10 Epic U.S. Gran Fondos Worth Trying

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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10 Epic U.S. Gran Fondos Worth Trying

The gran fondo, originated in Italy in the ‘70s and translates to “big ride.” While many notable fondos are in Europe, there are plenty of great ones in the U.S., too. Check out these 10 gran fondos from coast to coast that offer breathtaking scenery and an unforgettable day on the bike.

TOUR OF GEORGIA GRAN FONDO
Helen, Georgia
May 7, 2017

Photo Credit: Stephen Rahn

If you enjoy the challenge of climbing the steepest gradients, this race, nestled in the heart of the north Georgia mountains, is all you could ask for. The 100-mile course includes four timed climbs with sections ramping up to 12%. When you’re not ascending, you’ll have to navigate technical, fast descents down some of the Appalachian Mountain’s most scenic roads.

OREGON GRAN FONDO
Cottage Grove, Oregon
May 21, 2017

Photo Credit: Luz

Located 20 minutes north of Eugene, this gran fondo through the South Willamette Valley and Siuslaw National Forest travels along beautiful rural roads with minimal traffic. Though there will be plenty of pros on the ride, the atmosphere is family friendly and participants of all abilities are welcome. Choose from the 71-mile medio course or the long gran option, which totals 117 miles.

TULSA TOUGH GRAN FONDO
Tulsa, Oklahoma
June 9–11, 2017

Photo Credit: John Hixson

Tulsa Tough isn’t just a race, it’s a three-day celebration of the sport of cycling. From a family friendly townie ride to professional races, there will be something for everyone. The two gran fondos each cover more than 100 miles, with a timed King and Queen of the Mountain competition held during Saturday’s ride and a five-mile Tough Time Trial section on Sunday. When you’re not on the bike, there’s plenty of other action to kick back and watch while you fill up on good food and beverages.

GRAN FONDO ALLEGHANY
Covington, Virginia
July 22, 2017

Photo Credit: Arbogast Inn

One of the very first gran fondos east of the Mississippi, this 116-mile gran fondo is fun and challenging. The route heads through western Virginia’s Alleghany Highlands where you will be tasked with long, steep climbs (totaling 8,838 feet) and descents that require good bike handling. If you’re looking for something a little less difficult, the piccolo (31 miles) and pair of medio (69 miles) options are perfect for beginner and intermediate abilities.

TOUR DE BIG BEAR HC GRAN FONDO
Big Bear, California
August 5, 2017

Photo Credit: Cobber99

If you’re looking to take on a challenge even pro cyclists are wary of, the epically beautiful Tour de Big Bear is it. The course features more than 12,000 feet of climbing along a 125-mile route, including an Hors Categorie section that will determine the King and Queen of the Mountain winners. Non-competitive cyclists are also welcome to join the event, but beware: The course is difficult and will challenge your fitness like few other events on the 2017 race calendar.

THE VERMONT CHALLENGE GRAN FONDO
Stratton, Vermont
August 17–20, 2017

Photo Credit: Brent Soderberg

This 107-mile gran fondo on Saturday rolls through river valleys, scenic farmlands and plenty of historic towns, ending at one of New England’s most famous ski resorts atop Stratton Mountain. With flat-to-rolling terrain and picturesque views, one day on the bike in Vermont might not be enough, which is why you may also choose the two-, three- or four-day package that includes supported rides in varying locations throughout the state.

GOLDEN GRAN FONDO
Golden, Colorado
August 27, 2017

Photo Credit: Kent Kanouse

Colorado is one of the premier cycling destinations in the U.S. This historic route through the Rocky Mountains traces the course used for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and utilizes some of the same roads as the original Coors Classic Pro Race in the ‘80s (Think: “American Flyers”). While the climbing won’t be subtle (12,000 feet total), you will be treated to alpine vistas and lonely roads where you won’t encounter many cars. Choose from three distances, including the 81-mile gran, the 53-mile medio and the 18-mile piccolo.

MAMMOTH GRAN FONDO
Mammoth Lakes, California
September 9, 2017

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

Just 45 minutes from Yosemite, the eastern High Sierra and White Mountains offer a jaw-dropping backdrop for one of the most organized and well-supported gran fondos in the country. Parts of the 102-mile route will be closed to traffic, and the sections that aren’t will have wide bike lanes, very few cars to battle and almost no traffic lights or stop signs thanks to the race’s remote location. There will be several steep and sustained climbs to navigate, so if you aren’t feeling up for the “big ride,” 42- and 70-mile routes are options.

ROLLFAST GRAN FONDO
Carmel, Indiana
September 17, 2017

Photo Credit: Dan

If you’re into speed, this is the race for you. With a 100-mile dead flat course and roads sheltered from the wind, the race is famous for the sub-four hour challenge — a feat that’s difficult but not impossible with the right group of riders. If those kind of average miles per hour are out of your reach, opt for the slightly more relaxed 25- or 65-mile routes instead.

EMMITT SMITH GRAN FONDO
Frisco, Texas
September 30, 2017

Photo Credit: Clarkmaxwell

With a 2.2-mile children’s ride and 22, 45 and 62 mile (100K) options, this is a race that has something for everyone. The race begins and ends at the Rough Riders Stadium in Frisco, where live entertainment, a beer garden and plenty of family activities await. There’s also a $10,000 dollar purse for the 100-mile course, which is sure to attract the attention of top-flight professionals. All proceeds from this nonprofit event go toward providing educational opportunities for underprivileged youth.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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