Long-distance bike races have long been a solid way to test the endurance of great riders. But as with all things in the sporting world, boundaries will continue to be pushed. Off-road ultra-endurance races have been popping up all over the world for the past few years, with new ones appearing every year. So we’ve compiled a selection of some to keep an eye on in 2022, whether dot-watching or if you’re lucky to nab a place. The list is not exhaustive by any means but gives you a taste of the world of adventure cycling.
The human body is capable of being pushed to great limits, and these races certainly do just that. On paper, they look reasonably tame for cyclists who are used to putting in 1,000 km in a week but they test a rider in dramatically different ways. To be prepared for an off-road ultra-endurance event, participants should understand how to endure remote, mountainous areas over long periods of time without support. Considering equipment for survival, adequate clothing, nutrition and the difficult terrain required for training are all factors, which could contribute to a DNF.
That being said, they can be extremely fulfilling life experiences for those that take part. For those that are simply in awe, the dot-watching is thrilling enough.
GB Duro, Britain
A ‘leave no trace’ race, determined by the fact that riders must get to and from the start and finish without flying. Organisers aim to promote the idea that the leave-no-trace principles should extend to all aspects of our lives. The race is 2,000 km, self-supported across Britain from Land’s End to John-o-Groat’s. In 2021, 50% of the top 10 finishers were women, a feat that is often unheard of in lots of great mixed races. They’re making bold moves in the ultra-endurance cycling world and we’re here for it!
Altas Mountain Race, Morocco
If you want a race without tarmac, this is it. The Atlas Mountain Race begins in Marrakesh before leaving the bustling city and crossing the Atlas mountain range, then hitting the Anti-Atlas and finishing in Agadir. At almost 1,200 km with 23,000 m of climbing covering a mix of gravel, single and double track, you’ll have to be a pretty strong rider for this one. But the brownie points at the end are like no other.
Race Around the Netherlands
A ‘do-it-yourself’ style ride that has an official start and end, it’s then up to you to make it there via the assigned route. Beginning in the village of Amerongen, the route covers 1,900 km, circumnavigating the country to finish where you began. Slightly flatter than other comparable adventure races, climbing 6,800 m throughout the ride but no less of an experience as it takes in some of the country’s most iconic hills.
Taunus Bikepacking, Germany
Claiming 20 metres of elevation per kilometre over 1,000 km, this is no flat ride. But if you’d like to see a lesser-explored region in Germany, this route has it all. A self-supported bikepacking adventure, which begins in Eppstein, taking in quiet farm and forest tracks as well as the trails. You’ll be mistaken for a Taunus local by the end of it.
As is the common theme here, the Iberica-Traversa is a single-stage, unsupported adventure across the Iberian Peninsula. Following mostly unpaved trails, you will climb almost 30,000 m in 1,700 km so you better train those hill legs. Alternatively, there is a new road route for 2022 which covers slightly more in terms of distance and climbing. Whichever route you take, it’s sure to be epic and beautiful.
Alaska Divide, USA
The Alaska Divide is a new entry into the unsupported adventure race scene, with 2022 being its inaugural year. Covering almost 1,700 km from Anchorage in the south to Deadhorse in the north, the route crossing Alaska ensures you’ll experience the most remote wilderness on the continent. If you’re into unrelenting weather with the occasional awe-inspiring Northern Lights, this is the race for you.
Bohemian Border Bash Race, Czech Republic
Unlike some of the previously mentioned races, there are prizes to be won at the Bohemian Border Bash Race, of which the winner shall receive a sword. If that’s not a good enough reason to enter, then I’m not sure what is. The race will begin and end in Bohemian-Saxon Switzerland National Park, taking in the ancient borderlands of Bohemia on its 1,300-km route. Utilising the remnants of old road networks, riders will be unsupported and will be tested as they climb more than 22,000 m on a race through the centre of Europe.
Across Andes, Chile
Across Andes is the first race of its kind in Chile. Crossing the Andes mountain range by bike will be no easy feat but it is sure to be spectacular. Beginning in the city of Melipeuco, the route consists of 50% road and gravel. Riders will travel 1,100 km, self-supported and climb 15,000 m, unsurprisingly, to then reach the Pacific Ocean.
Race Around Rwanda
If you’re into dot-watching, this is one to watch as riders set off at the end of January. A heavily supported event that saw over 1 million Rwandans take to the streets to support in 2019. Covering over 1,000 km within 6 days and gaining 15,000 m of elevation, Rwanda didn’t get its nickname the ‘land of a thousand hills’ for nothing! There are a number of gravel sections making up around 40% of the route.
Finally, another one for the dot-watchers in 2022. If it’s variety you’re after, the TCR has it all. Crossing Europe from Belgium to Bulgaria via 4,000 km of mountains, tarmac and trails. With mandatory checkpoints, riders are free to choose a route between points. So as well as good navigation skills and self-sufficiency, participants will need a good deal of mental fortitude yet will experience masses of type 2 fun in the process.