Whether you’re preparing for your first ever gran fondo or you’re a seasoned veteran, these ten tips will help you make the most of the ride.
1. Look after logistics early
Remove as much of the last-minute stress as possible by organising your travel and accommodation well in advance. Accommodation close to the start and finish makes you a rockstar and consider making dinner reservations since there will be a lot of athletes looking to eat at the same places. Bicycle Sportive provides packages to the major gran fondo events, offering unique experiences and definitely removing a lot of the logistical hassles.
2. Hit the hills
The greatest gran fondos are the challenging ones – the ones with hills. Your gran fondo experience will be a lot more enjoyable if you incorporate hill workouts into your training schedule. Use these workouts to gain strength, build confidence and perfect your form.
3. Master your nutrition and hydration
The perfect time to experiment with different types of food, bars or gels is during training. If you plan on stopping at the feed-zones, familiarize yourself with the products that will be offered and experiment with them. The required frequency and volume of consumption varies from person to person. Get to know what works best for you by practicing during your long rides. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. All of your training will be for not if you get it wrong on event day.
4. Taper in the final week
The final week is not the time to be cramming high volume or intensity into your schedule. Don’t feel guilty taking two or three rest days during the week leading up to the event. Two or three light spins with a stretch session mixed in will get you primed for the big day.
5. Tune-up the bike
Consider investing in a bike tune-up within the two weeks of the event. The fresh-from-the-shop feeling you get when your bike has been tuned up by professionals is worth it. Tires, bearings, cranks. They’ll all be working at their best and your mind will be set at ease knowing all the joints are tight.
6. Invite company
All the family time that was sacrificed to train is worth it when you see them along the course or at the finish. Bring them all and pack some noise makers. You can even have some fun with the little ones by making signs or screening t-shirts during the days before the event. If your family can’t make it, go with friends or club mates. Sharing the experience is what makes it fun.
7. Save the beer for post ride
It’s essential that you go to bed early the night before the gran fondo. Have a good meal with carbohydrate and some protein. Start hydrating two days prior to event day. Drink lots of water as well as some electrolyte.
8. Go easy at the start
There are no prizes for the first to reach the 20 km mark of a gran fondo. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too quickly. You don’t want your experience to be remembered for the killer struggle in the second half. Watch your heart rate monitor to ensure you’re not working too hard.
9. Find a paceline
When done properly, pacelining (or drafting) can increase a rider’s efficiency by up to 30%. That means 30% faster or farther on a given amount of juice. Be sure to come to the gran fondo with lots of practice in the bag. Your ride will be exhilarating if you can contribute to the paceline on event day. Don’t be scared to be vocal, either. There are a lot of people riding who aren’t familiar with each other. Vocalize your intentions and make others feel welcome to join in.
10. Enjoy the ride
Take a deep breath and soak in the energy. The feeling of riding with hundreds or even thousands of others on closed roads is very special. You’re fit and you’re ready to have a blast. Get out there and enjoy it!
Founder, Bicycle Sportive Tours International