Gran Fondo bike rides gain popularity in US

Facebook Twitter More...


See all 17 gran fondos at “2010 North American gran fondo bike rides”

Update: Jan. 14 — 6 gran fondos added in California, Oregon, Colorado and British Columbia

Amateur cyclists and recreational bicyclists in the US and Canada will get more opportunities to participate in Italian-style gran fondo bike rides in 2010.

Nearly a dozen gran fondo bike rides are scheduled next year in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario.

Cyclists appear to be hungry for such events.

When 3-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer launched a gran fondo-style bike ride in Santa Rosa last October, 3,500 cyclists signed up.

Word must have spread among cyclists, because when online registration opened on Tuesday for the October 2010 King Ridge Gran Fondo — 10 months before the event — half the 6,000 spots were reserved the first day. (If you want to ride this event, you better sign up … now.)

More rides

In addition to Leipheimer's event in Santa Rosa, the Tour of California is sponsoring two gran fondos along the course of two Tour stages before the race in April.

Centurion Cycling  is launching its first season of gran fondo with rides in California, Colorado and Wisconsin, and Gran Fondo USA is offering rides in San Diego and Philadelphia next year.

Then there are other “big rides” that have the character of the Gran Fondo, but without the name. The century bike rides offered by AdventureCorps in Southern California, for instance, are timed events but don't have the mass start. The El Tour de Tucson has a mass start, is timed, and is basically a race for those at the front, although it doesn't carry the gran fondo name.

Closed course

Essentially, gran fondo (Big Ride) is the Italian name for the cyclosportives that are held all over Europe. Although geared for the non-ProTour rider, many of these events have mass starts and are timed so that the top riders can compete for prizes at the finish.

The cyclosportives are held on closed, or at least controlled, courses. Some follow the routes of the Spring Classics or stages of the Grand Tours, such as the l'Etape du Tour which often uses that year's hardest stage of the Tour de France and draws more then 8,000 cyclists.

To see the extent of these mass participation bike ride scheduled in Italy next year, check out this gran fondo calendar.

Since the gran fondos are largely a new idea in the US, it's difficult to judge how closely they'll resemble the European counterparts. For instance, it's hard to imagine local authorities closing off 100 miles of road for a day, although rolling closures might be possible.


Here are some gran fondos scheduled next year in the US.

Gran Fondo USA

The company launched the Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego in 2009 that starts and ends in the city's Little Italy section. That's returning, as well as a gran fondo ride in Philadelphia.

Gran Fondo Colnago San DiegoMarch 7, 2010; 3 distance options.

Gran Fondo Colnago PhiladelphiaAug. 8, 2010; check website.

Breakaway from Cancer rides

The Amgen Tour of California and Specialized are offering two gran fondo-style events that raise money for cancer research. Participants will be awarded prizes for fund-raising. Chip timing is offered with splits on major climbs and sprints.

The Sunday, April 11, bike ride is the Stage 2 route from Davis to Santa Rosa of the 2010 Tour of California. The event will be timed.

The Sunday, April 25, bike ride is the Stage 8 route the encompasses Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. The event will be timed and offers three options of 30, 55 and 80 miles.

Registration opened Wednesday for Specialized customers, athletes and friends. Public registration opens Dec. 21. Details for each route will be announced Feb. 1. More details at Breakaway Ride and Tour of California press release.

Sea Otter Classic

A gran fondo ride is scheduled April 17, 2010, as part of the Sea Otter Classic at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey. Presented by Specialized and Bicycling magazine, the ride offers three options of 100, 45 and 28 miles. Each course offers a timed road climb. Participants get a 4-day pass to the Sea Otter Classic, April 15-18, 2010.

Centurion Cycling

This outfit is launching its first season with four gran fondos, three in the US and one in Canada.

The weekend events start with a short, 25-mile ride on Saturday, following by the more challenging 50- to 100-mile bike rides on Sunday. They are timed events with a mass start and feature rolling closures of roads along the route.

Initial plans call for each weekend to get progressively more difficult.

Lyons, Colorado — July 17 – 18, 2010

Madison, Wisconsin — Aug. 7-8, 2010

Mammoth Lakes, California — Sept. 11-12, 2010

Blue Mountain, Ontario — Sept. 18-19, 2010

The ride starts are seeded, so that the more experienced, or faster, cyclists start ahead of slower ones. Start-finish times and some splits are recorded by chips the cyclists carry with them.

Trophies and prizes are awarded for categories, based on age for recreational cyclists and license for amateurs.

Check the Centurian website for more details. Also check out the article in BikeRadar.

Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge Gran Fondo

This gran fondo returns to Santa Rosa for its second year on Oct. 9, 2010. Registration opened Dec. 15 with half the 6,000 spots filled up the first day.

There are three rides: PiccoloFondo is 30 miles; MedioFondo is 65 miles and GranFondo is 103 miles on a challenging course that includes mountains and coastal riding.

No prizes will be offered to the fastest finishers, although timing chips will measure individual riders time over certain sections of the course, such as a climb.

The ride helps raise funds for Santa Rosa's annual participation in the Tour of California as well as the Forget Me Not Farm of Sonoma County.

(Photo above from 2008 STP where cyclists crossed the Lewis & Clark Bridge over the Columbia River in groups.)

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.