I was reading through the Worst Gran Fondo experiences thread and thought why not have one for your best gran fondo experiences. Let us know which ones you have done that were really great, and why.
Before I joined a club the best Sportive I’d done was the Ken Laidlaw Borders Sportive. I enjoyed the escorts out of town but after it started to bucket it threatened to be a miserable day but it was superbly organised and the feedstops were great and made better lol by having shelter
After joining a club mosts events have been made by my mates but the European ones seemed superior.
I don’t have a lot of experience with different fondos because I’ve only ridden one, but Gran Fondo New Jersey was awesome. I think Covid killed it unfortunately (canceled again this year) along with the founder passing away (RIP Marty) a few years back. Would regularly get over 2000 riders and could attract some big names: Ivan Basso was a guest rider one year, Vegan Cyclist came and rode. Incredibly well run, aid stations were absolutely amazing, and the routes were stunning. Only downside was the cost of around $180, but it was my hometown ride so I never had to spend money on hotels. Sad to see it gone.
I’ve done a handful of cyclosportives in France (the French term for Gran Fondo), and one in Italy. The two that were heads above the others are, not surprisingly, the ones where the pros race the same routes: Strade Bianche & Etape du Tour (2018).
They are also the most expensive: around 110 euros. The local French cyclosportives I’ve done were no more than half that price and a fraction of the size - a few hundred vs several thousands or even >10k for EdT.
Etape du Tour takes the cake for gorgeous scenery and superb organization (Stade Bianche bib pickup was a gong show) and roadside cheering up the mountains with cowbells and chanting. And they get REALLY excited to see a woman as we made up only 5% of participants.
NB: My husband (who had already done a few EdTs) was my ‘crew’. Logistics are a pain with EdT as it’s a point-to-point event. In 2018 the start and end were within 30km of each other, which was a big reason I chose to do it that year. If you don’t have someone to ferry your stuff, spring for a group organizer.
Strade Bianche takes the cake for the epic final climb into the old town of Sienna,
and finishing in the Piazza del Campo. Seriously, this was quite the finisher’s chute:
It also provided a jersey that miraculously was not only attractive (unheard of for French cyclosportives), but also good quality - I just wore it for a chilly ride last Sunday.
The views weren’t bad either,
but I remember it more for the nasty short steep climbs!
Also, a bonus for SB is when we picked up our bibs we also ran the gamut of the pro team buses so the fanboys in our group got to pro- and bike-spot to their hearts’ delight. Sorry, no pics, but I did get pics of the final climb for the women’s race, held the day before ‘amateur day’.
Both EdT and SB had really great aid stations, but bland pasta meals at the end…and this holds true for smaller cyclos too. Perhaps this is where the N. American GFs have an edge?
FoCo Fondo is my hometown “race” and it’s a pretty chill event. Starts and ends at a brewery. Post race meal and a bevvy (beer or NA) included at the after party + other cash food/dessert trucks. Distances from 12mi family ride to 140+ miles. The long course has a time cutoff for a “trophy” for people who want to race the clock.
There was a party “oasis” near the end of the course with beer and games as well as some sort of bingo card thing that I didn’t do. Some marshall assistance at the intersections to get in/out of town but otherwise, open roads. Marked course + fully stocked aid stations (one on my course).
It cost $75 for the 32mi course for that ^ experience (and my 12yo was free). I think my SO paid a little over $100 for the 100mi course (that had 3 aid stations).
This thread needs some pics!
Best and worst, all in one.
Before the ride they provided full details of the signature climb including videos: Figueroa Mountain - CTS
Registration included a sticker for your top tube:
Course is between Santa Barbara and Vandenberg Space Force Base on the CA Central Coast:
Riding up to the base of Mt Figueroa HC climb:
The HC climbs is broken into 3 climbs, the first two separated by gravel and a downhill. First ~9% climb:
some CA ‘gravel’ climbing before the downhill:
The Lions Canyon, 5km / 3 miles at 9% average grade:
Strava segment: Fig Mtn Rd - Happy | Strava Ride Segment in Santa Ynez, CA
and my best placement on any Strava HC climb, ever:
About 34% attempts were slower than me, or 66% attempts were faster (TJ VanGarderen is KOM holder). Hey, not too shabby for just under 3W/kg - that was an 88% IF effort over 110 minutes with 4 short stops (3 for pics, one for water/food).
The worst part - after picking up my burrito I stood in line for beer and the guy in front of me got the last pour… how do you run out of beer???
My forum avatar is a pic my wife/kids took as I walked to car with only a burrito in my tummy, and a clean/dry/empty beer glass in my hand.
Had to wait until dinner for my beer:
that I had to pay for! Poor event planning. Win some, lose some. Sad panda.
I was probably just in front of you: I’m at #1177 on the Strava leader board from the 2018 Mt. Fig Gran Fondo
The Triple Bypass Ride in CO is an extremely well run event on top of being an absolutely amazing route.
Roads are closed along almost the entirety of the 110 mile point to point route during the ride. Plenty of police/volunteers working intersections, sag vehicles are easy to come by if needed. Every aid station was well stocked and had plenty of volunteers working at them. Medals for every rider at the finish line and a great party at the end with free food/beer for the riders and plenty of music + vendor tents for entertainment. It’s a bit on the expensive side (especially coming across the country for it like I did) but I felt like we got our moneys worth 100% from the whole experience
my placement is in the 3200s LOL, I’d say a little more than ‘just’ in front of me. Always catching the group behind me on climbs
I mis-read the +/- as your position
lol, no worries, I’ve become great at sweeping the back on local club climbs!
Well organised despite the weather (Officially the the Wettest August on record in the Scottish Borders) - The aforementioned Ken Laidlaw Borders Sportive
Enjoyable despite the face. The Lincoln Sportive
I wish I bought these ones - The Cairgorm Sportive
One of the few hills in the Ronde Picarde.
The Brewin Dolphin Peaks Sportive one of the best after organisation.
Bragging rights best; I was the only one of my mates to do the full Liege- Bastonge - Liege
The Mallorca 312
More bragging rights, again I was the only one of my mates to do the full Tour of Flanders.
That first one looks miserable, and something I’d sign up for!!
For me, it has to be the Mallorca 312.
I did the 2021 edition which took place in October. Lining up in the dark with drizzle in the air, I was questioning my choices.
The field was smaller than usual and we were waved off in one big group. That was a mistake in my opinion. Multiple crashes in the first seven miles must have ended a few peoples day early.
Onto the good stuff.
The atmosphere. The local people come out in droves to cheer you on. When you enter the feed stations in the towns, you have crowds lining the streets.
The feed stations had everything and more. I know some riders towards the back of the event suffer when a full 8k ride the course but, I had zero complaints. Actually, scratch that. There were so many things at the feed stations, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t at an all you can eat buffet.
The course offers something for everyone. For the full course, I climbed just over 14k. You could argue that it’s all done in the first 100 miles but, the return 100-ish isn’t pan flat. That said, it is great if you’re able to join a group for the return leg and rattle along those roads.
Once I’d cleared the initial madness, things settled down and it was nice to ride with people from so many different nations.
It’s a ride that I’m glad I’ve done and hopefully, I’ll get to do it again. Highly recommended
I did it in 2016 as you say the atmosphere is great which helped me big time. I came down with mild heat stroke the day before threw up dinner and after a terrible night I threw up breakfast On hindsight it could have been the start of my bowel cancer. That atmosphere dragged me through to 140 miles before I bonked. The local support/stubbornness helped me finish the whole 194 miles.
Fair play for getting it done, @HLaB
I hope that your recovery from bowel cancer is going well?
All sorted thanks.
In early 2018 I developed chronic fatigue after what I thought was one off piles and stupidly pushed on and did the LEJOG (minus two days in the middle when my mates put me in the support car). I wrongly put it down as overtraining but after another edition of the Ronde Picarde pictured above (Sept 2018) where I was the exact opposite of the picture and a long chat with a mate I was finally convinced to see a doc. They did a simple blood test and found I had a catastrophic iron deficiency. As a result they commissioned a whole lot of urgent tests. They all came back negative so I wrongly assumed it must be my 99% vegan diet that was causing my lack of iron. That caused the other classic symptoms of BC (frequent sore/upset stomach and sweats) and as they got more and more debilitating, I started to worry again. Unbeknown to me there was one more test to be carried out. It had been commissioned out from the NHS (who were fast) to a private company and that had caused it to be lost in a Black Hole to late March 2019. That test found it straight away and the NHS acted fast, they gave me a blood infusion to prep me for the op within a few days. Something like 135 parts iron is normal, 35parts worrisome, 15 parts is catastrophic; I had 9 parts pre op, hence the infusion (coincidently I had 12 parts after the LEJOG/ Ronde Picarde). Apart from being stiff for a couple of days I was re-energised almost instantly after the op and was walking the day or day after and sent home a few day later. I did a lot of walking over the next 5 weeks, short and slow at first but up to about 12miles at the end.
In the meantime I got a call from the surgeon, whilst they were sure they got everything they were referring me to a oncologist for chemotherapy. I saw the Oncologist about the 5wk mark and whilst the nurses had told me 6-8weeks no cycling he said I should have already been back on the bike to give me an idea what level I could get back to post chemo. He didn’t need to tell me twice to get back on the bike but I never did get back to that level. I kept on building and mid chemo I set my fastest up to then 25miles TT. Whilst I could have the chemo stomach and tiredness etc immediately after a intravenous session, the worst side affect of my ‘treatment’ was crushed nerves my fingers and toes were like leather block of ice. The related bizarre side effect was if nerves were exposed to the cold they reacted like they were getting crushed. If I breathed in cold air too deeply after an intravenous session it was like I was getting throttled. Fortunately, the chemo finished Oct/Nov 2019, although the side effects in the fingers and toes got worse for circa 6 months after, (everything else in the absence of intravenous chemo ceased).
Just in time for this other wee c thing (Id hate to have been immunocompromised during it, although when I was it still seemed like I was one of the healthiest in the office).
Sportives never happened of course during that period but I had entered one with my mates that was scheduled during it. It was rescheduled to September 2021 (the Lincoln Sportive). All my mates who I had entered with back in 2020 annoyingly though pulled out. But I ended up joining a good group from Sutton on Trent CC. After a good few pulls, eventually me and their best rider pulled away and when the road went up I dropped him.
Motivation levels haven’t been the same this year but 2020/21 felt like my strongest years at circa 45years of age.
I’ve really enjoyed a couple of the Hincapie Gran Fondos in the eastern U.S. I’ve ridden Greenville, South Carolina twice and Chattanooga, Tennessee once. I haven’t ridden any other fondos to compare to.
They are pricey ($200+) for the long routes (85ish miles, 8,000 ft of climbing), but there’s a jersey included, the rest stops are loaded, roads are semi-closed, SAG is present, intersections are really well policed, route is well marked, fun atmosphere with a 2,000-4,000 riders, routes well planned so you can cut off a loop and dip down to the 50 or 35 mile routes if necessary, timed segments on the climbs, family friendly after party with food, beer, etc.
Fun descents, too, for a guy from the flat lands of Northwest Ohio.
I always enjoy the Tour du Lac Leman - a timed 176 km around lake Geneva. It has a festive atmosphere, beautiful scenery, well supplied refreshment points and a ton of volunteers that keep crossings open for cyclists. There’s a sweeper car, technical assistance, and a pasta party at the finish. The subscription fee (about CHF 100 depending on when you subscribe) covers all that, and a jersey. I’ve been very lucky so far, in that each time I participated the weather was beautiful. Will definitely do it again in 2023 (the 20th edition). The only down side is that you can no longer start in Geneva. That means a 50 km to the start in Lausanne in the early morning, but it’s still worth it.
Why is the Screen Actors Guild involved in so many fondos? Maybe that’s why they’re so pricey