I am a big fan of events that attract a wide range of nationalities. It makes the events interesting with different national flairs while getting a peak into other cycling cultures. A race in Cyprus makes it especially fascinating. Located only 260km West of Lebanon it is an attractive vacation location for Europeans and Asian countries.

The Cyprus Gran Fondo Challenge had 24 countries represented that created a spectacular international atmosphere. But not only that, it was clear this was not just another Gran Fondo – it was the first European qualifier for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in 2017. Three days, three opportunities to qualify for Alby, France this August: A time trial and two road races.

The races were tough. The 26km time trial was the first opportunity to get the legs fatigued. Although I didn’t have a time trial bike, I decided to give my best instead to rest. It even paid off placing third female overall.

Staying in the designated 5-star race hotel that was situated right at the beach, I could cool off in the ocean before enjoying the huge buffet. I call that cycling heaven!

But Cyprus has more to offer; namely the mountains that are situated close to the beach. The race promoter made sure that we would not miss this opportunity so the two road races had plenty of climbing incorporated. In fact, the time section of the second road race covered only 45km but with 1100m of elevation gain. Yes, it was almost climbing right from the start.

Although we were competing against each other, there was great camaraderie. I met a Swiss race participant at the airport who I spent most of the time with. I chatted with the Maltese National Team and got invited to the Tour of Malta, I got to know British expats living in Qatar and Dubai and rode with Russians back to the hotel. Those experiences and talks were more insightful than any culture course!

The Cyprus Gran Fondo Challenge is for anyone who is looking for sunny and warm weather in March, great challenging but not over-the-top race courses and who are interested in an international atmosphere with fantastic organization and deluxe accommodation!