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Ask Oli: Five tips for your first gran fondo

Ride your first mass participation event with confidence

by Oliver Evans

Oliver Evans taking in the view atop Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island. Photo: Isaac Leblanc

Are you planning on tackling your first gran fondo? Would you like to try one but you’re too nervous to sign up? With the right preparation and strategy, any recreational cyclist can complete a gran fondo.

1. It’s not a race

Recognize that it is not a race. Do not be intimidated by the perceived competition. A fondo is a group ride. Have fun and pace yourself responsibly. The goal is to finish, not to win.

2. Prepare Accordingly

You don’t have to train hard, but if a gran fondo will be the biggest ride you’ve ever done, I strongly suggest that you practise by doing a few rides that will be the same duration as the fondo. Don’t worry about riding the same distance, but become comfortable riding for several hours. Chances are that when you’re riding in a group, you’ll be moving faster than when you’re training alone. If your event is 100 km, training by riding alone for 100 km will take longer than the event will. Instead, consider doing a few rides that will take the same amount of time.

I also suggest becoming familiar with the route so there are no surprises on the big day, such as hard climbs, technical descents or sharp turns.

3. Find a Friend

Find someone who is close to you in terms of ability. Perhaps you two can train together and motivate each other, as well as help with pacing and offer each other company during the event.

4. Nutrition

Eat and drink on the ride. You need fuel. Don’t experiment with new nutrition products during the event; discover what your body responds well to during training. Typically, I’d suggest eating a bar or so every 30 to 60 minutes. Be sure to hydrate before the event and to continue to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes as you ride.

5. Keep it fun

This is perhaps the most important tip of them all. Enjoy riding your bike on closed roads, with friends. Take advantage of this freedom and use the whole road. Take a look at the view. There are some gorgeous fondo routes in Canada and abroad, so you may as well soak it in. Also don’t forget to take advantage of the free samples and food at events.

Enjoy your first fondo. Don’t forget to have fun, and good luck!

Oliver Evans is a 19-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, who is currently based in Victoria. He races on the road with H&R Block Pro Cycling.