Taming a Gran Fondo is no small task, it takes preparation, experience, and plenty of fitness.
Besides being timed-events that mimic certain elements of a race, “Fondos” often feature Strava or KOM/QOM (King/Queen of the Mountain) segments that add another layer of intensity to an already big-day on the bike.
To spice things up further, Gran Fondos are mass-start events, making group-riding skills and peloton-savvy an important component to achieving a Personal Record or break-through performance while out on course.
With this in mind, and a slew of late Summer/Fall Gran Fondos available for riders everywhere, we have outlined the following event-day tips to help you perform to the best of your abilities.
Riding an epic route with riders that have similar goals can make your Gran Fondo even more enjoyable! Photo Credit: DeAnn Para
#1: Share The Workload!
Most Gran Fondos are well attended and feature the largest peloton that any Athlete will join all year.
And more participants means there is always someone to share the pace-making with while out on course!
The main reason to ride with a group is to share the work and move quickly across the days terrain.
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, for the most part, the quicker the pace you will ride. With this in mind, we suggest encouraging other riders to join your group throughout the ride.
By sharing the workload amongst your group of riders at a Gran Fondo you will not just have a faster ride time, you will increase your chances of earning a PR on the K/QOM segments out on course by drafting off the group. A nice bonus indeed.
#2: Perfect Your Hydration & Nutrition Strategy
This simple tip cannot be emphasized enough.
Most Fondos are chalk-full of ride stops and food options, which is a good thing. However, a five-hour, fast-paced day in the saddle is not the time to try a new drink-mix or food option.
For this reason we suggest bringing all the food you need for the day, in your pockets, at the start of the ride.
Although Gran Fondos are known for their well-stocked feed-stops, relying on them for all of your event-day nutrition increases your chances of experiencing stomach distress or other GI issue while on course.
When you do stop for fuel at the aid-stations, always err on the side of food and hydration options you know.
Stick with what you know, don't try new flavors or different food choices on event day! Photo Credit: Danny Munson.
#3: Know The Route & The Critical Sections
This may seem like obvious advice, but the degree to which you are familiar with the route is very important.
For example, if there is a big climb in the first thirty-miles of the Fondo, or if the route twists through a windy and exposed valley, you will want to know this before you see it on course.
Having first-hand knowledge of this information, including expected durations, distances, wind-directions, and land-marks will help you be prepared for every challenge a Gran Fondo course presents.
Knowing more than just the mile-marker of the aid-stations will give you an edge that cannot be replaced once on-course when information is scarce.
The moral is this, don’t just ride your bike, ride your bike with purpose. You put in a lot of time and energy into preparing for a Gran Fondo, so make the most of your performance by knowing all you can about the course.
#4 Pace Yourself For The Long-Haul
For most Athletes a Gran Fondo is likely to be both their longest and most intense day on the bike all season.
With this in mind and because both the intensity and volume of the event are significant, it is important for an Athlete to pace themselves accordingly. That is to say that being a "hero" and riding to hard in the opening half of the event can spell disaster in the final miles of the Fondo.
Although crafting a pacing strategy is always better with previous course experience and the guidance of a Coach, the former is not always available.
This is where experience counts and patience is the virtue that will put you on top.
By riding more conservatively in the opening hours of the event, knowing the critical parts of the course, and nailing both your hydration and nutrition requirements you will inevitably perform at or better than expected at your next Gran Fondo.
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
Having a great event performance and riding to your potential requires many things to go well, but using these tips will go a long way to getting you through your next Gran Fondo with a smile!
By sharing the work in a group, perfecting your hydration and nutrition needs, researching the intimate details of the days' route, including the ‘critical sectors’, as well as moderating your efforts properly, you are highly likely to have a great experience and performance at your upcoming Fondo.
We hope that these tips will help you push your limits and have an incredible event! Good luck.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching