So, as many locals have been made to be aware, Gran Fondo will be in Niagara Falls tomorrow. When I initially heard of this event, I had no idea what that meant. I asked by boss this morning if he knew what Gran Fondo was before Gran Fondo Niagara Falls was brought to our attention and he said he thought it was an Italian bread made for dipping. So there was my answer…I’m sure a lot of you knew what it was, especially if you are a cyclist, but I’m sure that there are plenty floating in the same raft as the two of us…so what the &*#$ is a Gran Fondo anyways?
Wikipedia says “A cyclosportive, or often simply sportive, is a short to long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling event, typically held annually. The Italian term Gran Fondo is commonly used for these events in the United States, Australia and some other English-speaking countries”. Many cyclists use a Gran Fondo as a race against the clock, with prizes awarded for top place finishers. This type of an event falls between a traditional cycle road race and the more challenging non-competitive Audax events. An Audax is a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Success in the Audax event is simply determined by completion. The Gran Fondo participants however, carry a number and an electronic chip that will record the finishing time. This is a lengthy course (typically anywhere between 66km-268km), complete with climbs and difficult riding conditions. The Gran Fondo Niagara Falls in particular is 125 km long, with an elevation of up to 1100 metres!
Here is a map of the Gran Fondo Niagara Falls route:
All Gran Fondo events have a starting corral. This I am familiar with through running races, and it’s the exact same policy. Based on your average speed, you fall into a particular category. The fastest racers will be at the front of the pack, with the slower cyclists at the rear. Cyclists are expected to maintain a speed of 20km/hour to stay in the event. When you see the “Fine Gara”, that vehicle indicates the tail end of the race and all cyclists that fall behind this will be offered the “Rider Bus”– which is the next vehicle behind the Fine Gara and will be offered a transfer to the finish line. If riders choose not to take the Rider Bus, they will then have to follow the rules of the road as they will be open to the public again at that point. They also risk not having their time recorded when they finish. 2:30 pm is the cut-off limit for the Gran Fondo Niagara Falls riders.
The Gran Fondo Niagara Falls event will start and finish at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. Everyone is welcome to be a spectator and cheer the riders on! The start corrals open at 5:30am. All riders are expected to be in position in the start corrals before 6:30am. At 6:45 am the race will start immediately after the national anthem. It is very important to establish an appropriate position in the corral so that the slower riders won’t deter the faster riders and the faster riders won’t be stuck behind the slower cyclists. It will lead to a smooth transition. The electronic chip timer will begin as soon as a participant crosses the start line, so no matter how far back a racer is, it will not effect finishing times. This is not a gun-timed event.
If you are a local and you are unsure whether road closures will effect you please click here for a detailed listing of updated road closures via the Niagara Falls Review. In honor of the Gran Fondo, the always popular Niagara Wine Festival will kick off a weekend earlier than usual, meaning riders and spectators are encouraged to celebrate the completion of the course (with the beginning start corral finishers expected at approximately 1:00pm) with wine and food pairings at any of the participating wineries in the region! For information on the Niagara Wine Festival click here.
1:00pm will also begin a FREE live concert at Queen Victoria Park by Juno award-winning Jim Cuddy and the legendary Barney Bentall, to perform at the finish celebration of the inaugural GranFondo Niagara Falls. Come on out!
Many hotels in Niagara Falls are completely booked up for this event — tired cyclists and wine enthusiasts will not want to travel. The Clifton Hill Niagara Falls Hotel is in a prime location to the start and finish line — just a 5 minute walk from the hotel! There are still a few rooms left for the event, so if you want to be close to all the action, book fast! Check out the online reservation system right here.
For more September and upcoming Falls events coming to Niagara Falls, click here.
For more information on the Gran Fondo Niagara Falls race go to www.granfondocanada.com or follow them on Twitter www.twitter.com/GranFondoCanada or Facebook www.facebook.com/GranFondoCanadaNiagaraFalls