A big slice of New York cycling is headed west, to New Mexico on June 23 when Santa Fe hosts only the second ever Gran Fondo New York event in the United States. As a world-wide amateur race series, GFNY rolls into the “Land of Enchantment” on an epic Pro-like course, including a 10350’ mountain top finish after 81 miles and 7500’ of climbing.
Gran Fondo Daily News recently pre-rode the course, checked out the local scene and compiled a list of insider tips to help riders have a great time, and more importantly, great ride.
Santa Fe Style Logistics. Santa Fe is “City Different.” Continually ranked as a Top 10 vacation destination by Forbes, Conde Nast, and many others, it is the oldest and highest elevation state capital in the US. At 7200’ nestled against twice as tall Sangre de Christo Mountains you’ll find a diverse community valuing art, counter culture, local food and outdoor life more than a 9-5 corner office job.
With the course starting near the historic Plaza consider staying in an adobe casita from cyclist friendly AdobeStar Properties, followed by huevos rancheros with green chile for breakfast at Plaza Cafe. You’ll find the local velominati at Betterday Coffee and Second Street Brewery pre and post ride. Mechanical issues? Relax, Mellow Velo has you covered.
Also, no trip to Santa Fe is complete without visiting the bona fide cultural art phenomenon, Meow Wolf. It takes you on an immersive experience through a psychedelic non-linear world void of pedals and gears, making it a perfect off-the-bike activity.
Altitude Attitude. Santa Fe’s altitude is the tall elephant in the room nobody talks about. By far the biggest challenge riders face is riding into thin air. Arriving a few days early helps the body adjust, just drink lots of water, eat carbohydrates, ride easy and don’t drink alcohol until after the event. Watch out for altitude sickness, it strikes without warning and feels like going six rounds with an MMA fighter.
GFNY COURSE PREVIEW:
Prologue 5 miles. The course rewards tactical, smart riders conserving energy for the final climb. Going hard early will end badly, very badly, especially with a group when they jettison you off the back like a spent artillery shell later on. With that said, plan to throw down some power from the first pedal stroke on a 2-mile opening climb, followed by twisty narrow roads sure to string the group out. Stay sharp and up front, the next segment is long and fast where you want to practice your best wheelsuckery.
Rockin’ Down the Highway 23 miles. Turning onto Highway 599 you’ll immediately feel rough pavement, loose gravel and cars whizzing by. GFNY may sweep the gravel, but plan on a rough ride for the next hour. This is a good time to sit in, recover, take a drink, sit in and soak up gorgeous Ortiz Mountain views straight ahead – while sitting in.
Backstage Pass 14 miles. Beautiful section winding through rolling foothills covered with piñon pine and Hollywood elites filming blockbuster movies. The finish is visible high atop mountains to the east, yet still hours away. At I25 stay vigilant descending through the 400-year-old village of La Cienega, up a short punchy climb and crossing the Santa Fe River via a dry (hopefully) dirt arroyo.
Mogul Madness 24 miles. Things start to get serious now with miles and miles of up and down – mostly up. Million-dollar view adobe homes dot the landscape as the course backtracks before descending into Tesuque and starting Bishops Lodge climb, a warm up for what’s coming. Don’t dig too deep here, losing a minute or two now is better than blowing up and losing 30 minutes – or more – on the final climb.
The Wall 15 miles +3900’. Time to channel your inner Marco Pantani, be The Pirate. Averaging 5.5% the Ski Santa Fe climb grinds you down, one agonizing pedal stroke at a time. The first 4.5 miles starts steep, eases in the middle and then is a steady grade to Ten Thousand Waves Spa, followed by a short fast descent. Second part is 6 miles twisting and turning deep into Santa Fe National Forest. This is the crux of the climb, the part that feels like death by 10,000 pedal strokes and seemingly goes on forever. Final 4.5 miles starts with a thank-god downhill before climbing to Vista Grande Overlook with its stunning 100-mile views. Now, with only a short downhill and shorter uphill to go it’s time to burn all your matches, if any remain.
No matter how you celebrate conquering the final climb (arms raised, thumbs-up or tongue out), take time to enjoy completing one of the hardest gran fondo courses in North America. But don’t enjoy too long, your Pro-like experience doesn’t include a Pro-like helicopter ride off the mountain, it’s a 15-mile ride back down…