Ben Delaney's 10 favorite rides of 2016

Suggestions for your 2017 calendar

Here's the deal — I'm spoiled rotten. I get to ride bikes around the world as part of my job. And very much unlike professional riders who are routinely throttling themselves in beautiful places, I can just cruise along at my mediocre pace; I'm a pro writer, not a pro rider. 

Looking back on the year, here are my favorite rides of 2016. There are a few races, a few sportives, and a few humble rides I did with friends. If you get the chance to do any of these next year, I recommend them!

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies kicks off in 2017. I did a recon event this year
Mavic Haute Route Rockies kicks off in 2017. I did a recon event this year

After a few years of success in Europe, Haute Route brought its seven-day party to Colorado in 2016 for a test event. I snuck in for the fun, and a preview of what will be open to the public in 2017.

I've lived in Colorado for 13 years now, and I'm embarrassed to say I had not been on half the roads we enjoyed. The Haute Route is a luxury event, with a price tag to go with it. Whether you want to race each day or just enjoy the ride, you are guaranteed a quality, challenging good time, notching up 550 miles and 52,500ft / 16,000m of elevation gain, with a good chunk of that on dirt roads.

I particularly enjoyed the point-to-point-to-point format. Each day was a new adventure in new places, with zero time spent in a car.  

Event website: www.hauteroute.org

Paris-Nice Challenge

Paris-Nice Challenge is a big loop, starting and finishes on the Nice promenade
Paris-Nice Challenge is a big loop, starting and finishes on the Nice promenade

ASO owns many of the big races — Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice — and the French company is running an increasing number of sportives on the courses of the marquee events. This year they kicked off a new one, the Paris-Nice Challenge, held on the course of stage 7 of the pro race in southern France. 

Riding along the Mediterranean in mid-March was a treat — and flying along in a big bunch on winding roads made it all the better. We were there to test Mavic's new Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL wheels, and the sportif, with 6,000ft/1,829m of elevation change on largely narrow roads, provided an excellent test course, with a barrage of steep, downhill switchbacks coupled with high-speed arcing descents coming as reward for the ample climbing. 

Event website: www.parisnicechallenge.com

De Ronde van Vlaanderen

De Ronde van Vlaanderen is a party, 16,000 riders deep
De Ronde van Vlaanderen is a party, 16,000 riders deep
I love the Tour of Flanders. The start in Brugge's gorgeous square (this will change to Antwerp in 2017), the steep cobbled climbs, the Belgian beer, the rowdy fans — and the fact that you can ride the course yourself the day before — with 16,000 of your closest friends.
Unlike the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, which are downright miserable, as they are out in fields and seldom driven on, the Flanders cobbles are challenging but far more doable. Plus, they usually come in short, punchy segments; it's similar to clearing a technical section on a mountain bike — focus, drill it, recover — if said technical section had a stream of thousands of riders crossing it for hours.
I don't need to ever ride Roubaix again, but I will happily go back to Flanders year after year I can until I can no longer turn the pedals.  

Event website: www.sport.be

Masters racing with a team

Masters racing is a bunch of old guys going around in circles, but it's fun
Masters racing is a bunch of old guys going around in circles, but it's fun

Amateur bike racing is fun. I can't really participate much in the P/1/2 field anymore, but masters racing (that's veterans for you Brits) is a hoot.

Racing by yourself can be a mixed bag. But with a team, you've got friends to work with in the race, and then people to either give you a good-natured hard time or celebrate with after, depending on how the day goes. 

I won the state road race this year, helped my teammate Tom get second at nationals, and stood with my jaw hanging open as my teammate Matt won the nationals TT... again... and then won more nationals gold on the track. I also fell in a ditch, flatted out, and had a few completely anonymous races. Can't wait for next year!

Local racing in the US: www.usacycling.org   Local racing in the UK: www.britishcycling.org.uk

Riding with friends in Flanders

Riding in Flanders is a great way to make new friends
Riding in Flanders is a great way to make new friends

Just as fun as participating in the madness of the Flanders sportif is simply riding around in Flanders with new and old friends. Start in Oudenaarde (like at the Flanders museum, above) and you can follow a variety of different, well-marked tracks.

Download various Flanders route here: www.liveyourowntour.com

Boulder > Glen Haven > Boulder

Heck yes, I am biased: Colorado's roads are world class
Heck yes, I am biased: Colorado's roads are world class

My friend Lennard Zinn had a tradition of doing enormo rides on his birthday. Some editions would start and finish in the dark — in the summertime! I'm not that crazy committed, but I do like to celebrate another lap around the sun with a big lap on the bike.

This year I had a separated shoulder from a race crash, but I still rode from my house in Boulder to get a famous cinnamon roll of Glen Haven, high in the Rockies. As luck would have it, the Glen Haven General Store was closed. "Reopening in May", the sign read... on May 4. But as a result, I discovered this cool bike cafe, which has much better coffee anyhow! 

Down the GPX: Boulder's Cinnamon Roll Ride

Exploring Utah 

Utah's national and state parks are worth a visit
Utah's national and state parks are worth a visit

Don Kellogg and Johs Huseby of Clément hosted a few of us for a three-day gravel ride through parts of Utah. You wouldn't want to go in the heat of the summer, but in the fall southern Utah was a treat. 

You can certainly go it alone, but I can heartily recommend the good folks at Western Spirit if you want a professional guide.

Western Spirit's website: westernspirit.com

Boulder lunch rides

Lunch rides are the best. My favorites in Boulder leave from Stages on Tuesdays and Panache Cyclewear on Thursdays
Lunch rides are the best. My favorites in Boulder leave from Stages on Tuesdays and Panache Cyclewear on Thursdays

I love lunch rides! Yes, this one is small potatoes, but honestly I look forward to the weekly group rides as much as anything else.

Fun, free, a good workout, quality smack talking... the list of positives goes on. 

B Strong Cancer Survivorship Ride

The B Strong ride raises money to improve education for cancer prevention and survivorship
The B Strong ride raises money to improve education for cancer prevention and survivorship
Who among us hasn't had a loved one affected by cancer?
This is a neat event because — besides being a fundraiser for cancer research — it's a celebration ride for folks who have beaten cancer. My masters team is sponsored by Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, and we have their 'Love Heals' logo on the backs of our jerseys. We're always proud to fly the RMCC flag, but especially so on this ride

Event website: www.bstrongride.com

Peter Sagan Gran Fondo

Peter Sagan held a fondo this year as a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of America
Peter Sagan held a fondo this year as a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of America

Speaking of good causes, two-time world champion Peter Sagan did a fundraiser VIP ride in California for the Boys and Girls Club. I grew up playing Boys Club basketball, and hey, Peter Sagan!

I was impressed by how gracious the world champ was with all his fans. I've been around a lot of pro riders over the years, and this isn't always the case.

The course was a fun mix of climbs, descents and oceanside flats in warm southern California, just outside of Malibu.

Event website: www.petersaganvip.com/

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team, Trek Boone 5, Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4, Marinoni fixed gear, Santa Cruz Roadster TT bike
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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