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24-05-2023 | Michiel Minnaert

Granfondo Vosges: victory achieved!

For me, the road to the World Cup in Glasgow goes through France, La Bresse. Qualifying close to home can be done through the Granfondo Vosges or the Schleck Gran fondo. Since I had never participated in the GF Vosges before, it was time to change that. The Vosges is a beautiful region. The weather is tricky, there is not much to do but there is peace to be found. Except on the bike, you can suffer to the max.

Photo: © Louis Legon

On Friday, I travel toward La Bresse with my wife and child. I immediately became acquainted with the unstable weather. After the car ride, I set out to explore the first three slopes. Despite the dry and even sunny forecast for La Bresse, after half an hour it started raining cats and dogs. My Wahoo even stopped. Totally hypothermic, I entered a café in Le Thillot. It once again confirmed my image of the Vosges: treacherous weather and nothing to do except for the peace and quiet. The poor café owner who was allowed to mop my table afterwards even gave me a blanket to warm me up. Fortunately, it cleared up after that. From the reconnaissance, though, I had learned that it was a tricky beginning, an easy middle section and a tricky end.

Race day

Sunday at 8 a.m. The start was somewhat chaotic, with no separate boxes for each age group and limited crowd gates. Not starting among the first two hundred meant making a serious effort right away. I immediately had to close a gap of more than a minute. The fact that the race starts with a downhill only made it more dangerous. All in all, I was able to close the gap easily. The German Strassacker team set a tight pace without really pulling the group apart. Cracks did appear especially in the descents, but everything was under control.

The third slope of the day was the steepest, and things really fell apart there for the first time. As we were still with about ten leaders heading toward the top, I went full gas for a bit and got someone from the Strassacker team with me, Moritz Beinlich. This was not entirely coincidentally the guy who had imposed a solid pace all along the climb. Our partnership was immediately perfect and soon we were riding a lead together. The only reservation I had was that it was still far, only 130 kilometers to the finish. Then again, sometimes I go out on my own to ride 200 kilometers, so 130 kilometers seemed doable. Besides, I was adequately supplied with drinks and food: both my club Bataia and my family were along the road with water bottles and food. What a luxury.

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Full gas

Now I could write a very long report but actually it was simple. We rode perfectly together, going full gas together. The course was mostly hilly in the middle section so our perfect collaboration immediately gave us a nice lead of about six minutes. I could not and should not let this go, it had to result in a place one or two today. We had to watch out for oncoming traffic, we rarely had a motard with us. I expect more from a UCI qualifier race: if a small organization like Espace Cycles in Étalle can do it, it should be able to do it here as well.

At 50 kilometers from the end we started the final stretch, four tough climbs still had to be conquered. Uphill I was able to dictate my pace. That gave me hope as this was a sign that my co-leader was starting to struggle. Leading up to the penultimate climb, I noticed for the first time real signs of fatigue on his part. A small pinprick just before the start of the climb gave me an immediate gap, but I didn't go all out. My body was also slowly starting to get tired.

On the steeper section, I then made up the difference, allowing me to start the final climb (rather a long gradual climb) with a reassuring gap. The lead remained large enough and, with the finish line in sight, I could put my hands in the air, tired and satisfied. Moritz Beinlich finished second at half a minute, Bjorn De Decker completed the podium leaving Vince Mattens just off the podium.


I look back on this gran fondo with great satisfaction, but I do think there are some organizational areas for improvement. The chaotic start, the limited safety measures for the riders, the late time to pick up the numbers on Saturday. An absolute plus is a beautiful course, challenging, but also with the necessary variation due to an hilly middle section. Tricky enough, then, for those who think they can climb well, but not just fun for climbers.

I skip the pasta party, after five hours of suffering was time for a pancake with the family!

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