Gran Fondo Essen­tials

What you need, and what you don’t, for your first big ride over­seas

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Mark Co­hen

If you’re new to sportives, par­tic­u­larly ones that in­volve over­seas travel, con­sider the ins and outs of get­ting on a plane with your bike in ad­vance of race day. Bike bags, wrench­ing and kit – you need to man­age it all. With the same pre­pared­ness you bring to morn­ing rides, you can smash the event (and the lo­gis­tics). If you don’t plan, you’ll face run­ning through air­ports with your frame bub­ble wrapped (which I’ve seen). Don’t let that hap­pen to you. Rent a bike Rent­ing a bike for a Euro­pean gran fondo might seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, es­pe­cially if you have a nice rig of your own. But with high-end rentals so widely avail­able across Italy, Spain and France, you can save your­self a lot of headache by leav­ing your bike be­hind. No need to wrench on ei­ther end of your trip; no wor­ry­ing about whether your frame will be nicked or dam­aged in tran­sit. Rent­ing (which can cost from 120–250 euros a week) might even be less than the fees for fly­ing with your bike. The peace of mind you gain by not hav­ing to deal with a bike in tran­sit is well worth it. Pro tip: find out if your seat­post will fit into your rental. If it will, take your post and sad­dle. Then, your Euro­pean ride will have a fa­mil­iar and more com­fort­able fit and feel.

Bring your own food When I tack­led the Mara­tona dles Dolomites this past July, I ar­rived in north­ern Italy with food in hand. I had fuel even though the ride had ex­cep­tion­ally well-stocked food sta­tions. Dur­ing the leadup to the event, Nutella and spelt cakes were my sta­ples for sus­tained en­ergy: a for­mula that worked for 5,000 km of pre-event base miles. Why de­vi­ate? Ask your­self when pack­ing if you can live with what­ever the food spon­sor makes avail­able, or if pack­ing a 400-g tin of spread­able choco­late is es­sen­tial to your per­for­mance. When it comes to ride day, it’ll likely be a combo of both that serves as fuel.

“Know­ing you can crush a climb will lead to a bet­ter state of mind and will make get­ting to the fin­ish line that much eas­ier.”

Show up early Ar­rive at the fondo’s venue early and ride the roads, es­pe­cially the climbs. Ride ev­ery day and from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, eas­ing off the gas the day be­fore the event. Visu­al­iz­ing where you are on the course helps you over­come dis­tance and el­e­va­tion chal­lenges men­tally, par­tic­u­larly if you find your­self grind­ing on fondo day. Know­ing you can crush a climb will lead to a bet­ter state of mind and will make get­ting to the fin­ish line that much eas­ier.

Have wrench, will travel If you de­cide to bring your own bike to the event, bring the tools you need to set it up. You’ll need your own pedal and 5-mm torque wrench, grease and paste and a floor pump. Don’t rely on a lo­cal shop or your bike ho­tel for these essen­tials. Be­ing self­suf­fi­cient elim­i­nates vari­ables and will have you on the road al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter you check-in. Kit: Bring one of ev­ery­thing Rid­ing in high moun­tains means fac­ing vari­able weather. On the Passo Gavia in 2016, I faced scorch­ing sun at the base and golf ball-size hail at the top. So what did I take away from this? Not only should you bring all the ob­vi­ous essen­tials, but have one of ev­ery­thing in your kit. A long-sleeve jersey, arm warm­ers, a gilet, a jacket – with weather chang­ing hour by hour, these are all must-haves. It may be sum­mer at home, but that doesn’t mean it will be hot when you ar­rive at your event or at the top of a climb. Hav­ing op­tions in your bag means you won’t in­cur any un­nec­es­sary costs and you’ll be pre­pared for any weather when you ap­proach the start.

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