Echelon Gran Fondo’s five-round series kicked off at the Napa event in California on 21 May. The 160-kilometre mass-start group ride included a lengthy 10-kilometre climb over Ink Grade won by Andrew Hanford in a time of 17:26 minutes.
Hanford earned the day’s King of the Mountain bragging rights for his quick paced tempo up the 1,800ft climb over Ink Grade, besting Adrian Lobito, who rode the ascent in a second place time of 18:08 minutes. Hunter Ziesing, who founded the Echelon Gran Fondo in 2009, rode in for third place with a time of 18:09 ahead of Dana Williams in 18:18 for fourth and Bubba Melcher in 18:20 for fifth.
The participants were offered gourmet pastries at the top of the climb, freshly baked by Napa’s Culinary Institute of America. “The day was great with just over 1000 participants,” Ziesing told BikeRadar. “The climb was nice, but not quite as hard as some of the other climbs that will be in the following Gran Fondos. The weather was fantastic. California Highway Patrol gave us a full rolling enclosure for seven miles down the Silverado Trail, which was kind of neat, ceremonial and less stressful.”
The daily events offered something for cyclists of all ability with routes that ranged from 56-, 104-, and 160-kilometres through the scenic vineyards of the famed Napa Valley.
The shorter route took a group out along the Silverado Trail into the outskirts of neighboring town of St. Helena and back to Napa County. The two larger loops enjoyed a similar route along the Silverado Trail, climbed over the Ink Grade and wrapped through the rolling mountainside back into Napa County.
Echelon treats their riders like high profile pros, by providing on road escorts and even a media chopper
Echelon Gran Fondo partnered with Livestrong and local cancer institutes to raise funds for cancer survivors, treatment and research. The Napa Gran Fondo benefitted the St. Helena Hospital Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center along with the Queen of the Valley Cancer Center, the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition and Canary Foundation, which is dedicated to detecting cancers early. “We grossed over $100,000 in charity,” Ziesing said. “Canary Foundation was newly added as a charity and we presented them with a $5,000 check. The foundation was built around cancer detection. I’ve lost a lot of friends to cancer and there are so many cures these days so a lot of our funding is going toward survivorship and cancer detections.”
Echelon will host four additional events and the next in line is the Seattle Gran Fondo on 23 July. The third event is the Fort Collins Gran Fondo, which will be held in conjunction with an International Cycling Union (UCI) qualifier for the Amateur Road and Time Trial World Championships held from 19-21 August.
The penultimate event is the Palo Alto Challenge and Gran Fondo held on 17 September and the series concludes at the Hood River Gran Fondo on 24 September.