7 Races You Could Actually Win

Stop watching the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France and get on your bike

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This week, the Giro d’Italia begins in the balmy Mediterranean climes of Belfast, while in a couple of months the Tour de France begins in Gallic Leeds. But cycling isn’t just a spectators’ sport — here’s seven cycling fixtures and events that you can actually take part in.

1 | Dunwich Dynamo
12-13 July, starts in London
A 120-mile on-tarmac ride starting in Hackney, London, at 8pm and ending on a middle-of-nowhere beach in Dunwich, Suffolk some 10 hours later.
There’s no official support (so bring spare inner tubes) and it’s overnight down rural roads (be lit up like a Tron Light Cycle), but one of the most-welcome sunrises (and pub breakfasts) of your life beckons at the finishing line.
Last year, 1,500 people took part — in 2011, one rider finished it on a Boris Bike, and two years before, a competitor made it on a penny-farthing.

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2 | Brompton World Championship
26-27 July, Goodwood Motor Circuit, West Sussex
As part of the Orbital Cycling Festival — a three-day bender, with pushbikes taking over the illustrious, usually stanchly combustion engine-fixated race track — Goodwood plays host to “the biggest folding bike race in the world”.
The competition is stiff (four-time Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras took the title in 2009) and dress code even stiffer (“jacket, tie and absolutely no Lycra”).

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3 | Etape Suisse 
5-8 September 2014, Switzerland
Smooth roads, formidable climbs and gobsmacking views — no wonder the Swiss Alps have long proved a Mecca for cyclists. This epic ride takes in 150km of the Davos Klosters region, including the famous Fluela and Albula passes, with lap-of-luxury pit stops for riders to unwind along the way.

4 | L’Eroica
5 October 2014, Italy
Now with offshoots in Japan and in the UK (L’Eroica Britannia, 20-22 June), the “Woodstock of vintage cycling” — sponsored by venerable saddle brand Brooks — is an excellent excuse to pootle along the gravel roads of Tuscany on a “heroic” (ie, old) bike.

5 | Rapha Randonnées
Throughout the year, various venues
Week-long adventures that take in routes across Europe and the US, from the Alps and Pyrenees to the epic coast around New World bike Mecca Portland. Our pick is the Southern California jaunt (12-19 October) — a taste of why this part of the world is the perfect spot for a road trip of the two-wheeled kind.

6 | Absa Cape Epic
15-22 March 2015, South Africa
As the name suggests, this is a beast: an eight-day 800km time-trial with 15km of climbs over some of the most spectacular terrain the Western Cape has to offer.

7 | Paris-Roubaix Challenge
April 2015, France and Belgium
The professional Paris-Roubaix race, the inaugural edition of which took place back in 1896, is not known as “A Sunday in Hell” for nothing. This event opens up the route (and the agony) to amateurs — 70-170km of tortuous riding on a road bike with skinny tires on the course’s legendary cobbled stone roads. Practice on your patio steps at home beforehand.

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