How long does it take to train for a Gran Fondo?
One of the most common mistakes people make when they train for an endurance event is to not give themselves enough time.
When someone asks me how long they need to train for a Gran Fondo, my response is always the same: "That depends."
It depends on who you are, what cycling experience you have, what level of fitness you have, what types of injuries you have now or have had in the past, how much time you have to train, what time you hope to finish in and what your overall goal was when you signed up for the event. See? It depends!
Most people who ask me this question fit the following profile. They don't have any current injuries that they know of. (Otherwise, why would you sign up to ride a bike for four to six hours if you are in pain?)
They are usually middle-aged with some money to buy a bike and just enough time to actually get out and ride that bike on a few weekends before the event. They have some cycling experience and are riding around 90 minutes to two hours on the weekends.
This is probably their first or maybe second Fondo and, although they usually tell me that they "Just want to finish," in the back of their mind they likely have a time goal they'd like to achieve.
If you fit this profile and your goal is to ride the RBC Whistler Fondo on Sept. 8, then the time to start training is now.
If you are training for any of the other summer Gran Fondos, the ideal time to start training was in March or April at the very latest.
Most marathon programs usually last 12 to 16 weeks, and the average runner will finish the 42-kilometre race in four to five hours.
By contrast, the Fondo is 122 to 160 kilometres long, and the average cyclist will finish in five to six hours. If you follow the 10 per cent rule-not to increase your mileage by more than 10 per cent each week-then you do the math and determine where you're starting from and where you need or want to be on the day of the ride.
As a coach, I err on the side of caution and always give my athletes time in their program to live their lives and still be able to train. They need time to recover after big build weeks. Then I may add on a few more weeks to accommodate vacations and business trips. And a general buffer is always good, just in case they get sick or have to take care of sick children. As a result, all of my Gran Fondo training programs are 16 to 20 weeks long, again, depending on who you are.
Do you need 16 weeks to cross the finish line? Maybe yes and maybe no.
You could probably still finish the ride by only training for 12, 10 or 8 weeks. I have heard of many people who finish a Fondo after having only ridden a handful of times.
But when I pin a number to my jersey, I like to use the opportunity to challenge myself to do the best I can on that given day. The only way to know what my best is, is to train for it.
Although the Fondo is not a race, it should be an event that you enjoy. If you are able to cross the finish line with the confident smile of someone who has physically pushed him or herself to do something that was only a dream four months ago, that is something to be proud of.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to kris@ getfitwithkris.com.