Operating in conjunction with the Tour of the King Valley, the Strade Nero Gran Fondo is one of the latest and most exciting mass-start events to spring up in the stunning Victorian High Country. Incorporating several stages across two days including the NRS level Tour of the King Valley and the much anticipated Strade Nero Gran Fondo, there’s no shortage of things to see and do for two-wheeled enthusiasts.
With managed roads, punchy climbs, and a handful of glorious gravel sections, the Strade Nero is the closest that many of us will get to riding in an officially sanctioned UCI race! So with the weekend of cycling set to kick-off on Friday, 11th October 2019, we cover all you need to know about the event to make your two-wheeled pilgrimage to the King Valley a saunter.
How to Get There
Situated around 256 kilometres North-East of Melbourne, Milawa is a three hour drive from Melbourne.
For those who prefer a more direct method, Regional Express (REX) airlines offers two flights to Albury regional airport, situated roughly one hours drive from Milawa. There are both taxi and car hire services available from the airport, however it is recommended you source your own vehicle in order to see all the sights the region has to offer.
The Gran Fondo Route
There is just one route option on offer for 2019, a 126km long course that follows the exact same route as covered by the men’s and women’s NRS professional riders. Riders on course will be treated to race-like conditions, with riders setting off in waves, based on estimated average speed across the road course.
The route starts and finishes in the picturesque Sam Miranda winery located in Milawa. The route heads west towards Glenrowan for around 7km before turning south towards Greta. The road undulates slightly towards Greta South, but it is mostly flat, giving the riders a chance to settle into a rhythm on the day.
Riders then take a left-hand turn climbing up and over Kilfeera Rd towards the town of Myrrhee. This 14km section sees riders rolling along a false flat for 9km before the road gradually ramps up. The final 1.4km of the climb hovers at 4% with an 11% pinch just before the top of the climb sure to test the climbing legs. From here riders descent into Myrrhee and turn right onto Benalla-Whitfield road to start the Strade Nero gravel section. The gravel section clocks in at 6.2km in length and average 4% in its gradient and takes riders up to the highest point on the route, a little under 600 metres above sea level.
Back on the bitumen, riders then take a left and descent on the Mansfield-Whitfield road into Whitfield. From here riders, head back up Wangaratta-Whitfield road towards Oxley. A new addition for 2019, rather than continue all the way to Oxley, riders take a left at Moyhu towards Greta, rejoining the out route briefly before a final timed gravel sector on Oxley-Greta West road takes riders back into Milawa. All told, riders are expected to amass just over 900m of climbing over 126km on the route.
With 126 kilometres of riding planned, the Strade Nero Gran Fondo should present as a reasonable challenge for riders of all abilities. We’ve rounded up a few fundamental tips and tricks to make sure both you, and your ride, are fighting fit coming into the event.
Prep Your Bike
Preparing your bike is as important as prepping your body for the event. In addition to ensuring your bike is in perfect working order, consider what spares you’re likely to need in case something goes wrong.
To ensure your ride is performing at its best, it’s worth checking your bike in for a service at your local bike shop(/d). This will not only have your ride feeling like new on the day of the event, but also reduce the likelihood of you suffering an event ending mechanical that could’ve been avoided.
When looking at the setup of your ride, it's worth taking the course profile into consideration. With a modest 900m of climbing planned, it’s a toss up between bolting on those aero carbon wheels or looking for something a little shallower to make scampering up the climbs that little bit easier. Gearing is another aspect to consider, fitting a 11-28, 30 or 32T cassette out back matched with your crankset configuration of choice might just provide you with the gear range you need at the end in case your legs sabotage your efforts.
Sort out your Nutrition
In a gran fondo, nutrition becomes all the more crucial to ensure you don’t just finish the ride, but that you enjoy your time in the saddle too.
Thankfully, planning your nutrition is more common sense and less shooting in the dark. Like all good things, however, enjoying your ride starts with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. On the morning of an event, it’s important to ensure what you eat works for your stomach, is easy to digest in the early hours of the morning and provides long-burning energy.
On the bike, it’s crucial to maintain your hydration and energy levels. For hydration, riders should aim to consume 500-1000 ml of fluid per hour on the bike. This may mean carrying multiple bidons, or a quick stop to refill your water bottles on the route.
As your body can only store enough carbohydrates, or glycogen to fuel the body for around 90 minutes, you’ll want to look to keep your energy stores up to avoid hitting the wall. It’s worth remembering that the average human can only ingest 60g of carbohydrates per hour of sustained exercise, so look to fuel your ride with cycling-specific nutrition that tempers portion sizes to suit this. And like your breakfast, be sure to only eat things that you know you can stomach.
What to Wear
Whilst the event takes place at the beginning of October, this doesn’t guarantee sunshine and fair winds. Inland regions such as this are known for their changeable weather conditions, so it pays to be prepared for all weather conditions.
A simple way to ensure you are prepared for all conditions and aren’t over, or under layered for the event is to keep an eye on weather forecasts for the area in the weeks and days leading up to the event and pack accordingly.
Regardless, arm warmers and a lightweight rain jacket are popular items for conquering any gran fondo and will stop you from freezing even if you’re otherwise underdressed for a surprise burst of weather.
Much like the food selection, whatever clothing you choose, be sure that you've worn them before. Finding out that new pair of bib shorts isn’t the perfect fit for you 50km into an event will make for a terrible day on the bike.
More than a Gran Fondo
Planning on bringing the family along and making a weekend of it? There’s much more to the Strade Nero weekend than the Gran Fondo itself.
Taking place on Friday the 11th and finished on Saturday the 12th, be sure to check out the fast and furious action of the Elite NRS Tour of the King Valley set to take place over the course of the weekend.
If loading the weekend full of bikes and racing isn’t your bag, the King Valley has loads for the family to do. Complete with great food, coffee, wineries, cellar doors, craft beers and live music, the King Valley serves as the perfect destination to wind down after the event, or relax while your other half toughs it out on course..
Yet to register for the Strade Nero Gran Fondo? Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to enter and train! Use the code BIKEEXCHANGE99 at checkout for discounted entry to this years event!