Bicycle Sportive
Tours International


How many gran fondos do people do?

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

There are so many gran fondo events out there now that you could probably ride two each weekend plus an extra one on stat holidays. So, what is the right number and is there such a thing as too many?

Runners know that doing any more than two marathons per year is hard on your body. With the amount of time required to properly train for a marathon and the amount of time necessary to recover, it would be unwise to do any more. If you ran more than two marathons in a given year, you’d probably feel your body breaking down, your immune system failing and your enjoyment diminished. But cycling is different. That’s why we do it. There’s no pounding of joints on asphalt, no annoying shin splints to deal with and recovery can be achieved with a protein smoothie and a good night’s sleep!

Gran fondos have different distances and varying elevation gains, but each one entails several hours of riding at a high level of exertion. Dana Williams, owner and head coach at Achieve Training & Coaching in Marin County, California can get an average athlete ready for a gran fondo in nine weeks with a comprehensive program of core strength exercises, base miles and interval training. After that, he says cyclists can maintain a high level of fitness for several months. “Depending on your fitness, you could probably ride a hundred mile gran fondo every weekend for the whole summer and be fine.” Williams says. “It’s more a mental game than anything.” Indeed, some grand tour riders seem to get stronger after each stage. On rest days, many teams go for two to three hour rides.

But physical and mental fitness are not the only factors in the equation. Since we’re not pros, entry fees, travel, accommodation, tune ups, restaurant meals and nutrition all make a dent in the wallet. You might end up dropping a few dollars at the expo too. Money is an obvious factor in determining the number of events to do in a season.

The next consideration is time. Your spouse and kids are probably digging your slim figure but you’ll be trying their patience if you disappear on them every second weekend. And don’t forget about your friends. Those non-cycling college buddies will stop calling if you’re continually skipping BBQ’s or turning down invitations to the game.

Finally, there’s the delicate balance between fulfilling your passion and ruining a good thing. That electric feeling you get when you’re lined up at the start line with a number pinned on your back will get stale if you abuse it. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year, but even the best turkey stuffing in the world would get bland if you ate it every weekend.

GranFondo Whistler Start 2013

So, what is the right number?

The key is to find the number that works for you and for me the magic number is three. With this number, you’re able to reap the benefits of your fine form and you won’t break the bank or compromise too much family time.

Here’s an approach for building your calendar that might work for you. Let’s call it the triple crown strategy:

First is The Kentucky Derby. Find the one gran fondo that fits on your calendar every year and make it the one you set your sights on. Taper during the week leading into it and throw it down on race day. You’ll be familiar with the course and you can apply this knowledge to the pursuit of peak performance.

Second, the Preakness. Find a destination event and make a trip out of it. It’s a much more fulfilling way to spend vacation time than sitting at a swim-up bar or lying on a beach. Make it a family trip and tack on a few days before and after the ride to include visits to local attractions.

Then the Belmont. The third event can be another destination event that you do with your mates. It might be club mates, work mates or a group of your best clients. Maybe it’s a ‘guys weekend’ or a ‘girls weekend’. Gran fondo weekends are a great way to drop your guard and have fun doing something you love doing.

Adding a fourth one to the schedule is reasonable. This could be a local spring randonneur ride or a charity century ride.

In the end, the number of gran fondos you do in a season is up to you. After all, a woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood! Tell us, how many do YOU do?


Lindsay Carswell
Founder, Bicycle Sportive Tours International

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