 1500m climb up to the Stelvio Pass on the Swiss border. The Stelvio is one of the top bucket list climbs for many cyclists, so this event is hugely popular for the mountain goats out there. 

La Marmotte: 

Course: Full: 174km/108 miles (5180m/16,995ft total elevation gain); Short: 13km/8.1 miles (1100m/3609ft)

This cyclosportive is known fondly in France as ‘the Old Lady’ and includes some of the most legendary and challenging mountains covered in the Tour de France. The Col du Glondon, Col du Telegraphe, and Col du Galibier are iconic enough, but the most famous climb is the final Alpe d’Huez, with its iconic 21 hairpin turns. Finishing this event will require serious dedication and determination, but you will receive full bragging rights in the cycling community. The short option two days before focuses just on Alpe d’Huez, and sees some competitive, speedy hill-climbing.

Maratona dles Dolomites:

Course: Full: 138km/85.7 miles (4230m/13,878ft total elevation gain); Middle: 106km/65.9 miles (3130m/10,269ft); Short/Sellaronda: 55km/34.2 miles (1780m/5840ft)

When you read that the course takes in seven mountain passes in the Dolomites, it’s no wonder that the race’s theme is the mix between wonder and angst. Most of these climbs individually are tougher than you’d find in any race, so when they are placed back to back, you’re going to be left with sore legs. The Passo Giau is perhaps the toughest climb, seeing as it ascends 922m in only 9.9km (that’s an average gradient of 9.3%), but it rewards you with incredible views down into the Ampezzo basin. If the long climbs haven’t emptied the tank enough, the ‘Mür dl giat’ (‘the cat wall’) is a short 360m burst up a slope with a 19% gradient. It is lined with supporters, food stalls, and musical entertainment, and is one of the main attractions of the race. 

L'Étape du Tour:

Course: 177km/110 miles (3570m/11,713ft total elevation gain) [NB This is for the 2020 edition, in Nice]

Although the course for this race changes every year, whatever the route you know you will be in for a serious challenge. The event allows for amateur cyclists to have a go at one of the famous stages of the Tour de France. You will probably be taking in one of the iconic climbs in the Pyrenees or the Alps, and you will benefit from the same closed-road conditions that the professionals receive. Joining the peloton of 15,000 participants will make you feel like one of the legendary yellow jersey winners you’ve always watched on tv. 

The Monuments

Tour de Flanders:

Course: Full: 229km/142.3 miles (2160m/7087ft total elevation gain); Long: 174km/108.1 miles (1853m/6079ft); Middle: 139km/86.4 miles (1497m/4911ft); Short: 74km/46 miles (919m/3015ft)

Starting in Antwerp and finishing in Oudenaarde, the We Ride Flanders event allows 16,000 amateur cyclists to try out the long course the day before the professionals take it on. The first 90km of the race is relatively flat, but from there the route is characterised by short, sharp climbs on cobbled streets. The three steepest climbs are Muur-Kapelmuur (maximum gradient of 19.8%), Koppenburg (22%) and Paterberg (20.3%). On your recovery the next day, it will be satisfying to switch on the tv and know what the pros are going through. 


Course: [Professional Only: 257km/159.7 miles] Amateur Challenge: 172km/106.9 miles (890m/2912ft total elevation gain); Medium: 145km/90.1 miles (551m/808ft); Short: 70km/43.5 miles (241m/791ft)

Some people give this race the positive name of ‘The Queen of the Classics’, others give it the more brutal, and perhaps more realistic, name of l’Enfer du Nord (‘The Hell of the North’). This route is not particularly hilly, but it is most famous for the difficulty of its cobbled sections. Over a fifth of the race (54.5km to be exact) is paved with setts, including the mythical ‘Carrefour de l’Arbre’ and ‘Trouée d'Arenberg’, so riders must rely on technique and power to get through these stages. The race in fact starts 80km north of Paris, in Compiègne, and has a grandstand finish in the velodrome of Roubaix on the Belgian border. 

LBL (Liège–Bastogne–Liège):

Course: Long: 279 km/173 miles (4500m/14,764ft total elevation gain); Medium: 167km/104 miles (2647m/8684ft); Short: 85km/53 miles (1250m/4101ft)

This is the oldest of the five Monuments, established in 1892, and as such it is also called La Doyenne (‘the Old Lady’). It is known as one of the toughest courses in the world for both its distance and its numerous steep climbs. The route travels through the Ardennes, going fairly directly from Liège to Bastogne (95km) and then winding back to Liège (163km). There are 12 significant climbs, some of which are long and with sizeable gradients. The most iconic is Côte de la Redoute, where the gradient is 8.9% on average across the 2km, but some of the steepest sections go as steep as 20%. The Belgians are known for their passion for cycling, so there will be great crowds cheering you on when times get tough.

Milan San Remo:

Course: Full: 301.8km/187.5 miles (1987m/6519ft total elevation gain)

Often called La Primavera (‘The Spring Classic’) or La Classicissima, this is the longest one-day cycling race in the world. Compared to the other ‘Monuments’, the course is relatively flat. The professional race starts in the iconic Piazza del Duomo in Milan, travelling through Lombardy and Piedmont, before the route’s main ascent comes after 140km with the Passo del Turchino. After descending from here, the remainder of the race takes place on the stunning Ligurian coast. The amateur option the day before, Gran Fondo Milan, goes a few km further than the official race. Despite being the longest, the relative flatness of the course means that the race is seen as a sprinter’s classic. 

Il Lombardia:

Course: 243km/151 miles (c.4000m/13,123ft total elevation gain)

This is the final monument of the cycling season, and although it takes place in the same region as Milan San Remo, it is almost its exact opposite. Taking place in Autumn, it is called Classica delle foglie morte (‘the Classic of the Falling Leaves’), and is seen as a climbers’ classic due to its demanding climbs. The course varies, but it takes place on the shores of Lake Como, ensuring beautiful views as a reward at the top of intense climbs. The famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb is a mainstay of the race and the route usually includes the daunting Muro di Sormano, which terrifyingly has a gradient of 27% at some stages. The amateur race takes place the day after the professionals, if you haven’t been put off by watching them struggle. 

The Classics


Course: 110km/68.4 miles (1,940m/6,365ft total elevation gain)

The Paris-Nice race, known as The Race to the Sun, is the first European event on the world tour calendar. The challenge follows the final stage of the multi-stage race, staying on exactly the same route that the pros will take on the next day. The circular route, starting and finishing in Nice, includes some difficult climbs, but also provides incredible views looking out over the Mediterranean Sea. 

Strade Bianche:

Course: [Professional: 184km/114.3 miles] Amateur Long: 139km/86.4 miles (1350m/4429ft total elevation gain); Short: 86km/53.4 miles (950m/3117ft)

The route, which starts and finishes in Siena, is famous for its white gravel roads. While these make the race more iconic and picturesque, they also make it more challenging. The gravel of the Tuscan countryside covers over a third of the classic route (63km), and not only slows you down but threatens to puncture a tire. The race only started in 2007, but has quickly grown in popularity, cementing itself into the cycling calendar.

The list of best cycling events in the world:

  1. Mallorca 312
  2. Nove Colli
  3. Granfondo Stelvio Santini
  4. La Marmotte
  5. Maratona dles Dolomites
  6. L’Étape du Tour
  7. Tour de Flanders
  8. Paris-Roubaix
  9. LBL (Liège–Bastogne–Liège)
  10. Milan San Remo
  11. Il Lombardia
  12. Paris-Nice
  13. Strade Bianche
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Train Like a Pro with GB Running World Champion, Josh Kerr

Who better to help with our event training prep than GB’s 1500m world champion, Josh Kerr? The Let’s Do This team caught up with him to chat about everything from his top tips, to ‘that’ gold medal-winning moment – plus, the science behind why he pees on a pen every morning. Want to know how to train like a pro? Join us to get race day ready with the champion himself.

Who better to help with our event training prep than GB’s 1500m world champion, Josh Kerr? The Let’s Do This team caught up with him to chat about everything from his top tips, to ‘that’ gold medal-winning moment – plus, the science behind why he pees on a pen every morning. Want to know how to train like a pro? Join us to get race day ready with the champion himself.

Josh Kerr on his gold medal-winning mindset

“If you trust that it’s going to be there, it’ll be there”, Josh Kerr wrote in his journal before the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. This was the memorable race that would see him scoop the gold medal. “That means that I trust that my legs are going to feel good. I trust that my mind’s going to be making the right decisions and I’m going to be sharp on the day”, Kerr explains. His positive mindset has clearly played a role in his route to running success.  

Josh’s competitive nature appears to be another winning factor. We were curious to know what went through his mind in that final 200 metres. “It was all about putting pressure on”, he says, “I needed to make sure that Ingebrigtsen felt my presence. He kept looking over at me every 100 to 200m or so in that last 600, so I was like ‘Okay, I know he’s definitely not having an easy time of it’. My goal was to make sure that he was feeling pressure on that top bend so he was as tired as possible on that home stretch. Clearly, it worked. What else can we learn from Kerr’s success? We asked Josh to share his top training tips.  

Josh Kerr’s top three training tips

1.   Don’t compare yourself. “I run probably 50 to 60 miles less than some people I’m racing against […] I look at some people’s sessions and think ‘I can’t do that’. I’m still a world champion, but I can’t do those sessions. So don’t worry about what you can’t do – worry about what you can do”.

2.   Embrace your nerves. “When you’re in an individual sport and you look left and right and everyone’s trying to beat you, it’s a very difficult sport. There’s a reason you’re nervous and it’s because you care, but if you care too much and you get too nervous, you’re not going to do well. Just take a deep breath and go out and do what you do every day”.

3.   Prioritise rest.  “When I was in college, I got invited to run in New York in the murals mile and I spent the whole day walking around because I’d never been there. I got to the event and I was absolutely knackered. Staying off your feet and priming your body the day before is smart”.

Kerr’s nutritional recipe for success

Of course, nutrition plays a key role in any athlete’s training plan. Kerr advises against calorie counting and focussing on nutrition, instead. “I haven’t missed a single training day through illness or injury for two years”, he says. “Just make sure your body’s getting what it needs. That’s why I feel I’m hitting the peak right now. Because I fuel myself with the right amount of veg, protein, carbs and fat so my body can hit the tarmac every day and feel fine”. So, what does a gold medallist’s meal plan look like? 

Josh gave us the lowdown on his nutritional routine. “Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday night before sessions, we hit carbs pretty hard. Then we lower them the days after a session. So for example, Tuesday morning we’ll work out and then it’ll be a protein day for the rest of the day – pretty low on carbs. That’s the way we work things”.

Getting to know the real Josh Kerr

Off the track, Josh has one daily ritual that we weren’t expecting. “Err, yeah I can talk about it”, he grins, before divulging: “Every morning, I pee on a pen”. There’s a handy reason for it. “It tells me my hydration status so I can change my water/ sodium intake before training”, he says. “It’s a reasonably disgusting device. You pee in a cup every morning and it doesn’t look great, but it helps in making sure that I’m hydrated enough in the sessions”.

Once that’s been taken care of, Josh enjoys journalling and morning runs, where his training is often underscored by hard electronic dance music. “Every single time I put them on, my headphones tell me to turn down the music”, he says. On rest days, his go-to ritual is to get up early and have an ice bath, before napping for the rest of the day”. Josh also looks forward to spending time with his loved ones. It’s clear from our chat that he’s very much a family man. When asked who his biggest fan is, Josh replied “My family and my Mrs. My family as a whole”.

That rounds-off our chat with Josh Kerr. We left feeling inspired and ready to take on our next challenge. Though, we might leave the pee pen ritual – for now.

Ask Us Anything

Think of us as your active-lifestyle agony aunt. From gear recommendations to running hacks, we’ll answer all your event-related questions. Our favourites will feature across our social pages and in these newsletters.

Think of us as your active-lifestyle agony aunt. From gear recommendations to running hacks, we’ll answer all your event-related questions. Our favourites will feature across our social pages and in these newsletters.

To get your questions answered, either DM us at @letsdothis_ or email in at askusanything@letsdothis.com.

The best ones we’ll share here on our blog, in our newsletters and across social media to help others in our community. 

To view the latest questions and answers from our community, click here.

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Community Spotlight - Edition #01

Shining a light on you – our incredible community members. We’re sharing your amazing stories, training tips, hacks and more. These inspire us all to keep showing up on the track, road, bike, or in the water.

Shining a light on you – our incredible community members. We’re sharing your amazing stories, training tips, hacks and more. These inspire us all to keep showing up on the track, road, bike, or in the water.

This month we're talking to Jennifer Chambers - a running enthusiast from Melbourne, now living in London. She discovered running when she moved to Europe and has used it as a way to discover more of the UK and Europe - and herself - ever since.

A bit about you:

What’s your story? How did you start running?

My background is swimming and rowing, and I used to do Pilates a lot when I lived in Melbourne. However, when I moved to London, I got into running as it was an accessible way to see the city (and far more affordable than Pilates!) so I've been running for about eight years now. I started out going to the free community events that Nike ran, and eventually started going to all their different events across Europe. It gave me the bug for using running as a vehicle to travel and see different parts of the world. I now always try to plan trips around the runs I do.

What’s your favourite thing about running?

Running is a great way to explore places and get to know the cities more, whether that's where you live or new places you visit – especially at different times of the day to everyone else. It's a great opportunity to find a moment of zen in a hectic city. For example, having Hampstead Heath to yourself at 6 a.m. on a Monday vs. going for a run with everyone at 9am on a Saturday.

A lot of running for me is really about learning about my personality and respecting my body. It helps with being less impatient and learning to have the quiet confidence to trust the process or the plan my coach made for me. It's okay to fail or have setbacks; you've just got to keep trying, pick yourself back up and take the next step. You don't have to be a perfectionist.

What’s your favourite running route? (We’re always looking for new recommendations!)

There's a great loop around the Serpentine from Covent Garden. It's about five miles: head down to Trafalgar Square and run down Pall Mall to Buckingham Palace, up through Green Park to Hyde Park corner and towards Serpentine and then loop back. Great to do in your lunch break or with your team.

Other favourite routes:
Camden to Hampstead Heath and back – that's about 10km.

From Camden, along the canal to Victoria Park is great.

What’s your best piece of advice for anyone starting out?

Listen to the your body, don't go too fast too quickly and never run through an injury!

Best running/cycling hack?

Buy a running belt! (I've broken 2 iPhones by putting them in my sports bra from sweat damage! True story!)

What’s in your running belt / backpack?

iPhone and keys. For longer runs I use a Camelbag backpack to carry water and snacks.

Any pre or post-training rituals?

Post-run foam rolling, if I'm being very good ;)

You and events:

What event(s) are you most looking forward to doing next?

I've just signed up for the TTP Cambridge Half Marathon - I've never been to Cambridge so I'm really excited to use this race as an excuse to see the city - I've heard great things!

If money and distance were no object, what event would you love to take part in?

In the UK, I would really love to do Race to the Stones - it's a 100km ultra marathon paved in English history from Roman river crossings to Bronze Age forts. It's 100km so something that I'd need to work up to...one day!

Further afield, I saw this documentary about a Belgian dentist called Karel Sabbe who did the Via Alpina. It's a 2,650km trail through the Alps from Muggia in Italy to Monaco, which looks amazing. I'd also like to do the GR20 in Corsica; it's 112 miles of hiking and/or running. I attempted it a few years ago but sadly got injured. I'd like another attempt at completing it.

Best event you’ve done?

I did Vitality London 10,000 when I'd just moved to London. It was a great way to see all the sites, with the route running right through the city centre.

I also loved the Madeira Sky Race (not-so-surprisingly, in Madeira). It was a real mental and physical battle, but the energy from my fellow race participants and at the fuel stations was so incredible, it helped motivate me to the finish line. It ended up being as much an out-of-body experience, as much as it was a physical one.

Quick-fire round:

Best running song?

I love some SoundCloud mixes, especially 'Decade Mix' by Flight Facilities. One song that I love right now would be 'I Want Your Soul' by Armand Van Helden. Also, my coach recommended 'Running Up That Hill' by Kate Bush (the Stranger Things remix, obvs).

Favourite pre or post-run snack?

I only run on coffee.

Morning or evening run?

Ideally, I chase the sunset runs; but usually, morning runs wake me up for work.

Trainer of choice?

I'm very brand loyal to Asics

Best running product or accessory?

Obvs the Ciele hat

Music, podcasts, or nothing at all?

Music for short runs and podcasts for the long ones. Podcasts-wise, I'm constantly lolling to The Imperfects, or getting confused by Huberman [Lab], or fawning over Rich Roll. I'm not quite at the 'nothing at all' stage of running yet.

Favourite supporting exercise for running?

The [boring] rehab exercises my physio gave me, side planks and death-by-glute exercises.

Favourite running app?

Strava. My average daily time on it is shockingly high.

Describe your ideal rest day in emojis… 3,2,1, go!


In one word, what motivates you?


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