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27-05-2024 | Frank Jansen

Schleck GF improves safety but fumbles with timing

Last Saturday, the sold-out UCI qualifier Schleck Gran Fondo was held in fine weather conditions. After heavy criticism of safety last year (which even included a death), the organization made every effort to return stronger this year. However, this year saw a flood of complaints about something else: the time registration.

3RIDES visiting

A delegation from 3RIDES visited to see firsthand what points could be learned from the efficient organization of the Schleck Gran Fondo. Fränk and his team spared no expense to improve safety: an abundance of marshals, motards, fences, an extensive riders briefing, long neutralisation and even videos of dangerous situations. There were some incidents, but it was nothing like last year.Schleck Gran Fondo

Gun time versus net time

One notable choice this year was that the organization opted to use net time (aka chip time) instead of, as in previous years, gun time. This is against UCI guidelines for qualifiers, but events are allowed to deviate from them. In previous editions, the starting shot per compartment applied to the entire compartment, meaning the person who crossed the finish line first in the category won. This year, however, the net time per chip (starting after the neutralization) was decisive, so someone who started at the very back of the section but set the fastest time won. This led to unusual situations, where riders sprinting for a top-10 spot ended up 20th. Complaints rained down afterward and, of course, also on Strava.

There is, of course, plenty to be said for using net time: it is fairer in a way, and starting at the front is not necessarily required. For example, at Mallorca 312 this year, many participants explicitly requested its introduction. Many large gran fondos in the Alps (such as La Marmotte) use net time. Whether it is convenient and fair in a race with age categories like the Schleck GF is debatable. 

However, the biggest issue seems to be that the organization did not communicate the switch to net time, causing a lot of confusion at the finish line. Additionally, there was no mention of it in the briefing or on the website.

All results can be found here.

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