cycling · fitness

Sam and Sarah ride the County Gran Fondo

Sarah pointed the Prince Edward County Gran Fondo out to me in the spring. I said it looked lovely. And it was close to her family farm/country getaway house. Still, that weekend was the weekend right at the start of term and I knew I’d be busy on the bookend days. It didn’t, in the end, make our summer cycling plan.

This summer hasn’t exactly gone according to plan though. We were rained out of the 5 Boro Bike Tour after just one boro. My bike broke on the day of the longest ride in Newfoundland. I was too sick to ride in the TriAdventure. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been a fun summer but the summer riding plans have often not worked out.

So when Emerson, a young friend, mentioned the County Fondo and asked if we were riding it, we changed our minds. I am so glad we did. We all signed up for the 100 km distance–choices were 50, 100, and 150 km–and that was just right. The weather was perfect late summer weather, temperatures ranged from 15 at the start to 20 at midday, with lots of sun and moderate wind.

Emerson, Sarah, and me riding on a sunny, quiet, country road. Photo by Emerson, obviously.

What’s a Gran Fondo? I’ve blogged about them before but basically they are mass participation cycling events. In the way of running marathons, some people are there to complete the distance, others want to compete with their own past times, and still others are aiming to be the first across the line. “Let the racers race and let the riders ride” is a common Gran Fondo motto.

Here’s a description of a gran fondo from one I attended a few years ago.

“Gran fondos are mass participation cycling events that have enjoyed incredible popularity in Europe for decades and are gaining momentum in North America.

Loosely translated from Italian, gran fondo means “big ride”. These rides are often a hundred kilometres or more and designed for a large number of cyclists at a variety of skill levels – everyone from the competitive cyclist to the amateur enjoy these events. The rides are judged by the challenges they offer: steep climbs, long distances and a combination of the two. While these are not races, top finishers are often recognized.

Imagine for one day, the best possible cycling roads  are yours to enjoy. Before you is an epic route with challenging climbs and thrilling descents. All you have to do is concentrate on the beauty around you. You’re feeling fit and you’re lined up for a huge ride with thousands of your fellow cyclists. It’s not a race, so there’s no pressure. You can ride whatever pace you want. You can even stop for a sandwich along the way – they’re provided. And no matter what pace you choose, you’re not likely going to be riding alone. There will be a fast bunch at the front if you want to keep up with them and you can count on local spectators cheering along the way. The scenery is better than you would see in a magazine. The ride ends with a massage and a party, and everyone’s invited.”

What’s to like about this particular Gran Fondo? I love the roads in Prince Edward County. It’s great cycling country. It was a timed event with a great range of riding speeds. The fastest person finished in under 3 hours, averaging 35 km/hr. The slowest person finished in just over 6 hours. We were near the end but we also stopped lots for snacks and scenery breaks. We were there to ride, definitely not there to race.

Emerson is a fast rider and he usually rides very long distances alone so we stuck him out in front and enjoyed drafting. Thanks Emerson!

Although I think of the county as pretty flat, I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked by the hills on this Gran Fondo. The last rest break was at Lake on the Mountain resort. Not exactly a mountain but still. On the bright side I passed on my bike, lots of people walking their bikes up the hill. No shame. We all made it the top but it surprised me that I didn’t need to get off my bike.

The event starts and ends at a resort and if we didn’t have our own place nearby it would be fun to stay on site.

You can register for the 2020 ride here. Both 2018 and 2019 sold out with 500 riders.

Me, I’ve saved the route map on my Garmin. It’s a lovely ride. I’m already scheming for a Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers bike getaway in the County where we do the 100 km ride on Saturday and the usual 50 km ice cream recovery ride on Sunday.

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