When former professional cyclist George Hincapie hosts a gran fondo and invites a few friends, the starting list is pretty damn impressive.

GRAN FONDO HINCAPIE BOISE READY TO ROLL. ©GFDN

Big names like World Champion Lance Armstrong, 3X Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong, USA National Criterium Champions Justin Williams and Tina Pic, plus riders from some of the best elite  North American teams – Arapahoe/Hincapie, Colavita/Bialetti, Rally UHC, Team CLIF Bar, Aevolo Cycling, Sho-Air TWENTY20 and more – joined George and 450 riders for the inaugural Gran Fondo Hincapie Boise.

CONFETTI RAINS DOWN AS RIDERS START UP. ©GFHINCAPIE

Add an 82 miles course with 20 miles of gravel, 6630ft of climbing, plus no shade in the middle of a summer heat wave, and Gran Fondo Hincapie Boise was, in a word, epic.

Rolling out from the front steps of the Idaho State capital, riders with full police escort on closed roads rolled through town and into the beautiful surrounding hills.

ARAPAHOE HINCAPIE CYCLING LEADS ON ASPHALT. ©GFHINCAPIE

As the temperature climbed to 95 degrees, riders sweated up (and down) gravel roads promoted as “road bike-able”, wishing the next smooth asphalt segment was just around the corner.

BEAUTIFUL BRUTAL GRAVEL. ©GFHINCAPIE

Some gravel segments were so steep and deep riders walked up them.

The dirt was supposed to be hard but rideable with 25mm tires ok, 28 preferred but no problem. I had 26’s, The gravel was VERY deep 3-4″ most of the way and soft and silty with ton of rock. While I chose the wrong bike and tires the biggest thing was the gearing , 39×27 will not cut it in the powder hills. At least 15X today I said this is the hardest thing I have ever done, I actually couldn’t make it on one hill,” Robb Mesecher tweeted afterwards.

GEORGE HINCAPIE GRINDING GRAVEL. ©GFHINCAPIE

Even with well stocked aid stations, cheering roadside fans and numerous support vehicles, for many riders it was too much, almost half the field didn’t finish the entire 82-mile route.

“It was tough, the gravel roads, they are tough this time of year,” Lance Armstrong told KTVB news afterwards.

Boise’s own Kai Applequist (Mercedes Benz/Georges) wasn’t bothered by the heat or gravel, crossing the finish line first in a very impressive 3:43:59 to claim victory, followed by teammate Jeremy Ward and David Greif (Project Echelon Racing).

TOP WOMEN CELEBRATE. ©GFHINCAPIE

For the women, former National Road Champion Katheryn Curi (Amy D. Foundation) won in 4:21.29 with Natalia Franco (Colavita/Bialetti) and Shayna Powless (Sho-Air TWENTY20) 2nd and 3rd.

Back at the finish riders were treated to ice cold drinks, beer and wonderful local food under giant century old shade trees.

BOISE: THE CYCLING CAPITAL OF IDAHO. ©GFDN

Gran Fondo Hincapie Boise results here.

(Note:  The author rode the event on a standard road bike with 23mm tires, carefully navigating minefields of gravel, and survived the infernal heat to finish 5:12:41.)

GRAN FONDO CALENDAR NORTH AMERICA here

GRAN FONDO CALENDAR EUROPE here

GRAN FONDO CALENDAR UK GREAT BRITAIN here