Last Sunday, 452 participants raced at the 8th edition of Gran Fondo Aldeias do Xisto, better known as Sky Road Gran Fondo, in Fundão, Portugal, an event allowing participants to ride up into clouds and through picturesque Schist Villages that make up central Portugal.
This year’s event included 3 different races: the 141km Gran Fondo, 108km Medio Fondo and 67km Mini Fondo.
The Gran Fondo is very tough with long climbs, including five categorized with over 2900m total vertical, and truly spectacular technical descents.
After a warm-up of 28km, Gran Fondo riders encountered the first major difficulty, the first category climb to the Alto do Xiqueiro, at 12km long and an average gradient of 6% it soon broke the peloton into small groups.
After passing through Cabeço do Pião, through the Barroca Grande mining complex, riders hit the second climb up Alto do Fajão, a third category listed as 7km long at 4% average slope. The biggest challenge isn’t the slope, but the ever present wind as this area is home to many wind farms.
Next up is Alto do Gavião, another third category, followed by the Wall of Janeiro de Cima, the shortest at only 3 km, but steepest with 7% average slope.
The final climb up Azor to the finish is 11 km long and an average slope of 3%. This is where the top Gran Fondo riders made their move and distanced competitors.
João Moreira (LOVE TILES) out sprinted André Resende (PADEIRINHAS SOBRE RODAS) to win in 4:11:40, with Rafael Ferreira (LOVE TILES) coming in 46 seconds later to earn the last podium position.