Published Date Written by Marty BaschAre you ready for a gran fondo? The White Mountain Gran Fondo, a fundraiser for an organization called City Year New Hampshire that encourages youths aged 17 to 24 to volunteer as mentors for a year in Manchester schools, is a timed long-distance mass-start race that will pierce the region's mountainous core along agonizing hills through area notches.
The 100-mile event with 50- and 25-mile options is open to a field of 400 riders. It is scheduled for August 24, 2013 and will utilize Mount Washington Valley roads like the Kancamagus Highway, Bear Notch Road and Route 302 through Crawford Notch.
"The White Mountains is a premiere bicycling location with its scenery and challenging climbs," said event coordinator and City Year New Hampshire development manager Allie Holmes. "We want this event to highlight our state."
Gran fondos are popular in Europe and are held throughout the U.S. too. An Italian term that translates to "big ride," a gran fondo is something akin to a marathon for cyclists where they race against each other and the clock.
In addition, there tends to be some fanfare along the way and at the finish.
"I think we'll see all kinds of riders at the event," said Holmes. "The elite cyclists will challenge each other and the times. But I think there will also be recreational cyclists who want to ride 100 miles and see how fast they can do it.
Then they'll want to come back and do it faster."
The gran fondo will begin at Loon Mountain in Lincoln with the medio fondo (50 miles) starting from Bretton Woods. There is also a piccolo fondo (25 miles) that gets under way in Franconia. All options end at Loon where plans call for a live band and award ceremony, possibly with jerseys for the top riders in various age and gender categories.
"There will be bragging rights," Holmes said.
Some two years in the making, organizers wanted to have a strong foundation in the White Mountains and met with state, town and resort officials to see it this was a good idea.
They got a thumbs up.
As for the route, it was suggested by former Irish Olympian Paul McCormack who frequently rides the White Mountains and lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He's also familiar with long distance events in the Bay State like the Pan Mass Challenge.
McCormack cycled for Ireland (he was born in Dublin) in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and twice competed in the World Road Championships. Holmes said McCormack will attend the event, but is unsure whether he's riding.
"Paul worked with some of his friends to put the route together," she said. With the event still less than a year away, the route may still be tweaked.
Holmes couldn't say what a good finishing time might be for an elite rider.
The gran fondo goes over the Kanc from Loon and hooks up to Bear Notch Road which will have a rest stop. Then it's over Bear Notch and up Crawford Notch at Route 302 to Bretton Woods for another rest stop (and start of the medio fondo) before heading to Twin Mountain, Whitefield, Bethlehem and into Franconia for another rest stop and start of the piccolo fondo. Then everyone rides to the finish at Loon.
The 100-miler starts at an elevation of 973 feet, goes to a high of 2,877 feet and has a 5,942 foot elevation gain.
Event organizers plan an official event launch next Friday in Manchester. Entry fees are $150 for the 100-mile ride and $100 for the two others. Registration is slated to begin Sept. 28. There's more information at both cityyear.org and whitemountaingranfondo.com.
Holmes says the registration fees will help support City Year's programming to support struggling students in New Hampshire. She says the goal is also to generate tourism revenue for the region.
"The cool part is that we have all these young people who are part of our organization who will volunteer along the ride at the rest areas and finish," she said. "They'll certainly add to the spirit and fun of the event."