May 23 2012

Gran Fondo Gatineau 2012 – Race Report

Two weeks after my fist marathon, I took on the hills of Parc de la Gatineau for the Gran Fondo Gatineau road cycling race.

The event was part of an entire weekend that included the women’s professional elite time trial and road race. Go here to view a report of those races.

The Gran Fondo route was two loops of a beautiful closed course from just outside of the park gates to Belvédère Champlain, the highest lookout point in the national capital region. Official vertical gain would be just over 1800m.

This event gave out the best race kits I can remember. The items are all things that I would actually use, and contained none of the stacks of paper flyers that jam my recycling bin.


Gran Fondo race kit. Good goodies.It was already quite warm outside when I left the hotel for the short 4km ride to the start line. A good warm up to get the legs spinning.

I slotted myself close to the middle, hoping to stay with a good pace group, and not closer to the front where I would have to work harder to keep up with the faster pelotons.

Race Start

No timing mat at the start line. My chip time started as the official clock started, just like a pro race.

As I had hoped, I found a good peloton of about two dozen riders, who breezed through the first 10km with nary an effort.

Km 7

This stretch of road was by far the worst. Riders in front were pointing at cracks and potholes left and right. Everyone seemed to make it through safely though.

Km 11

The first major climb entering the park: up Chemin de la Notch. Steady 2km climb, not that bad.

Km 14

Tucked down in the drops and zipped down behind a small group of riders, almost losing all the elevation gain from the previous climb. Good time to relax and take a drink before the next challenge.

Km 17

Second major climb on Kingsmere to Promenade de la Gatineau. The group was really starting to get strung out now, and I started to pick my way to the front. There was only a few of us together at the top.

Km 25

The Promenade Champlain climb seemed to go on forever. The path winds left and right several times while not letting up on the grade. Most people have slowed right down here. I was still able to pass a handful here.

Km 32

After a series of rollers, I reached the turn around point at Champlain Lookout, the highest point in Parc de la Gatineau. The view was great – there was already quite few tourists standing at the ledge enjoying the panoromic view of St. Lawrence Lowlands.

Km 37

I got to immediately reap the fruits of my labour by descending down the same Promenade Champlain stretch. Its winding twisting nature that made the climb seem long also made the descent fun. It’s a great feeling to bank around the curves at full tilt.

At this point, I met up with Eric and Nadine, who was driving a similar pace as me. We shared the work for the next 30km or so, on and off.

Km 45

Almost at the end of lap 1. There was a stretch of false flat here, which seemed more difficult after all the descending.

Km 52

The turn around point to start lap 2, which was a 180 degree turn through a roundabout. The turn seemed a lot tighter that it looked. Images of the Ukranian time trialer wiping out here was still fresh in my mind.

I went in with quite a bit of speed, maybe too much for my abilities, and hung on hoping the wheels wouldn’t slide out beneath me.

Nadine and then Eric found me again after getting some separation over the last few km, and started trading pulls until the climbs.

Km 65

Start of the major climbs all over again. A sizeable train had built up behind the 3 of us for some reason, but once we hit the slopes, everyone immediately strung out.

When I reached the top, there was only one other guy with me. We both slowed down to wait for other to catch up. One other guy finally joined up, but Nadine, Eric, and the others were nowhere to be seen, so I pressed on.

Km 77

I was starting to feel the heat and legs were starting to tired as I approached the Promenade Champlain climb again. This time, it seemed even longer than the first loop. I was all alone, chasing a guy in the distance wearing an FDJ team kit.

Km 85

Finally made it to the lookout. My back was killing me and I started having saddle sores for some reason, so I really needed this stretch break. I took a couple minutes to stretch out, had some more gels and Shot Bloks, and started the final leg home.

Km 90

At least the Champlain descent was just as fun as the first time!

Km 100

Finish line was still no where in sight. It was obvious the course would end up way longer than the advertised 102km…

I was slowly getting destroyed by the false flats in this part of course.

Km 104

Finally, the off-ramp back to des Allumetières was sighted.


Spirited sprint for the line. (I think?)

There’s a white line some 50m in front of the timing mats. Even some of the pros from the day before stopped early, thinking the white line was the finish. I concentrated on not making this mistake.

If the organizers use the same course next year, I think they can easily make the adjustment to line up the finish timing mats with that white line. That should reduce the confusion.

Pasta with meat sauce and free beer from the local micro-brewery Brasseurs du Temps was the only fitting ending!


The route was scenic, and the organization was top notch. This was a course well suited to my strengths – it was relentlessly up and down, with very little flat stretches for me to lose time. I might have done better if I had more help in the second lap, but I can’t complain.

Now where can I find a hilly time trial race?

1 comment

1 ping

  1. Hong

    Wish I was there, would of been fun chasing you down haha.

  1. Gran Fondo Gatineau 2013 – Ride Report – HenryLo.ca

    […] loved this course so much last year that I decided to make the trek to the nation’s capital to give it another […]

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