Cycling in the Alps; Riding a Granfondo in France - what to expect on the day
Many of us have dreamed about riding the Cols of the Tour de France in the French Alps which you can do anytime between May and November. However take that experience up a notch and you may find yourself at the startline of a cyclosportive in the French Alps. Here's what to expect on the big day.
There's one thing that is significantly different to riding a cyclosportive in France than in the UK. The French events are a race.....plain and simple.....they are a race.
There's none of this "we don't post results in General Classification order because its not a race", or...."We set you off in groups of 40 riders at a time between 07.30 and 08.30"
If you are lucky enough to find yourself on a start line in the French Alps, about to launch yourself over several Cols, here's what to expect.
Before you arrive in France you will need a medical certificate or an international racing license. If you turn up at registration without either of these you will not be able to ride. Click here for an example with the standard wording.
Usually the day before for the larger events such as La Marmotte or Etape du Tour, however with the smaller events its often possible to even enter on the morning of the event.
The majority of cyclosportives in the French Alps start en mass, whether 2000 riders or 200 riders. If you are going for a time its good to check whether the timining is based on scratch, or the time you go over the start line. The exceptions to this are La Marmotte and Etape du Tour where they try to seed riders based on previous results and you will be allocated a 'pen' and then start with a few hunder other riders.
Feed stations and Water
Check where the feeds are before the start, especially in the larger events. Most feeds carry a variety of food from dried fruit to local sausage, coke, water, energy drinks. One of our local lady riders calls it 'the buffet' rather than the feedstation due to the variety of food available. Notably on hot days local knowledge can come into play. Most vilages will have a 'basin' with the words 'Eau potable' which means its safe to drink.
In our experience the majority of French cyclosportives are marshalled to a very high standard. You will often find that if you are riding in a larger group you may have a motorcycle out rider. Marshalls at junctions have the power to stop traffic.
Most events have a significant prize list both for General Classification and also age group hence if in doubt, sprint for the line!
Expect a good feed, usually past or the French Alps favourite, tartiflette and red wine!! You are usally able to have your finishers certificate printed off when you hand in your timing chip and also your finishers medal for the larger events such as the Etape du Tour.