Gran Fondo Tips by Daniel Strauss×

It’s that time. Spring is here, the magpies are swooping and the Gran Fondo season is coming up quick.  I’ve been doing some big days on the bike, many of them by myself through the hills of Gippsland. I’ve been through hell and back on some of these rides over the last few years, and made a fair share of mistakes along the way! So, I thought I’d share some tips based on these mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to make them.  Whether you’re doing the Kinglake Ride, the Amy Gillett Grand Fondo or even the Melbourne to Warrnambool, the same principles apply.

The month before

Work. Get on the front and pull long turns. This is where the training happens. There is no point going out there and soft pedalling for 5 hours. A big mistake that many make when doing base kilometres is doing them at an intensity that is too low to initiate any adaptation. You don’t need to smash it, just do some long solid turns.

Recover. Remember, we only adapt to training when we rest. You need to make recovery part of your overall program. Simple things to remember:  Eat a good meal quickly after of finishing a long ride. Stay hydrated, always. Get a lot of sleep, even a nap in the afternoon after a long ride. Stretch. It’s boring, I know. Massage. The hurty kind.

Check your equipment.  Make sure your bike is working perfectly and check for things such as tyre wear. I’m a recent convert to 25mm tyres (Michelin Optimum or Continental GP4000’s are both great). I had been using 23mm for years, and moving to the 25mm width has been a great change; smoother, more comfy and a wider contact patch mans you feel more stable on those gravé sections. A good idea also is invest in a new chain and cassette. Consider a wide ratio cassette or even a set of compact cranks if you’re doing a hilly event.

(Carrying spares will always come in handy!) 

The night before

Don’t eat too much.  This is a mistake that many people make. You want to sleep comfortably, and you also want to wake up sufficiently hungry to have a good breakfast

Limit protein and fibre. This applies during the event also. What you really want to do is fill up the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Protein and fibre are not really necessary at this stage and it’s best to limit them.

Take your bike for a little ride before dinner. Ride for about an hour or so, and throw in a few little efforts. Research says that you’ll be hungrier, and your body will be more willing and able to store carbohydrates.

(The benefits of solid training) 

During the Ride

Eat before you’re hungry. Carry real food that is low in fibre and high in simple carbs. It’s up to you, but I like lollies, bananas, home-made oat slices and crust-off white bread sandwiches with cream cheese and jam. Vegemite is also good for salts, and for a nice change after all the sugar. Pack them neatly in zip-lock bags. Torq bars are really good also. Carry gels, but treat them as the last resort. This is also when you’ll most need the quick hit. Oh, and don’t chuck your empties!

Drink before you’re thirsty. This is actually the best way to ‘eat’. Make sure you use a caloric sport-drink in at least one of your bottles; you’ll lose lots of mineral salts and electrolytes. I don’t really drink water on long days anymore, I just mix it up with different sport drinks. Take a look at a black jersey after a long ride and this will give you some idea about how much salt we lose when we suffer.  Torq is a very good choice, and if you buy the powder you can take some extra in your pockets in a zip-lock bag.  If you wanna go ghetto, you can make your own sport-drink. Experiment with quantities of cordial, sea salt flakes and chilled green tea. Sodium sugar, caffeine, antioxidants. All good stuff.

Ride efficiently. Relax, keep the cadence up, focus on your climbing line and pedal in circles.

Carry spares. Two tubes, two canisters, and a glueless patch kit. You’ll piss your mates right off if you flat twice and have to take their last tube. I also carry multi-tool, a couple of zipties and a fiver to boot a tyre with. Remember, real PROs use saddlebags.

See you out there!