What to Expect at Your First Gran Fondo
While a gran fondo might seem similar to a century ride, there are a few key differences.
- A big crowd: particularly in large events when participation numbers can reach the thousands.
- Pre- and post-ride parties: While food is common after most cycling races, gran fondos are known for having lots of good food and drink—think celebration as opposed to a simple post-ride meal.
- Ride support: Gran fondos in particular are known for having well-stocked aid/rest stations and ride support in case something goes wrong.
- Closed roads: While not every gran fondo will have closed roads, the larger races will often close streets to traffic to make the race safer for participants.
- Timed climbs: Most gran fondos are timed from start to finish, but the real competition is on the climbs. King of the Mountain challenges to see who can crest the toughest sections of the race course the fastest are often where prize money and other awards are doled out.
- Varying distances: While most century rides are usually one course covering exactly 100 miles, gran fondos will vary in distance and usually offer multiple distances to choose from. Though the "big challenge" will normally fall between 80 to 105 miles, the other distances can range anywhere from 24 to 75 miles and cover less difficult terrain—making it suitable for beginner to intermediate cyclists.
- A wide-range of participants: Just because a gran fondo usually involves some racing doesn't mean it isn't for cyclists of all abilities. At the start line, don't be surprised to see some serious, pro-level racers alongside cyclists attempting their very first event. As a general rule, cyclists line up at the start line according to their ability level. Faster cyclists line up near the front while less experienced cyclists begin near the back of the pack.
- Higher registration fees: A basic century ride will usually cost under $50. A gran fondo, on the other hand, is typically over $100. While this might seem excessive, the higher fees are necessary to enhance the overall race experience. For some events, special jerseys, T-shirts and finisher medals are also included in the race fees.
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