Fast Talk, ep. 71: How to train for and race gran fondo-style events, with Colby Pearce

In episode 71, we discuss the training, experience, and challenge of one-day and multi-day gran fondos — everything you need to know to crush or simply complete your next event.

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The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

Not long ago, gran fondos were these strange events popping up in a few places that most racers didn’t understand. Now, when you talk to most younger riders, they know all about fondos, but they might ask you what this road racing thing is all about.

The gran fondo-style event has exploded in popularity in the last decade. Somewhere between a race and a group ride, it appeals to a broad range of riders. Some show up to race all-out on a challenging 100-plus-mile course. Others come to ride with friends and enjoy the accomplishment of a demanding and scenic route. The nice thing is there is no “right” way to do it. This style of event accommodates both riding styles.

Now we’re seeing multi-day events like Haute Route that combine the challenge of racing (through timed segments) with the pleasure of a bike tour through some of the most scenic spots in the world.

The question is: Do you train for and approach these events differently from a weekend race or group ride? More than a few of you have asked us that exact question, so in this episode, we’ll try to give you an answer.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What the experience of a gran fondo or Haute Route is like and why they are becoming so popular
  • The different goals and approaches riders will have at these events
  • How to train and prepare for both the one-day gran fondo and the multi-day Haute Route. Hint: When it comes to the training, it’s not as different as you might think.
  • The importance of pack skills and sticking within your comfort level
  • Nutrition and hydration for the event (and why I love cookies so much)
  • Final preparation in the week leading into the event
  • Strategies for both racing and riding a fondo, as well as multi-day Haute Route style events

Our primary guest today is master’s world hour record holder and Haute Route ambassador Colby Pearce. He’s been on the show enough now that he needs no introduction. Along with Colby, we spoke with Michelton-Scott’s Brent Bookwalter. Brent is an Olympian, a veteran of many grand tours, and the organizer of the popular Bookwalter Binge Gran Fondo. This year it takes place on October 26 in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.

We also touch base with three-time gran fondo world champion Bruce Bird. If that title doesn’t impress you, you should also know that at the age of 50, Bruce finished 14th at Canadian nationals in the pro race. Bruce also organizes a worlds qualifier event called the Blue Mountains Gran Fondo in Ontario where both he and Trevor are from. This year it takes place on June 15 in Collingwood, Ontario.

Now, prepare your cookies, let’s make you fast!

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