If you and your bike are craving a little more of the dolce vita, riding in a Gran Fondo– “big ride” in Italian- may be just what you need. Though the term was coined in Italy and is officially defined and certified by the Italian Cycling Federation, Gran Fondos can be found across the globe. In some countries, notably the U.K., these races are also known as “sportives.” Keep reading to learn about gran fondos and sportives both near and far, and choose your own cycling adventure.
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Ride the gorgeous California landscape in support of well-deserving causes with 3-time World Road Racing Champion Peter Sagan. This road-based gran fondo benefits several nonprofits that work to support at-risk youth in California and nationwide: the King Ridge Foundation, the Specialized Foundation, and the Adventure Risk Challenge. To foster a love of cycling among young people, registration is free for cyclists under the age of 24. This event, which takes place November 1-3, includes many volunteering opportunities and a pre-race gala to benefit these organizations. The other Sagan Fondo event, the Truckee Dirt Edition, takes place in early May, so slate that one for 2019.
The Peacham Fall Fondo may be the closest you’ll ever get to riding the rainbow. This October 13 event takes riders through the brilliance of
Vermont’s famous fall foliage, framed by picturesque farmland and mountain views. If the idea of cycling through a world of orange, red, and yellow isn’t enough to entice you, also know that you’ll be riding along with pro-cyclist and Peacham resident Ian Boswell on this route of gravel and mixed terrain.
Do you have what it takes to conquer all 3,000+ feet of elevation and steep pitches on California’s Figueroa Mountain? Would it help to know there’s beer waiting for you at the end? That’s the deal the Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo is offering on November 10 in the breathtaking Santa Ynez Valley. Riders can choose between multiple routes of varying length and difficulty, all capped off with a post-ride party hosted by sponsor Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. There’s also a timed KOM/QOM segment up Figueroa Mountain.
If you consider yourself to be equal parts serious cyclist and party animal, the definition-defying Grinduro is your kind of ride. Beginning September 29 in Quincy, CA, this event in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a 2-day racing festival featuring cycling, music, art, food, camping, and more. Don’t let all the good vibrations fool you, though- this is a serious route with 7,500 feet of climbing. But if you’d prefer less pain and more party, this year’s fondo features the Grandurito, a shorter, gentler ride. All proceeds benefit the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a nonprofit that builds and maintains trail infrastructure.
Ever ridden right up to a castle? Now’s your chance. In its second year, the Wiggle County Durham Dynamo Sportive challenges cyclists to the hills and valleys of the southernmost countryside of County Durham, England. Along the way, you’ll ride through quintessential English villages and ultimately a castle- Barnard Castle to be precise. There’s a place for every cyclist in County Durham, as this sportive has a route to suit every level: short, standard, and epic.
The Fred Whitton Saddleback Challenge may be a charity event, but it is no languorous stroll about the English countryside: riders rank it on par with routes like France’s legendary La Marmotte in terms of difficulty. The route circles Northern England’s Lake District and is one of the most popular sportives in the U.K. The event is held in honor of the late cyclist and advocate Fred Whitton, and it benefits charitable organizations including Macmillan Cancer Support and the Duddon and Furness Mountain Rescue Team. Put this event on your cycling list of must rides.
L’Eroica is a gran fondo for the cycling purist. Founded in 1997, L’Eroica is a collection of Italian routes meant to reconnect people to the origins and pure pleasures of cycling. Creator Giancarlo Brocci puts it best: “We want people to rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest.” There are several routes of varying distance and difficulty but, no matter which you choose, you’re sure to encounter castles, medieval villages, and the hospitality of the Italian countryside. As a foundation, L’Eroica also helps to preserve and protect the last gravel roads in Tuscany.
If you’ve read about these impressively fun and challenging rides but you’re still thinking, I’d prefer a bit more suffering in a more exotic location, it’s time to check out Haute Route. These 3 or 7-day events take place throughout the year in some of the globe’s most iconic cycling locations. Can you handle the switchbacks of the Norwegian fjords? Or the majesty of riding along the French Alps from Nice to Geneva? Perhaps you’d prefer to take in palaces and sand dunes as you ride along the Al Hajar mountain range of Oman? Chances are, if you’re up to it, Haute Route offers you the chance to ride your wildest dream. Check out our Haute Route adventures from last summer and the videos that go along with.
Share your wish list of Gran Fondos or a ride other Wahooligans should add to their list in the comments below.