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Gran Fondos – Rapidly becoming Cycling’s Most Popular Events

What is a Gran Fondo?

I had never even heard the term Fondo until 2011 when the owner of my local bike shop decided to found the New Jersey Gran Fondo. There was a lot of buzz and excitement in the local cycling community over this new event, but what was it exactly? Gran fondo, in Italian, loosely translates to “big ride.” Generally, these events are long distance recreational rides that have a race component added to them with some challenging timed segments scattered throughout the ride. For most of the ride you can cruise along, enjoying the scenery, but then on certain hills, if you want to, you can compete against others to test your strength and climbing prowess. The fastest climbing male and female win the King and Queen of the mountains award at the end of the day. Most fondos have several distance options, ranging from just under twenty miles to just over one hundred miles (and some are even longer!).

Since I first heard the term fondo, there has been an explosion of fondos all across the country and around the world in fact. Many former professional cyclists now sponsor their own fondos, there is now a Gran Fondo National Championship Series and even USA Cycling is recognizing Gran Fondos as an integral part of the sport. These rides are a great way to challenge yourself, give yourself a training goal, and get a little bit of a taste of racing without the danger of racing in the pack.

Farm to Fork Fondo

This summer I am riding the Farm to Fork Fondo in New York’s Hudson Valley. These relatively new Farm to Fork Fondos, sponsored by Wrenegade Sports, are a great way to see some beautiful scenic areas of the northeast and also show support for local farming.

"Hundreds of cyclists start off on the Farm to Fork Fondo ridng tour in heavy rain at Cedar Lakes Estate in Greenville at 9:15 AM Sunday morning June 28, 2015"

“Hundreds of cyclists start off on the Farm to Fork Fondo ridng tour in heavy rain at Cedar Lakes Estate in Greenville at 9:15 AM Sunday morning June 28, 2015”

Farm to fork, sometimes referred to as farm to table, basically means delivering locally grown, fresh food to local consumers. In an age where many products are grown or manufactured in distant locations it is great to support small family owned farms and local businesses/agriculture. Some larger corporately owned farms where many grocery store chains obtain their produce, make genetic modification to their fruits and vegetables to make them grow faster, be more resistant to pesticides or the elements and possibly even look more appealing. Long-term consumption of these genetically modified foods may have side effects that we are not even aware of presently, hence the start of the farm to fork movement. Obtaining your produce from local farms means that the produce is more fresh, many times organic and contains no genetic modifications.

The Hudson Valley Gran Fondo features rest stops at six local farms, including Pennings Farm where the start/finish is located. These rest stops offer a chance to see these farms and also to sample some fresh produce grown right there in the Hudson Valley. There are four Farm to Fork Fondos offered throughout the summer in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Maine. Ride them all or pick a destination you have always wanted to explore and join in the fun.

Tasty fresh foods at the farm to fork rest stops.

Tasty fresh foods at the farm to fork rest stops.

How to train for a Fondo?

Training for a fondo is somewhat dependent on what your goals are in riding the fondo. Long endurance training rides and hill climbing are definitely necessary in order to prepare yourself physically and mentally to successfully complete rides like these. If you are aiming to win some of the timed segments then you need to start doing some long hill repeats, structured interval training, and possibly even invest in a power meter to help with your training. If you are very serious about competing and have the time, going out and pre-riding the course will also be extremely helpful so you will know what challenges you will face on the day of the actual event.

Even if you are seriously competing for the King or Queen of the mountains award, make sure you take some time in between the timed sections to enjoy the ride and the beautiful views. These rides are usually filled with gorgeous landscapes and the scenery is part of what makes them so popular. Honestly, saving your energy for the timed sections will help you anyway, so why not enjoy the ride in between. I am looking forward to hammering on some new hills and riding on some new and beautiful roads in the Farm to Fork Fondo this June.