UCI Gran Fondo World Se­ries

21 Qual­i­fiers World­wide

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by Jenn Jack­son

For 2018, the UCI’s Gran Fondo World Se­ries (GFWS) has ex­panded to in­clude 21 events, end­ing with the Masters World Cham­pi­onships – the largest and most com­pet­i­tive age-group event in the world. Founded in 2011 as the World Cy­cling Tour, the UCI de­cided to re­brand the se­ries as the Gran Fondo World Se­ries in 2016 to bet­ter align with its “Cy­cle for All” motto.

“We started in 2011 with the new con­cept mainly to in­crease the qual­ity level of the par­tic­i­pants at the UCI Masters World Cham­pi­onships,” said Er­win Vervecken, UCI-GFWS coor­di­na­tor. “The first year had seven qual­i­fiers and soon ex­panded to 12-14 qual­i­fiers, where we re­mained for a few years. We now see that the new brand­ing has set­tled in, re­sult­ing in more and more re­quests from new coun­tries to host such a qual­i­fier [event].”

The at­trac­tion is two-fold as each stop of the GFWS of­fers both high-level lo­cal Masters rac­ing and the op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify for the UCI Gran Fondo Road World Cham­pi­onships. To qual­ify, ath­letes must fin­ish in the top 25% of their age group in ei­ther the Gran Fondo road-race or time-trial events. All events are de­signed to cater to both very com­pet­i­tive rid­ers and to life­style cy­clists, pro­vid­ing cour­ses with large loops along vari­able ter­rain and fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent course op­tions.

Among the qual­i­fy­ing events is the Cana­dian leg, The Blue Mountain Gran Fondo (for­merly Grey County Road Race), in Colling­wood, Ont. on June 1416. Or­ga­nized by Bruce Bird, a two-time age-group world cham­pion him­self, the Cana­dian event has steadily grown in pop­u­lar­ity, and with the award­ing of Van­cou­ver 2020 as the World Cham­pi­onship lo­ca­tion gives Canada two UCI GFWS races in that year.

Fol­low­ing last year’s Cana­dian qual­i­fier, al­most half of the ath­letes meet­ing the 25% qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard trav­elled to the UCI Gran Fondo World Cham­pi­onships in Albi, France. With 69 ath­letes in at­ten­dance, it was Canada’s sec­ond-largest show­ing at the Cham­pi­onships, af­ter send­ing 90 to Den­mark in 2015. The team’s per­for­mances were high­lighted by a break­away win by Bird in the men’s 45-49 cat­e­gory and Emily Rogers claim­ing the women’s 19-35 title from a bunch sprint.

Last year in the United King­dom, the city of Peter­bor­ough boasted the largest qual­i­fy­ing event, host­ing, be­tween the time trial and road race, 8,000 par­tic­i­pants, and saw more than 900 rid­ers go on to com­pete at the World Cham­pi­onships in Albi. Albi saw a mas­sive in­crease in par­tic­i­pa­tion, up to nearly 3,000 en­trants over 2016.

“We see many re­turn­ing ath­letes at th­ese World Cham­pi­onships, which is grow­ing year af­ter year. Last year, 911 Brits took part in the 2017 UCI Gran Fondo World Cham­pi­onships, com­pared to 375 French and 311 Aus­tralians,” ex­plained Vervecken.

While the global di­ver­sity con­tin­ues to in­crease, there is still a sig­nif­i­cant gap be­tween the num­ber of male and fe­male par­tic­i­pants. The 2017 World Cham­pi­onship road race had 1,891 men, but saw only 382 women take part. The time trial was a lit­tle more bal­anced, with 513 men and 156 women. Vervecken and his team are mo­ti­vated to ex­tend their reach and broaden the appeal of the Se­ries, rec­og­niz­ing that there’s a strong need to con­vey the pur­pose of their events.

“A big chal­lenge is to spread the gran fondo con­cept, which means high-level ama­teur and Masters mass-par­tic­i­pa­tion rac­ing on a big Clas­si­cal course where the top rid­ers are very com­pet­i­tive. Yet the back of the pelo­ton also at­tracts new peo­ple on the bike who want to ex­pe­ri­ence what it’s like to feel like a Pro rider for one day. Com­pare it with a marathon, where run­ners at the front do it in two hours and five min­utes, while a ma­jor­ity are there just to keep fit and fin­ish the race . . . . Their time is not so im­por­tant.”

To ac­com­mo­date rapidly grow­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion num­bers at qual­i­fier events, wave starts are be­gin­ning to be im­ple­mented – as they al­ready are for the UCI Gran Fondo World Cham­pi­onships. The waves are di­vided by com­pe­ti­tion cat­e­gory, and are typ­i­cally stag­gered by a cou­ple of min­utes so all rid­ers will be on course at the same time, how­ever start­ing against with those they are ranked.

“The big­gest chal­lenge in fu­ture years will also be man­ag­ing the dif­fer­ent age cat­e­gories, as start groups at the Worlds last year in Albi, France were head­ing to­wards 350 rid­ers,” noted Vervecken. “We will most likely limit the per­cent­age of qual­i­fied rid­ers in fu­ture years to 20 or even 15% for the Worlds if the Se­ries keeps on grow­ing.”

Main­tain­ing a safe, en­gag­ing and pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion en­vi­ron­ment for the World Cham­pi­onships will con­tinue to draw more of the best age-group ath­letes from around the globe. In years to come, the GFWS is look­ing to add events in Africa and Asia to the cal­en­dar, while in­creas­ing the num­ber of opportunities across the Amer­i­cas as well.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.the­blue­moun­tains­gran­fondo.com and www.uci­gran­fon­doworld­series.com

The Se­ries of­fers both high-level Masters rac­ing and the op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify for the UCI Gran Fondo Road World Cham­pi­onships.

The UCI’s Gran Fondo World Se­ries has ex­panded to in­clude 21 events world­wide, end­ing with the World Cham­pi­onships.

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