Top 10 Italian Gran Fondos for 2017
With the Giro d'Italia route reveal only day's away and wall to wall coverage of beautiful Italian countryside on our screens to look forward to now is a good time to look at the very best Italy has to offer with it’s many Gran Fondo's. There is nothing quite like riding a Granfondo in Italy.
Last year over 10,000 international riders took part in Italian Gran Fondo's. A number that has risen in the past 10 years.
Italy of course is on most cycling enthusiasts list of places to visit. The spiritual home of cycling offers iconic roads, great food, fine wine and breathtaking scenery. It maybe a surprise to some but Italian Gran Fondos are some of the most well organised in the world and a lot have closed roads too.
Towns all around Italy shut down for the weekend when a Gran Fondo is taking place. There is as much fun to be had off the bike as on it, with exhibition, shows, food and wine festivals the norm both before and after the event.
With an ever increasing number of Gran Fondo's popping up every year, here's our list of the top 10 Italian Gran Fondo’s.
10 - Gran Fondo Stelvio Santini
Bormio, Italy, June 5th
A relatively new event as Italian sportives go, it features the legendary Mortirolo and the Stelvio, two of the most iconic climbs in the world that echo with the feats of Fausto Coppi and Marco Pantani. Last year’s Giro d’Italia saw a single stage take in both of these legendary climbs for one of the most brutal stages of the race ever. The Mortirolo is one of the toughest and most feared climbs in the world. Now for the fourth time, the Grand Fondo Stelvio Santini will allow you to pit yourself against these legendary climbs and follow in the pedal strokes of some of the greatest icons cycling has ever known.
The Gran Fondo is 95 miles and contains more than 20,000 feet (6,123m) of climbing. More than advertised! How do we know? One of our team rode it last summer and has the Strava data - as a badge of honor! He only just made the cut off before the roads opened.
If you conquer the Stelvio and complete the Gran Fondo, you will also receive an exclusive finisher’s only “I made it” cap. Surprise to say our man didn’t even get a cap from Mr Santini himself - they ran out as they didn’t think that many would finish.
Over 3,000 riders took place last year. There's a Medio Fondo of 87 miles and a Piccolo Fondo of 37 miles too.
Verdict - If you love extreme suffering, then this is for you!
9 – Sportful Dolomiti Gran Fondo
Feltre, Italy, June 19th
The Gran Fondo Sportful Dolomiti is again one of the hardest in Italy. The long route is 136 miles with over 17,390 feet of climbing is a true test for any cyclists. In fact the event's tag line is "Only for real cyclists". There is a shorter 78 mile course which still packs in 8,694 feet of climbing.
In 2009 the famous Granfondo Campagnolo became the Granfondo Sportful. Over 3,500 riders.
Starting from the town of Feltre, home of top Italian clothing manufacturers Sportful and Castelli, the route quickly climbs into the Dolomites tackling legendary climbs of the Croce D’Aune and Passo di Rolle. The highest point of the route comes after 85 miles with the Passo di Valles at 6,666 feet.
Verdict – Another tough day out on the bike, for the experienced climber!
8 - La Fausto Coppi
Cuneo, Italy, July 10th
Named after one of the greatest legends in Italian cycling. A period of almost four weeks of rain in 2008 severely damaged parts of the route. In particular, the Colle Fauniera (2,480m), made famous from the Giro d’Italia, had to be closed and re-routed.
La Fausto Coppi offers the opportunity to choose between two distances, the Gran Fondo covering 110 miles (177km) or the Medio Fondo of 68 miles (111km). Here you won’t be climbing on the wide roads that you might see further north, instead you will be riding on narrow roads and if not for the good tarmac conditions you might be transported back to the reminiscent old days of cycling, reminiscing about Il Campionissimo in action on his quest for glory!
Regardless of your choice of route you will climb the magnificent Colle Fauniera and on the way to back to Cuneo you'll encounter the last climb of the Madonna del Colletto (1,304m) – which at only 6.7km in length has a challenging average of 8% gradient.
On the Colle Fauniera, you must take the descent easy. In Italian the saying is “piano”!
The Gran Fondo route has 13,533 feet (4,125m) of climbing.
Verdict – Take it easy on the descents, remember – piano, piano piano!
7 - Gran Fondo La Leggendaria Charly Gaul
Trento, Italy, July 15-17th
Charly Gaul, from Luxemberg, was perhaps the best pure climber the sport of road cycling has ever produced. His ability earned him the nickname of The Angel of the Mountains in the 1958 Tour de France, which he won with four stage victories. It was June 8th, 1956, and a foggy and icy day welcomed Charly Gaul on the climb of Monte Bondone, the mountain that dominates the city of Trento. The champion cycled the final uphill kilometres all alone and collapsed at the finish of what certainly was one of the most celebrated Giro d'Italia finishes. After the race Gaul was wrapped in a blanket, almost frozen - but he had assured his overall Giro d’Italia victory! He won the Giro again in 1959.
The Gran Fondo offers two fascinating routes from Trento, passing between the wonderful lakes of the Valle dei Laghi and through enchanting and decisive bends of the climb of Monte Bondone. It is also the Italian stage of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, which allows you to take part the Amateur Road World Championships.
The Gran Fondo 88 miles (141km) and the Medio Fondo 35 miles (57km) with 13,123 feet (4,000m) and 6,565 feet (2,000) metres of climbing respectively.
Verdict - might be one for your bucket list, if you want to have a shot at the world championships!
6 - Granfondo Campagnolo Rome
Rome, Italy, October 9th
Rome has more places of historical significant than any other city in Italy. As Italy’s capital Rome can rightly boost to be the most visited place in Italy. In our opinion Rome is best visited in October when the weather is not to stifling and the city is not crammed full of tourists.
The longer route offers a ride steeped in history, starting in the heart of Rome and heading out into the beautiful countryside. Cobbled streets, challenging climbs and beautiful desents towards the end of the route await riders. The Expo Village is set up in historic chariot racing arena Circus Maximus, where there are showers and the after event pasta party.
The Gran Fondo is 76 miles (123 km) and 6,463 (1,970m) of climbing.
Verdict – The capital's Gran Fondo does not disappoint. Ideal for combining romance and riding!
5 - Nove Colli
Cesenatico, Italy, May 22nd
No list of the best Italian Gran Fondo's would be complete without including the ‘Nove Colli (Nine Hills). Italy’s oldest and biggest Gran Fondo. Steeped in history the Novi Colli has Marco Pantani to thank for it’s recent popularity. He once rode it wearing a wig, after a comeback from an accident.
Starting and finishing in Pantani’s hometime of Cesenatico the Gran Fondo regularly has over 10,000 riders from all over the world. Most of whom make the pilgrimage to the Pantani Museum. The recently added mini Gran Fondo for children is a great way to keep all the family involved in the weekend.
The Gran Fondo is 124 miles (200km) with 12,598 feet (3,840m), 81 miles (130km) with 6,138 feet (1,871m) of climbing.
Verdict - If you love Pantani and Italian cycling history this is for you!
4 - Bianchi Felice Gimondi
Bergamo, Italy, May 15th
Those who love ‘made in Italy’ need to look no further for a taste of true Italy. Flelice Gimondi, now in his seventies, is the main that inspires over 3,000 cyclists to take part in the Bianchi Felice Gimondi. The routes take in superb views made famous by the Giro d’Italia and Il Lombardia races.
With Bianchi as the main sponsor you will not be surprised to see many frames, new and old, built by one of Italy’s most iconic frame builders. On visiting Bergamo we recommend you take the time to visit Citta Alta and of course the Bianchi Café which is located in the centre of town.
The Gran Fondo is 162km, the Medio Fondo 129km and the Piccolo Fondo 89km.
Verdict – The perfect Gran Fondo getaway weekend!
3 - Granfondo Firenze
Firenze, Italy, April 17th
Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places on earth and in the Granfondo Firenze you get the opportunity to chose from 3 routes which take you through rolling hills and vineyards. The feed station are something to behold with wine, cheese and ham the order of the day. The final 1 kilometre is traditionally very hard with an incline sure to test tired legs.
In our opinion, it's the very best post event pasta party, that takes place in the nearby racecourse. This is a tremendous Gran Fondo and one which we recommend for those wishing to ride and combine with a family holiday, as there is plenty to do for kids in Florence!
The Gran Fondo is 117 km and the Medio Fondo of 84 km.
Verdict – Ideal for riders who want a great time on and off the bike
2. Maratona Dolomites
Badia Abtei, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy July 3rd
Italy's biggest Gran Fondo takes place every July on closed-roads across the mountainous terrain of the Dolomites. The long route includes both the Passo Pordoi and Passo Giau. With nearly 10,000 riders from almost 50 countries, the Maratona Dolomites appetimises a large participation cycling event. Be sure to book early and the event sells out every year and fast!
On Saturday, May 21st, the 14th Stage of the 2016 Giro d'Italia, the classic Dolomitic Queen Stage - will use the same roads the Maratona route reflects.
The Gran Fondo is 138km and 4,230m of climbing, the Medio Fondo is 016km and 3,130m of climbing. The Piccolo Fondo also known as the Sellaronda is 55km and 1,780m of climbing.
Verdict – A must for those who have never cycled the Dolomites.
1- La Campionissimo
Aprica, Italy, June 26th
La Campionissimo has everything the international cyclist wants in an Italian Gran Fondo. Iconic climbs such as the Gavia and Mortirolo, offer challenge and beauty in equal measure. Assos are the official sponsor and every rider is given the official jersey to wear during the race. Aprica, which recently hosted the arrival of a stage of the Giro d’Italia, is a great town to explore when not riding.
The race itself starts with a controlled decent in to Edolo before the pain begins! On arrival at the finish line you will be welcomed by an Alpine band playing traditional Italian tunes. It all makes for a very unique and authentic Italian feel!
The Gran Fondo is 108 miles (175km) with 4,500m of climbing, the Medio Fondo 96 miles (155km) with 3,600m of climbing and the Piccolo Fondo 53 miles (85km) with 1,860m of climbing.
Verdict – Great for riders looking for an authentic Alpine experience with lots of challenging riding.