CEO/Head Coach of CTS
These days the term Gran Fondo is – at least in the US – being applied very liberally to events ranging from 40 miles to 130 miles, and including anywhere from a few hundred feet of climbing to more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain. For the sake of this article, however, let’s set the minimum for a Gran Fondo at 100 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing. Why? Because 7,000 or more feet of climbing in a timed 100-mile ride is a step up from your local run-of-the-mill century, and that’s what a Gran Fondo is supposed to be.
Tips for Preparing for a Gran Fondo
Endurance isn’t usually the limiting factor for athletes signing up for their first Gran Fondo. You’ve most likely done century rides before, and given enough time, food, and water, you could pedal your way to the finish line. But now there’s a timing chip, and hill segments, and an overall placing on the line, so you’re going to need some speed to go along with that endurance.
While longer climbing intervals are great for building the power to climb like a steady diesel engine, you also need to be able to accelerate. High-intensity intervals are often thought of in terms of the ability generate huge power numbers, and non-competitive athletes sometimes fail to see a good rationale for that. Here it is: If you develop the power to surge way above your lactate threshold for a short effort, you’re also developing the fitness to recover quickly from those surges.
A big Gran Fondo is likely to be your longest single ride of the year. With work and family schedules many riders find they can’t replicate their goal event’s mileage, time in the saddle, or kilojoule value in a single training ride. That’s normal, but one way to compensate for limited training time is to build back-to-back training blocks. If you can’t ride six hours or 3,000 kilojoules in one day, schedule two back-to-back days at 3-4 hrs or 1800-2,200 kilojoules. You can even build 3-day blocks, but be sure to schedule two days of recovery after a block lasting 3 days or more.
Be rested: This is a one-day event, so go in fresh and be ready to completely drain the tank. In the days leading up to the event, have confidence in your training and avoid the temptation to squeeze in “one last interval session”.