This year I took part in the second Gran Fondo Barcelona
. A Gran Fondo or Sportive is basically a large group ride with a given route, which shouldn't be competitive. The advantage is that you are often travelling on closed roads and there is some support in form of food stops and mechanical support.
I already took part in the 2015 edition, so I knew a lot of the things that were expecting me.
Registration was a lot better this time. It was situated on the top of Montjuic, not far from the Olympic stadium. This time it was held outdoors in a big tent, so it would have been possible to come with your bike. The whole process took only ten minutes or so.
A minor problem was the availability of jerseys, my large version was too large and there were no more mediums available. But they are sorting this out now, so I will have my jersey to remember the ride with a good fit.
As you were required to wear the official jersey on the day I just used the too large version. I don't think requiring these is a good idea. Cyclists are picky about their equipment and I probably would have chosen something a bit warmer. It also makes it impossible to recognise any friends you are riding with. Or yourself on the photos.
Anyway - I got my race pack, which includes the jersey, arm warmers, some energy food and for some reason a pack of beef stock.
This time I tried to prepare a bit better than the last time. On the night before I had a massive portion of spaghetti, more than I can usually fit in my belly.
Early rise on the day, shower a large muesli and packing energy bars and wind-stopper. It was pretty cold in the morning.
Short ride up to the starting line on Montjuic. I guess there were maybe 600 riders all together. They had the usually horrible euro-techno sound-system and for some reason cheerleaders (!)
From Montjuic we went along the coast to Sitges, where the first food stop was. I skipped that one to keep going a bit faster, but after a kilometre or so we all got stopped by the lead car and basically waited until everyone caught up. This would be a theme that would continue for most of the race. And when we were not stopping the car in front would drive so slow that everyone was riding in one big peloton. This made riding some narrow roads quite tricky.
I am not a fast rider, but for 120km I was able to see the "leader" in front of me and I even arrived just ten minutes behind him at the finish line. When they said "non-competitive" they really meant it. There was a mention of a minimum speed of 24km/h, but apparently they also enforced a maximum top speed of 30km/h.
At some point we also lost the police escort for further delays.
In the end I only used one food stop to refill my water, with the energy bars I had with me it was enough.
I got away without a puncture too.
But I managed to finish. The finish line is extra special with this Gran Fondo, because it is 10km away from the start, the medal and the pasta party. I heard from some people who didn't know this and so either were surprised by the additional climb or never picked up their medal.
My average over the 138km was 28.88km/h
I would really suggest to move start and finish to the same place. It doesn't have to be in the centre of Barcelona either, which probably would make it easier with space and permits.
Overall I enjoyed myself, but I am not sure I would do it again next year. Compared with Gran Fondo Mussara, which I am doing in May it is just not as well organized. And most of the roads I am riding all the time anyway. It will be more for people who come from other cities and want to also enjoy Barcelona.
In summary, the good parts:
- the route
- food stops
- police escort (they where very nice, skilled and helpful)
- the jersey (and replacing it with the correct size)
- beef stock
- distance between finish line and pasta party + medal
- the medal is a bit boring
- "official" and "VIP" cars, they were in the way quite a bit
- slowing down the whole ride, so that really fast riders were probably bored
- random stops
As I said: next sportive is Gran Fondo Mussara
mid May near Reus, which will be much harder. Last year I gave up after 120km of 189km. This time I will be hopefully better prepared.