A Gran Fondo is a long-distance road cycling ride, loosely translated as “Big Ride’, with the first Gran Fondo originating in Italy in 1970.
Italian Gran Fondo’s are officially defined and certified by the Italian Cycling Federation as a bicycle event of at least 120 kilometres on closed roads, and are individually timed races with prizes for the fastest riders in each category. The starts are en masse and the format allows for riders of every level to participate; much like a marathon, where most participants are competing against the clock, rather than against other participants. Traditionally a large meal is served to riders at the end of the event – yes, Italians do love their ‘pasta party’.
There are many different people and ways to ride a Gran Fondo
1. Those who compete
Firstly, there are the Elite amateurs who are under 25 and trying to turn professional, who use the Gran Fondo as a way of demonstrating their ability. With only a handful of chances to turn pro each year, the competition is fierce.
Equally competitive is the other end of the spectrum where athletes at the end of their cycling career race Gran Fondo’s to hang onto their dream.
Then there are the serious solo riders who can be any age, but still want to seriously push themselves the whole way to see how fast they can go. My personal favourite in this category are the guys who like to have the little band aid on their nose…..very pro.
2.Those who are up for a personal challenge
Finally,. there is the largest and generally happiest number of riders who mostly ride together as clubs or friends, and who have the goal of finishing a ride that is bigger than something they usually undertake – whether it is a goal to ride a longer distance or to ride up a higher mountain pass than ever before….. it’s about pushing further.
There is no right or wrong way to ride a Gran Fondo
Everyone is different and we all have different drivers and goals. For me, it’s about striking a balance between taking on the challenge, while also taking the time to enjoy all of the elements of the ride.
I love the new locations and landscapes that you can be taken to.
I love the feeling of riding on new roads, to places you have never been before and the uncertain feeling you have when you are on your own and you start to question, “am I still on course”….until you see the next directional sign.
I love the sounds of the bells on the alpine cows and the rushing water of melted snow in the mountain stream, as you hurtle down the mountain.
I love the camaraderie of an international field and the multi lingual banter as we all strive to get to the top of the mountain, but most of all I love the adventure.
A Gran Fondo is a challenge at your level
Each Gran Fondo usually has distance options, with a Medio Fondo (medium) and a Piccolo Fondo (small), so you can choose the length and intensity of your ride, right up until the start.
While Gran Fondo’s in Italy are often described as a race, they are actually created to be a challenge; not a hard and impossible task, but a challenge to give riders the best possible experience and support, while showcasing a region’s amazing landscape. They give you the opportunity to ride somewhere that may not be possible to ride on your own.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether a Gran Fondo is for you, here’s a couple of thoughts I’d like to leave you with.
- When you register for a Gran Fondo, I believe that you need to take the Italian ‘tranquillo‘ approach, (translates to calm, or take it easy). By this, I mean listen to your body and go with the flow. Don’t become nervous and anxious about where you are on the grid or when you’re at the bottom of the climb, about trying to stick with a “faster” group up the climb, just ride your ride and let it all unfold.
- If you’re considering our Tour of Piemonte featuring the La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo, but you’re concerned about how you’ll go, again remember the Italian ‘tranquillo’ approach. You will be amazed at how well prepared you’ll feel after a week of riding the hills of Piemonte in the lead up. The whole week of riding is designed to prepare you for the big ride.
We have added the La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo as the penultimate ride at the end of our Tour of Piemonte for a couple of reasons; one because it is a seriously beautiful part of Italy to ride and provides a goal at the end of the week to climb the high mountain pass of Colle Fauniera; and two, you get to experience one of the best and most beautiful mass start bike rides from the grand Piazza Galimberti, in true Italian style.
Not up for the Gran Fondo but love the idea of riding Piemonte?
When you are on one of our Italian cycling tours, you have riding choices, and this includes the Gran Fondo. With multiple ride guides on tour, you can go ‘molto tranquillo’ and join the Sunday ride that avoids the Gran Fondo altogether, and takes you through the valley for an equally beautiful ride of the region. The choice is yours, because it is your cycling holiday.
For more information about our Tour of Piemonte, including the Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo, click here