The Echelon Gran Fondo series held its inaugural Seattle Gran Fondo last Saturday and was blessed with picture perfect weather to accompany stunning and challenging 30, 70 and one of two 100-mile routes.
The Gran Fondo started for many of the almost 500 riders with a ferry ride from Edmonds, Washington across the Sound to Kingston. The ride proper kicked off with an escorted group through tree-lined two-lane highways and over the Hood Canal Floating Bridge before the groups split to complete their various routes.
The first 100-mile route took riders over undulating terrain to the tip of Port Townsend peninsula and back to Kingston. Seemingly never flat, the course featured 45 ascents, and accumulated 6,500 feet of climbing by the time the ride was finished, some of the short-steep climbs at a 20% grade.
The course earned numerous accolades from participants in the expo area at the finish. "Over the last 6 months of putting this course together, it seemed that each day presented some new epic component to add to the route," said Echelon's David Cochran. "This route has to be one of the best kept secrets in cycling. Add the uniqueness of a ferry ride, great food and entertainment and it all came together as a very special day."
The second 100-mle route, dubbed the Super Gran Fondo, worked its way to a 17-mile mountaintop ascent up Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. Super Gran Fondo riders ended up with 10,000 feet of climbing in their legs before being bussed back to the ferry terminal in Kingston. "It was absolutely clear and sunny on Hurricane Ridge," says Cochran. "It looked like a mountain top finish at the Tour de France.
"It was a huge hit and a first for Echelon to use this dramatic hill top finish," added Echelon's founder Hunter Zeising. "The climb rivals Mount Evans and Mount Washington in Colorado – events where people fight to get in."
The fastest finishers for each ride were David Endres in the 30 mile, David Cieri in the 70 mile, Greg Donohue in the 100-mile, and series founder and Executive Director Hunter Zeising in the Super Gran Fondo.
The biggest fund raisers? "Our top team was 'RC4' (Ride for Cures) at $11,645, a great group of guys that ride to raise funding and awareness for charity," said Cochran.
"We also had the spirited 'CNA Honeybadgers' that raised over $8,000. Team Sampson was next who was led by Paul Sampson who was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia last March but rides on! Team 'Lefty's Gone' raised $6,345 who was led by Kevin Carty who was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 but came through it with flying colors. You can probably guess the origin of the team name. One of the most inspirational teams was Team Bob who raised $6,300 and rode in honor of Bob, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor (glioblastoma) in early December. Bob made it to the expo as a volunteer, showing amazing determination."
Echelon Gran Fondo's next run is in Fort Collins, Colorado on August 20-21 (Echelon will also host the 2011 UCI Amateur Road Race and Time Trial qualifiers in Fort Collins), then Palo Alto, California on September 17. The 2011 series ends in Hood River, Oregon on September 24.