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19-04-2023 | Luc Nouwen

Cyprus Medio Fondo: a three-day cycling feast early spring

The Cyprus Gran Fondo and Medio Fondo are part of the qualifying races for the UCI World Gran Fondo Championships (the GFWS) taking place in Scotland this year: in Perth for the road race, in Dundee for the time trial.

Multiple events

With the medio fondo in Cyprus, the over-60s in the men and over-50s in the women could qualify for the World Cup. You could register as an 'expert' or as a 'sportive'. The difference is that for this three-day event, the experts ride a time trial on the first day (which counts as a qualifying race), while the sportives participate in the road race (which does not count as a qualifying race). On the second and third days, joint road races are scheduled, which do count as qualifying races based on a ranking with both types of participants.

The time trial took place in Nikoklia, a lovely village about 15 kilometers away from Pafos. At 28.3 kilometers, the distance was quite long, usually time trials are around 20 kilometers. The first 14 kilometers were uphill, with a tough 500-meter incline at 7-8% at the end. The way back via the same road was a long descent, which became a challenging undertaking due to the wind. After a heavy flu, I already knew that a good result would be difficult, but when I was overtaken after barely ten minutes by a rider who had left one minute later, my courage sank in. Fortunately I had already qualified in Jordan at the end of January, when my shape was better and my opponents were of a lower level, so I was able to ride here without qualifying pressure.

Racing on my birthday

On April 1, my birthday, the queen's ride was on the menu: 89 kilometers with about 1500 meters of elevation. What could be more fun than celebrating your birthday as a cycling fanatic with a queen's ride under a beautiful spring sun? The start took place in the center of Pafos, but the course was neutralized until the beginning of the climb, a road with little traffic where you can let the gang loose undisturbed. A strong point of the organization, which had arranged this for all the road races of this three-day event.

The fact that I saw the best riders get away from me again after a few miles uphill didn't bother me much on my 64th birthday. The ride was one long birthday celebration: waiving on my bike, my old Eddy Merckx 525 with rim brakes, in my brand new CycloWorld outfit from Castelli: 20 kilometers of neutralization; 35 kilometers uphill; 35 kilometers at high speeds to the finish. The sun was out and in the evening at the buffet I treated myself to an extra piece of cake.

Up early

On the third day, I have to get up early. The departure is already at 8.00 for the GF and 8.10 for the MF. Most participants are quite relaxed: we know the drill! There is a ride of just under 46 kilometers on the program, containing no less than 1060 meters of elevation. I can follow the better riders for a bit longer today, but when the steepest parts of the climb arrive, I soon have to fall back on my own pace. I have scouted this ride beforehand, which helps on the descent, until my chain comes off and locks on the start of a new slope. A few kilometers down the road, the recon turns out not to save me from missing a turn: I ride straight down steeply where I should have taken the right turn. Fortunately, my bike computer points me right out: off course!

I turn around, quickly shift the chain to the small ring and again the chain falls off. My hands are really dirty now. Those 10% back up to get back on the right road obviously hurt. The last eight kilometers are challengingly uphill, so I have a lot of work to do. This all happens many minutes behind the winner, but as a training camp, Cyprus was a successful event for me. The Cyprus three-day is excellently organized: smooth registration, safe roads, very accessible organizers, congratulations Mike and Eleni!

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The gran fondo

Our ambassador Ralph Ornelis was also on site. What are his experiences?

"There were remarkably many time trial bikes at the start, on my Scott rental bike the time trial turned out to be quite a challenge!  The gran fondo went very well for me, despite the strong field of participants including the Zakarin brothers, one day wonder Foliforov, Ross Fawcett and other (ex) pro riders. Also the 'special kilometer' (a gravel section) I survived well despite my 25 mm tires.

I would like to thank the organization for the beautiful course, the tasty food and drinks, the hospitality, the nicely delineated roads and signal men who warned us at every dangerous point. I also want to thank the Ward and Meulenberg family for the nice rides on Cyprus and nice talks. After all, making new contacts and cycling friends is what it's all about in the end!"

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