On October 4, Martin’s Tour of Richmond Gran Fondo bike ride took place, and I participated in the long course (101 mile) option. I’m glad to report that it was one of the most scenic and well-supported rides I’ve ever done.
The tone of the day was set when I pulled up to the start staging area at the Richmond Motor Speedway. I saw police cruisers and motorcycles everywhere. Nervously, I asked a policeman what had happened. “Nothing,” he told me. They were just getting ready to head out onto the course. As they rumbled past, I felt confident that the event staff had things well in hand, and that riders would be well cared for.
Packet pick-up went smoothly, and soon the riders were gathered for the start of the race. The Gran Fondo ride format originated in Italy. The name means “Big Ride,” and it can best be thought of as the marathon of cycling. It’s a timed, competitive event, but it’s open to everyone. All riders, from elite professionals to newbies, challenge themselves only to the extent that they choose to.
Riders were treated by an enthusiastic send-off from race guest Alison Powers, a member of the United Healthcare pro cycling team, who participated in the 29-mile ride option. Once underway, riders were treated to a truly wonderful course. From tree-lined roads along the James River, past Civil War battlefields, to the downtown capitol district, neighborhoods and surrounding farmland, the course provided beautiful views without too many big hills. The weather cooperated to provide a perfect day for riding.
The first aid station didn’t come until about a third of the way into the ride, at mile 35, but more aid stations came every 15 miles or so after that. They were well stocked with sports gels, energy bars, and various treats and snack, as well as water and sports drink.
The race end provided a fitting climax: a full lap on the motor speedway track. After collecting a finisher’s medal, T-shirt and goody bag, riders were feted to a bar-b-que pork and chicken lunch, complimentary beer, and live music.
I have to admit a bias at this point: I love Gran Fondos, and now have done a number of them. Still, I can say that this one rates high on my list, and it is one that I would happily return to. For more information, and to tab next year’s race, visit http://www.sportsbackers.org/events/tour-richmond.