Preview: Gran Fondo’s NYC Bike Expo

Italian-style racing takes over New York

This weekend, Gran Fondo New York will be treating the city’s road cyclists to their 2nd annual Expo. Taking place just two weeks after Bike Expo New York, which was geared more towards commuters, GFNY’s Expo aims instead to bring “Italian style bike racing to NYC.”

The Expo will be held from 11am-8pm on Friday, May 18th and Saturday, May 19th at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in Midtown Manhattan, and will lead up to the Gran Fondo New York on Sunday, May 20th. More 5,000 riders are expected to partake in this 110-mile event, which leaves from the George Washington Bridge at 7am.

“We’re very focused on making GFNY an unforgettable experience for everyone,” said Uli Fluhme, who founded and runs GFNY. “It will be the largest road cycling Expo in NYC ever.”

Fluhme has decades of experience racing Gran Fondos, as well as an obvious passion for this particular racing style. To him, the distinction between a classic European Gran Fondo and the century rides that are more common in the U.S. include"massive police support, closed roads and competition with prizes worth over $100,000."

BMC pro George Hincapie gets to race on closed courses through beautiful areas as his day job; for the rest of us, events like the Gran Fondo New York offer a unique experience

“It's not just a ride in open traffic,” he said, “but it will have the feel of a big race where racers and finishers start at the same time and complete the same course.”

The four key climbs of the Gran Fondo, which are “Italianized” as Passo del Daino, Montagna dell’Orso, Colle Andrea Pinarello and Colle Formaggio, will be chip timed, and count towards the Fondo’s King and Queen of the Mountain competition.

Despite the intensity of the style, the event is not limited people who consider themselves racers.

“GFNY is open to all fitness levels. Some people will compete on the climbs at the Gran Fondo, others will just complete the course and enjoy the camaraderie,” Fluhme said. “There is enough space for everyone and everyone is welcome…That’s the true spirit of Gran Fondo.”

There is also a Medio Fondo, where more casual riders can complete most of the 60 miles of the New York City leg of the course

Fluhme has been planning to expand and improve this year’s Expo since last year’s inaugural Gran Fondo.

“Last year’s Expo was small because everything new is tough,” he said. “But we have 50 exhibitors this year and expect 12-15,000 visitors.

The race itself has also attracted a number of new participants.

“GFNY grew from 1,900 to 5,000 riders from year one to year two now,” Fluhme said. “We have riders from over 70 countries and 48 US states. We added even more police, so we now look at 150 officers with 100 cars.

Finally, Fluhme plans to close the event out in style.

“The finish will be in Weehawken with unparalleled views of Manhattan. The party and awards ceremony [will be held] right there,” he said. “After the event, riders get a free ferry ride back to NYC.”

GFNY as an organization has even bigger aspirations for 2013, including a pro race. But for the time being, Fluhme is just looking forward to “seeing 5,000 riders at the start on George Washington Bridge, all dressed in the GFNY jersey and ready to roll. It's very emotional to see after 12 months of hard work.”

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