With the wet and woeful conditions of the winter comes our longing for summer or even spring cycling. That is, after all, what makes all those dark and drizzly winter miles worthwhile. So while you ride down some dank country lane in 2˚C sleet, here are some lesser known cycling destinations for you to daydream about.
Nestled on the east coast of Spain, just a 50-minute drive from Alicante airport, Calpe to the untrained eye looks like any other coastal seaside town. Look a little closer though and you'll find it is a favourite training destination for some of the world's top professional cycling teams and riders. Generally quieter, with a more settled climate than traditional cycling destinations such as Majorca, Calpe is slowly growing in popularity amongst amateur and professional riders.
Favoured for its year-round warm Mediterranean climate, smooth roads and testing climbs, Calpe is just a stone's throw from mountains such as the Coll de Rates. A 5%, 6.5 kilometre climb that is often used by the pros to test their form ahead of the season has BMC's Ben Hermans holding the Strava KOM, with a time of 13 minutes and 18 seconds.
For those looking for a more gentle spin, riding along the coastline is highly recommended. With undulating roads and untouched beaches, this Spanish gem is well worth a visit. Accommodation is abundant, with a range of hotels and villas available, to suit all budgets. If you are looking for quiet roads and pleasant temperatures, we'd suggest visiting this region in February or March, before the holiday makers arrive and while temperatures are still in the low to mid 20s.
Not often considered as a European cycling destination, Norway offers a diverse and alluring range of roads. From its wild coast to some leg-popping mountain climbs, Norway is quickly becoming a secret hotspot for cyclists.
Europe’s steepest mile, the Stalheimskleiva, or the 8-mile, 10% average Juvass climb are as stern a test as any in Europe. Not far away on the western-most point of the mainland is the splendid and eerily quiet coastal road, which offers breath-taking views over the rocky Norwegian coastline.
Lake Tahoe, California
If you have fully exhausted Europe’s mountains and are in search of something a bit different then why not look all the way over the Atlantic to the USA? Lake Tahoe, located on the border between northern California and Nevada, provides the perfect base camp for some serious climbing and unbeatable scenery. Not to mention a wealth of other nearby off-the-bike attractions like San Francisco, Reno and Yosemite National Park.
The likes of Ebbett’s Pass and the Mosquito Ridge Road provide climbing routes that rival the legendary routes of the Alps and Pyrenees. If you're prepared to drive slightly further afield, really brutish climbs like Onion Valley Road and Whitney Portal provide 20+ miles of climbing with an average gradient of over 8% - a truly barbaric task in the scorching Sierra heat.
Chalets, Air B&Bs and hotels are plentiful and are relatively cheap in the ski off-season and flights to San Francisco or Oakland can be found for as little as £650 from London.
Closer to home
The Lake District
Few places, if any, in the UK can rival the beauty and spectacle of the English Lakes. Few can also rival its levels of precipitation but on a warm spring or summer day the Lake District can top the likes of the Alps, Dolomites or Pyrenees for grand days out on two wheels.
The Lakes make the perfect weekend getaway for any keen cyclist, especially as an early season trip to test your form. The Lake District will certainly test you. No ride will be flat and the likes of the infamous Hardknott Pass (13% average with sections over 30%) and the aptly named Struggle (as featured in the second stage of the 2016 Tour of Britain) are sure to send your heart rate into the stratosphere.
For a real challenge, an attempt at the famously ruthless Fred Whitton Challenge route can be both rewarding and exhausting. The 100+ mile route (depending on start point) features over 4000 metres of climbing, including ascents of HardKnott and Wrynose Pass.
Bed and breakfasts, hotels and campsites are plentiful and the villages of Ambleside, Grasmere or Keswick each provide a base camp that will eliminate a need to drive anywhere. Just be wary of visiting over a bank holiday as prices skyrocket and the roads become choked with motorists.
The Cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix
The crucible of the Spring Classics is an appealing destination for sportives, but riders rarely venture to this sleepy section of Belgium for a weekend away from the furore of the big races. Visitors in late April, May and June will find the famous pave largely deserted; making Flanders and Roubaix the perfect choice for weekend or bank holiday getaways.
Loops can be made out of many of the famous race routes, such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, that take in all of the famous cobbled sections. Just be sure to bring plenty of spare inner tubes as no matter what time of the year it is the likes of the Arenberg trench and Kwaremont still pack a punch.
For accommodation, try to stay out of the nearby big cities of Lille or Ghent and look for a genuine Belgian experience in the likes of Oudenaarde - the location of the finish of the Ronde - or Tournai, which is located just over the border from Roubaix.
You can also browse our range of bike and wheel travel bags at Sigma Sport, ensuring you are ready for your next cycling holiday.