These Bucket List Cycling Challenges Will be Sure to Test Your Resolve
2021 is drawing to a close, but with it comes a fresh wave of optimism with a new year full of challenges on the horizon.
2022 may come with a new-found motivation to accomplish something completely out-the-box, which is why we’ve compiled a list of breathtaking (quite literally) endurance challenges to tackle this coming year. These are certainly not for the faint-hearted, so don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Silk Road Mountain Race
Starting off with one of the most unforgiving events on the calendar, the Silk Road Mountain Race takes place in the rugged and remote central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, just north west of China.
The vast mountainous valleys, Soviet-era gravel roads and seemingly never-ending expanse of land untouched by a human hand makes for an incredibly rewarding endurance challenge.
The race sets off from the nation’s capital in Bishkek, and riders have until the end of the event’s after party in Cholpon Ata just 14 days later to be considered a finisher – just completing the race is the prize!
Constantly changing elevations in the mountainous regions create unpredictable weather with riders fighting rain, wind and snow. Isolation from the modern world and the vast distances between resupply points makes planning crucial and bikes heavy, with nearly the entire race completed unsupported. It is a land of nomads, with much of the nearly 6 million inhabitants choosing to live a simple, reserved life tending to their mountain-side flocks.
Competitors have to endure a gruelling 1,800-kilometer single-stage race through the mountains and valleys of the land where the famous Silk Road trading route connected Asia with Southern Europe for hundreds of years. Within the 1,800 kilometres, there is also a simply unfathomable 26,000m of climbing to do before reaching the finish line.
Certainly the most challenging sportive the UK has to offer, the annual Dragon Rider is one for the lovers of climbing.
Amongst the backdrop of the sumptuous Welsh countryside, the 200-mile route sets off on the south coast just outside of Port Talbot, before heading straight for the first of the 5000m of climbing that competitors will endure.
Trekking through the unforgiving heights of the Brecon Beacons, you will be greeted with the ominously named Devil’s Staircase which is the toughest climb of the bunch, but the Black Mountain, Devil’s Elbow and 10km-long Rhigos are certainly not to be underestimated.
Arguably the toughest challenge on this list, the Transcontinental Race has become an annual mainstay for those with the self-sufficiency and resolve to tackle this truly unforgettable experience.
This is not like any other race in the fact that riders are given the start and finish locations, as well as four checkpoints they have to pass through – the route they choose to allow them to pass through these checkpoints is entirely up to them however.
The 2022 edition, which takes place at the end of July, will commence in the picturesque town of Geraardsbergen in Belgium just outside of East Flanders. The subsequent four checkpoints are as follows; Passo di Gavia in the Italian Alps, Krupka in the Ore Mining Region of the Czech Republic, Durmitor National Park in Montenegro, and the Drumul Strategic in Romania.
The finish line is on the west coast of Bulgaria in Burgas, over 2500km away from the start line but the total distance covered could end up being double that, depending on how good you are at map reading!
The Tour Divide is one of the best ways to discover some of North America’s most incredible natural wonders. While it is certainly the ultimate test of man, mind and machine, the sheer amount of iconic destinations along the way makes it a truly multi-faceted experience.
The start is in Alberta, Canada, although this year with coronavirus border discrepancies it was moved further south to Eureka, Montana. Starting in these great expanses of rolling hills, towering pine forests and shimmering streams, the route follows closely down the spine of entirety of the Rocky Mountain range. Travelling south across the USA, you will pass through the great mid-western states of Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, before reaching the southern border and the finish line in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
With over 4000km of riding, riders will take in the hugely diverse landscape of the USA, passing through mountain routes, forests, desserts and snow, meeting everything from grizzly bears to rattlesnakes along the way. The unsupported, self-reliance of the race forces you to pack suitable equipment and plan the day’s riding accordingly so you don’t get caught in a sudden change of weather or terrain.
South Africa is home to the mountain biking calendar’s most iconic and gruelling stage race.
The Cape Epic is often referred to as the “Tour de France” of mountain biking, and exists as the only stage race accredited as hors catégorie (beyond categorisation) by the UCI. It is also unique in that amateur riders are afforded the opportunity to compete along with professionals, creating a true celebration of mountain biking.
The 19th edition takes in 624km of trails, single track and mountains over eight days, with the iconic climbs of Table Mountain’s National Park included in 16,650m of elevation gain. While the race is fully serviced unlike others on this list, it still remains one of the toughest routes across all cycling disciplines.
The 2022 edition returns at the end of March, so keep your eyes peeled for the registration openings.