Taming a Gran Fondo is no small task, after all, they don't include the word 'Gran' in the title for no reason!
With a slew of late Summer and Fall Gran Fondos on the calendar, we thought it appropriate to share a few ‘event-day’ tips to help you make the most of your next Gran Fondo!
What’s more, we outlined three of our favorite Fondo’s that more than live up to the lore and legend of the Italian translation for “gran fondo” or ‘big ride’.
Riding an epic route with riders that have similar goals can make your Gran Fondo even more enjoyable! Photo Credit: DeAnn Para
Tip #1: Share The Work & Join A Peloton
Most Gran Fondos are well attended and feature riders of every fitness and skill-level.
This makes it easy to find a ride buddy or a small group to pass the miles with.
Besides the fact that spending five, or more, hours in the saddle is always more fun with a group, the main benefits to riding with a peloton are energy conservation and increased speed.
Much like riders in a break-away on a stage of the Tour de France, you and your Fondo friends are a small team that can help each other make a quick pace.
It should also be said that the larger the group, the quicker the pace (most of the time).
That is why we suggest encouraging other riders to join your peloton, whether it be along the route or at an aid station, the more the merrier!
Part of what makes cycling a unique sport is the shared experience of doing something epic together, like riding a Gran Fondo with new friends!
Stick with what you know, don't try new flavors or different food choices on event day! Photo Credit: Danny Munson.
Tip #2: Perfect Your Hydration & Nutrition Strategy
This simple tip cannot be over-emphasized.
Most Fondos are full of lavish ride stops and luscious food options… which is a good thing, but with that said, your big event is not the opportune time to try a new drink-mix or introduce a new food choice to hard-working body.
Despite training hard for a big event, it’s all to easy to get caught-up in the buffet-frenzy that can be Fondo SAG stops.
We suggest bringing enough of the food and fuel you regularly train with to get you through the entire ride.
Use the SAG stops for water and bathroom breaks, save the extravagant food options for post-ride, when you can savor a job well done!
Except in dire situations, event-day is not the time to experiment with new products or flavors! On event-day, food is fuel, plain and simple.
The course map and route profile for an event, like this one for the Mammoth Gran Fondo, is a handy tool to plan your event-day pacing. Photo Credit: Mammoth Gran Fondo
Tip #3: Study The Route & Know The Critical Sectors
This may seem obvious, but the degree to which you are familiar with the route is very important.
Because Gran Fondo’s are generally mass-start events, meaning that the entire group rolls out as a huge procession, knowing the route and terrain is key to being confident and remaining calm.
This knowledge allows a rider to focus on the wheels around them and staying safe within the robust and dynamic pelotons that characterize mass-start Gran Fondos.
An experienced rider will always know the route, but will also have an idea how the peloton is likely to tackle the days difficulties.
Knowing the “critical sectors” of an event-route gives an Athlete the confidence to push themselves, when appropriate, to stay with a peloton or slow-up so they don’t “blow-up”.
No one wants the memory of their goal event to be marred by a “bonk” or to spend a lot of time at a SAG stop trying to recover after “cracking” out on the road.
The moral is this, knowledge is power, do your homework and you will be rewarded with a better performance at your next Gran Fondo!
Three Of BWC’s Favorite Gran Fondo’s
#1: The Mammoth Gran Fondo
What Makes It Grand?
No other Gran Fondo that we have participated in can boast that over 75% of the route is closed to cars… yes, CLOSED. Bike riders are the only ones on the road!
What’s more there is only one stop-light on the entire route, meaning the only thing slowing you down from a 100-mile PR is being distracted by the beautiful Eastern Sierra views!
To add to the grandeur of the Mammoth Gran Fondo, BWC is leading our own peloton and giving the riders joining us a unique “yellow jersey” experience. We call it the Sub-Six Peloton Experience.
Our group will be fully supported out on course and feature a full-contingent of BWC “sled-dogs” that will be on domestique duty for our peloton.
When Is The Ride? Saturday September 8th
For More Info: https://www.fallcentury.org
#2: The Tour de Big Bear
What Makes It Grand?
The Tour de Big Bear is a seriously challenging route with stunning views all centered in the self-styled “capital of cycling” in Southern California.
To add to the events lore, the Tour de Big Bear offers the HC or "H’ors Categorie” route.
This beyond-category event features a particularly brutal route that covers 125-miles and includes 12,000’ of climbing. It’s a challenge that only toughest will survive!
When Is The Ride? Saturday August 4th
For More Info: https://tourdebigbear.com
#3: The Mike Nosco Memorial Ride
What Makes It Grand?
The Mike Nosco Memorial Ride is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
It’s more than a Gran Fondo, it’s a “must do” event that every cyclist that can attend should put on their bucket list.
Besides a brutal route, event organizers have decreed that their peloton is “on a mission” to provide financial relief to families or individuals who are confronted with life-threatening illness.
The Mike Nosco Memorial Ride embodies all the best that our cycling community is, dedicated, supportive, and tough as nails!
When Is The Ride? Saturday November 3rd
For More Info: https://mikenosco.com
Having a great event performance and riding to your potential requires many things to go well, but utilizing these tips, will go a long way to getting you through event-day with a smile on your face!
By sharing the work in a group, perfecting your personal hydration and nutrition needs, and having intimate knowledge of the route profile, including the ‘critical sectors’, you are much more likely to have a great experience at your upcoming Fondo.
Good luck and we hope these tips will propel you to an incredible event performance!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching