2013 GranFondo Niagara Falls Wrap-up

It’s been a week since GranFondo Niagara Falls wrapped up for 2013, and I am suffering from some serious post-ride blues!  After thinking and writing about this event for the past 6 months it came, and went.  GranFondo Niagara Falls was an incredible experience – the ride itself was spectacular but the whole weekend was awesome.

If pictures are worth a thousand words for you, skip my thousand words and check out my video post by clicking here.

The Welcome GranFesta ran during the day and evening on Friday.  It was held in the Crowne Plaza hotel and there were a few exhibitors set up along with the registration. Planet Foods and HoneyMaxx were offering up free hydration and Honey Stinger product samples to give a taste of what riders would find on course the next day.  Cervelo was there offering loaner bikes to anyone that wanted an upgrade for the ride.  It was a nice, low key, expo to check out after we scooped up our registration kit.  The registration process was quick and easy.  The volunteers had everything well organized and we were quickly through the line and ready to ride.  After registration we decided to find some pizza and beer for pre-ride fuelling, and then headed home to get organized and catch some sleep.  I was envious of all the people in from out of town that were staying right down at the falls, and near the start line.

Quick registration at the Welcome GranFesta Expo

Quick registration at the Welcome GranFesta Expo

GranFondo Canada also organized the FamilyFundo at Great Wolf Lodge on Friday.  I didn’t attend this event, but saw pictures and it looked like fun.  I thought it was a cool way for families that were down for the ride to get their kids involved and active (not that there isn’t enough awesome kids stuff at Great Wolf Lodge already!)

Almost time to roll

Almost time to roll

At the crack of dawn on Saturday we were unloading bikes from my van and putting on a few layers of kit for the cool September morning.  We rolled down Clifton Hill and onto an amazing scene with 1000 cyclists queuing up right in front of Niagara Falls as the sun rose.  Jim Cuddy and Barney Bentall sang the Canadian National Anthem, and we were off.  We started in the front corral which wasn’t the pace I was looking for that day.  That group was off and pushing about 45 km/hr north along the Niagara Parkway as the sun climbed up over the horizon.

Elevation profile for the day

Elevation profile for the day

I spent the day bouncing between groups and other cyclists I knew.  The sky was blue, the breeze was light, and the roads were all for us.  I wanted to really experience the ride, and not put the blinders on and bury myself trying to set a fast time.  I rode with friends I knew and strangers I had just met.  I stopped at aid stations and chatted with volunteers.  I took advantage of the closed lane and spent km’s at a time riding side by side and chatting with my riding partners.  It was a perfect cycling day.

I’m not going to go into detail on the route (again) but wanted to share some highlights.  I’ve also put together a little video of parts of the ride that will give a high speed example of what the route looked like on that day.  Riding north on the Niagara Parkway towards Niagara on the Lake as the rising sun shone through the trees dividing the river and parkway was a beautiful way to start to the day.  Blasting down into the Thorold Tunnel that runs under the Welland Canal was definitely a unique experience.  I remember noticing the warmth as we dipped underground, and then the difference as we returned back up to the much cooler outside air.  It was really nice to cruise through the agricultural land in Pelham along the country roads.  The last stretch of the Niagara Parkway coming back towards the Falls was a beautiful way to end the ride.  It was a fast stretch of road and it felt really cool to come down into the first view of Niagara Falls and then push it to the finish line.  Along the way, all of the aid stations were well stocked with drinks, food, and super helpful enthusiastic volunteers.  One even had a steel drum band playing!

Beat the early crowds to one of the many aid stations on course

Beat the early crowds to one of the many aid stations on course

Steel drum band entertainment at an aid station

Steel drum band entertainment at an aid station

The event wasn’t over when I crossed the line and turned in my timing chip.  The post-ride Celebration Plaza was next up.  Once Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, as well as Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland (aka Whitehorse), and a handful of other musicians finished their rides, the concert started.  Queen Victoria Park was a great spot for this and offered tons of room for riders to hang out, have some food and drinks, and listen to great music performed by folks still decked out in their cycling kit!  It was a great afternoon in the sun to cap off a great ride.

GranFondo Niagara Falls was definitely a world class event.  I know the organizers would have loved to see more participants, and I truly hope the numbers grow in future years and that this can become a long standing late summer tradition.  I had a great time, and everybody I talked to (organizers, sponsors, riders, volunteers) did as well.  The Niagara Region is a great cycling destination, and GranFondo Canada created the best way to experience it.  I was down near the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel again on Sunday morning and loved seeing so many cyclists on and off their bikes grabbing coffee and enjoying another day in Niagara Falls. Thanks for reading my GranFondo posts over the past few months, and I hope to see even more riders down here in 2014…

If you haven’t already, please check out my wrap up video with footage from the ride by clicking here.

RBC-GFNF Working (cmyk-no shield)I was selected to represent GranFondo Canada’s inaugural GranFondo Niagara Falls in 2013 as a blog ambassador. I posted a series of entries like this one leading up to the event, and this one wraps it up for the year.

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