To survive the Gran Fondo New York it needs more than just a peanut butter jelly bagel. You need the right tactics, preparation and skills to conquer a race in the world’s most exciting city. We spoke with Nelson Vails, the first Afro-American to ever win an olympic silver medal in the individual track sprint, long time NYC bike courier and GFNY ambassador to get some top tips for you.

1. Coming to New York to race the GFNY is always a good chance to spend a few days in the Big Apple. What are your recommendations to hang out as a bike geek?

Your first stop should definitely be a lap in Central Park to enjoy the sites. But be aware of the traffic, as it can be a little dicey. In the evening, Time Square is fun to enjoy, especially if this is your first trip to New York City.

2. With the race starting early in the morning, do you have any recommendations on what to do on George Washington bridge?

During your GFNY packet pick-up at the expo, it’s great to purchase some extra clothing like long gloves, a warm jacket, arm warmers etc. if you forgot to bring them. At the start, there will be a bag drop to place extra clothing in, which will be waiting for you at the finish line.

3. With over 160km of racing and some mean climbs, the right tactic is decisive to survive GFNY – what is your secret tip?

Personally, I like to stop at each rest area for food and drinks and to take some photos of this amazing experience!

4. What is the hardest part of GFNY? Which climb should I be saving my energy for?

The last 60 kilometres can be a lot of work if you have the wrong pace at the start of the race. Take your time, eat and drink well and enjoy the ride. My Pro tip is using compact gearing – I personally like to ride 11-32 in the back with a 50-34 crank.

5. Where and how do you recover after the race?

I enjoy the GFNY party at the finish line area after I pick up my bag. They have free food for all participants, drinks, music and of course the presentation ceremony. If you are staying in the city, you should prepare to ride back to your hotel for some rest and then have some nice dinner close to your hotel! (Uli, founder of GFNY, recommends El Centro on 9th Avenue)

Thanks for the tips Nelson, we wish you all the best for GFNY!

For more information on Nelson’s personal projects, you can visit his website.

Words: Noah Haxel Photos: Noah Haxel, Others