This is the first of a series of posts I will be writing over the coming months as a blog ambassador to the inaugural 2013 GranFondo Niagara Falls. I am excited about this opportunity, and hope you enjoy what I have to share. I plan to cover a variety of topics including training, the route, and other things to experience while in Niagara. To kick things off, I decided to share my view of what a Gran Fondo is…
If you’re reading this, I am guessing you already know that a Gran Fondo has to do with cycling (and might be saying, finally some non-running content on runBIKErace.com!) But what is different about a Gran Fondo than a road race or a charity ride for example? I’ve found a lot of loose translations of the Italian phrase ‘Gran Fondo’ into English, but since the term is becoming so prevalent in North America, I have chosen to simply define it from my own perspective, no translation required.
A Gran Fondo is fundamentally a mass participant cycling event. I would suggest that for most participants it typically isn’t a race, although participants are often given numbers and are timed. The focus is more on the surroundings and the experience… how idyllic! These surroundings are typically spread out over a signficant (for most recreational cyclists) distance to maximize the experience. Riders pay a registration fee and receive varying levels of support, hydration and nutrition at aid stations, event swag, and perhaps a finishers “token”. Something else you may find at a Gran Fondo are celebrities. These may be pro cyclists (sometimes the namesake for the event), or other bike riding celebs. By signing up, you can have the opportunity to rub shoulders (but hopefully not tires) with someone normally only seen in magazines. Finally, they are inclusive. These are not events solely for the fastest folks on the lightest bikes. They are designed to appeal to all levels of cyclists of want to push themselves to completing a set distance in a supportive atmosphere. A Gran Fondo is a big, fun bike ride.
Of course there are countless variations on these basic components of what I see as a Gran Fondo. Some are competitive; some have various distances including shorter routes; some are flat; some are hilly; and the list goes on. I would hazard a guess that no two Gran Fondos are exactly the same even beyond the unique route.
GranFondo Canada has already successfully organized these rides in Whistler and Banff. This year in Niagara will be their latest route in what will (hopefully) become an annual tradition. GranFondo Niagara Falls has many of the common elements I described above, with a great diversity in terms of surroundings as the closed to traffic route winds through vineyards and wineries, past a shipping canal, up and down the Niagara Escarpment, before finishing back at the largest waterfall in North America.
To me the important parts of a Gran Fondo are the location, the organization, and the riders. I have no doubt that GranFondo Niagara Falls will meet these expectations based on the organizer’s past successes, the beautiful route, and the popularity of cycling in Niagara and abroad. Perhaps you should sign up and define Gran Fondo for yourself!
I have been selected to represent GranFondo Canada’s inaugural GranFondo Niagara Falls in 2013 as a blog ambassador. I will be posting a series of entries like this one leading up to the event, and wrap it up after participating in the ride in September.