It can be a slow ride, so several of these cyclists take it easy.
But not every rider goes at a leisurely pace in the Gran Fondo Florida, the 10th annual race that started in 2012, but has been held in San Antonio since 2014.
The race is the season-opening event for the organization’s National Series.
Arguably the “easiest” event of the Gran Fondo National Series, based on total elevation gain, the nonstop rolling hills — in the community known as San Ann to locals — also make it the hardest gran fondo within Florida. And, it rewards riders who can work well in groups.
“Yeah, we do (like the hills),” Gran Fondo founder and director Reuben Kline said. “It’s beautiful scenery, nice hills and great, warm weather. We get all the people who live up North that love to come down to this event because you just can’t beat this weather for a ride. This is a real jump into Spring.
“And when you think about the rest of the country (and the colder weather), this is the place to be.”
Gran Fondo is a little different from your typical cycling competition. For starters, there were three routes available during the race in San Ann.
The Piccolo Route was the shortest at 35 miles, while the medium-length one — the aptly named Medio Route — was 55 miles. The longest route, at 94 miles, was the Gran Route.
However, in gran fondo, a rider’s overall time from start to finish does not matter. There are sections varying in length that are the timed segments. This makes the gran fondo a long-distance cycling event that focuses both on the competitive and recreational experience.
Riders leave together at the specified start time, but then choose their own pace to either finish and have fun or focus on competing for their best time over the timed sections.
“Race sections are typically anywhere from 3 miles to 10 miles,” Kline said. “The sections added together give you your competition time but, in between, you can enjoy the scenery, socialize, catch your breath, get some water, stop to use the bathroom — so this gives riders of all abilities to come out here and have a great time, whether they’re competing or just enjoying a Sunday ride.”
The event in San Ann was the first of eight run by Gran Fondo, and it is quite popular among its riders, who travel from far and wide just to compete. Like Jay Trojan from Rhode Island.
“I’ve done this one several times, but I do it because, yeah, I like the competition,” Trojan said. “Seems like it’s bigger and bigger every year, but I like coming to Florida (to be in this race).”
Results from Gran Fondo Florida, presented by Capua Law, can qualify riders for the 2022 USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships. That is scheduled on July 17, during Gran Fondo Asheville, in North Carolina.
Kline knew there would be plenty of competitive riders, especially in the first race of the season. That’s fine by him, since Kline was happy to kick off the season not only in Florida, but with a great turnout.
“We’ve got a solid mix of competitive riders and riders who just want to ride,” said Kline who founded his organization in 2012. “Riders of all abilities — we always see that. You want to be the top-notch, badass rider and get it? You can go for it and win it overall, but if you just want to accomplish it as a weekender and to do something, you can do that, too, and that’s what Gran Fondo is all about.”
Published March 30, 2022