9 Gran Fondos to Try in 2016

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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9 Gran Fondos to Try in 2016

If you’re looking for an Italian-style cycling party, we’ve got you covered. Whether it’s climbing classic mountain passes or sipping wine as you cross beautiful vineyards, these nine “big rides” will offer you a day on the bike that you will not soon forget.

Gran Fondo Sea Otter Classic
April 16, 2016 — Monterey, California

With over 10,000 participants and 65,000 spectators, the Sea Otter Classic is easily one of the largest cycling events in the United States. The Gran Fondo portion of the weekend’s festivities includes the choice between a 51-mile (82K) coastal route along Monterey Bay and a 92-mile (148K) Carmel Valley route, which includes a 10-mile (16K) ascent up Cahoon Summit. When you’re not on the bike, stick around to cheer on the pros in the road and criterium races along with thousands of other cycling-crazy fans.

Bottega Gran Fondo
April 24, 2016 — Napa Valley, California

If you’re a cyclist who also likes to wine and dine, the Bottega Gran Fondo is for you. Each of the four routes (ranging from 35–85 miles or 56–137K) along quiet Napa Valley roads will include chef stops, which elevate typical race fuel — bananas and Gatorade — with gourmet options like lobster rolls and short ribs. After you burn a few more calories, you’ll get the real deal with food from top chefs and some of Napa Valley’s award-winning wine.

Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York
May 15, 2016 — New York City

One of the really cool things about being a pro cyclist is racing on closed roads. At the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York, riders of the 50-mile (80K) noncompetitive route and the challenging 100-mile (161K) race will get to enjoy this opportunity. Cyclists will race according to their age group, with the top 10% from each category automatically qualifying for the Gran Fondo World event.

Tour of the Battenkill Gran Fondo
May 21, 2016 — Greenwich, New York

Formerly known as Battenkill Roubaix, the 68-mile (109K) Gran Fondo course will feature rolling countryside and plenty of the challenging climbs that have made the region famous. In fact, granny gears may be required, with some sections of the course featuring a max gradient of 17%. Add in 14 miles (23K) of dirt roads and an epic finish in the beautiful village of Cambridge, and you’ve got the makings for one hell of a day on the bike.

Gran Fondo Whistler
September 10, 2016 — Vancouver to Whistler, Canada

You’ll have to head north of the border for Gran Fondo Whistler, but it’s worth the trek. Beginning in Vancouver, Canada, you’ll ride the stunningly scenic 122K (76-mile) course past Brockton Point Lighthouse to Sea to Sky Highway along the coast to Whistler on completely closed roads. After the ride, relax at the awards ceremony, enjoy live entertainment and wet your whistle at the beer garden in Celebration Plaza.

The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo
September 15, 2016 — Harrisonburg, Virginia

Looking for something a little more challenging? This 107-mile (172K) route will feature over 11,000 feet of climbing and two dirt-road summits. Known for its winding roads and mountaintop meadows, Shenandoah Mountain will provide two different timed climbs for the King of the Mountain competition. A 36-mile (58K) Valley View Challenge route and the 62-mile (100K) Mount Solon metric century are also options.

Levi’s GranFondo
October 1, 2016 — Santa Rosa, California

Whether you’re a beginner or a serious racer, Levi’s GranFondo is an event where everyone can participate. Routes range from an 8-mile (13K) family fun ride to the monster 116-mile (187K) Gran Fondo, which will feature over 10,000 feet of climbing. On the course, you’ll see everything from fir-lined canyons to redwood forests — not to mention the stunning vineyards that have made the area so famous. And in true Gran Fondo fashion, the after-party will feature live music, craft beer and some seriously good barbecue.

Gran Fondo Hincapie
October 22, 2016 — Greenville, South Carolina

This 80-mile (129K) event is one of former pro cyclist George Hincapie’s favorite training rides from when he prepared for the Tour de France. Featuring a King of the Mountain competition up Skyuka Mountain, you’ll be challenged with over 8,000 feet of climbing and a hair-raising descent down Howard’s Gap. And for cyclists looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the platinum race package includes a private course recon with George, a three-night stay at his Hotel Domestique and tickets to the celebrity chef dinner the night before the race.

Gran Fondo Miami
November 6, 2016 — Miami

A police escort beginning on Miracle Mile will take cyclists through Coral Gables and past the historic Biltmore hotel. Afterward, you’ll cruise past Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay on the way to Black Point, where the roads get a little less hectic. When you return, an Italian-style pasta party will be waiting at the finish along with plenty of other goodies. Choose from relatively flat routes of 25 (40K), 63 (101K) and 108 (174K) miles.

Photo courtesy of Sea Otter Classic.

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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