The Gran Fondo Handbook

Gran Fondo cycles have become very popular in recent years with a thriving fanbase of devoted cyclists training for the big events each year. Gran Fondo’s originated from Italy and translates roughly to ‘big ride’. There are a few differences between a Gran Fondo and a sportive such as including sections of the course as timed events.


 The Italian Cycling Federation give the following gran fondo definition: a cycling event which

  1. a)    is at least 120 kilometres (75 miles) in distance
  2. b)    requires participants to use a chip timing system
  3. c)     awards prizes to the fastest riders in different age/gender categories and
  4. d)    is a mass participation cycling event for all.


Gran Fondo events are starting to become popular in Ireland recently and this blog will delve into some Ireland has to offer as well as some international ones!

Gran Fondo Wicklow

This is a new event for the calendar this year being supported by Starsky Cycling Club who have been pivotal in the return of racing to the Irish calendar after COVID as they’ve ran plenty of races in the last year, most recently their very exciting beach race! On the 9th of July it starts off with a timetrial with 2 laps around Blessington lake (21.8km long in total). On the Sunday is the real test as it kicks off with the Gran Fondo (120km) and the Medio Fondo (86km), there are two food stops provided, and after looking at the routes these will be well needed as the routes both take in some seriously tough tests in the Wicklow Mountains. The 120km route takes in both the iconic Wicklow Gap and Sallygap climbs, with the Wicklow Gap climb coming first and the Sallygap climb being the last climb. These two climbs are long and leg zapping, but when the weather plays ball they're absolutely ideal!

“We really want to bring people of all levels to Gran Fondo Wicklow, and we are prepared to put all the efforts to do so in Gran Fonda Wicklow 2022. We are building something that will last many years to come, I know many people in Ireland feel the same passion to cycling as me and will support our efforts. I hope to meet you at Gran Fondo Wicklow”- Kazik Jankowski, Starsky Cycling Club.

The Westport Gran Fondo was a favourite amongst cyclists for many years taking in many iconic roads in Westport, but sadly was cancelled in recent years due to COVID cancellations.

Gran Fondo Stelvio Santini

The beautiful Italian Alps in Italy are perfectly located in the northeast corner of Italy near Switzerland and Austria. This picturesque area has one of the most spectacular mountain ranges, the European Alps. Right in the middle of the Italian Alps, you can find the beautiful ski resort, Bormio, which is the host area for this Gran Fondo! The Gran Fondo Stelvio sponsored by Santini is in its 10th year running! The 3 different distances all finish up the Passo Dello Stelvio at 2758m above sea level! The 3 distances are 60km, a medium event of 137.9km and the main event which takes on 151.3km. The Passo Dello Stelvio is one of the most iconic cycling climbs in the world. At the top you're sitting at 2758m above sea level, after 25kms of a climb this is no easy measure at all and any cyclist who climbs this deserves a pat on the back!

Epic Gran Canaria

Many Irish cyclists have went to Gran Canaria for training camps, and every year there is a very special event ran there called the Epic Gran Canaria, this event isn’t for the faint of heart as it is stacked with local talent as well as ex professional riders! One notable rider who competed the year myself and a teammate raced in this event was the former 3 time world road race champion Oscar Freire which made for an excited atmosphere. It includes 3 timed sections up some serious mountain terrains which soon become harder and harder as the day goes on, mixed with the heat makes for a great day out on the bike! Gran Canaria is home to the Pico de las Nievas climb which is 42km long with an elevation of close to 2000m above sea level at the peak of the moutain it's probably a good thing the Epic doesn't race up here as the temperature drops rapidly as you climb!


Many people enter Gran Fondo’s thinking it is the same as a sportive soon to be surprised, or pleasantly surprised, they truly need to be entered to appreciate the uniqueness of the Italian born cycling discipline. We hope you gained some new found knowledge within this blog and for the coming race season or sportive season you could choose a Gran Fondo for a change!

Until next time!

Sam Gilmore