The GFNY: Santa Fe, New Mexico – June 23, 2019
A big slice of New York cycling is headed west, to New Mexico on June 23 when Santa Fe hosts only the second ever Pro-like Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) event in the United States. Offering up a 10350’ mountain top finish after 81 miles and 7500’ of climbing, GFNY Santa Fe is epic, maybe Hors Épic – beyond epic.
I recently pre-rode the course, checked out the local scene and compiled a list of insider tips to help riders have a great time and, most importantly, great ride in the “Land of Enchantment”.
SANTA FE-STYLE LOGISTICS
Santa Fe is “City Different.” It’s the oldest and highest elevation state capital in the US at 7200’ nestled against twice as tall Sangre de Christo Mountains. Here you’ll find a community valuing art, counter culture, local food and the outdoors more than a corner office 9-5 job.
With GFNY starting near the historic Plaza consider staying in an adobe casita from cyclist friendly AdobeStar Properties, followed by huevos rancheros with green chile for breakfast at Plaza Cafe. You’ll find the local velominati at Betterday Coffee and Second Street Brewery pre and post ride. Mechanical issues? Relax, Mellow Velo has you covered.
No trip to Santa Fe is complete without visiting the bona fide cultural phenomenon, Meow Wolf. It takes you on an immersive art experience through a psychedelic non-linear world void of pedals and gears, making it a perfect off-the-bike activity.
Santa Fe’s altitude is the tall elephant in the room nobody talks about. By far the biggest challenge GFNYers face is riding into thin air. Arriving a few days early helps the body adjust, just drink lots of water, eat carbohydrates, ride easy and don’t drink alcohol until after the event. Watch out for altitude sickness, it strikes without warning and feels like going six rounds with an MMA fighter.
“Time to channel your inner Marco Pantani and be The Pirate. Averaging 5.5% the Ski Santa Fe climb grinds you down, one agonizing pedal stroke at a time.”
PROLOGUE (5 MILES)
The course rewards tactical, smart riders conserving energy for the final climb. Going hard early with a group that is clearly stronger will end badly, very badly, when they jettison you off the back like a spent artillery shell. With that said, plan to throw down some power from the first pedal stroke on a 2-mile opening climb, followed by twisty narrow roads sure to string out the field. Stay as far forward as possible, the next segment is long and fast where you want to practice your best wheelsuckery.
ROCKIN’ DOWN THE HIGHWAY (23 MILES)
Turning onto Highway 599 you’ll immediately feel rough pavement, loose gravel and cars whizzing by at 60mph. GFNY may sweep the gravel, but plan on getting buzzed for the next hour. This is a good time to sit in, recover, take a drink, sit in and soak up Ortiz Mountains views straight ahead – while sitting in. Resist the urge to take a superman pull up front, unless bridging to a group – then sit in.
BACKSTAGE PASS (14 MILES)
Beautiful section winding through rolling foothills covered with piñon pine and Hollywood elites filming blockbuster movies. The finish is visible high atop mountains to the east, yet still hours away. At I25 stay vigilant descending through the 400-year-old village of La Cienega, up a short punchy climb and crossing the Santa Fe River via a dry (hopefully) dirt arroyo.
MOGUL MADNESS (24 MILES)
Things start to get serious now with miles and miles of up and down – mostly up. Million-dollar view adobe homes dot the landscape as the course backtracks before descending into Tesuque and starting Bishops Lodge climb, a warm up for what’s coming. Don’t kill yourself trying to stay with a group here, losing a minute or two now is better than blowing up and losing 30 minutes – or more – on the final climb.
THE WALL (15 MILES, 3900′)
Time to channel your inner Marco Pantani and be The Pirate. Averaging 5.5% the Ski Santa Fe climb grinds you down, one agonizing pedal stroke at a time. The first part is 4.5 miles with a steep beginning, easy middle and steady grade to Ten Thousand Waves Spa, followed by a fast descent. Second part is 6 miles twisting and turning deep into Santa Fe National Forest. This is the crux of the climb, the part that feels like death by 10,000 pedal strokes and seemingly goes on forever. Final 4.5 miles starts with a thank-god downhill before climbing to Vista Grande Overlook where it’s time to burn all your matches, if any remain, with only a short downhill and shorter uphill to go.
No matter how you roll under GFNY’s finish banner (arms raised, thumb-up or tongue out) take time to enjoy completing one of the hardest gran fondos in North America. But don’t enjoy too long, your Pro-like experience doesn’t include a Pro-like helicopter ride off the mountain, you have to ride 15-miles back down – or hope GFNY offers a shuttle.