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Outside my comfort zone and into my first gran fondo!

By Martin Malo

Outside my comfort zone and into my first gran fondo!

Of the three events in triathlon, cycling is what I do best. And I’m lucky because, in races, biking always counts for half of the total distance. I often make up a lot of time pedaling … before some of my competitors catch up on foot!

I love speed, so I’m happy to follow the training sessions on the bike and even go beyond—something I don’t do for running or swimming. 

This year, I was a bit weary about the triathlon. So I followed my friends’ advice and signed up for a gran fondo—a change I’d been thinking about for a while but never dared.

Fear of the unknown, lack of experience, greater risk of accident, low self-confidence, a new road bike … there were just so many reasons to procrastinate.

But this past May, I finally took the plunge and loved it!

For the first few kilometres of the St-Donat Nordet, I was anxious, overcautious and convinced that I’d finish dead last. But to my huge surprise, I did really well. I learned a lot from my first experience. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I wanted to do it all over again … differently.

Triathlon and gran fondo (or cyclosportive) involve different bikes and completely different approaches. Success in triathlon comes from strength and endurance while success in gran fondo comes from strategy and sudden pushes for a better position.

In gran fondo, the idea is to keep your place in the pack. In triathlon, drafting is prohibited and penalized, but, in gran fondo, riders can capitalize on the slipstream as long as they follow in the wheel. That’s why it’s important to be alert and ready to react to accidents. Paying attention is also key because riders will steal ahead. If you don’t have enough time to push to the limit, you can lose the pack and then have to fight to catch up. That’s exactly what happened to me in St-Donat.

The Défi Vélo-Mag, which was held in September in the magnificent Parc de la Mauricie, is justifiably popular and sells out as soon as registration opens. I’ll admit to being intimated because the competition was strong and there were even more cyclists than in St-Donat, but my second experience was just amazing. I may have a lot to learn, but I’ll definitely be back next year!




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