This Sunday, Rockland will partly be home to the first ever Gran Fondo New York, a roughly 100-mile bicycle race that starts on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge, goes to Bear Mountain and back.
The race starts at 7 a.m., with riders expected to start making their arrival in Rockland at around 8 via Route 9W. The Gran Fondo is a series of competitive races in Italy, although Uli Fluhme, one of the New York race organizers, said they are growing in popularity worldwide. They first came to America in 2009 with a race in San Diego, and then followed with a race in Philadelphia. Besides New York, Gran Fondo races are also upcoming in Los Angeles and Miami. In this Gran Fondo New York, the only timed portions are the four climbs.
“It is definitely a growing trend in the US, it caught fire about two years ago,” Fluhme said. “A lot of community rides that call themselves Gran Fondo, but they’re just a group of people going for 50-mile rides. Those are also great, but they’re not Gran Fondo.”
Fluhme said Gran Fondo translates to “big ride” or “big challenge,” and likened it to how the word marathon is used in running. He said the idea for a Gran Fondo New York started February of last year, and has been in the works since then. One of the big reasons for bringing the race to New York, he said, is because New York didn’t really have a long race with a competitive edge.
“In New York City, you have racing where you do loops over and over in an enclosed space,” he said. “Or you have organized riding tours where they give you a map, a banana and a bagel and you’re on your own to work through the route and traffic.”
The route for the Gran Fondo came to be because it’s the route many of the most experienced cyclists coming from New York City use, Fluhme said.
“It’s kind of the pinnacle for riders in the city,” he said. “It’s very scenic, and it’s the best climb in the region. The key parts were starting in New York City, because it is an international event, and going to Bear Mountain.”
He added that the route doesn’t simply go from Route 9W to Bear Mountain to make it a bit more challenging to the riders, and to add in a few additional climbs. During the Gran Fondo, there are four climbs. For less experienced riders, there’s the Medio Fondo, which is a roughly 60-mile race that turns around in Garnerville and goes back to the George Washington Bridge.
The Gran Fondo riders take 9W to Rockland Road, eventually working their way onto Piermont Avenue for a bit before heading to Gair Street, Roadhouse Road and Hudson Way and then turning back onto Piermont Avenue. The ride will also take place on Main Street and North Broadway in Nyack. After hopping on Route 304 for a bit, the riders will turn onto Ridge Road in New City, turning left at Haverstraw Road and then onto South Mountain Road.
After turning right onto County Road 33, the riders will face the first of four climbs on the course. The race will also hit East Ramapo Road and Buckberg Road before continuing on to Route 202 east. The ride will come back through South Mountain Road again, then going to Ridge Road, Strawtown Road, West Nyack Road, Orangeburg Road, Route 303, Kings Highway, Piermont Avenue. and back onto 9W south.
The complete race path can be found here.
Some roads will be closed during the race, while on other streets there will be police officers to help direct traffic, Fluhme said, adding that the race paid for extra police officers to come out and work the race to ensure there aren’t any issues.
“Our riders are very experienced, and they know how to ride in groups and in traffic,” Fluhme said.
The plan is for the Gran Fondo New York to be a yearly event, with the route seemingly set in place. Fluhme said the race organizers are looking at alternative routes, both in New York City and Rockland, but said he thinks they’ve found the best route that starts in New York City and goes to Bear Mountain.
He estimated about 2,500 people from all over the world have signed up for the race so far, and anyone interested can still sign up for it until Saturday. They can sign up online or at the race’s expo, which is free, and takes place Friday and Saturday at Roseland Ballroom, located on West 52nd Street in New York.
The expo will have vendors from the bike industry there, as well as different cycling apparel for sale, as well as some Italian products, like coffee. There will also be a lot of professional cyclers there, and Saturday is the start of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling’s three biggest races all year, so people at the expo will be able to watch that on TV.
The last possible time for the race to finish is 5 p.m., but all racers should be out of Rockland well before then. Fluhme expects it to be the first of many great Gran Fondo New York’s.
“We want the people who live on the route to come out and watch everyone go by,” he said. “It’s going to be a great event. It’s going to be a spectacle.”
During the event, police from Clarkstown, Orangetown, Haverstraw, Stony Point, South Nyack-Grand View, Piermont, the Palisades Interstate Park and the Rockland County Sheriff's Department will be stationed along the route to ensure safety, according to Louis Falco, chief of the Sheriff's Department's Patrol Division.
A police motorcycle from the Sheriff's Department will be leading the race along its route, Falco said.