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23-05-2022 | Wouter Fioole

GF Vosges, trip report of a chaotic gran fondo

On a sunny Sunday, May 15, a record number of participants of the Granfondo Vosges are be ready for a magnificent day of cycling. A total of 1052 riders rode the granfondo (175 kilometers with 3500m+), and another 805 riders the mediofondo (120 kilometers / 2700m+). CycloWorld was there with a team of 4. It turned out to be a beautiful, but somewhat chaotic day with a small black edge.

Peter finished the GF around 500th place, Karen around 650th (4th in her category) and I around 200th place. Luc finished around 300th place in the MF. And as cycling commentators say all the time: everyone comes home with his own story.

Photo: the usual wait in the starting pen.


The story of the day is that Chris Mai (Team Strassacker) is doing good. While in the leading group, he was involved in a terrible crash crash. I passed by there about half an hour later and got chills from the scene on the side of the road. A red bike all crumpled up in the bushes, lots of emergency vehicles and a cloth to shield the situation. On the Strava account of Sieben Devalckeneer - the eventual number 3 in the final results - you can read an eyewitness report.

It's nice that I didn't see any serious crashes, but especially in the beginning the riders went down like crazy. Or as Peter saw it from the middle of the group: "From the start the peloton went up the 2 km at 4.6% and then left into the descent. This was done with an average speed of almost 60 km/h. It was crazy. It was a madhouse. I found the descent behaviour comparable to other big fast GFs. It's a bit different than touring, but then again, this is a serious course."

Picture: a nice village départ.

In my group, in every descent there were some who missed a turn here and there and on the first intermediate sections there were some pushes. Karen and I are both not really into pushing and riding in a peloton. Luckily, halfway through the mass the behavior was already different. The pushing wasn't all that bad, the pack fortunately broke up quickly on the first climb (the Col de la Croix des Moinats). There were still a few idiots in the peloton in the long flatter part, but for the most part we rode well. We could even work together. That was enjoyable. Cycling a little bit in time trial mode on the flat is really my thing.

Picture: a typical Vosges climb.

Before we could start that flatter middle section, the GF still had to climb the Col de Morbieux and immediately after that the Montée de la Colline. "Funnily enough, this was not listed as a climb in the route book. Nevertheless, the legs were well tested here for 3 km due to the average gradient of 9.1%," said Peter. After the Col du Mont de Fouche, that middle section finally began. This is where the MF and GF split.


Saturday I already met Luc, easily recognizable in the CW-outfit (see photo). Luc's legs were "not the best" at the time, he said. And on Sunday? "The first 80 km were reasonable, but then I had to stop on Le Haut du Tôt with cramps. At this climb the GF and MF come together again at 35 kilometers from the finish and it goes up for more than 4 kilometers at 7% average. It's not surprising that you get cramps in this hot weather. The last 35 km were a test of character.... With the climb to the Col de Grosse Pierre (including the run-up 10 kilometers at 4% average) and the final climb to the finish (about 8 kilometers at 3%) it's a big test!"

Photo: Luc Nouwen in the descent.

For Peter, the real race only started after 115 kilometers. From here to the finish 5 more cols had to be conquered while the sun shone mercilessly on the heads of the riders. Peter: "After 135 km on top of the Col de Bonne Fontaine, I had lost all my energy. The body was exhausted and empty." You did come through the test pretty well it seems, satisfied with the result? Luc: "Too disappointed by the cramps, I'm more surprised that I came 23rd or 24th of the 63 in my category. Peter: "I am satisfied with my performance considering my condition at the moment the Tour Transalp is the real goal!"

In Perpignan, the level organization could still improved. This was the 5th edition of the GF Vosges and the 2nd as World Cup qualifier, but last year Luc was also not entirely satisfied with the organization here. Has the second edition as a qualifier become better? Luc: "The start of the MF was ridiculous. I was standing in the first row to cycle to the real start place after the GF: there appeared to be 100 riders already there. Asking for results afterwards is not well organized. Signalmen on course were good."

Photo: this region also breathes cycling.


Peter: "The signalling was definitely good, only in Plombiers-les-Bains it wasn't! This is in the section where the GF and MF are split. However, there was also a running race going on there. Where the traffic had to stop for the fondo, they had to continue for the runners and vice versa. The chaos at the intersection in the center of town was enormous. The signalmen stood there a bit panic-stricken but endearing and did everything they could to regulate the situation. I think that was impossible, but still. My whole peloton crawled, crawled, crawled up the climb out of the village. My group could laugh about it."

Photo: Peter Koens enjoyed the scenery.

Most beautiful moments of the day? Luc: "the speed at which the winner of the GF flew past me was impressive." Karen: "I think that's the dozens of kilometers of working together and riding nicely in the peloton in the middle part. And of course in combination with the nice weather." Peter: "I found the surroundings breathtakingly beautiful! For me? From the start I was one of the ones who drove away, a little too enthusiastic, but therefore for the first time ever - even if it was exactly 5 meters - at the head of a GF!"

Full results here.

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