Road Bike Racing: The Granfondos
For the road bike racers in the audience… let’s face it, watching Euro racing on TV gets our heart rates up, makes us drool at the roads, the fans, the landscape and especially the energy. Who doesn’t dream of racing in Europe? Not a pro? Not a problem. Opportunity is knocking in the form of Italian Granfondos.
No matter where you find yourself in Italy, odds are that come the weekend, there is a Granfondo nearby. Big or small, they are all relatively massive events; from the smaller 1000 rider races to the main event, the Maratona dles Dolomites with nearly 10,000 participants. Intimidated? Don’t be – the Italian road bike racing mentality appears menacing, but I have found the crowd, regardless of skill, to be quite friendly and anti-snobbish. A welcome discovery after racing in the US for many years. Of course you’ll learn all new hand gestures as they love to bicker and yell in the peloton over who isn’t pulling enough, but really it is all in good fun. It wouldn’t be Italy without the added drama, whether it’s needed or not.
As an amateur I have ridden through a tunnel of screaming fans on passes, zipped through small villages who’s residents have turned out en masse to cheer, done the huge roundabout splits, descended the twisting turning roads made famous from helicopter shots, and of course charged along behind the police motorcycles as they clear the way on closed roads. The larger Granfondos attract famous current, and ex, pro racers. To sit in a pack with Cipollini, Bartoli, Mercxk, Lemond, Phinney, and oh so many more feels pretty good. I am lucky enough to have done it, but then again, I do the Granfondos and it is part of the program. So can you. These are the things that make European road bike racing so incredibly tantalizing, and it’s all there for the taking, and experiencing.
To get started: Where and when are they?
Il Calendario Granfondo – in Italian but easy enough to figure out
Quick Info: Mass starts are the rule, line up according to your race number, a chip on your bike starts and stops your time when you cross the start and finish. Results will indicate an overall and category place. With the exception of the lead groups, it is pretty much a free for all. Feed zones will be found throughout including roadside neutral feeds. Take your own flat repair kit. Registering ahead of time via the web makes race day less stressful. The chips for recording time may be rented (about $12/day) when you pick up your race pack. Book hotels in the area of the start well ahead of time!
And the KING: The Maratona dles Dolomites
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly part of Granfondos – Biciveneto
Sport Tour Packages: the official Maratona dles Dolomites Tour Operator: Holimites