Road Century/Granfondo Event Starts

As of right now I have a goal of finishing in low 4 hours for a Granfondo ( Whistler Granfondo). I want to start so that I find the “right” group.

The question is how do you go about starts for these events so you can find those riders? I am planning to try and average 75-80% FTP for the event, but for the start to go a little harder ~85% for the first 15-20 minutes then slowly let groups pass by until I find a group that fits within the parameters I have set so I can get the effects of group riding (mental and physical).

I have ZERO issue if I had to ride the event solo.

***I understand that in long events like this you should start off relatively easy. Also safety in mass start events is paramount, ie be alert and don’t do anything stupid in the first few minutes.

Ride at your planned power via power plan or best bike split and you will find groups that are similar to where you need to be during the race to ride with. As you said though 4 hours is your goal

Gran Fondos start notoriously hard/fast, and any real attempt to moderate that and just ride at your own pace could have you missing a group that is your finishing pace as they too will likely be going quicker out of the gate and pack dynamics could have those groups too far ahead for you to ever really catch back onto even later in the course.

Without knowing the course it is hard to give any sort of definitive answer. A course that starts with relatively flat and non-technical terrain leads itself to being able to sit in a fast moving pack for a lot longer than one that starts and has a technical section or long climb early.
The most important part is knowing that when those sections do come up, this is where you do start to ride within your limit and dont end up too deep. Having a power “limit” can be difficult as less difficult terrain you could put in a little extra work on short climbs to stay with a pack as you then get ample recovery to sit in a draft if the course allows.

If you have a course you can share, or race you are doing, others might be able to chime in with better info about where this event will break up and where selections happen which will make your pacing strategy much easier.

Here’s my strategy

  • Start out in the front of the mass start
  • Pace short of a race pace, knowing you have 4 hours in the saddle
  • Consider that some people may be going too hard having never ridden this distance
  • Consider that your ideal group may also be going a little harder than “planned pace”
  • Give things about 1 hour or a long climb (20-30min) to shake out, but don’t go deep into your red zone

The people going too hard will burn out in the beginning and you’ll be left with the crowd that you might be able to ride with. Take note of the people in that group, do they look like they are in the same RPE as you?

I just rode a 120mi/10.5ft Fondo this weekend (Marin SuperTam) and this strategy worked well. One thing always on my mind was not to lose the group unless I really had to blow myself up. Because that draft is golden!!!


The one I am planning for is the Whistler Granfondo this September

I would not describe it as technical but there are a few punch climbs (self described) in the first 20 ish kms

In the beginning of most fondos, it’s best to hang with the group assuming fairly flat terrain. The aero benefit of the peloton will help alot. Once the first significant climb rolls around, go at your target power. When you get to the top, whoever is near - that’s your group. :grinning:

I just did a fondo on Saturday that had 2 Cat4 climbs early and then a Cat2/Cat4/Cat4/Cat1 in the last half. The peloton was moving quick but it was easy to hang on the flats and short punchy climbs. Once the first Cat4 hit, event though it was only ~10 minutes, I dropped down to my pace to conserve for the miles ahead. On the bigger climbs, I caught plenty of people who went with the faster guys on the first short climbs. In the valleys, there as always someone to ride with.

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My advice above doesn’t go so well with this course. Cat3 climb after 6km. I would go with the group until then, ride target pace (tempo?) up that climb, find some new friends for kms 22-46, then pace those two small climbs before things get serious at 70km. From that point to the finish, it will be much more about power/pacing/fueling than group aerodynamics.

So, share work as much as possible from start to 70km without burning matches on those small climbs so you can finish strong. Looks fun. Maybe a 2023 idea for me.

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How flat / hilly is the start? My suggestion would be - assuming you are good at riding in a peloton efficiently - to start near the front and hide until you hit a hill longer than about 3 to 5 minutes. When you hit the first climb, go at your own pace.

Throughout the ride ride with folks on the flatter / rolling sections and climb the climbs at your own pace.

So I know this course quite well so can give you some better advice;
Youre neutral across the bridge and they release you as you hit marine drive. You’ll make an immediate right onto taylor way and it will kick off a 3-3.5min short punchy climb @400w, and then it flattens out for about 30-45s before you turn left at the top onto the upper levels highway and you have a more shallow 3-4% climb for 3-4min @ 350w. This all happens in the first 10km, and the hard part lasts about 8min.
If you can stay with the lead group there you are on easy street sitting in the pack for the next 50km as you roll along the upper levels, down towards horseshoe bay and start up the sea to sky. It;s a good time to chill and sit in and get sucked along really until you get to brittania beach which you reach after about 1hr15min where you will hit the first climb that is 10min @ 320w, and if you get over that you are good to coast with the pack until the 70km mark which is alice lake climb and this is where the big separations will really start and you want to find a pace group that suits you as the climbs take about 45min total to get done and from there until the end its mainly climbing so if you lose touch with a group there is not a ton to be gained by digging to catch on as the pack draft begins to diminish and its easy to get in too deep and really start losing time.

All the power numbers are what it was to stay with the lead pack near the front.

Hope that helps.


This is fantastic and very insightful.
I was unaware of the neutral start so that makes me more confident in that early sector where people can position themselves before things kick off.
I will likely be left behind during the early climbs since those are setting pace for sub 3:30 times based on historical results. I will not let this discourage me as I can still find a group to pull me to the 70km mark based on this information.
Best to not blow up before Alice Lake, I know from volunteering that it is a spot of many hurt egos and dashed dreams.

Moving up early on is challenging so where you stage is important. It’s basically a rolling block and there’s not a ton of space. The first bit is actually quite hairy just given you dont know the skill levels around you, especially mid-pack.
If you’re not racing it, and you don’t think you’re in the mix you will do yourself a favor, and those that are, to not try and stack the front of the pack. At the front everyone for the most part races 1/2/3 and is very familiar with racing in a tight pack.

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How much do you weigh?

I don’t know if you are wanting my weight or Rondal but I am currently 205 (93kg)

I was asking @RONDAL, in order to put the power numbers for different parts of the course into context.

at the time i was around 82kg