On Saturday, May 3, cyclists from all over the Northwest will converge on the small town of Philomath, Oregon for a striking race: the gorgeous Willamette Gran Fondo.
All About the Fondo
A Gran Fondo is simply a mix of experienced and novice riders from 12 to 80 years old looking for a challenging course that is timed. Why a fondo? Fondos are fun. As racing becomes more complex and more people want to challenge themselves on the bike, gran fondos strike the perfect balance between a sanctioned race and a comparatively relaxed century ride.
Gran fondos have a rich history in Europe, with many popular races such as the the Maratona dles Dolomites, which, Velo News notes, “has run for 26 years and attracts nearly 10,000 riders.” They provide a competitive environment with out the need for categories and rankings. Many riders set out knowing full well there’s no chance in hell they’ll be a top finisher, but that’s not what it’s all about. With their festival atmosphere and supportive style, gran fondos appeal to strong, competitive riders who mostly want to challenge themselves and conquer their previous best time.
About the Willamette Gran Fondo
In the case of the Willamette Gran Fondo, there are two route options: 100 miles with 6,800 ft of elevation or a less intense 55 miles with 3.600 ft elevation gain. If you need a little inspiration to make it up those moderate climbs, the scenery certainly won’t hurt; the course course features gorgeous vistas and towering forested canopies as you crank your way past Alsea Falls and through the Lobster Valley.
The event includes generous aid stations along the way (thanks to Corvallis Cyclery) and a finish line party at at Sky High Brewery Beer Garden.
Tacking Your First Fondo
There’s a mass start, and if you’re reading this article chances are good you’re not going to be the leader of the pack (we are not judging!). In fact most people won’t be the leader of the pack, at least not for very long. Instead of trying to be the first one out of the gate, get comfortably to the start line and set out at your own pace. You’ve got 100 (or 55) miles to go, there’s plenty of time to get where you want to be in the lineup of other racers.
If you find yourself in a pack that’s too intense and you need to drop out, slowly reduce your speed and begin to cautiously drift to the right. No sudden moves here, though. If you’re in a pack it’s a big mass of people intent upon one thing: going forward. Be extremely mindful as you maneuver your way to the side. Once safely on the right, lock into your preferred pace, take in the gorgeous scenery and enjoy doing your personal best.
Yes, You Are Up For This
Sure, it’s early in the season, but that should be no problem for those of you who regularly ride century rides or crank out some serious miles on the weekends. The Willamette Gran Fondo just means riding with a little more sustained effort, and not lingering at the aid stations. Century rides are all day affairs where you’re encouraged to stop and smell the roses (take photos, eat lunch, relax on your back, stretch out, chat with friends) every 15 miles or so, but gran fondos are all about speed, whatever that means to you.
How are you spending this summer on your bike? Kick it into high gear right away: sign up for the Willamette Gran Fondo and set the tone for an awesome bike summer.