America’s first ever Gran Fondo series kicks off on Sunday, 7 March when riders of the Colnago Gran Fondo San Diego depart from India street in the heart of the city’s Little Italy neighborhood at 7am.
This weekend serves as the second running of the San Diego event, which is followed by Colnago Gran Fondo USA series events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 8 August and Los Angeles, California on 24 October.
Demand for the events is high, as illustrated by the sell out of all 3,000 spots for this weekend’s rides in San Diego. Riders will take on one of three routes, which range in distance of 100, 53 and 32 miles.
Combined with a Ferrari escort out of Little Italy, the highlight of this year’s Colnago Gran Fondo San Diego is its start, which takes riders over San Diego’s Coronado Bridge. Riders of all three distances will cross the two-mile long bridge, which is normally closed to cyclists. The Coranodo’s five lanes link San Diego to Coronado Island. At its height the bridge puts riders 200 feet off the water.
Gran fondo, an Italian ride
Gran fondos are timed mass start cycling events historically ridden in Italy — in other parts of Europe where they’re known as cyclosportifs — both competitively and simply for the experience. The same model is applied to the Colnago Gran Fondo USA series, where riders are chip timed, including a King of the Mountain (KOM) hill climb split, where the winner gets a prize, but are inclusive to non-competitive riders who simply look forward to the challenge of the experience.
“There are four elements that make a Gran fondo,” said Rob Klingensmith, Gran Fondo USA partner and event director. “A mass start, chip timing, a unique and challenging course and a celebrity component. This year our celebrity is Paolo Bettini.”
Klingensmith emphasized that Gran fondos, whether in Italy or the US, are inherently Italian, which contributes to the experience of the events.
“What may be confusing to American riders is that many century rides are simply renaming themselves as 'gran fondo',” he said. "True gran fondos like the Gran Fondo Colnago series should emphasize this 'made in Italy' theme.
For the competitive types San Diego’s marquis 101 mile long route will offer awards for the King (and Queen) of the Mountain. Riders with the fastest times up Honey Springs road, which spans mile 40-47 along the route, will win awards, which go three places deep overall and two places deep in all age groups. The Honey Springs climb represents 1,858 feet of the course's total 5,500 feet of climbing. The medium and short routes do not feature KOM prizes.
Making it an experience
Aid and refreshment stations are spaced roughly 20 miles apart on all three routes, and include a stop at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Campagnolo provides mobile tech support via car, motorcycle and at three of the aid stations for the event, where riders can repair a flat or make needed adjustments to finish the ride.
In addition to the rides, Colnago Gran Fondo offers a two-day expo where you can check out the latest cycling gear and apparel. It also serves as rider check in and packet pick up. Admission to the Gran Fondo expo is free for both riders and spectators.
Proceeds from the Colnago Gran Fondo San Diego go to the American Melanoma Foundation.
For more on the Gran Fondo USA series, visit granfondousa.com
Look out for a full event report and photos of the Colnago Gran Fondo San Diego on BikeRadar.