September 11, 2014
The first ever Gran Fondo Asheville was held on Sunday, Sept. 7, and it was a huge success, raising over $30,000 for Friends of the Smokies!
A “gran fondo” is an exciting mix between a leisurely group bike ride and a hardcore cycling race, all with a party atmosphere. There are three routes offered, 110-, 60- and 30-miles, so cyclists of any skill level can join. On the 110-mile route, the fastest combined time across 4 timed sections is the overall winner. The Gran Fondo Asheville started and finished in Pack Square Park in the heart of downtown, right alongside the 13th Annual OrganicFest.
After months of preparation, the morning of the race finally arrived. Staff and volunteers were up before dawn, coffee in hand, already hard at work preparing the course start to finish. Volunteers made their way to their aid stations and timing sections around the course and the riders lined up at the start. After a quick safety briefing and a ten-second countdown over the loudspeaker, they were off!
The morning fog quickly burned off and gave way to a beautiful blue sky for the duration of the race. Temperatures and humidity climbed and so did the race course, over 11,000 feet of elevation gain. Racers stopped at aid stations along the route to refuel with PB&Js, bananas, and drinks chock full of much-needed electrolytes and then hit the road again, headed for the next timed section.
Riders began to return a little before noon and there was a steady stream throughout the day. Even after completing what many had called the most challenging course in the Gran Fondo National Championship series, there were nothing but smiles all around!
As the last handful of riders were coming into Pack Square Park, Mother Nature decided she had had enough waiting and the skies quickly darkened and the bottom fell out of a typical summer afternoon thunderstorm. We wouldn’t let a little rain spoil our fun though, so we huddled under a tent to hand out the rest of the medals and prizes for group winners.
We owe a special thanks to the wonderful volunteers staffing the timing points, aid stations, and start/finish line for all their help, along with the GFNCS and race timing staff. I also want to thank our partners and sponsors that helped make this event possible:
And of course, this all would have been for nothing without our rock stars on two wheels. Congratulations to our winners and thank you so much to all the riders who participated in the first ever Gran Fondo Asheville!