Gran Fondo USA's Italian ride series kicks off in San Diego

Alitalia signs on board as support sponsor

The Gran Fondo USA will kick off with the first of four Italian-style mass-start group rides at the third annual Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego on Sunday, April 10. Former professional cyclist from Austria, Peter "Paco" Wrolich, will line up alongside roughly 2,500 participants under the Little Italy arch on India Street in downtown San Diego, California.

Unlike the previous year's rainy conditions, participants will welcome expected sunshine and 60-degree Fahrenheit weather while riding the Gran Fondo's 168km and the Medio Fondo's 100km routes. Both routes will start on India Street and pass more than 5,500 feet of climbing that includes a timed King (and Queen) of the Mountain ascent on Honey Springs Road, a 10.7km ascent that average a 5.2 percent gradient. Last year, the top three finishers of the KOM were Vincent Lombardi, Soren Krebs and Eric Marcotte and Deya Guerrero won the QOM ahead of Christine Gregory and Mari Holden.

Participants will be treated to a two-day event expo that will showcase more than 70 exhibitors along with an Italian-style lunch. Guests visiting the VIP area will be treated to Brunello di Montalcino wine, Grana Padano cheese and other delectable Italian gourmet foods. In addition, the ride will include aid stations located every 32kms along route.

Returning supporters of the event include the Italy-based bicycle manufacturer Colnago, who renewed its sponsorship for an additional three years. Other returning sponsors are Campagnolo, Fulcrum, Gaerne, Speedplay Ride Strong Bike Tours and Active.com. New partners include the Italian airline company, Alitalia, along with Full Speed Ahead, Michelob Beer, Italy Bike Hotel, and Ferragamo's family wineries, Cuore Italiano, Villa Sandi, the Italian Trade Commission, GU Energy, Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco wineries, Prologo, Maxxis, Italy Bike Hotel and Il Palagetto winery.

The Gran Fondo USA series typically offers three distances that include approximately 160km for the Gran Fondo, 90km for the Medio Fondo and 50km for the Piccolo Fondo. However this year event organizers eliminated the traditional Piccolo Fondo for the San Diego event. Following the ride in San Diego, an inaugural event in Los Angeles, which was postponed this year, will start on Rodeo Drive on June 26. The second annual Philadelphia ride will take place on August 14 and the series will conclude with a new venue in Miami on November 20.

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