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07-07-2023 | Wouter Fioole

GFNY La Vaujany: close to perfection

Cedric Haas, the organizer of the GNFY events in France, must have read our article on the key factors for organizational happiness, as they have implemented them flawlessly. Their website and email communication are crystal clear, the feed stations are spacious, they provide great value for money, and participant safety is their top priority. They truly embody the spirit of "Be a pro for a day!"

Fluo green shirt

The La Vaujany Alpe d'Huez route is absolutely breathtaking, starting from the charming ski village of Vaujany, which sits 5 kilometers up the Col du Sabot. The event kicks off at 7:45 in the refreshing morning sun, with all participants sporting the mandatory vibrant green "Kermit the frog" shirt from GFNY. Initially, I didn't think much of the shirt, especially since I already had one from GFNY Grand Ballon. However, its unique ugliness somehow makes it strangely beautiful. Now that I have my second one, I find myself wanting to collect them all. After all, each shirt bears the event's name. I won't be surprised if it becomes a prized item for avid cycling tourists, akin to collecting shirts from Hard Rock Cafe locations around the world.

Jan Ullrich

As I ride, I overhear some murmurs from a fellow cyclist attempting to overtake me, which is one of the common frustrations participants face before a gran fondo. However, I gladly yield my spot for Jan Ullrich and seize the opportunity for a selfie. At exactly 8:00 am, we embark on the neutralized 5-kilometer ride from Vaujany to the valley. If I may offer a critique, this descent feels unnecessary. With over three hundred men and women in the peloton, we're all braking, knowing that later we'll have to conquer the daunting mountain with an average gradient of nearly 10% to reach the finish line, adding up to a total elevation gain of 4000 meters. It doesn't do wonders for morale.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, the race director waves the flag, and off we go. Unlike other gran fondos, there's no explosive start. The headwind, coupled with the fact that the Col de Sabot leads to the Col de la Croix-de-Fer and we're still descending, prevents the peloton from forming a single ribbon. However, after a 30-kilometer downhill stretch to the base of the Col de la Morte (15.3 kilometers at an average gradient of 6.6%), the peloton begins to fragment. Having previously ridden La Vaujany in 2019, I learned my lesson about going too hard at the start. This time, I maintain my own pace and soon find myself overtaking those who made the same mistake.

An unexpected gift

The only setback of the day, as mentioned before, was the missing sign on the descent. My GPX file, downloaded from the event's website two weeks prior, indicated a left turn. Three out of four cyclists in my group also had their bike computers showing the same. However, one of us continued straight ahead on the right road. Luckily, the organization quickly sent a car to retrieve the four of us, offering apologies and promising to compensate for the lost time. Once back on the route, we discovered that this year's course secretly included the unexpected 4-kilometer climb of Col de Malissol, with an average gradient of 6%. From there, it was a delightful descent to the Col d'Ornon.

I always enjoy climbing the Col d'Ornon. It's a gradual climb spanning approximately 20 kilometers. Starting at 2%, the gradient gradually increases, peaking at just over 7% in the final kilometer. Along this stretch, I pass one cyclist after another, boosting my confidence for the highlight of the day: Alpe d'Huez. With its 21 legendary hairpin turns, I relish the uphill journey under the radiant sunshine. After descending the Pas de la Confession, I return to the foot of the Col du Sabot, the same 5 kilometers that had heated up our disc brakes just a few hours earlier.

I cross the finish line in the top 50, overwhelmed with satisfaction. It truly was an exceptional event! The organization, particularly the well-organized aid stations, made us feel like professional cyclists for a day. Next time, I'll ensure the correct GPX file is available on the website a little earlier—or perhaps I'll simply practice more patience—and I won't have a single complaint, not even about the shirt!

GFNY Alpes Vaujany

Would you also like to ride one of GFNY's cool gran fondo in France? You can, because on 27 August there will be GFNY Alpes Vaujany. BInearly the same name, but a completely different course. With mythical names like the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon and the climb to Vaujany. With us, you get a 50% discount. Book here.

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