You likely suspect a climb named “Alpine” to be more of a monster than a 1.6k hill with 120m of elevation gain. But there is more to this hill than the numbers suggest.
While it’s early in the race, Alpine is stingy enough to separate the cream from the crop. The excitement for the race has been building up until it finally starts. It’s hard to hold back when the road finally tilts up at 15km into the race. Sure, there are a few bumps along River Road on the way to Alpine. But Alpine is where the hot shots let loose.
For three years in a row, from 2013-2015, the pace up the climb was so aggressive at the front that a small, race winning group already formed at the top. Anyone who didn’t make the jump, was left to fight the remaining 145km to get one of the last Top 10 spots.
Check on your favorite climb table website and you’ll see that many of the top times have been achieved during GFNY. And this despite Alpine being one of the most contested climbs globally.
How to ride Alpine
To win GFNY: at the front. If there is a move, go with it.
For a fast time at GFNY: look for groups forming towards the top. You will need a strong one to be fast along the flat section on 9W and beyond.
Bear Mountain is the big daddy of GFNY. It’s long enough to be intimidating for a flatlander and it would still be considered a climb by mountain goats from Colombia and Switzerland. All in all, Bear Mountain is a very doable climb. Most riders find the steady, moderate gradient pleasant because it allows you to find a rhythm. There’s only one little steeper patch.
Climbing Bear Mountain during GFNY is exhilarating because you not only have many riders around you to climb with but also can watch the leaders descend already.
Be advised: GFNY veterans can attest that Bear Mountain is by no means “half way” but rather the beginning of the core of the race with significant climbing following Bear Mountain.
How to ride Bear Mountain
To win GFNY: at the front. If there is a move by two or more riders, go with it. While most years a small lead group has already formed well before Bear Mountain, in 2016 no less than 100 riders tackled the start of the climb together, chasing the sole leader (and winner) Michael Margarite.
For a fast time at GFNY: steady-hard. If you raced smart until now, you should still be full of energy. This is the moment where you should start using some of it. Always keep in mind that the real race only begins after Bear.
To finish GFNY: try to find a rhythm as quickly as possible and keep your breathing in check. Don’t get carried away by others burning themselves out. You may see many of these people again later on. Stay focused all the way to the top.
While Bear Mountain might be the feature climb of GFNY, Colle Andrea Pinarello should be the most feared. More than being physically demanding, it’s mentally challenging as it plays tricks on you at a key point during the race.
You might feel like you have reached the half way point after cresting Bear Mountain. However, the following hills may suck the living life out of you. After the notoriously undulating Mott Farm Road, Colle Andrea Pinarello may start mellow but soon picks up and gets steeper. Named after the late Andrea Pinarello, one of the true innovators in the gran fondo world and GFNY 2011 finisher, this climb suggests several times to be over before it actually is. You’ll see a crest in the distance and think “right there it’s done!” only to find out that it continues when you reach it. Once you did finish the climb, the fast descent will take more mental energy just before the next climb kicks right back up.
How to ride Colle Andrea Pinarello
To win GFNY: If you are in the lead group, don’t get dropped. Most years Pinarello takes its victims. And there is no coming back. If you are in a solid chase group, encourage everyone to stay together through the hills to make back ground once you reach the flatter terrain after Cheesecote.
For a fast time at GFNY: No need to hold back any longer. Pinarello is a great climb to make time and catch back up to slowing riders. This is what you have trained for.
To finish GFNY: Pinarello is one of the key climbs of your race. Show mental strength and get it done. If you get through Pinarello and Cheesecote, nothing should stop you from finishing.
Your First GFNY
Uli talks to Vito Valentini on how to tackle your first GFNY.
The GFNY course
Lidia and Uli talk you through the course of the GFNY Championship in NYC.