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06-05-2024 | Rick Groeneweg

3RIDES UCI Gran Fondo recon

Next weekend marks the occasion: 3RIDES Aachen. This year, there are not one, but two UCI World Cup qualifiers: a gravel race and a road gran fondo. Ambassador Rick Groeneweg embarked on a journey for us. Twice, in fact, as the course underwent last-minute changes.

3RIDES Aachen


The gran fondo's distance was trimmed from 160 km to 120 km, removing a loop through the western Eifel from the course. Elevation meters decreased from 2,300 to 1,900. Safety and permits were decisive factors during this German vacation week. Finding the ideal course became a quest between organizers and municipalities in the German Eifel region. The organizers have announced that the course will be extended in 2025. All age categories tackle the same route, eliminating the medio fondo.

Ideal location in the Eifel?

It's the first and only German qualifier for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Denmark. Aachen is conveniently accessible for many Germans, Belgians, and Dutch, particularly when compared to other UCI Gran Fondos; this one is likely the closest.

The recon

The start commences at the 3RIDES festival grounds in Aachen, where the UCI Gravel Race also kicks off on the same weekend. With a blend of superb asphalt, demanding climbs, rapid descents, and picturesque Eifel villages, it promises an exhilarating experience. The start and finish through Aachen's historic center are spectacular, especially with a bustling peloton at the starting line.

The organization will neutralize the first 7 km, followed by a flying start. The initial neutralized stretch traverses the old center and circles the historic Cathedral, featuring cobblestone segments and narrow streets with numerous bollards. The route then winds out of town, passing through quaint villages where riders encounter immediate climbs. Most sections hover around 5% gradient, with a final climb nearing 600 meters in altitude to the south. The route navigates through protected natural areas, meandering alongside eroded gorges and babbling brooks. The route is replete with hairpin turns, offering constant elevation fluctuations.

Examining the elevation profile reveals three substantial climbs, but the challenge lies in the shorter ascents. Some ascents barely cover 60 meters in elevation but pitch at over 10%. Following the longer climbs, riders are rewarded with panoramic vistas of meandering streams and the verdant Eifel hills. The descents are thrilling, featuring sharp turns and blistering-speed segments.

Elevation Profile

Overall, it's an exciting course, and I anticipate the peloton to fragment significantly after km 57 (Rurberg to Kesternich), with a major split occurring at Hammermauer towards Rott. This nearly 3 km climb at 7.7% includes sections reaching 14% gradient initially, gradually easing thereafter. The final 15 km predominantly descend, amplifying the pace notably upon entering Aachen's street circuit. The closing turns before the finish at the CHIO grounds are treacherous, compounded by cobblestones.

Last year, I participated in the 3RIDES UCI Gravel Race. I can't help but commend the organization's quality. The festival site with catering and equipment was impressive and will return this year. The addition of the gran fondo completes the festival experience.

The route on Strava
© Strava

Sunny weather

Weather-wise, it appears to be a sunny day around 20 degrees, albeit still chilly with the early start at 07:00. However, the advantage is diminished wind at this hour.

Differences with the Schleck?

If you found Schleck Gran Fondo to entail significant climbing, this German qualifier won't feel much lighter. Unlike the Schleck, which features lengthy flat sections conducive to group drafting and recovery, this course offers fewer extended straight stretches; it's predominantly undulating. Additionally, this edition of Schleck is notably longer. The disparity will diminish next year.

3RIDES UCI Gran FondoSchleck Granfondo
Start/finishAachen, GermanyMondorf-les-Bains, Luxemburg
DateMay 12May 25
Length120 km155 km

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