One of the upfront differences between U.S. and Italian gran fondos is cost and swag. U.S. events are pretty pricey and you’re lucky to get a water bottle and wrong size polyester t-shirt. Italian events on the other hand are only about €35 ($40) and come with a bag chock-full of Italian goodies. But the best part of an Italian gran fondo is the people. Italians love cycling like Americans love baseball.
Are charity cycling events a lost cause? Not yet, at least at the Tour de Palm Springs. Since 1999, the nonprofit group behind the event, CVSPIN (Coachella Valley Serving People In Need), has given more than $3.2 million to charities including Boy Scout troops, homeless organizations, high school bands, Desert AIDS Project, United Cerebral Palsy, and countless others.
Although I’m a die-hard roadie, I do enjoy getting a little dirt on my cleats. So when Yamaha invited BICYCLIST to preview the Wabash on the legendary SoCal Belgian Waffle Ride course, I put my snow shovel away, packed sun tan lotion and headed west for an e-adventure.
With the grueling job of riding, reviewing and writing about road events, I have the opportunity to experience many, especially in my backyard – Western USA and Canada. Here are my top picks for 2018’s Best of The West Gran Fondos.
After 21 individual qualifying events on four continents, the best amateur riders from 60 countries are in Varese, Italy to compete in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. Today, 2,500 amateur racers and me, a journalist pretending to be a racer, are ready to start with rainbow-striped world champion jerseys on the line.
An out-and-back from the center of Coachella Valley to Joshua Tree National Park. 106 miles highlighted by tall mountains, blue skies and wide-open desert vistas, plus no old guys in Bentleys aiming to run me over while texting to set up a tee time.
Offering ride lengths of 100, 50 and 25 miles with male, female and tandem categories the Tour De Acoma offers every rider a chance to win prized Acoma pottery. Plus, with all proceeds going to the Haak’u Museum Foundation the event helps preserve New Mexico pueblo history and art. That’s a good thing.
Organized by the same folks who put on the 7-day Haute Route Alps, Pyrenees and Rockies, Ventoux offers the same Pro-like experience both on and off the bike in a perfect 3-day weekend format. Based in the quaint French village of Bédoin the route covers 270km with 7800m of climbing, including three ascents of Ventoux.
Recently, I had the pleasure of riding with the Desert Bike Club on their Flat Fast and Furious Thursday ride (aka The Rat Pack). So, if you’re in town and looking for a cool fast group ride, this ride is solid. I dig it.