Gran Fondos - are they racing?


Winter has gone and before you’ve even realised it’s that time of year again – Gran Fondo time. Amy’s Gran Fondo is quickly followed by Around the Bay, with mass participation events flowing from that point on like trash talk on a bunch ride.
 
What this brings out, aside from hoards of MAMILs (and some priceless shots)
 
is the debate of whether a Gran Fondo type event is a race or not? Up there with the pyramids, Bigfoot and how Kyle Sandilands still has a job in media the debate over this quandary has already reached a point where it deserves some closer examination.
 
Human beings, males in particular, have a fantastic ability to be able to turn anything or any reason in to a competition. The ancients Greeks did it. And while no modern man I know of is dedicating his performance to Zeus, the gods of social media certainly receive their fair share of tributes. I’ve always maintained that if you have two riders you have a bike race. But then I grew up in a competitive household – a fair achievement, given I don’t have any brothers. The evening races to see who could finish their glass of milk first, using any means necessary to make the other two not finish theirs (milk out of the nose happened weekly) was just one event in the Squillari Olympics. Who could eat a dry Weet Bix fastest, how many Tiny Teddies you could cram in to your mouth, who could finish dinner (or a kilogram of yoghurt) first, get my youngest sister get in trouble first and even who had the most wooden spoons busted on their backside – all were staple events. And I’m sure I’m not alone, so can appreciate how a competitive nature carries over from that to not wanting to be last in an event you’ve normally paid a fair sum to attend and doing something you’re passionate about.
 
Only…what are you ‘racing’ for? Mad props on Instagram? Strava KOMs? Prize money? Now, this is where the debate seems to get lively. Amy’s Gran Fondo puts up prize money for top three in each age category, a King of the Mountain, teams classification, etc. You also get an entry to the UCI World Cycling Tour/World Hubbard Champs, so there’s a bit at stake. If you want it to be. Around the Bay, no prize money but dammit if you hammer to the ferry you’re a lot less likely to die of boredom (and some years, frost bite) due to the wait once the crowds hit. And for some, getting a pile of kudos, ‘likes’, ‘loves’, ICQ messages, whatever is worth the price of admission for the event. Not a ‘race’, but they are sure not soft pedalling around.
 
Is it possible then to believe anyone who enters and says ‘but it’s not a race’. Sure. Riding on closed roads is certainly one privilege you tend to miss (owing possibly to having your heart rate over 180 beats per minute for hours on end) when racing National Series. Having the chance to actually enjoy a road without cars, minus wishing for a quick death just so the pain disappears from your legs, is something I can appreciate. Only I would expect that anyone with that attitude be able to answer “no” to the following question:
 
“do your times and finishing position for the ride mean anything?”
 
A “no” and I’m happy to believe they don’t see the Fondo as a race. A “yes”, and it’s a race. Regardless of what prize money, social media reach or hands in marriage they have the potential to receive. This was best exemplified recently, when one mate was asked by another rider what his finishing time in Amy’s Gran Fondo was. He gave a rough answer; it wasn’t committed to memory, he didn’t see it as a race. The question poser then told him precisely what time he did and how far behind he was to his own time. The looks of ‘riiiiiiight…’ aside, that’s probably the clearest example I’ve seen of how the same event can be a ‘race’ for one and just a ‘ride’ for another. Like Santa Claus, you can either believe he exists or it’s your parents. And just like St Nick, tearing down others for believing one or the other is both a little pointless and uncool.
 
Sure, having others go tearing off the start line in your Fondo might leave you giving it a bit of
but remember, your time doesn’t matter. Let the café racers go. Don’t let it spoil a day that isn’t about racing, is likely to contain way more selfies than I’ll ever condone and could just be one of your riding highlights of the year. 
 
BTW: 2nd in my age category in 2:59:41.9 thanks for asking. Ahahahaaaaa....