Colorado gains three Gran Fondos

All-Italian jobs, with promise of 'epic' routes

Three new Gran Fondos have been announced in Colorado amid a resurgence of interest in mass-participation bicycle rides in the US.

The events organised by Ciclosportivo NA LLC will emulate the Italian tradition of lengthy, challenging routes, with starting locations in Boulder, Vail and Steamboat.

“We're interested in promoting the authentic Italian celebration, the Gran Fondo,” said an official from Ciclosportivo NA. “We’ve restricted our sponsors to only Italian brands.

"What we're trying to do is an Italian-centric event using key Italian brands and make it affordable to participate in. It’s a great, beautiful, fun ride with all three events held on epic routes. Approximately 80 percent of the registrants will be recreational cyclists.”

In keeping with Gran Fondo tradition, the organisation's events cover between 100km and 200km of challenging terrain. Gran Fondo organisers typically offer a Medio Fondo of a shorter distance, but Ciclosportivo NA do not, and entrants are encouraged to arrive prepared to ride the full distance.

The first of the three Colorado-based Gran Fondo rides is scheduled to begin on 11 April in Boulder followed by Gran Fondo Vail on 19 June and Gran Fondo Steamboat on 15 August. At least six similar events are set to be held in the US in 2010.

They follow the first stateside Gran Fondo, which was held in San Diego, California, in March this year. Some 1,100 cyclists of all levels gathered in the Little Italy district to participate in one of three distances – 160km, 85km or 50km – at the debut Gran Fondo Colnago organised by Gran Fondo USA LL.

Six months later, pro rider Levi Leipheimer introduced the GranFondo King Ridge held in his home-town of Santa Rosa, California. The event was an enormous success, hosting more than 3,500 riders.

“Gran Fondo USA is really the categoric leader,” said the Ciclosportivo official. “They introduced the first Gran Fondo and partnered with Italian brands like Colnago. They did a good job and we look up to them as a benchmark. Then, Levi’s event was very exciting with a big name behind it and they did an outstanding job. For us, we are more of a hub and spoke trying to grow Gran Fondo locally in Colorado.”

Next year, Gran Fondo USA will hold a second Gran Frondo Colnago San Diego on 7 March, followed by the launch of Gran Fondo Colnago Philadelphia and a rumored third Gran Fondo Colnago in Los Angeles. Leipheimer is set to host a second King Ridge GranFondo on 9 October, and there are plans for an inaugural Gran Fondo Moab in Utah and Gran Fondo Sea Otter in California.

All Gran Fondo registrations will be open by the end of December. Registrants can expect fees of approximately US$70-100. Grand Fondo USA and Ciclosportivo NA offer KOM awards, mobile support, feed stations and an Italian-style lunch following the ride. Ciclosportivo NA will also award cash prizes to the first man and woman home – this will be doubled if the rider participates on an Italian bicycle made before 1990 – and a series leader's jersey.

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