Gran Fondo National Series
USA Cycling that it will be partnering with the Gran Fondo National Series over the next five years. Starting this year, the winner within each age group of the Gran Fondo National Championship will be awarded a USA Cycling national champion jersey.
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Being recognized at this level is a big step forward for the gran fondo discipline in the U.S.
The was founded in 2012 by Reuben Kline, who still serves as the current race director. The term “gran fondo” existed prior to the creation of the series as a popular, though relatively undefined, ride format in Europe. One of Kline’s goals, along with standardizing the term, was to introduce a more “user friendly” style of racing for road cyclists in the U.S.
Kline defines a gran fondo as “a long distance, mass participation cycling event that is both competitive and recreational.”
“It’s like the equivalent of the marathon,” he told Bicycling, where the more recreational, mass participation is just as notable and important as the expert athletes competing for the win at the front.
Instead of cyclists competing for the fastest time over the entire length of a course, gran fondo participants only compete during certain sections, similar to the mountain biking discipline of enduro. Typically, there are four competitive segments that range anywhere from two to 12 miles in distance. Cyclists compete for the fastest cumulative time across those segments while enjoying a more leisurely, social ride in between.
“This is a way that we can make road cycling a user-friendly and accessible sport,” Kline said. “People can make what they want out of the event. They can compete at their level.”
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A USA Cycling membership will only be required for those looking to compete in the Gran Fondo National Championship, which will take place in Asheville, North Carolina, on July 19. National championship competitors will participate in the “” (100 miles) of the event, while riders looking to participate recreationally can still do so on the shorter Medio (60 miles) and Piccolo (30 miles) routes.
A USA Cycling membership is not needed to qualify for the national championship or to participate in the other gran fondo events.
“Adding the Gran Fondo National Championship to our calendar is an important step forward in USA Cycling’s new vision of supporting different entry points and opportunities for people to participate in the cycling lifestyle,” said Rob DeMartini, the CEO of USA Cycling, in the .
According to Kline, the qualification requirements for the national championship will be announced later this week. The series also currently owns nine gran fondo events across the country—like the Jensie Gran Fondo and the Gran Fondo Maryland—but is looking to add three to five additional events to their calendar.
“There hasn’t been a lot of recognition for the competitive aspect of a gran fondo,” Kline said. “This partnership brings credentialing to the events and should increase the level of competition.”