Schleck Gran Fondo - Beware of going to fast

After a first participation in 2018 during the second edition of the Gran Fondo Schleck we returned in 2024. The great organisation, the vibes of the race and the beautiful landscape stayed in our mind and we always knew we would return. Next to that, Tom felt he had unfinished business due to the heat and fast start and finishing near the end of the pack. It took some years to go back as obviously we had Corona but more importantly the race is mostly organised on the same weekend as the La Chouffe Classic a biking event we attended for 12 consecutive years between 2012 and 2023. As we always go with a bunch of friends for a weekend it’s more than just a biking event, it’s tradition! Nevertheless we decided that in 2024 we wanted to go back to compete in the Gran Fondo Schleck. 

In the recent years Marie-Claire also started to be more involved into riding for a result, where in earlier years that was none of her interests. With wins in Long Course Weekend (2022, 2023), a 3rd place in the Ironman Vichy, she thought of chasing a qualification for the UCI World Championship later in Denmark. 

2024 edition

We knew from 2018 that the level of riders is very high in this UCI World Championship qualifier and it only increased. Where on regular rides or races you have a mix of all kinds of people with different ambition and fitness levels, here almost all people are in their best form. It brings a special atmosphere. Now don’t fear! There is also a leisure ride which starts after the race if you want to take it on your own pace and want to escape the madness of the bunch. 

Starting is still in 3 waves or start boxes. First you have riders 18 – 34 years and then 3 minutes later 35 – 44 are starting. Myself I started again 3 minutes later with 45 – 75. That was one of the first moments I started to realise I don’t get any younger. Compared to earlier years the start was in the opposite direction hence the first few kilometers were the same as the last few kilometers. After a first gentle climb there are some  gentle downhills on a big road. Last incidents in professional races inspired the organisation to neutralise the first 9.5 km of the race which meant that you had to stay behind the pacing cars and motors which rode at a steady pace of 30 – 32 km/h. I’m not convinced this was any safer than releasing everybody at the start lines as all people were trying to come to the front and as speed was low, it was quite stressful and dangerous. To my opinion the bunch would have been streched outside the village on the hill which would be OK for the gentle downhill. I was able to stay in the front, but I heard from other people that in the back it was really dangerous and that quite some people fell. 

After the neutralisation there was an immediate climb of 2 km with parts of 11%. That is obviously to steep for me to keep up so I quickly ended up in the back of my wave. The downhill to the river isn’t that long to make this up and then I was unlucky that the bunch was teared in 2 parts for the short part next to the river. It was only 6 km compared to 20 km in earlier editions. From then on I stayed mainly in my group suffering uphill, making up in the downhill and catch some breath on the flat parts. My lessons learnt from previous Gran Fondos I didn’t went too deep and I ate enough. The weather was perfect so no issues with the heat like in 2018. Now this edition I made the mistake to not drink enough and towards 2/3 of the race I started to feel upcoming cramps in my legs and on the hills it limited me in going up. I had to let go my group and as of that moment you end up in isolation. Not my best day, but a normal day and overall I’m satisfied with the result as I had 32.5km/h average including the neutralisation.

When I wouldn’t have had to drop my group I think I would have ended up with 33 – 34 km/h average but that doesn’t make such a difference as to qualify I would have had to ride 36,6 km/h!! Which is just incredible. The first riders made it up to 41km/h. That really shows the high level of cyclists competing in this World Championship qualifier.  

Now that brings me to the race of Marie-Claire. To qualify for the UCI World Championship in Denmark Marie-Claire had to compete for some crazy rule in the Medio Fondo (85 km – 1000m altitude). Which is strange as on the World Championship the woman also ride the longest distance. The Medio Fondo race started roughly an hour after my own race. Marie-Claire made a good start and was able to stick in a nice group and although she suffered big time, she gave it her all to stay in that group. Marie-Claire finished the race with an amazing 33.9 km/h average! Qualified for the World Championship! Her results:

  • 5th place in her category (F40)
  • 44 / 218 woman
  • 174 / 683 overall 

Strava Track (155 km – 2000m elevation)

Qualified for UCI World Championship Gran Fondo

2018 edition

This second edition, part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, was a qualifier for the World Championship for amateurs. You could collect the numbers and chips in the afternoon, and we were lucky our friends was there early. They had to wait approximately 30 minutes, but by the time they got the numbers, the queue quadrupled.

The Friday evening there was a pasta event in the Casino of Mondorf. A very nice hall and there was a pasta bar, for which we received a ticket, included in the price. Later that evening, there was some interview round with few ex famous riders. The brothers Schleck, Jens Voigt and Indurain. We had a drink and didn’t stay too long. We went back to the hotel for a last drink before the big day.

Strava track: GF Schleck

When we looked around, we saw mostly highly trained people. Our friend Stefan who normally ends quite high in the result, did not even qualify. From the start on the speed was very high. You think not to join the bunch, and while you head agrees with that, your legs say something else 🙂

The race starts with 5 km gentle up and down followed by a shorter and a longer climb. After you decent to the water you have a flat part of about 20 kilometers with high speed if you are in a big bunch. After you have every now and then some climbs which are not too long. The surroundings are very nice, and I would really want to go back once to check the landscape out again.

Personally I started way too fast, paying for that after 2 hours of race and suffering for the next 1,5 hours. I mentioned it before it’s very hard not to join the bigger bunch. It stays very tempting. The weather, around 27-28°C was also way too warm for me. When I had my first ever flat tire in a Gran Fondo, the last race motivation was also gone. I just enjoyed the landscape and rode rather gentle to the finish. Anyway, for an average biker, the result is not the most important thing to join a Gran Fondo. It’s the challenge and the satisfying feeling you keep after the finish that matt


Hotel Beau Sejour

2024 – We wanted to be close to the action and the start & finish as that eliminates a lot of hassle. So for our participation in 2024 we searched for a closeby hotel. When we found this little gem we booked instantly. It’s litteraly 450 meters away from the start & finsih line which makes it so convenient! Once we parked our car we didn’t have to move it until we left back home. Collecting our bib, attending the pasta party, attend the podium ceremony, … we all did by foot. And in the morning, we could take it easy in the hotel before heading to the start. 

The hotel staff is so friendly. There is a breakfast buffet and although it’s not that extensive, they have everything you need. On Friday, when working remote, we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant. The room was clean and the bed comfortable, although with only 160 cm of width not that big to our experience. As we booked the last rooms there were no more twin rooms available, which was not convenient for some friends of us which are not a couple. 

Légère Hotel Luxembourg

2018 – Due to local circumstances of our AirBnb host, the stay was cancelled shortly before our trip, so we had to look for an alternative. We found that with the Légère Hotel which was located 20 km away from the start place, which was about 25 minutes drive. The hotel is in an industrial zone but that one was quiet during the weekend and it resulted in moderate prices. The hotel has a paid parking garage but during the weekend we could park for free in the street. A friend was parked in the garage, and there were a lot of nice cars parked there. Not sure if it was for an event or normal business, but we enjoyed looking at all those nice cars, ranging from old timers to fancy sports cars. Reception is a huge open space and staff is very friendly. The room was big and had a very good shower. The bed was comfortable.

Breakfast was very very extensive. There is a huge buffet and I don’t think we could come up with anything which was not present. You have cold and warm dishes, and on the day of the race they even had pasta. Not sure if they do this, but I think this hotel would be a nice place to have a brunch with friends on Sundays. We can strongly recommend this hotel.

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