After two ill-fated attempts to add a gravel event, the Hincapie Gran Fondo Series is planning a third try in Merced, California USA on Saturday 18 March 2023.

In 2019 they hosted Hincapie Gran Fondo Boise on what was advertised as a road bike gravel and asphalt ride, but 20 miles of 4-inch deep loose gravel and silty sand forced half of the field with skinny road tires to DNF. The event never returned.

In March 2021 Hincapie planned to host Hincapie Gran Fondo Gravel South Carolina, but plans were thwarted by local residents voicing strong opposition to the event, forcing cancellation just 14 days after being announced.

Now, America’s most successful gran fondo series is trying once again to get in the gravel game with Hincapie Gran Fondo Merced. This time on the West Coast at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just outside famed Yosemite National Park.

“Gravel is obviously become hugely popular in the last few years and so we’ve been looking to add a gravel Fondo to our Gran Fondo Hincapie series. We’re super excited to launch our first gravel event as well as our first West Coast event in 2023. The area is beautiful and is the perfect setup for a scenic gravel ride,” said Rich Hincapie.

Hincapie graveleurs can choose between two courses, with the longest being a 84 mile endurance test on mostly dirt roads starting from the heart of Merced. Riders will pedal over miles and miles of challenging gravel and dirt, up climbs with a gradients over 20 percent and through the historic gold mining town of Hornitos (population 38) and Bear Valley before turning back towards the finish in Merced.

Doug Fluetsch, the local event director, told Merced County Times that on the Friday before the event, ex-pro George Hincapie and his former boss Lance Armstrong are expected to host a live THEMOVE podcast at the Mainzer Theatre for event participants.

Of course, like all Hincapie Gran Fondo events, Merced will bring a cycling party atmosphere to town including free live music, a celebration dinner and afterparty with local craft brews from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing.

The 2023 Hincapie Gran Fondo calendar also includes road events in Bangor, Maine; Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania; Chattanooga,Tennessee and the original Hincapie Gran Fondo in Greenville, South Carolina.

Hincapie Gran Fondo Merced information and registration HERE.

Photos: Gravel Bike CA