La bella Italia, known for its beautiful art, amazing music, delicious food but most important Italia is the birthplace of granfondo. GFNY Italia offers the authentic granfondo experience – controlled course, end-to-end timing, pros and amateurs racing side-by-side, and an end-of-race celebration for all. Taking place between the sister cities of Torrita di Siena (the official start), and Montepulciano (the finish and neutral start), GFNY Italia offers many of the exhilarating challenges that Italy has to offer cyclists of all levels. The course features challenging climbs, fast descents, beautiful scenery, and three sectors of strade bianche (for a total of 25 kilometers) – or “white roads” of limestone gravel, made famous by the Italian Monument races each Spring.
The “percorso unico” of 110 kilometers and over 2,000 meters of climbing, offers the chance to “be a pro for a day” to all athletes, whether they are riding for a spot on the podium, their personal best, or just to have a special day on the bike in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Let’s take a closer look at this amazing GFNY Course in the heart of Tuscany.
Race day will begin at the base of the town of Montepulciano where the start corrals are in the shadow of The “Tempio di San Biagio”. Riders will have a neutralized start for the first ten kilometers with a fast descent and several rollers taking the group into the official race start in Torrita di Siena. With the race now “on”, the course will begin climbing immediately through the walled city and out through the city’s main piazza. With gradients of up to 8% the course kicks up rather suddenly through the city, and riders will need to stay within themselves as they navigate these short and punchy climbs inside the city walls and then out into the countryside. With a lot of climbing ahead, riders will want to find a good group at their pace to stay with and conserve energy as they make their way toward the first sector of strade bianche.
The first strade section
Riders that have attended the GFNY Italia camp will have been provided some tutorial work on navigating their way onto the strade bianche and what to do on that gravel. The drops are best, staying slightly above the saddle, and navigating in a larger gear over the first challenge. With a downhill leading into the first sector, riders will want to make a wide right turn to hit the strade bianche straight on and have the most traction as they start to make their way through this 7.5-kilometer sector. With the majority of this first sector being downhill, riders will want to pay special attention to their bike handling, speed, and proximity to other riders. For riders that have not attended the GFNY Italia Camp, it is highly recommended that they have at least one ride on the strade bianche before race day. The camp will provide detailed instruction on strategies and tactics for having the best ride through these three sectors from experienced GFNY Italia camp leaders.
A 40-kilometer recovery? Hardly.
Having completed the first sector of strade bianche, riders will now have 40 kilometers of challenging terrain to tackle. Right from the end of the first sector, there will be three short climbs to get over without too much opportunity for recovery. Once over these three initial hills, it will be good to find a group to work with for the next 26 kilometers until the second sector. Focus on managing nutrition and hydration here, as there are more challenges ahead. Working with a group will allow you to save some energy for the most challenging parts of the course, which are coming up. Solid food is probably not your best option on the GFNY Italia course given all of the ups and downs, so having some liquid nutrition or gels will serve you well as you make your way toward sector two.
Settore Due and Settore Tre (Sector Two and Sector Three)
66 kilometers into the race, riders will find themselves just over halfway through, with the most challenging parts of the course ahead. This is where the second sector of strade bianche begins. Longer than the first sector at 10 kilometers the majority of this sector is uphill. This will allow riders to lay down some power to get through the sector – but don’t burn too many matches – there are more climbs ahead before you see the piazza in Montepulciano. While there are several downhills in this sector, they are not ideal for recovery. Riders will need to stay focused here and concentrate on the challenges of the strade bianche, once again, they will need to manage their speed, bike handling, and proximity to other riders. Be sure to maintain a safe distance from other riders, and give yourself a chance to stop or get around should another rider stop for any reason on this challenging terrain.
But there is no rest for the weary as sector three is just around the corner and only 1.5 kilometers away from the end of sector two. Sector three will take the same road as sector one in reverse, and rather than downhill, it will be a steady climb for 7.5 kilometers, with the toughest section in the middle at about 6.5% grade. This is a good time for riders to stay within themselves and remember that there are more challenges ahead once they are out of sector three.
Full Tilt Boogie – The Final Climbs to Montepulciano
The last sector of strade bianche now completed, the riders will face a 2-kilometer climb before a fast descent back through Torrita di Siena. This is a welcome respite after the 17km of gravel roads and all of the climbing to this point. Clocking in at almost 8 kilometers through Torrita di Siena, riders will feel a beautiful downhill breeze as they gain momentum toward the start of the rollers before the final climbs. There are now only 10 kilometers left to the finish. But this is the toughest 10 kilometers of the race, and riders will need to have saved some energy all along the course to be able to get through these final challenges.
The riders will now begin the climb back to Montepulciano in three tough sections with gradients up to 17%. The first 3 kilometers will take the riders up out of the valley and up to a slight drag that runs the 2 kilometers to the base of the city. Now, with 800 meters to go, the most beautiful part of the final climb through the gates of the city and climbing the steep, but beautiful Italian paved streets, and the cheering of the crowds along the bunting urging the riders to the finish, literally over the top and onto the flat of the piazza for the finisher medal and celebration.