There is no denying that greater Los Angeles area is "big," and it was fitting that on the last Sunday in June with perfect weather and deep blue skies that it was the setting for the first Gran Fondo Colnago Los Angeles.
Immensely popular in Italy, the gran fondo — which mean "Big Ride" in Italian — the Gran Fondo USA series grew this year after their inagural San Diego event in 2010 — that ride became the second annual event in April this year.
The first Los Angeles Gran Fondo proved to be something special, beginning with the mass start on world famous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, which served as the culmination of a week called, "La Dolce Vita Beverly Hills". On the start line Beverly Hills Mayor, Barry Brucker, joined Nicola Faganello, Consul General of Italy, and Ernesto Colgano, Italian bike pioneer and founder of Colnago sports bicycle manufacturing company to start the event.
"It's been a great week of Italian food, cinema, fashion, art, cars and now this," said Mayor Barry Brucker, just before the start of the 72 mile ride. "It's officially our first bike ride in Beverly Hills and I hope this becomes a yearly event for us."
Gran Fondo co-founder Mattelo Gerevini shares this sentiment, and in addition to this year's San Diego and Los Angeles events, there will be a ride in Philadelphia in August, followed by a ride in Miami in November. "The success of our events is based on our adaptation of the ‘Made in Italy' theme for the American cycling community," says Gerevini.
The Los Angeles ride certainly captured the spirit of climbing in the rolling hills of Tuscany or cycling along the Italian coast. After heading out of Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, riders turned on to scenic Pacific Coast highway and into Malibu and through numerous canyons that seemed another world away from the shopping and skyscrapers. Here riders attacked the iconic Piuma Road climb, ascending 1,500 feet in just five miles with more than 10 switchbacks and some of the best views in the region.
While there was certainly no shortage of complaints from riders on the way up, nearly all said it was worth the climb. Riders also called this one of the very best possible routes. "Riding through Beverly Hills and then the canyons," Scott, a rider from Pasadena told BikeRadar, "there was nothing like it."
According to the organizers roughly 1,300 riders took part, with nearly every one finishing, including Rose Angry of Miami. She was the final rider to finish the course, and said she hopes to improve her time next year. She comes from a state with zero hills, and climbing Topanga Canyon Road was, in her words, "challenging".
"It was a lot more than I expected," Angry told BikeRadar, adding that she would be back again next year. "Absolutely, this was among the best rides I've done and it is a credit to the organizers and it just shows their level of professionalism."
The organizers and sponsors agreed that this June ride was a success. "It was wonderful," said Ernesto Colnago. "We would be very happy to come back here again."