Veloviews for April 14, 2023 – Is a Gran Fondo a Race or an Event?

Image by Yomex Owo from

With the new cycling season in progress as we train to get our fitness back to a workable level, have you made plans to participate in any events yet? If you are a road cyclist, a plethora of them are available to us. Outside of event rides, charity rides, century or metric century rides, or races, another type of event that pops up during the season is the Gran Fondo

How Some Riders View Gran Fondos

The problem with Gran Fondos, though, is they are timed events. You receive a timing chip before the ride begins, which will show when you finish the ride. That means that some participants view these rides as races versus events.

For me, being fit, being healthy, being fast, and being strong on climbs all are important, but cycling, more than anything, has to be fun. If it’s not fun, what’s the point? There’s too much competition we all must contend with in other areas of life as it is.

I see Gran Fondos, specifically and exclusively, as events to be experienced and not conquered. Okay, maybe I sometimes even approach them as a friendly competition. Anyway, hopefully, this post will clarify what a Gran Fondo is and what it is not.

What is a Gran Fondo?

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Gran Fondo in Italian means “big ride,” the place where this event (not a race) got its start. Gran Fondos have all the spectacle of a race but with the atmosphere, as just mentioned, of an event.

There is a cavalcade of many riders, some of whom are pros but mostly amateurs, an inflatable or constructed start arch, a party atmosphere, spectators, volunteers, medical support, and drink and food stops. And, oh yes, the course is usually beautiful, long, but challenging.

What Attracts Riders to a Gran Fondo?

While Gran Fondos seem like they are specifically for serious roadies, they are for anyone from the slow, beginning cyclist to the enthusiastic amateur, or even pros out for a training ride or who are there to make a celebrity appearance.

In other words, Gran Fondos are for anyone interested in road cycling. They are for those who want to push themselves to take on a challenge. For some, it is more than that. It’s about beating the clock, getting exposure at a national level, a big pay out, bragging rights, or even just the medal awarded to every rider that completes the event.

History of the Gran Fondo

The first Gran Fondo was held in Nove Colli, Italy in 197o. This event is still held today but under a different name and attracts over 12,000 participants. The course for a Gran Fondo is anywhere from 80 kilometers (50 miles) to 200 kilometers (124 miles) in length.

The primary purpose of the Gran Fondo is to post the best time at the end of the event, so riders wear a timing chip. The reward is a medal and age-category-related prizes.

For some riders, Gran Fondos are more than a one-time event. In 2016, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) organized the Gran Fondo World Series for elite and master amateurs. Riders participate in a final event that takes place in a different part of the world every year. For 2023, that location is Glasgow, Scotland in the U.K.

Furthermore, Gran Fondos no longer happen just in Italy, although the country holds an event of this type three to four times a year. Gran Fondos occur in many countries around the world, but they usually do not strictly follow Italian specifications.

Last Thoughts

Image by Rob Wingate from

A Gran Fondo is a fun event to participate in that isn’t a race. You are really competing against yourself as opposed to other riders. I’ve done a couple myself and it’s fun to get that medal of participation at the end, then have a great meal to celebrate the ride in a party atmosphere.

If you haven’t done a Gran Fondo and you want to do something beyond your normal training ride or event, then sign up for a Gran Fondo. Even though it is an event, you definitely feel like you are part of something special and it might be the closest thing to participating in a pro race.

Have a great weekend, everyone!!! I hope you all are having a great spring full of good rides so far.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

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