Last Chance 2014 Gran Fondos

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

If you’ve gotten out to some of our Great Ride Series rides at our stores, you’ve probably realized how awesome a group ride is. If you’re ready to take it to the next step though, you might just be ready for a Gran Fondo.

Gran Fondo’s are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist, have fun at a well organized event, and give you a goal to work towards. Gran Fondos are usually challenging rides of 100 miles or more (though often organizers offer medio and piccolo routes for shorter distances), and most organizers pride themselves on finding the hardest routes possible.

If you’re looking for an event to end your year on a high note, these rides might be your last chances until next year.

No matter where in the country you live, there are a few rides left that can give you a chance to see how you stack up, or just give you some bragging rights with your buddies.

Did we miss your favorite ride? Tell us about it in the comments section.

WEST COAST / SOUTHWEST

Tri State Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

Mosquite, NV

Challenge Gran Fondo

October 12, 2014

Durham, CA

Tour de Scottsdale

October 12, 2014

Scottsdale, AZ

El Grande Fondo de Los Angeles Crest

October 18, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

 

 

ROCKIE MOUNTAINS

Tour de St. George Fall Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

St. George, UT

The Coal Miner Gran Fondo

October 31, 2014

Steamboat Springs, CO

 

 

EAST COAST

Gran Fondo Virginia

October 11, 2014

Albemarle County, VA

New Holland Bicycle Race Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

New Holland, PA

Tour of the Battenkill Fall Preview Ride

October 11, 2014

Greenwich, NY

Oktoberfest Ride

October 12, 2014

Collegeville, PA

Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic

October 12, 2014

Lehigh Valley, PA

Hincapie Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

Greenville, SC

Florida Cycling Challenge

October 31, 2014

Daytona, FL

Bookwater Binge Charity Gran Fondo

November 1, 2014

Asheville, NC

 

To learn how to prepare for your next big ride, check out these articles:

Last Minute Prep: Getting Ready For That Big Ride

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Have you signed up for a Gran Fondo or charity ride? Now is the time of year when most of those rides are coming up, so it’s important to be prepared. If you’re like us, you’re probably starting to get down into your final week or two of preparation.

Remember, it’s the little details that can undo us. Things that may seem harmless when off the bike: a slightly off-center stem, a slight creak from the bottom bracket, picking the wrong flavor of gels, a hill coming sooner than you expected, etc… can all become issues that seem monumental by mile 50– enough so that it can get into your head and begin to impact your performance.

To head off such calamity,  follow our checklist below.

After all, cycling is like life. Taking care of small details now leads to successful outcomes later.

 

1. Get In One Last Big Ride

The weekend before your event, try and do one last ride that’s at least 75% of the distance you’ll need to do. And make sure you do it wearing the clothes you plan on riding in, and with your bike set up how you will be riding it. This will be your big chance to test everything out and make any changes.

Hopefully you’ve been training for at least 8 weeks beforehand and are fully prepared. This last ride is to get some last miles in the legs and check your fitness level to help to determine pacing for the event itself.

Getting in some last big miles the weekend before will give you a change to test your equipment

Getting in some last big miles the weekend before will give you a change to test your equipment

2. Rest Up

The week leading up to the event itself, rest up. Try to go for a ride every day, but just do some gentle, small ring spinning for short distances. This will help keep your legs limber and preserve your fitness, but will also keep you rested so you feel fresh and ready come game time.

Going for easy spins the week before your event will keep your legs limber and preserve fitness

Going for easy spins the week before your event will keep your legs limber and preserve fitness

 

3. Prepare Your Bike

Is your bike tuned up? Is your gearing right? Do you need to change out tires or add more padding to your bar tape? The week before the event, either spend a few evenings fine tuning your bike, or take it to a Performance Bicycle shop and ask them to do a quick tune up (you might want to call ahead for lead times).

Don’t do anything drastic though like change out your saddle, try a new pair of shoes, or change your stem length or bike fit. Now is NOT the time to try something new. Even if you invested in an upgrade, roll with what you have until after your event (unless it’s new wheels or tires). You don’t want to realize at mile 35 of a 100 mile ride that the new saddle you bought isn’t really working out.

Don’t put it off until the night before. If something goes wrong, you’ll want plenty of time to fix it.

Getting your bike tuned up before the ride can help you feel more prepared the day of your event

Getting your bike tuned up before the ride can help you feel more prepared the day of your event

4. Study The Course And Elevation Profiles

Get to know the course beforehand. Do you know where the turns are? Do you know when the big climbs are? You don’t have to memorize everything, but you should be familiar enough with the route to know what to expect. If there’s a cue-sheet you can download, print it out and bring it with you. If you have a GPS or cycling computer, see if you can find the course map on Strava or Garmin and load it on your computer.

You can also go old school Pro and use a piece of tape on the stem to write down any significant areas of the course on it.

For Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, we’ll be using a Garmin GPS and a piece of tape on the stem to note at what mileage the big climbs start at (and where they end).

Getting familiar with the course profile and climbs can help you feel more prepared

Getting familiar with the course profile and climbs can help you feel more prepared

 

5. Prepare the Night Before

The morning of an event is always a hectic one. Between dressing, eating, getting to the event, sign in and getting to the start line, there’s a lot to take care of.

Make it easy on yourself, and do as much as you can the night before.

-Tires inflated

-Chain cleaned and lubricated

-Lights (if needed for early AM start) affixed to bike

-Clothing laid out

-Food flavors and types carefully selected

-Jersey pockets / seatwedge pre-packed

-Food, tools, tube, pump, route cue sheet, etc…

-Phone and cycling computer fully charged

-Water bottles pre-filled

-Drink mix flavors carefully selected

-Breakfast pre-made and ready to eat

-Alarm set for at least 2 hours before start (to give you some time just in case)

Laying out all your food and equipment the night before can save you precious time in the morning

Laying out all your food and equipment the night before can save you precious time in the morning

WANT TO LEARN EVEN MORE? CHECK OUT THE ARTICLES BELOW:

Zach’s Training Diary: Getting ready for the Gran Fondo

It’s almost time to see if our web merchant Zach has what it takes to ride hard in Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. If you’ve been following on the blog, Zach has been training all summer to take on the hardest Gran Fondo in the US – 104 miles, over 11,000 feet of climbing and dirt road climbs thrown in for good measure! So now it’s time to see how he’s feeling and what gear he’s picked to take on the challenge.

The big ride I’ve been training for is in just a couple of days!  I’m ready for it.  I feel like I spent the entire summer training for it and thinking about it.  I got burnt out on training for a while, right after I peaked too early and then fell off the wagon a bit.  Since then I have rested up, done some active recovery, and come back a bit stronger and more prepared.  I’ve got everything lined up and dialed in!  The only thing that’s bothering me is a brutal allergy attack, but I’ve been getting plenty of rest and come Saturday morning I’ll be riding no matter what condition I’m in!

Zach’s training log

Over the summer I’ve had the pleasure to ride a few bikes from Fuji to try out and see which one was the best for me, given the riding conditions of the Gran Fondo.  In an earlier post I talked about the Fuji Altamira and the Fuji SST.  I was able to test out two more bikes over the summer, the Fuji SL1 Comp and the Fuji Gran Fondo.

The SL1 Comp was a very comfortable bike, and would be the perfect bike for someone transitioning into their first carbon road bike, or doing long group century rides.  For me, though, it wasn’t quite as responsive as the Altamira during the long climbs. Since there will be 11,000 feet of climbing in the Gran Fondo, I may need to pass on this one.  Otherwise, the bike did great on long training rides with rolling hills around the Piedmont of NC.  I could easily get 80 miles in on it and feel great afterwards.

Zach riding the Fuji SL1 Comp

The fourth and last bike was the Fuji Gran Fondo.  This bike is designed for exactly what it’s named after, riding long and hard during a Gran Fondo, or any other similar style of ride.  The bike is a very fast machine, climbs great, is comfortable, and absorbs potholes and gravel easily to give a smooth and plush ride.  The upright geometry gave me no problems while reaching for energy gels, a water bottle, or getting my phone out of my back pocket to text my wife that I was OK while riding (just kidding on the texting part).  Plainly put, the Fuji Gran Fondo delivers!

Fuji Gran Fondo 3.0

So which one did I go for?  It was a hard choice. The SST and SL1 Comp were ruled out as top contenders for a Gran Fondo.  They’re great machines for what they’re designed for, but not great at long ascents on gravel roads.  The Gran Fondo would seem to be the obvious choice, but given that I also had the option of the similar Altamira that’s decked out with Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting, I went with the Altamira!

There was just something about the Altamira that felt better for me.  It’s quick and snappy on the climbs, is very comfortable, it delivers optimal power transfer with its oversized bottom bracket, and at the end of the day was lighter than the rest of the choices. I’ve been riding it for quite some time now, and have made a few changes to prep it for the gran fondo riding conditions.  The Altamira came with an Ultegra standard 53-39 double crankset and an 11-25 cassette on the back.  I swapped those out for an Ultegra 50-34 Compact Crankset paired with an 11-28 cassette.  With that low of a gear ratio, I should be able to ride the hills of the Gran Fondo with no problems! For tires I chose Continental Gatorskins in a 700X25 size, that, when paired with Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher wheels, actually measure out to about 26mm in width. Running this set up at about 90 psi gives it all the cush and grip needed for those long gravel climbs.

So that’s the bike!  It’s a very important part of the puzzle, but there’s plenty more that’s needed for the fondo.  After testing several products over the summer, I’ve come up with my own personal checklist of things that have worked the best for me from head to toe:

  1. Shoes: I use Sidi Ergo 3 shoes (similar to the Sidi Ergo 2 Carbon Lite Road Shoes) as the adjustability and control of personal fit on these shoes is unmatched!  They’re light, stiff and make for great climbing shoes!
  2. Socks: DeFeet Air-E-Ator HiTop Honey Badger Black Socks are sooooo nasty!!  Defeet has stood the test of time, miles, sweat, rain, multiple washes, and continue to be at the top of the sock drawer.
  3. Kit: Louis Garneau Mondo Evo Bib Shorts and Team Short Sleeve Jersey – This kit is the absolute most comfortable kit I’ve ever had.  It’s light, breathable, and it wicks and dries sweat away in the blink of an eye.  Our Garneau Custom Cycling team from Performance wears this combo for our team kits.
  4. Jacket:  Depending on the weather report, I may be packing my Cannondale Pack Me Jacket.  It stows away into my jersey pocket nicely and is a welcome addition if the rain starts pouring.
  5. Gloves:  Pearl Izumi Select Gel Gloves because they fit great, are comfortable, and my hands don’t go numb after four hours in the saddle.
  6. Eyewear:  Smith Pivlock V2 Max – I’ve never in my life owned a better pair of cycling glasses than these.  The tapered lens tech is no joke, and after riding them I’ll never go to another brand.  They’re very lightweight, and extremely durable.
  7. Helmet:  Giro Aeon Helmet – I switched to this after riding a Specialized Prevail for a long time and I have to say, the Aeon feels lighter and it fits my head better.  The red and black also match my kit.  DONE!
  8. Nutrition:  I thought I had this dialed in, but at the Gran Fondo training ride, I had some severe cramps despite staying hydrated and eating.  Since then I’ve started taking GU Brew Electrolyte Drink Tablets.  They’re packed with plenty of sodium and seem to be doing the trick!  For solid food I’ve always enjoyed the multiple varieties of Honey Stinger Waffles, and margarita flavored Clif Shot Blocks Energy Chews!  I also take some supplements here and there such as SportLegs or Endurox Excel, depending on what I’m doing.  Lastly, I love Endurox R4 for a recovery drink.  The chocolate flavor is my favorite, but they’re all good.
  9. Inflation:  The Spin Doctor Rescue HP mini pump will be tagging along with me.  With all the gravel I stand the chance of having to change multiple flats, and I’d rather not carry a bunch of CO2 cartridges.
  10. Pocket Essentials:  The Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet will be carrying my ID, credit card, phone, etc.  I’ve been using this thing for months and have been caught in downpours and sweat through my jerseys.  Everything inside stays completely dry.
  11. Computer:  Garmin Edge 500 with H/R monitor and the BarFly computer mount.  All around I think this is the best GPS device out there.  I love the compact design and that it’s fully customizable to give me everything I want to know.  The BarFly makes it a quick glance of the eye to view the Edge 500, instead of having to tilt my neck all the way down to view the stem mount.
  12. Water Bottles: CamelBak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle – I dismissed these until I forgot my bottles on a training ride and ended up having to buy water bottles.  Now, I’ll never use anything else.  It keeps your water cool and that goes a long way both mentally and physically when you’re out there grinding it out.

Well, that’s the gear.  The only thing left to do is head back up to Harrisonburg this weekend and ride the Gran Fondo!  I can’t wait to get back up there and do it.  Hopefully this allergy attack will subside and I’ll have a strong ride come Saturday morning.  I’ll have a full report after I get back. Thanks for reading!

Ride Report: Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Well, we were warned that Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, and we can now safely say that it was definitely the hardest road ride that this author has ever been on! Right from the start we (that’s David and Chris, from our headquarters) could tell that we were in for an epic day in the countryside around Harrisonburg, VA. But let’s begin at the beginning, as they say.

We started our adventure loading up the car in the rain, which we have a knack for finding whenever we head out. We drove up to Harrisonburg the night before the big ride to attend the gala dinner, where we got the chance to meet some of our fellow gran fondo riders, and even chat with Jeremiah Bishop himself. As he was all weekend, Jeremiah was approachable and excited to talk cycling – we talked about his experience riding in the pre-Olympic mountain bike test race (the course is harder than it looks) and he even talked a little smack about the upcoming Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (where he’s the 2-time defending champ). But mainly we talked about the route for the Gran Fondo – the route was designed by Jeremiah to be the most challenging training ride for himself and his friends  that he could devise. He scoured Google Earth to find back roads, country lanes, wicked climbs and amazing views. He promised us that the route would make us think that we had been transported to the Alps, while also testing our limits to the fullest. When a guy with Jeremiah’s record tells you that a ride is going to be hard, you tend to believe him.

The next day we were up early to get to the start in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. Greeting us was a crowd of almost 300 like-minded riders, ready to enjoy a slightly overcast day out on the road. Here we are kitted out in our Scattante Team jerseys and Forza bib shorts. We had updated our respective Scattante and Fuji road bikes with brand new Kenda Kriterium Endurance 700x25c tires, built to handle rugged roads with their puncture-resistant Iron Cloak protection (inflated to 95 psi, per Jeremiah’s advice).

alpine_loop_2011_1 With the blowing of an alpine horn, we rolled out of town to start our long day in the saddle. Everyone started their respective route on the same road, in one big peloton (there were also shorter Medio and Piccolo route options). Jeremiah circulated throughout the pack, making sure that everyone was having a good time.

alpine_loop_2011_2

Photo by Jay Moglia http://www.rawtalentranch.com/

But after a convivial few miles at an easy pace, Jeremiah moved to the front and put the pedal down right before the first King of the Mountain climb (award jerseys were determined by your time on 2 pre-selected climbs, not on your overall time).  The field quickly strung out over the 4 miles to the top of the Shenandoah, and we settled in to a pace we could maintain for the 70 miles we still had to ride. Of course the long climb up meant that a fantastic descent awaited us on the other side. We flew down the mountain to rural West Virginia roads, where the first rest stop awaited us. Fully stocked with tasty treats and friendly volunteers, you really could get used to this treatment! But we’re here to talk about the ride, so we’ll move along – to the dreaded first dirt road climb!

alpine_loop_2011_3

Photos can’t do this monster justice – it was super steep and just slick enough that you couldn’t stand up without your rear tire spinning out. Sometimes it felt like you were about to topple over backwards, and we saw more than one person walking with their bike. It made us think of what the earliest Tour de France riders must have faced, such as Octave Lapize in his assault on the dirt roads of the Tourmalet in 1910 (thankfully we had more than 2 gears)! Once over the top, it was time for the equally challenging dirt road descent to the valley below.

alpine_loop_2011_4

After this road, the ride was more of a blur, but in a good way. Our legs were toast, but the riding was fantastic – we rode through valleys, down deserted country roads, and through small West Virginia towns. Take a look at the picture below – it could just as easily be a photo from France or Switzerland as the Virginia/West Virginia countryside (and since we just rode in the Alps in July, this comparison was fresh in our minds).

alpine_loop_2011_5Onward we rolled, sometimes joining up with other riders in a small pack, and sometimes just sailing along by ourselves. The course was so well-marked that there was never a chance of getting lost, so we just found a rhythm and kept on pedaling. Eventually we made it to the final KOM climb of the day, a 6 mile ascent to Reddish Knob, up another dirt road, of course. We just kept telling ourselves, Jeremiah really rides this as a training ride!

alpine_loop_2011_6Once over the Shenandoah again, it was all downhill to the finish in Harrisonburg.  No, scratch that, it was sort of downhill to the finish. The last 20 or so miles wound their way through the rolling farm fields outside of town, with barely any flat road in sight. Our route was expertly mapped to bypass the main roads into town, opting for the purely pastoral path, with plenty of friendly locals waving hello as we rode by (we even passed an Amish horse and buggy).

alpine_loop_2011_7Finally we rolled into town and made it to the finish line festivities – with nary a flat tire between us all day thanks to our rugged Kenda tires. Food and finisher’s medals were waiting for us as soon as we crossed the finish line – the helpful volunteers even had moist towels ready so we could clean off a day’s worth of hard-earned grime. And it was indeed hard-earned, as we could see when we downloaded the data from our Garmin Edge 800 GPS bike computers. We rode over 90 miles in total, with almost 11,000 feet of climbing (and just as much descending). Once we got cleaned up, we caught up with Jeremiah to see what he thought about putting on his very first Gran Fondo, and also about his preparation for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (mixed with some ride highlights we captured with our Contour GPS helmet cam):

So would we ride it again? Absolutely (although maybe give us a week to recover)! If you judge by the results page, you’ll see that we didn’t exactly light up the record books, but that’s only part of what a Gran Fondo is all about. It’s really about challenging yourself, experiencing something new, and just having fun. Jeremiah and his team of volunteers (led by his wife Erin) made sure that all of those boxes were checked for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Definitely make plans to give it a try next year, because now that Jeremiah has let everyone in on his secret training ride, this event is only going to get bigger and better. Just bring a positive attitude and your climbing legs and you’ll have a great time.

alpine_loop_2011_8To see all of our pictures from the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out our photo album on Facebook.

Getting Ready for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

We here at the Performance Bicycle Blog have decided that it’s time to see, in person, what’s up with the growing popularity of the Gran Fondo (literally “big ride” in Italian). Gran Fondos, or cyclosportives, as they are also known, are organized and timed mass-participation road rides, usually with an extra degree of difficulty not usually found in the typical charity ride (but still with rest stops!) Participants aren’t necessarily competing against each other, but they are racing against the clock, since you normally have to beat a pre-determined cutoff time to finish. Ultimately it’s this personal challenge that attracts riders to a Gran Fondo – the chance to test yourself on an epic route with other like-minded cyclists along for company (and ok, maybe a little competition).

But that’s not all that Gran Fondos have to offer, as they often act as a fundraiser for deserving charities and groups, plus you often get the chance to meet and ride with the famous cyclists who are hosting or participating in the ride. Famous Gran Fondos around the world include the Maratona dles Dolomites in Italy, l’Etape du Tour in France, or the popular Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo in California.

For our foray into the Gran Fondo world, we’ve decided to check off all of the above by registering for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, Virginia (on Saturday, September 24th). In case you didn’t know, Jeremiah Bishop is one of America’s most accomplished mountain bikers in recent years, with multiple national championship titles and many other prestigious wins to his credit. Lately his focus has been on marathon events and stage races, but he’s also been mixing it up at a few World Cup cross-country events this year too. So when you hear that Jeremiah Bishop has set up a Gran Fondo, you get the feeling that you’ll be in for an epic ride.

Billed as “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo route (like most Gran Fondos, there are also shorter options) certainly sounds like it won’t disappoint! Covering 95 miles and with almost 11,000 feet in elevation gain, it adds to it’s “most challenging Gran Fondo in the US” credibility by including several miles of dirt road climbing, pitches of up to 15%, and some raging mountain road descents. This promo video shows what’s in store for the ride:

As a bonus, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo is also a fundraiser for community charities, local schools and cycling infrastructure – all of the proceeds from the event get put to good use after we’ve finished suffering out on the road.

Chris and I (David), the same team that rode the Alps during the Performance Tour du Jour trip to the Tour de France this summer, are heading up from our headquarters for this Gran Fondo. There’s nothing like riding up Alpe d’Huez a few times to get your legs in shape for a challenging ride.  Well, that’s our theory, at least! To be honest, we really haven’t been packing on the road miles since we got back to the States, so we’ll see if there’s any fitness left over from our Euro riding when we get to Virginia next week!

Chris and David on top of Alpe d'Huez

We’ve actually met Jeremiah at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race – he was even nice enough to pose for a picture with his comically oversized winner’s check.  Of course the only time we saw him was at the start of the race and then at the awards ceremony, since he usually finished in about half the time that it took us to ride the course (we were lucky to make it to the finish before they actually took down the finish line)!

Jeremiah Bishop and us

David, Jeremiah and Chris after the 2009 Pisgah Stage Race

We have a sneaking suspicion that the same timing will apply to this Gran Fondo, but lucky for us there’s a gala dinner the night before the ride where we’ll get to rub shoulders with the pros and other riders (without being in a oxygen-deprived state, as we likely will be on some of those climbs). But out on the road there will still be fun goals to aim for, like age-graded  king of the mountains jerseys, staffed rest areas, cowbell prizes for the last place finishers (this prize is definitely in reach), finish line festivities, and of course some beautiful scenery.

Now that we think about it, maybe we do get what this Gran Fondo business is all about after all. A chance to test ourselves with a challenging ride in a great atmosphere, along with a few hundred new friends, all for a good cause.

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