Sportives or Challenge Rides have increased in popularity recently. They are fairly expensive to enter (compared with Audax rides) but are usually signed and marshalled and usually include feeding stations. You don’t need to be able to navigate. There will usually be a rider recovery service back to the HQ. The organisers provide a timing service and larger events may operate wave starts, chip timing and offer options for different length courses of flatter or hillier nature.
There are local, national and international, day or multiday, events throughout the year. Events tend to make a profit for the organising charity, club or commercial operator. Some events provide a sample of major cycling tours, such as the Etape du Tour which uses a few stages of the impending Tour de France each year.
A local example is the Cheshire Cat which is HQed at Crewe Alexander stadium in March and attracts thousands of riders to three course options, of which the toughest heads for the Peak District via the Mow Cop “killer mile”!
Although Sportives are meant to be a personal challenge rather than a race, it is fairly common to see the results published in order of time taken (for each route option). UK events are usually described in units of miles (unlike Audax rides which are always km).
Congleton CC members have ridden the prestigious L’Étape du Tour (a different Stage of the Tour de France each year) and the Maratona dles Dolomites (1, 2 or 3 loops based on Corvara) – both held in July – as well as more local events.
If you go to the British Cycling Sportive area, you will probably find a choice of dates to ride in your region, particularly in summer.