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Euro sportive planner: 2018 Gran Fondo Quebrantahuesos

BikesEtc
13 Dec 2017

Find out for yourself why Spain's biggest sportive is called the 'Bone Breaker'

When: Saturday 23rd June 2018
Where: Sabiñánigo, Northern Spain
Distance: 200km/85km
Cost: €75 (£66)
Website: quebrantahuesos.com

What is it?

The quebrantahuesos is a large vulture native to southern Europe. Its name – which translates poetically as ‘bone breaker’ – comes from its habit of smashing up animal carcasses by dropping them from great height onto the rocks below, then feeding on their bones.

It can be spotted hovering over the craggy peaks of the Pyrenees, which makes it an appropriate mascot for Spain’s biggest and toughest sportive, which takes place on the third weekend in June every year, attracting an international field of around 11,000 riders.

Starting in the small town of Sabiñánigo in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this is a hugely popular event among Spanish sportivists – so popular, in fact, that bagging a place is a lottery, quite literally, as you have to enter a ballot.

But that’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to ride on closed roads over some of the famous mountain passes that feature regularly in the Tour de France.

What are the route options?

As well as the Quebrantahuesos Gran Fondo itself, there is also an 85km supporting event, the Treparriscos Media Fondo.

Although this uses a much shortened version of the main route, it’s still a seriously tough challenge with plenty of climbing.

Tell me more about the climbs…

There’s no shortage of them, with a total of 3,500m of ascent over the 205km Gran Fondo route. The first major ascent is the Col du Somport, which climbs for 12km at 5% to an altitude of 1,640m.

At the summit, you cross over the border into France and continue northwards to tackle the Col du Marie Blanque (9km at 7.6%) before turning back southwards to take on the Col du Portalet (10km at 5%), crossing back into Spain for the final run back to Sabiñánigo.

Although these are the flagship climbs, there are plenty of smaller challenges on the valley roads between them that ensure you don’t get too much respite at any point of the route! 

Is it well supported?

You’ll feel like the whole town has come out to cheer you on, with over 1,000 local volunteers pitching in to help out with signing on, marshalling and running the numerous feed stations along the route, providing energy bars, cakes, bananas, dried fruit, nuts, sandwiches, sports drinks, and water.

Professional mechanics patrol the route on motorbikes to help out with any bike problems, while there are also emergency helicopters, a fleet of ambulances and paramedic motorbikes on standby should any mishaps befall you along the way.

Post-race massages are also available to help soothe those weary legs. The entry fee also includes an official event jersey and bidon, too.

What are the entry requirements?

As this is more of a Gran Fondo (amateur race) type event, you’ll need a racing licence to be able to take part – this can be provided by any UCI-affiliated national body, so if you’re a member of British Cycling with a provisional licence, this will be sufficient.

Alternatively, you can apply for a one-day licence from the race organisers for a small supplementary fee.

You’ll also need to get a doctor’s certificate to prove you’re fit enough to undertake such a testing physical ordeal – most GPs will happily provide this for you, though some will charge for the service. 

How do I enter?

This is a hugely popular event with the field limited in size, so entry through the official race organisers is via a ballot and chances of getting a place this way are down to pot luck.

Fortunately, there are numerous other avenues providing guaranteed entry – for example, Train In Spain (traininspain.net) is a British-run firm based in northern Spain that organises package tours including entry to the Quebrantahuesos or Trepariscos, airport transfers from Zaragoza, three nights in a four star hotel and travel to and from the race start, with prices starting at €695 (£620).

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of transporting your own bike, they also offer bike hire. Es la leche! As they say in Spain.

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