Specifity for a hilly gran fondo

Hey there,

This summer, I am riding (with a competitive goal) the Marmotte Gran Fondo. My aim is to finish in sub 7 hours.

However, living in Belgium, I do not have many serious long climbs to train on. I also know that I’ll need to work on my group riding skills, but there are no grouprides near me either (I do not have my drivers license yet).
Lastly, since there are no climbs, I also can’t practice descending very well.

Do you have any advice for me?
Maybe I could try things like cornering as fast as possible and long treshold blocks on the flat (wich is possible but very hard).

Lukas Heylen (19y old)

I did it this year (but much slower, about 10h I think).

Was very fast on descents (but not too fast, there were a few ambulances attending crashes), and I don’t feel like the marginal increase in speed would have been worth it.
You’ll likely gain more time if you have a good think / practice about refilling water / eating etc, as I think I went through 12 bottles total (and didn’t pee a single drop, despite trying to avoid carrying dead weight up Alpe D’Huez)

If anything like this year (37-40C temperatures in the valley), heat acclimation might be worth “investing” in.

You might also want to use appropriate gearing. I went for 11-34 at the back, and 46-30 at the front, and didn’t regret it a single second I think.

Do you train indoors? I’d probably try to build on long high sweet spot efforts, with fan on low or off.


I also don’t think you need much group riding skills, the cyclist density is low, and drafting opportunities were minimal for me (I was riding alone anyway), as either you’ll be quite slow on uphills, or very fast on downhills (I am not an experienced group rider, but likely too fast to draft safely).

The area is generally not too windy due to valleys anyway.

I did over 90% of my training (39yo) with TR, starting from unstructured occasional riding about 6 months before.

When I done it as a 38year old (9:40moving, lol 12:30 including the times in cafes :joy:) I stuck at the pace of my mates and it was pre any structured training and my riding was mostly in the flat lands of East England (the Belgian Ardennes are much hillier than that, and its on a par with the rest of Belgium hill wise). 9 years on with structured training I probably would be looking at the same time or better at 19 yo the word is at your feet. Develop the power (power on the flat is the same power on a hill you just go slower) and you’ll be fine Enjoy :+1:

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Agree with this, a few years ago the heat was brutal.

Also agree regarding the group riding, it never hurts to have it, but the field thins out really quick on those climbs.

Descents are awesome, but not to be taken lightly.

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You could try some big gear low cadence intervals on some of the slopes you may have.

Doing off bike glute, hamstring and calf work will aide you in your quest.


I ride both in- and outdoor.
About the groupriding: I just feel like it might be necessary if I want to be slightly competitive

I don’t think you necessarily need that much in terms of bunch riding skills, certainly some would be an advantage but not critical like road racing. It will be fast and furious on the first 12km into the bottom of the Glandon and you will need to be able to hold the front of the bunch assuming you arrive in the pen early. On the flatter valley sections you will most definitely need a group to post a competitive time but these bunches will tend to small and usually involve rotating up and overs rather than aggressive race bunch.

If you are with the first 100-300 into the Glandon then it will thin out pretty quickly and should find your pace with riders of similar ability. Important thing is you don’t overextend yourself to try stay with better climbers.

In terms of training you will need high levels of muscular endurance for the long climbs so plenty of sweetspot, threshold and V02max exactly as per plan builder. Again I don’t think its completely necessary to actually do these workouts on actual climbs as executing them on a turbo has been just as effective IMO. I am sure lots of rider here will attest to posting best times on climbs after months of indoor winter rides, certainly has been the case for me.

My advice would be follow the plans and try build up your muscular endurance, sustained power. Try get some prep events into the legs in April / May to get a feel for riding in a bunch. Any local sportives on the calendar? Take it you have no local cycling club?


Another point: lots of riders were fixing punctures on the side of the road, throughout the race (some before the start).

Preferences might vary, but I had 2 punctures (running tubeless), 1 fixed itself without need to stop, the other one was detected very quickly (due to the sealant noise coming out intermittently), and I only lost about 1 min (40s generating no power), thanks to the Dynaplug (didn’t even need to reinflate).

I really think there are low hanging fruits / marginal gains that might yield you better time savings than following a group (unless you have one?)

Rider performance really varies on the climbs (and it’s not like the weaker rider can draft longer than the stronger one), so groups will likely fall apart quickly.

I was also mostly overtaken at the start, but as I time passed I got to mostly overtake. Some people didn’t seem to be pacing themselves correctly (number of ambulances attending non-accidents, and riders resting on their back on the side of the road, or pushing up Alpe D’Huez (I had to resist the urge myself, despite having done the climb easily a few times - in the winter) is probably another good indicator that that is the case.

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When I did it folk were walking from the first bump and still had 5HC climbs to go. When I got to the Alpe D’Huez after seeing this constant stream of folk walking, I made the mistake of getting off to stretch, telling my self, its OK to have a break, I’d done it in one go the day before. I cramped up big time and ended up joining the walking process for a few hairpins until it eased off. I finished the climb nearly 40mins slower than the day before :open_mouth:

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