Are European Granfondos Competetive?

Hello all,
I am living in Netherlands.
In my bucket list there are, Amstel gold race experience, We ride Flanders, and Paris Roubeix challange. These are amateur versions of famous races. Also I want to participate North Brabant granfondo and Amsterdam Granfondo.

When I check the websites and youtube videos of these events, I see that people are quiet relax. Everybody cross the finish line holding hands eachother. They are giving long breaks and drinking beers on feed stations. Even starting time of the events are between 7am and 10am. So you are starting the event when you want to.
I want to race compepetitevly on this races. Is this possible? Are they recording time for every indivuadial in these events?
In my home country every granfondo or amateur event is really competetive. People are finishing with sprint even if they came 800th out of 1000 people.

Not sure where you are from… but all gran fondos here in Italy are extremely competitive… too much to an extent I’d say…


The ones you mentioned are not competitive. You can choose your starting time indeed in a certain slot (the longer the ride, the earlier and narrower the slot). So no group start, thus no real race feel. There’s usually no time recording, although in some instances you get timed on a specific iconic hill. If you want to really compete, there are timed events like the Marmotte, which is very different.
In Belgium / Netherlands we also don’t call these ‘gran fondos’. It’s ‘toertocht’ in Dutch.


For the ones I have done for some folks they are very competitive. Flanders for mates & me has only ever just been a social ride. Apart from my first one where I was the only one (in my group) doing the long one and it was more of a case of getting round after halfway after being in a faster group at the start. Lol, I remember the Koppenberg which was walking only because of the sleet/snow being shoved out of the way by someone taking it too seriously and trying contrary to the signs and 100s of folk walking to try and cycle up and getting rather annoyed (which he let me know) when he fell of just past me. For most folk its just an achievement/ social event, for other folk it a race, it is what you make it.

The exception being a smaller fondo I’ve done in Northern France is racing from the start, it impossible to go a social pace until it eventually thins out after pinch points, lol :joy:

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A gran fondo is really just a timed event. It’s not safe to really race it, as you are sharing the road with live traffic.

If you want to race, enter a race. Closed roads, or motorbike/car marshals forming a rolling road closure. Every participant is then there to race and you have real competition.

The exception that I am aware of is the UCI Gran Fondo World series, which are closed roads and very competitive.

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Raced at the front and enjoyed at the back. If you race at the back you look like a weirdo.
If you enjoy the front, still a weirdo but a respected one.


Without the racing it is important to state. Gran Fondos are just grand days out with like minded folk. If you want to race, I’d suggest entering an actual race.

Do you know any amateur race near Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or France? How can I find them?

No clue, I don’t race. I just do ‘toertochten’ like AGR, LBL, Flanders, … :slight_smile:

To race in all those countries, you’d probably need a license in every one.

Just join a local racing club, get a bike license, etc. Maybe start at your local bike store (the one that is road focused) and ask around.

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Just use this calendar:
It lists just every fondo in the world


During the Tour du Lac (Switzerland), the front will race. Departure time goes by expected speed. Everybody gets a time chip.

Unfortunately, most of these “Gran Fondos” also offer chip timing, categories, and often include a competitive TT and a GC.

So basically they are races but called GF’s so they can be run more cheaply without paying for road closures.

I’m going to one in Cyprus in a few weeks and last year it was won by Ilnur Zakarin’s brother. Make of that what you will.

Charly Gaul in Luxemburg is a good one! La Marmotte, La Vaujany, Maratona dles Dolomites are all worth checking out, very competitive at the front end.

in most counties in Europe those kind of events are called cyclosportives - timed events with chip and time registration.

Also, if you’re feeling perky just roll up to Amstel Gold cyclo at the front of the field at 6am, there will be a bunch of people racing it for fun. No prizes but still a fun thing to do and you avoid walking the traffic jam on Keutenberg later in the day.

The ones here in Austria are pretty competitive, with quite a few former pros dropping into them as well.

I remember doing The Valle GF and was in the front group hanging on… Was absolutely off the charts for a start.

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Having done Strade Bianche GF this year expecting much of what’s described above, I can say they take it extremely seriously in the front half (6500 entries this year), to the extent I felt unsafe despite competing in Cat 3 in the UK. There was one bad pileup and a few crashes in the first hour until it thinned out. During this it was basically impossible to take it easy as you quickly became a moving chicane which didn’t feel safe or fun. I’m sure at the back it’s a different story, but you’d have to consciously start there rather than take up your corral spot. I’m told most Italian GFs are like this.

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Strade Bianche Gran Fondo was awesome this year. I started in the third group and people were racing to make the 10am long course cutoff. It was pretty dicey with everyone trying to move up. The competitiveness didn’t let up for the entire race even in the bottom half. I was under the impression that this was how all European Gran Fondos were. It was bonkers but well worth the 100 euros I paid for registration.

I would say every event I’ve done has had groups going hard rather than just being social (including Audax). I still wouldn’t call them a race though.

If you want to race, join a club and get a licence, and race. I’d imagine there’s a mix of club races, inter club leagues, and open racing.

I do a few every year and whether you want to call the a race or not, they are raced as hard as any race I’ve done. 5.5-6w/kg for 20’ is your entry to the front group.

Except the UCI Gran Fondo World series which are on closed roads and are long ~100 miles road races. Race Licence required (and normally a letter from your federation if racing in another country i.e British Cycling member cycling in France etc.) Ive just got a £40 refund on my British Cycling Membership for the racing licence, UCI licence number part, as I retired from racing last year but still a BC member.