Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego give cyclists a true Italian experience

The start of the 2011 Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego

The start of the 2011 Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego (Image credit: Colnago Gran Fondo USA)

The third edition of the Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego was highly successful as more than 2,500 cyclists experienced a piece of Italian culture at a mass-start group ride held on April 10 in San Diego, California. The social ride was followed by a late-lunch where riders were treated to quality foods and wines of Italy.

"The event was phenomenal because we were graced by good weather with sunshine and it became a gorgeous day with a breeze from the ocean," said Matteo Gerevini of Gran Fondo USA. "This race is becoming a classic, starting in Little Italy, and all the riders rode out to the seaside."

Former professional cyclist, Peter "Paco" Wrolich of Austria, lined up at the front of the mass of cyclists under the Little Italy arch in downtown San Diego. The sound of three Ferrari engines and two Ducati motors roared to signify to start of the 168-kilometre Gran Fondo and 100km Medio Fondo.

The Gran Fondo route included more than 5,500 feet of climbing that included a timed King (and Queen) of the Mountain ascent on Honey Springs Road, a 10.7 km ascent that average a 5.2 percent gradient. Italy’s Luca Ortolani won the race to the top of the climb in a time of 29:17 followed by Lars Finanger in a time of 29:22 and David Brummer who made it to the top in 30:13.

Canada’s Yew Ann won the women’s timed ascent in a time of 35:47 followed by Athena Countouriotis who rode in 36:32 and Terry Martin Durel in 38:18. "This woman was spectacular because she arrived to the Gran Fondo without her bike and had to borrow a fiends bike," said Puglielli. "But she still went out there and did it."

In addition to the aid stations along route, participants were treated to an Italian-style lunch that included an array of pastas, Grana Padano cheeses and wines from Il Palagetto, Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco, Ferragamo's Family and Brunello Di Montalcino wineries.

"The riders were given a feast of Italian foods and it was truly an Italian affair," Gerevini said. "There were tablecloths of red and black linens and bows with all kinds of appetizers, foods, desserts, coffee and wine of superb quality."

Gran Fondo USA, organizers of the event, put on a two-day expo that showcased more than 70 exhibitors including top Italian cycling brands Colnago and Campagnolo. According to Puglielli, there will be additional musical and family entertainment included during future events to attract family and friends of the participants along with the general public.

"The expo was exceptionally vibrant this year because of the beautiful weather," said Gerevini. "There were so many different displays from products like athletic sportswear to shoes, along with equipment and gorgeous Italian foods and everything in between. But we want to improve it for those who might not want to actively participate in the ride by bringing in more entertainment."

The next event will be held at the inaugural event in Los Angeles that will start on Rodeo Drive on June 26 and will coincide with the Dolce Vita week-long Italian festival. The 2nd annual Philadelphia ride will take place on August 14 and the series will conclude at a new venue in Miami on November 20.

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