It's coming into deep winter here in Melbourne, and although our winters are mild, it can be cold and wet enough to put a dampener on our motivation to get out and ride. So to stir up the juices and motivate us all to keep some fitness for the spring and summer ahead, we thought we would have a look at the amazing and growing global gran fondo scene - surely motivation enough to ride through the winter!
It's not so long until the Aussie scene kicks off again for participation rides and the season ahead offers some enduring favourites as well as newer entrants spicing things up. Around the Bay is held each October and is the granddaddy of participation rides in Australia as far as we know. First staged in 1993 it quickly grew and has had fields of up to 17,000 riders. Hats off to Bicycle Victoria for getting the ball rolling. The participation ride scene has exploded since then and some fabulous events offer a full calendar. The (in)famous 3 Peaks is a brute of course in Victoria's high country, while the recent addition of L'Etape Australia by ASO has added NSW to the tough mountain ride mix.
Amy's Gran Fondo is rightly renowned, not just for the course and closed roads, but the memory and cause of the Amy Gillett foundation. We also love the Giro Della Donna staged by our friends at Cyclingtips, held on a beautiful course and featuring one of our favourite climbs, Donna Buang.
The Bowral Classic is also a ripper, held in the stunning Southern Highlands of NSW. Joining the list in 2017 also is the first ever Velothon held in Oz, promising a great course and weather on the Sunshine coast. A good excuse to escape the winter! There are many more of course, and across the ditch in New Zealand we also love the riding at Lake Taupo, home of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge since 1977. A tough ride in an amazing setting.
These events are just the tip of the iceberg if you wanted to dedicate the next decade or two to riding all the Gran Fondo's on offer. Italy has an amazing array such as the Maratona Dolimiti, and the most famous of retro rides, the L'eroica in Tuscany. While the Marmotte in France is stunning and brutal. And you can even ride the classics such as Paris-roubaix the day prior in a sportive now also. What could be better?
The America's are also on board now with some awesome events from Levi's Gran Fondo on the west coast to the Gran Fondo New York which is on our bucket list! And who would not want to ride the Triple Bypass in Colorado for the name alone!
Africa is in the mix as well, and the Cape Town Cycle Tour is held to be the largest mass ride in the world with 35,000 riders. Beginning in 1977 it has grown to be an amazing festival of events and an anchor for cycling in Africa.
It is an amazing list and an excuse to travel the world! And a really great element of the growth of cycling to embrace a mass participation culture and calendar that opens great rides up to a much bigger market than racing alone. Get training!
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