This feature was originally published in issue 388 of Cycling Plus magazine.
With a bit of luck, we’ll be back doing all the things we love best in cycling through 2022.
We’ve scoured the road and gravel calendar and picked out the key dates to look out for.
Here are 10 of the best experiences and blockbuster events in the UK and abroad that you need to make an appointment with through the coming year.
1. Ride the closest thing to the original 1903 Tour de France
Okay, so the equipment and navigation at our disposal in 2022 are radically improved from over a century ago, but in terms of spirit, accessibility to enter and a stripping of all the bells and whistles of bike racing, the Transcontinental Race, the self-supported solo bike race across the roads of Europe, is a magnificent echo of those early Tours.
After two editions lost to the pandemic, race number eight returns on 24 July with its now traditional start in Geraardsbergen, Belgium and a finish in Burgas, Bulgaria, more than 4,000km away.
En-route, riders must pass through checkpoints in the Czech Republic, Italy (on the Passo di Gavia, no less), Montenegro and Romania.
The race, says the organisation, is “rider against rider, living by their wits alone, without caravan or entourage guided by personal integrity, mutual respect and a collective commitment to equality. At the sharp end, it is a beautifully hard bicycle race, simple in design but complex in execution.”
- What? Transcontinental Race
- Where? Geraardsbergen, Belgium to Burgas, Bulgaria
- When? 24 July
- Details: Transcontinental
2. Try the new RideLondon
Make a date with the all-new RideLondon festival. It’s got a new date (Sunday 29 May), a new partner (Surrey is out, Essex is in) and a new format (all events take place on the same day).
The future of the sportive, the RideLondon 100, looked to be in doubt following Surrey council’s withdrawal of support, but Essex has stepped into the breach.
The route is still to be revealed, but the sportive will start in central London, head out into the Essex countryside for 60 miles and return to the capital. It will be accompanied by a three-day women’s WorldTour pro race (27-29 May) and closed-road family rides.
The first 10,000 entries for the sportive have sold out but you can still enter the ballot, which closes on 20 January. Entry is £89.
- What? RideLondon festival
- Where? London
- When? 29 May
- Details: RideLondon
3. Get stuck into multi-day gravel rides
We’ve been big fans of the multi-day Haute Route road sportive series, and last month saw the 10th anniversary of their definitive Alps event.
Welcome, then, to the gravel version. Gravel Epic is organised by the same folks who, for 2022, have two events, in Marrakech (31 March to 2 April) and Switzerland (23 to 25 September).
Like the road events, Gravel Epic will have a focus on point-to-point racing, high mountains and gruelling, if sporting, daily distances, with fully supported off-the-bike logistics meaning your bags are transported between stages.
Entry, accommodation and food for the events is €799 for the Marrakech event, while entry alone for Switzerland is €449. If three days of gravel racing doesn’t scratch the itch, take a look at Desertus Bikus (23 April to 1 May), a 1,250km route through Spain from the Bay of Biscay in the north to the Costa del Sol in the south.
This ride, like the Transcontinental Race, is self-supported and self-guided, with 90 per cent navigated by road. But while you start and end by water, three of the four checkpoints to be visited, hence the name, are in different deserts.
- What? Desertus Bikus
- Where? Anglet, France to Nerja, Spain
- When? 23 April to 1 May
- Details: Desertus Bikus
4. Experience the Tour de France in the world’s greatest cycling city
Foreign starts to the Tour have become increasingly common since the 1970s and, on 1 July 2022, Denmark (Copenhagen) becomes the ninth country to host one.
That means it’s a complete Grand Départ bingo card for what are widely regarded as the three best cities to cycle in the world (Amsterdam held it in 1954, Utrecht in 2015).
In fact, the Copenhagenize Index, a comprehensive ranking of bike-friendly cities from the eponymous urban design company, ranked Copenhagen as number one at the last count in 2019. An impressive 44 per cent of all trips to work and education in the Danish capital are by bike, with 673,000 bikes in the city alone.
So yes, go to witness the world’s biggest bike race set off, but stay to experience cycling that’s truly integrated into a city.
- What? Tour de France 2022 Grand Départ
- Where? Copenhagen, Denmark
- When? 1 July
- Details: Tour de France 2022
5. Ride one of the UK’s toughest long-distance sportives
“Princetown is renowned for taking prisoners,” say the organisers, referring to the town’s Dartmoor Prison, which dates back to the 1800s.
“The Dartmoor Legend will be no exception!”
The ride (9 July) certainly matches that billing, with a 200-mile (323km) route traversing the national park that, by the end, will have seen you climb 18,000ft (5,500m).
The distance is matched by the cap on participants, which is limited to 200. You also have a time limit of 20 hours!
One month before the ride, you will receive a detailed manual as to what’s in store for the ride, which costs £100. You’ll start in Princetown, and pass through the town three times before the finish.
- What? Dartmoor Legend
- Where? Princetown, Devon
- When? 9 July
- Details: Dartmoor Legend
6. Bury your head in one of this year’s best cycling books
Prefer to stay at home or want some holiday reading? Here are three picks from the latest cycling releases.
Former German pro cyclist Jan Ullrich resurfaced last year after a troubled period in his private life, and finished the 312km Mallorca gran fondo in October. It’s timely, then, that pro-cycling journalist Daniel Friebe will release his biography of Ullrich this year.
Twenty-five years since ‘Der Kaiser’ won the Tour de France, the book – provisional title The Best There Never Was (Pan Macmillan) – will delve deep into the backstory of one of the great enigmas of modern cycling.
Also confirmed for 10 March publication is Rouleur editor Andy McGrath’s God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, Cycling’s Great Wasted Talent (Bantam Press).
The Belgian could ride a bike as fast as he lived life off it and was a talent ultimately lost to his addictions before his premature death in 2009.
Meanwhile, journalist and author Peter Cossins lives in the Pyrenees and he’s used his local knowledge to produce his latest book, A Cyclist’s Guide to the Pyrenees (£16.99, Great Northern Books).
Cossins details all the climbs made famous by the Tour de France, and plenty more obscure ascents that the world’s biggest bike race could never contemplate squeezing in, and links them together to create routes that can be tackled in a day or tour.
7. Explore new parts of the country with Cycling UK
Charitable membership organisation Cycling UK has been mightily busy in the last few years, creating multi-terrain, circular bikepacking routes, including Cornwall’s West Kernow Way and the King Alfred’s Way in the south of England.
It’s launching a couple more routes in 2022, in Kent and Norfolk, but rather than vast, multi-day circular or point-to-points, routes in these two locations will be based around ‘hubs’, or cycle-friendly places that have all the accoutrements cyclists need to enjoy a day or more of a riding break.
Think multiple options based out of the same place, plus bike shops, eateries and the like. The exciting Kent and Norfolk projects are a pilot for future hubs across the country.
- What? Cycling UK’s new long-distance routes
- Where? Kent and Norfolk
- When? Launch date TBC
- Details: Cycling UK
8. Tackle an American gravel race
The US is where gravel riding as we know it now was born, but differences in terrain and road-network design make gravel over the Atlantic largely very different to the UK and elsewhere.
In the US, gravel roads are so extensive and so free of highway-bound traffic, that huge races can be plotted exclusively on dirt and gravel roads. Travel-restrictions permitting, 2022 could be your chance to try one.
The 200-mile Unbound Gravel on 4 June (formerly the Dirty Kanza) in Kansas’ Flint Hills remains the most prestigious, but there are so many more.
The country-wide Belgian Waffle Ride series are mixed road/off-road races, inspired by the terrain of the northern Classics pro races.
The ‘Black’ course of SBT Gravel in Colorado on 14 August is a huge day out, too: 229km and 2,743m of elevation starting at over 2,000m above sea level.
- What? Unbound Gravel
- Where? Emporia, Kansas
- When? 4 June
- Details: Garmin Unbound Gravel
9. Go retro at the Eroica Britannia
The export of vintage bike festival Eroica, from its home in Tuscany, around the world has been a huge success story, not least with the British version.
But the festival, which is centred around a ride that participants do on bikes and in gear and clothing that pre-dates 1987, has a change of owner and location for 2022.
It was announced in the summer that the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex had bought the festival and will stage it in the South Downs.
“The stories of heroism from cycling’s glorious past will come alive as we create a festival that will delight cycling fans from around the world,” says the Duke of Richmond, who owns the estate. It takes place from 6-7 August.
- What? Eroica Britannia
- Where? Goodwood Estate, West Sussex
- When? 6-7 August
- Details: Eroica Britannia
10. Witness an international event in Britain
For the third time this century, the Commonwealth Games returns to Britain, this time in Birmingham (28 July to 8 August). The competition in track cycling is strong, with Australia, New Zealand and Canada all big contenders at international level.
There’s also the quirk of seeing riders who usually compete under the Union Jack instead competing under different flags, with Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish riding for Wales and the Isle of Man respectively. The track events are taking place in London’s Olympic velodrome.
Road-race fans can, as ever, enjoy ticketless viewing if they head to Warwick, where riders will tackle laps of a 16km course (7 for women, 10 for men).
- What? Cycling at the 2022 Commonwealth Games
- Where? London (track cycling), Warwick (road cycling)
- When? 28 July to 8 August
- Details: Birmingham 2022