|Get Grand Fondo Fit|
Be ready to go the distance for this summer's long rides
By Cory Fagan
There is a buzz rolling in the cycling community. European culture has touched down in North America and people are regaining their youth and health through Gran Fondos. Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France in 1999 and essentially brought cycling to the forefront for a decade.
The momentum continues today and it is not only for the pros and super-fit people. Just about anyone can enter a Gran Fondo cycling event and experience some of the camaraderie, personal challenge, adrenalin, fatigue and accomplishment that we have been watching on TV for years.
These mass-participation events are called CycloSportives in France and Belgium where in Italy they are called Gran Fondos. Some famous European events are l’Etape du Tour and La Marmotte in France and the Maratona des Dolomites in Italy.By definition, the rides are at least 160 kilometres, however many events also have shorter distances to appeal to the masses.
Gran Fondo is slowly becoming part of our North American sporting language. “Which Gran Fondo are you doing this year?” is a common phrase heard in our TCR Sport Lab indoor cycling classes. Three years ago, you could not find one of these organized events. Today, thousands participate, with GranFondo Whistler being the largest in North America totalling 7,000 cyclists.
The average age of riders in this event was 47, so Fondos appeal to the young and fit and to those who want to regain their fitness later in life. In the Gran Fondo Rockies, more than 400 cyclists participated between the ages of 20 to 77 years, of whom 37 per cent were women and 63 per cent were men. Men make up more than 70 per cent of participants in the big B.C. rides in Whistler and Kelowna.
When you think about it, 160K is a long drive in a car, and you want to bike it.
Where do you start? First, you must respect the distance and your body. Gran Fondos can be exhilarating and memorable. However, they are also designed to be hard and epic! Even accomplished cyclists find these events challenging. Rolling terrain and steep climbs that go on forever are common denominators in every event. Although cycling is a non-impact sport, it is very easy to develop some type of injury due to lack of preparation. For most participants, 160K will take anywhere from six to nine hours.
To break it down further, this can be 25,000 to 45,000 pedal strokes in one day. Respect your body as it is very difficult to “blood and guts” that distance.
So what are you waiting for, let’s get riding!
Plan Your Fondo
There are several aspects to consider when devising a Gran Fondo training plan. Age, lifestyle, previous sporting background and availability to train are key factors.
Most Gran Fondo riders are between the ages of 35-65 years, which brings forth new challenges that include flexibility (or lack thereof), long periods of inactivity, arthritis and being overweight. Many of these physical issues can be overcome if properly planned.
Getting on the bike is key to getting going, but incorporating other forms of cross-training, flexibility and nutrition allows for longevity and better performance.
Below is a plan devised with the above points taken into consideration for a first time Gran Fondo participant. The progression is a gradual build on bike volume from indoors to outdoors. Cross training is consistent throughout the plan to prevent injuries and develop muscle balance. If you are able to follow this training plan or hire a coach, you will be well on your way to an experience of a lifetime.
Cory Fagan, BPE, MS, is the owner and exercise physiologist for TCR Sport Lab in Calgary, Alta.