Just as any annual event should be, the 5th La Bicicletta Gran Fondo was bigger and better than ever. Lots of advance planning yielded a host of amazing prizes, an improved route (with plenty of clear signage), our best jersey design, and one George Hincapie coming up from North Carolina for the day. The only thing working against us was the forecasted cold rain, but that miraculously passed by sunrise on the day-of for clear sunny skies, a mild wind, and 18° temperature. Everyone knows God is a cyclist, and this was no time to be messing about.
As riders arrived, they were treated to a loot-bag of goodies, cool Diadora sneakers, and a warm breakfast. Those not shmoozing got to play with the new Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 electronic groupset, and try out Assos Zegho sunglasses. Soon enough, Heath gave his last-minute pre-ride chat, and then the ride was off. Each group, the Gran- and Medio Fondo, had a BMW motorcycle as a lead, and three support cars in tow, with extra food and spare wheels. ‘Gruppo compatto’ was the order of the day, with team riders from Jet Fuel Coffee and RealDealRacing controlling the pace, and even helping riders fading in the rear with pacing, encouragement, and a good push when needed. Autumn colours were in full effect, and at the top of every hill many riders were seen staring at the sweeping countryside views.
Once back at the Endras BMW dealership, a carb-heavy lunch with lots of wine and cool beer awaited. Everyone rolled in in great spirits, and mostly together. The one exception was David Kim (who abandoned last year’s ride after 10km), who received a round of applause as he came in well over an hour behind. Chapeau, David!
After everyone was satiated, many raffle prizes were drawn, and then George Hincapie’s jersey and BMC Impec were auctioned off. To serve as a reminder of where the funds were being directed, Kevin Davis retold the story of Ilija Petrovski’s life-threatening bike crash, and his current condition. All the money raised from the auction was being given to support Ilija’s family. It was very exciting to see the winner of the Impec throw it back into the ring, so it could be auctioned off a second time. Even George was impressed at the gesture. Finally, a massive cake was presented to George for his incredible career, and his just-announced retirement from the Pro peloton.
Overall, it was a very pleasant day, and had all the qualities of a great day on the bike: good people, a great route, a new kit, the chance to rub elbows with a pro rider, food a-plenty, and prizes. Plus it feels good to raise money for someone so integral to the local cycling community. It’s too bad we have to wait another year to do it all over again.
Thank you to all our sponsors (Endras BMW, Diadora, Enervit, Giordana, Pinarello, Shimano, Assos), volunteers, and participants- you all contributed to making it a very special day.