Event Review

Gran Fondo Sportful REVIEW

by Andy Dawson


Date: June 16th
Distances: 219km and 125km
Entry fee: 35 euros
Start: 7am, Feltre, Italy
Feedstops: 2 on the medio and 5 one the Granfondo
Catering: post event pasta party
Timed: timing chip
Signs: plenty including road hazard warnings, climb stats and distance to go to food stops
Roads: good quality mainly, but watch out in the tunnels
Goody bag: great Sportful gilet, bottle, promo leaflets

The Ride:

Sunday 16th June saw the big Sportful Granfondo going out of Feltre in the Dolomites, North-East Italy.  Featuring 216 and 125km options it is billed as the hardest sportive in Europe - it certainly turned out to be the hottest.

Early morning
Early Morning

After several months of unseasonable rain and cold Italy finally warmed up on the preceding Friday and lining up for the 7am start it was already 18 degrees cel.  This was with 4,000 cyclists packed into the giant holding pens on the unhelpful cobbles below the old medieval town.

Approach To The Tunnels

The usual fanfare and we were off scootering (too slow to click in) across the cobbles with some taking to the pavements before we turned out of the old streets, the road opened and we were off on a classic, fast Italian get-away.  About 40km of gently rising roads got us all warmed up and into the foothills. One feature of the Sportful is the amount of tunnels you go through - the first set on a road ringing a lake. These tunnels would usually be unlit so the organisers had rigged generators to illuminate the dingy interiors. A few tunnels managed to combine dark spots with gravel/potholes.

inside a lit tunnel
Inside A Lit Tunnel

Shortly thereafter we got to the first climb, Forcella Franche. The organisers had a helpful board out telling you the vital stats - over 5km long, gaining 410m and with a maximum gradient of 11%. Unfortunately the road was very poor at the start of the climb and people were either getting off to walk up (first time I've seen that so early on a Granfondo) or the usable road was so narrow it created a bottle-neck.

Road Blocked Due To Stopped Riders

First food stop was straight after this climb and was the usual scrum. Fresh fruit quarters, water, energy drink, and a hard ham roll that I threw away - it would have taken me 20 minutes and 2 litres of water to munch my way through it.  No portaloos, which surprised me, so the local vegetation got a good watering.The course split came soon after the food stop.  The toughies went off on the massive loop and super hard climbs of the Granfondo.  Or at least I think they did.  True to form everyone in my group stuck to the medio fondo - it was already getting hot (high 20s). We dropped just a bit off Franche and then headed up Aurine which took us up to 1300m and then dropped quite a lot to start all over again up to the high point on the medio course - the Passo Cereda at 1369m.

Certainly in my group (I started in the 2,000 to 3,000 group) I felt there were quite a few less "squadra" groups or experienced sportive riders. Some of these hills were really starting to tell and people were walking. I wonder if Sportful have successfully marketed this Granfondo to a very wide market and thus drawn in many more individuals and perhaps first timers?

First feed stop
First Feed Stop

The event is well supported by local people.  There were small groups cheering us on in many of the villages we passed through and at least one household had the garden hose out ready to spray riders on request.We dropped off the Passo Cereda and fell a long way back down into a busy valley. Least the road traffic was busy but being in a big group helped reduce the impact of cars. We had a fast run through the flat valley - and through yet more tunnels. These were long ones, dimly illuminated and I was definitely glad to be with a group. Some Italians switched rear lights - it was like riding through the night.

Out of the last, long tunnel and almost immediately turn left and the beginning of the Croce d'Aune. This is a legendary climb: the story is that in the 1920s Tullio Campagnolo had so much trouble changing gears on this climb that he lost a race. He swore to come up with a better way to change cogs, and the rest is history. It certainly had me changing gears.  600m to be gained over 10km and by now the heat was hitting 36deg. Everyone was suffering and there were many water only stops on the hill to ensure you didn't dehydrate.

36 degrees
Switchbacks In 36 Degrees Celcius

A huge descent down through Pedavena (nice brewery there) led to a quick roll into Feltre for an unwelcome uphill, cobblestone finish right in the heart of the medieval centre. Full on finish gate, commentator and photographers greeted us.

One advantage of taking the medio course is that we finished ahead of the long course cyclists and were able to see them cross the line to full-fanfare and celebration.  Timing services were particularly good with the result of the medio fondo printed out and displayed at the post-race pasta party.  

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 10 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 94.4%

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