Deciding what makes a race tough or not is often subjective. But in my humble opinion, there are three things that determine how tough a race is: the competition (does it attract elite competitors?), the course itself (terrain, the distance, the amount of climbing, etc.) and finally the climate (if it’s notoriously hot, cold, windy, etc.).

So on this basis, I’ve selected three American cycle races – both mountain and road based – that should take you properly out of your comfort zone.  And one of the criteria is that it shouldn’t be inordinately expensive to enter – such as the Ride Across America – which is a different beast altogether!

Furnace Creek 508


The Toughest 48 hours in Sport

From the same organisers as the Badwater Ultra Marathon, the Furnace Creek 508 is so named because it contains 508 miles of ‘epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery and desolate roads’.  This year, part of the route will follows the Nevada Highway 50 – regarded as ‘the loneliest highway in America.’  You can do it solo, or as a two/four person relay, although the total field is limited to 250 racers. When we say this is tough – it really is. It’s like a mini Race Across America – but takes a fraction of the time and doesn’t cost a small fortune to enter. Plus it’s unsupported!

Next Race: Oct 5 – 7, 2014

Breck Epic

©Liam Doran Photography / Break Epic

©Liam Doran Photography / Break Epic

A  six day race that lives among a small but thriving handful of kick-ass bucket-list races.

The Breck Epic is one of those events that immediately grabs you as ‘I must do this race’ .  Held in and around the backcountry surrounding Breckenridge, CO, this 240 mile mountain bike epic is spread over six stages.  The beauty about this race it that each stage (between 35 and 50 miles long) starts and finishes in Breckenridge – meaning that you don’t have to move camps each night.   That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s over 40,000ft of ascent.   If this sounds a bit daunting, there’s a three day epic version for those tight on time and stamina!

Next race: Aug 10-15, 2014

Everest Challenge Stage Race

©Copyright: dannylim

©Copyright: dannylim

The toughest back-to-back-to-back climbing ANYWHERE!

The name is slightly misleading – as it doesn’t involving going anywhere near Mount Everest. Rather the Everest Challenge is a two day stage race covering 165 miles but with an accumulative  climb of 29,035ft – almost the same height as the aforementioned highest peak in the world.  Held in the Eastern Sierra, this U.S.C.F. (United States Cycling Federation) sanctioned event is also the California/Nevada State Climbing Championship.

Next race: Sep 27 –  Sep 28, 2014

Main Photo: Ljupco Smokovski/

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