2011 Echelon Gran Fondo to benefit Washington State cancer programs

Routes include exclusive ride to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge

The 2011 Echelon Gran Fondo, organized by PlanetZ/Echelon, will take riders through Washington State’s Olympic National Park on 23 July in benefit of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Livestrong.

The event offers four courses, including an exclusive challenge limited to 500 cyclists that finishes on Hurricane Ridge a 5,757ft summit in the park. The three other rides range from 30 to 100 miles between the towns of Kingston and Hadlock.

The Echelon Gran Fondo differs from Seattle’s previously run Livestrong Challenge, which will not be returning 2011, but upholds the charitable benefit and challenge, say promoters. Local Livestrong chair, Patrick Chatfield said, “As a Seattle Livestrong supporter and mentor for previous Challenges in the Northwest, I am thrilled to support the Echelon Gran Fondo this year, and excited about Echelon’s partnership and support of both beneficiaries for this event.”

Participants will start the event with breakfast aboard a Washington State ferry. The rides then begin in Kingston and proceed through the hills of Kitsap County with the Super Gran Fondo finishing on the summit of Hurricane Ridge.

A celebratory after-party will be held in Kingston. “No such ride has ever been produced like this and we wanted to offer something special for the Hutchinson Center and Livestrong supporters,” said Echelon’s executive director, Hunter Ziesing. “We could not be more excited about this partnership as we intend to up the game in experience and funds raised for our primary beneficiary, the Hutchinson Center which has a Livestrong Survivorship Center of Excellence.”

Echelon also produce Gran Fondo events in Tucson, Napa, Fort Collins, Palo Alto and Portland, and are one of the largest operators of Gran Fondos in the U.S. The Echelon series, intended for cyclists of all levels, combines riding, racing and fundraising.

The fundamental difference from other charity rides is the ride itself. Cyclists ride like grand tour riders for the day, according to Ziesing. He says that at an Echelon event, riders can expect announcers, cheerleaders, helicopters, live music, marching bands, epicurean treats, and a cast of characters a la Alpe d’Huez.

Upon registration, cyclists will have the opportunity to fundraise or pay full a full fee. For more information on the Echelon Grand Fondo, or to register, visit www.echelongranfondo.org/seattle/

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