Gran Fondo Daily News has the grueling job of riding, reviewing and writing about gran fondo rides all over the world, but we especially like riding them in our own backyard – the Western USA and Canada. Here are GFDN’s top picks for 2019 Best of The West Gran Fondos. You can’t go wrong adding one (or three) to your bucket list.
West Elk Bicycle Classic, Gunnison-Crested Butte CO, 135 miles, 11000’, September 1. With wonderful Southern Colorado as a backdrop, rural roads, great gravel and kick-ass climbing on Kebler Pass, plus a roaring party in Crested Butte to finish things off, this gran fondo gives new meaning to the term “epic ride.” You can also see how you stack-up against the “old man”, six-time Leadville champion Dave Wiens, who usually wins and takes home the custom made elk antler trophy.
Tour de Big Bear, Big Bear CA, 109 miles, 10000’, August 3
SoCal gran fondo riding doesn’t get much better than riding at 7000’ in the cool air of San Bernardino National Forest in August. If you train at sea level don’t be surprised if it feels like you are breathing through a straw and can’t generate power, you can’t. Without acclimatizing power is down by 15-20%, so don’t over-do it.
Desperado Duel, Panguitch UT, 104 miles, 3200’, July 27
Offering the best views of Southern Utah via bike, this gran fondo is a real treat. Hoodoos, gradual climbs, fun descents and a wonderful bike path make it perfect for riders of all abilities. Expect the pointy end of the gran fondo pack to average ~25mph, but with great aid stations and many picture-perfect views, riders often take time to savor Southern Utah.
RBC Gran Fondo Whistler, Vancouver BC, 76 miles, 6200’, September 7
Full disclosure – we’ve not ridden this gran fondo, but the great folks at RBC Gran Fondo invited GFDN up for 2019. We’re looking forward to riding it and hear it’s definitely “bucket list worthy” to start at the Pacific Ocean and finish high in the sky atop Whistler. Plus, Vancouver is a happening place to visit. If you ride in 2019 you have the chance to qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships to be held on the same course in 2020.
El Tour de Tucson, Tucson AZ, 102 miles, 3500’, November 23
A perfect way to end the gran fondo season in sunny, warm Tucson. With close to 10000 riders, this cycling friendly town rolls out the red carpet. If you want to start up front better be a licensed Cat 1/2, Pro or somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. The front group races aggressively while everyone else enjoys riding past Saguaro cactus and meeting gran fondo new friends. Expect a dirt arroyo crossing or two to make things interesting – especially if it’s raining.
Golden Gran Fondo, Golden CO, 91 miles, 11000’, June 23
Just a stone’s throw from Denver, Golden is a hip little town with plenty of brew pubs, restaurants and activities to keep gran fondo companions happy while this course kicks your ass. With a shark-tooth profile climbing up into the Front Range on paved – and a few dirt – roads, this gran fondo course thrills every minute.
Kooteney Rockies Gran Fondo, Cranbrook BC, 98 miles, 4300’, September 7. Starting and finishing at the beautiful old St. Eugene Resort with breathtaking mountain views in every direction, as well as a golf course, casino and spa this gran fondo really delivers, both on and off the bike. Enjoy rolling out on the North Star Rails 2 Trails path as it winds 17 miles through old growth Canadian forests to Kimberly’s wonderful Bavarian Platzl.
Tour de Acoma, Acoma NM, 100 miles, 2500’, September 15
Showcasing The Land of Enchantment, this gran fondo takes riders back in time through historical pueblo lands, up sheer walled mesas and past stunning cities perched atop monoliths. Win and take home one of the coolest gran fondo cycling trophies in the USA – custom handmade Acoma pottery.
Mammoth Gran Fondo, Mammoth Lakes CA, 102 miles, 6600’, September 7
Located on the peaceful and stunning eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada far from urban jungles, Mammoth is simply amazing. Not only are the views Ansel Adams postcard worthy, you’ll enjoy 75 grand fondo miles on roads closed to traffic. Yes, that means NO cars. If that’s not enough, aid stops offer hard-to-pass-up delicacies like chocolate covered bacon, chocolate covered espresso beans and red vines – not chocolate covered. Hanging with the front group of gran fondo racers is easy for the first few miles, its downhill, after that all bets are off.