This year's Black Rat Challenge has been cancelled, organisers have confirmed.

Now based at the Marlwood School in Bristol, the long-running Black Rat sportive tackles some of the most scenic countryside in the south-west - with the 2020 edition adding an ascent of Wales' highest road, Gospel Pass.

Originally set to take place in May, this year's Black Rat was postponed until September when the scale of the coronavirus pandemic became clear. However, organisers have now taken the decision to cancel the event, and focus on next year's edition in May 2021.

The Gospel Pass features in the Black Rat sportive.
The Gospel Pass features in the Black Rat sportive.

A statement from the organisers said: "It is with deep regret that we must inform you that the Black Rat Sportive planned for the 20th September 2020 cannot take place this year and has been postponed until 23rd May 2021 due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation.

"Even though lockdown measures are gradually being loosened for some sectors, we believe that we will be unable to implement the safety measures we expect in order to protect participants, our event team, our event partners and community by September 2020.

"We have considered trying to run the event with reduced rider numbers and social distancing rules in place but the "pinch points" such as the start and feed stations are likely to be extremely difficult to manage. On top of this the school have not been able to commit to allowing us to hold the event yet. They want to wait and see how things are in September."

Entrants will have their place automatically transferred to the 2021 edition. Those who prefer a refund of their entry fee can contact the organisers at [email protected]

Entrants who do carry over their entry to next year's edition on Sunday 23rd May 2021 will be offered a "loyalty" gift in addition to the normal ride souvenirs.

One rat, three routes

A popular sportive among cyclists in the south-west, the Black Rat offers a choice of three routes:

Granfondo - This is the longest route, of 181km, and has 2423m of climbing. The route will take you through the Forest of Dean to Monmouth, then will follow beautiful, quiet roads to Hay on Wye, before tackling the highest road in Wales, Gospel Pass. After that, it's 25km downhill to Abergavenny before heading back through Raglan to Chepstow and then back over the Severn Bridge to the finish.

Mediofondo - If 181km seems like it might be a bit much, then the Mediofondo route may be more suitable. It is 120km and has 1605m of climbing. It largely follows the same route as the Granfondo but misses the loop to Hay on Wye and Gospel Pass, meeting up again with the Granfondo route in Abergavenny.

Piccolofondo - For those looking for a beautiful day on the bike on quiet roads but wishing to ride less than 100km, the Piccolofondo route is for you. It follows the same route as the other two rides as far as Monmouth then takes you on quiet roads back to Chepstow and the Severn Bridge. The route is 87km and has 1293m of climbing - so it isn't a flat ride.

Entries for the 2021 edition are now open at www.blackratcycle.co.uk.

Summer Trips 2021

Join the Black Rat crew for a cycling trip to Tuscany in 2021.
Join the Black Rat crew for a cycling trip to Tuscany in 2021.

Alongside the sportive the Black Rat team are also planning a couple of cycling trips to Europe for Summer 2021.

At the end of June next year they will be running a trip to the Alps, riding the Route des Grandes Alpes, from Lake Geneva to Menton on the Mediterranean coast. The trip will be for 8 days including travelling.

The route takes riders over some of the highest mountain passes in the Alps and, say organisers, "will give you a real sense of achievement. Our 2019 ride was easily the most popular trip that we have run and we can't wait to ride it again with a group."

A new trip currently being organised is a trip to Tuscany in Italy. This trip will combine great riding in the Tuscan hills with great food and wine that the region is famous for. The rides are less demanding than our trips to the mountains and will suit riders of all abilities who want to get some fabulous rides in along with enjoying everything else the region has to offer.

The Black Rat team are currently taking names of those interested, with full details to follow on the event website.

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