Should I pick Gran Fondo or race?

Some very important backstory. I am a terrible climber. I have a friend that is a good climber and it doesn’t make sense to either of us. Basically, I think there are multiple factors, but I think a big one is a I get hot very easily. I live in Minnesota, and generally ride in the mornings, so it’s pretty easy to never see 80F until an event.

I do Randonneuring, but I’m physiologically/historically a sprinter (let’s just accept this as fact for the purposes of discussion), so I tend to stick to the Populaire distance up through 200km (~125 miles). A “200k” can be up to 220km, but still, these aren’t crazy distances like some Randonneuring. I just want that fact to be clear. The real point here is that my events are not races. Given my history as a runner, my DNA tests, and just what they have seen, some of my friends think I should do crits or cross, but that is a discussion for another day.

There is a particular brevet (a type of ride) called the Nelson Challenge. It is 207km and has 2500m of climbing. It’s not exactly a Alp stage in the tour, but I live in St. Paul. We have some climbs in and out of the river basin. It is not as flat as people like to think the midwest is, but…2500m is a lot.

Currently, in plan builder I have this set as a Rolling Road Race, but I am wondering if Gran Fondo makes more sense. Possibly rolling road race?

12 hills. Max grade is 16.9%

Here’s the route: Nelson Challenge 200k - A bike ride in Buffalo County, Buffalo County

1 Like

Gran Fondo is what most Rando riders would suggest. That’ll likely set you up with sweet spot base, sustained power build, and a century specialty.

Lots of good commentary here: Audaxers / Randonneurs - Share your knowledge and experiences!

It sounds like you need to work on three skill sets. 1) Riding longer. 2) Handling heat. 3) Big climbs. Unfortunately, all three require you to just do more of those types of rides. Fun!

I’m a clydesdale of a Rando (over 200 lbs), so I feel your pain. Lower gearing on your bike will go a long way towards letting you go up hills without blowing up. And since buying lower gears is a lot easier than losing 80 pounds or gaining 150 watts to your FTP, that would be the path I’d follow personally.


@mimod thanks! As far as being a clydesdale, I don’t need to lose much weight in that regard, though that is on the agenda (I’m thinking 15 lbs and I’ve got 9 months to do it). I don’t even really cook myself on climbs. I just can’t do them. Of course, the downhill allows me to cool off. I think there’s some biomechanics at work. Like I climb better on my fat bike than I do on my gravel bike, at least percentage wise. It’s really odd. I need to get a bike fit. Maybe if I continue to not climb well after all the heat training.

I’m under 10 hours on all of my brevets except Hills of Wisconsin, which is my current hilliest course. I could easily ride longer and slower. It’s just not pleasant after a while. Honestly, 100k is a great distance, but I’m committed to getting the Scout award, lol, and the Rouler is right there for the taking, so might as well gut that out.

That all said, if I’m fresher for the climbs I think I can use my power to get up them, so to the extent that “riding longer” means endurance work, that was kinda where I was going with my question.

Dealing with the heat will be easy enough. I’ll just go to work early and ride at lunch when the weather starts getting warmer. I’ll have to keep an eye on that. I don’t think Garmin is perfect for heat adaptation, but if not progressing I can always ride after work. I worry it’ll mess with my sleep, but I think it’s worth a shot to get more heat.

My first big event was the Marmotte des Alpes this summer (175k, 5000+ ascent), and did all my training (starting 6month before) with TR on a high volume plan. Event went well, felt great until the last climb (Alpe d’huez).

One thing I think helped a lot was using a smaller chainring (I was running 34 at the back and 46/30 at the front, and spent most of my time on the small chainring). Might be an option to consider if you are concerned about the climbs. I’d reach “max rpm” at around 60kph, which was really sufficient. I normally run a 48/32.

When you say you can’t do them, I’m curious what kind of power, what cadence are you doing them relative to your baseline FTP?

When you climb, you usually don’t get the same airflow as on the road, so to expect to do the same power in higher temperatures with no airflow…you might be too hard on yourself.

When you get too hot, do you feel your entire body is hot? If you pour water on your head during the climb does that help?

For me, I get hot more in the sense of my head. If I can’t contain the sweat dripping down, I get distracted.

Yeah, my hill climbing is multi-factorial, but I think one of my problems has been riding a spin bike inside too much. My support muscles aren’t strong enough to keep the bike moving forward fluidly. This was already in my head, but I’ve started riding my fat bike in part because I smashed a gravel wheel on some single track. In any case, what I’ve noticed on the fat bike is that the natural inertia of the bike makes going up hills easier. I mean, I’m slower because even tho I feel fast on it compared to my old steel fat bike, it still weighs a ton in comparison to my titanium gravel bike, but I feel steadier. I don’t feel like I’m holding the bike up. Some of this is just being out of practice, and I need to get outside more. I used to ride outside all the time and I never thought myself particularly bad at climbing, but we got a puppy and I was in a lot more because of him. Plus, we moved and the riding outside here is not as fun (although I live at the top of the hill, so getting to the trails really doesn’t take that long and the roads aren’t that busy if I get out early enough). In actuality, where I live now is better for hill training, I just need to go out and do it. Plus, last summer I was training for a 50-mile RUN. So, basically, I spent an entire year, doing almost no riding outside.

In any case, the question is just about the TrainerRoad plan. I think I’ve got a pretty good plan for getting my climbing back on track.

Got it. Because of the distance you’re looking at, I suggest Gran Fondo, the ability to put somewhat high power for a very long period of time.