More challenges for serious cyclists

Michael Barry, a professional cyclist riding with Team Sky in the Tour de France, gives his verdict on some of the most popular two-wheeled challenges.

L’Etape du Tour: 113 miles, one day

L’Etape lets amateurs ride one of the year’s key Tour de France stages a few days before the professionals themselves tackle it. This year the route starts in Pau and climbs the Col du Tourmalet. July 18,

Pro rating: 8/10 “A tough day, and the Tourmalet is a climb to fear, no matter how often you’ve done it.”

Dunwich Dynamo: 120 miles, one night

On the Saturday nearest to the full moon each July, cyclists gather in east London, setting off around 9pm to ride through the night to the coast at Dunwich in Suffolk. It’s free and there is minimal organisation. July 24,

Pro rating: 5/10 “A bit of fun really, though cycling all night on public roads has its own challenges.”

London to Paris: 179 miles, three days

Very popular with charity groups, there are regular departures from spring to autumn. The normal route is to reach Dover on day one, then spend two days weaving through the countryside to Paris.

Pro rating: 2/10 “Flat with likely tailwinds. An enjoyable ride through pretty countryside.”

Sky Ride Etape Hibernia: 82 miles, one day

New this year, this is the first closed-road event of its kind in Ireland, starting and finishing in Ennis, County Clare. August 22,

Pro rating: 4/10 “A fantastic route with not too much climbing although crosswinds may be a challenge. A great event to start training for now.”

Cent Cols: 1,214 miles, 10 days

The mileage may be formidable, but it’s nothing compared to the climbing. The route, which starts in Annecy, has a combined ascent of 41,800m, equivalent to climbing Everest nearly five times. September 12-22,

Pro rating: 10/10 “With an average of nearly 5,000 metres of climbing a day, this is brutal.”

Tour de Mont Blanc: 263 miles, four days

A classic route rather than a set piece event, you can do it alone or as part of an organised tour. It starts and finishes in Chamonix, and passes into Switzerland and Italy.

Pro rating: 5/10 “Beautiful countryside crossing some of the most majestic passes in the Alps. Over four days, this is manageable.”

RAAM: 3,000 miles, nine-12 days

RAAM stands for Race Across America, and this event is exactly that. It starts in California and ends in Maryland. There are no rest days, and riders sleep where they can. June 2011,

Pro rating: 10/10 “You are pushing your body to different extremes due to sleep deprivation and the distance.”

La Marmotte: 109 miles, one day

This covers hallowed Tour de France ground, starting at Bourg d’Oisans, then climbing the Glandon, Galibier and Lautaret passes before the finale: the Alpe d’Huez ascent. July 2 2011,

Pro rating: 9/10 “Some of the greatest Tour climbs. Hugely challenging with thrilling descents.”

To follow Michael Barry’s progress in the Tour, see

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