San Diego Cyclists Carry On Italian Tradition with the "Gran Fondo"

San Diego Cyclists, Italian Tradition, italian culture, italian heritage, italian american, italian news

Cyclists gather under the Little Italy sign, waiting to begin the 2013 Campagnolo Gran Fondo San Diego. Photo credit: Campagnolo Gran Fondo San Diego Facebook page


When one hears of great cycling races, the first name that comes to mind is France's Tour de France, the legendary cycling race launched in 1903 that lasts 23 days and covers approximately 2,000 miles. What may be a little-known fact to the general public is that the Tour de France is one-third of a trio of the world's most prestigious cycling races - and that Italy is home to another leg of that tripod. 
The year was 1909. An Italian newspaper by the name of "La Gazzetta dello Sport" organized a cycling race stretching from Milan to Bologna and back in what would total out to be a loop of more than 1500 miles. The inaugural Giro d'Italia was won by a Milanese bricklayer named Luigi Ganna and began an annual tradition that would last for more than a century. Over the years, it has also inspired the creation of "Gran Fondo" (Italian for "big ride") races in both Italy and the United States.
"GranFondo’s started in Italy as a glorious race put on in the same fashion as a Tour de France but for everyday riders - so they too can get a taste of the prestige," said Tobias Panek, owner of Granfondo Cycling Tours. "Our event in San Diego was the first of these events that came to the U.S."
In 2009, San Diego launched its own "big ride": GranFondo San Diego. Thousands of cyclists have gathered under San Diego's famed Little Italy sign - the starting point of the now annual race - in what has become San Diego's Italian community's nod to a great Italian tradition. 
This year, the tradition continues on April 6 with the Campagnolo Gran Fondo San Diego.  
Riders have the option of choosing from three different routes: gran, medio and piccolo. The Gran Fondo route is the event's classic route, spanning 105 miles and covering cyclists' East County favorite, the "Great Western Loop" and climibing to a maximum elevation of 2,600 feet.
The Medio Fondo route is slightly less intense: This 56-mile route will take cyclists from the ocean to Chula Vista's Otay Lake. And finally, the Piccolo Fondo is reserved perhaps for those less-experienced cyclists who wish to participate in the event without encountering the difficulty levels of the other two selections. This 34-mile route is a much more leisurely "flat-to-rolling course" with minimal elevation climbing. 
The event offers a pre- and post-ride dinners at Acqua Al2 and the "King and Queen of the Mountain" competiton. As the website explains, " While the event isn't a race, it features a timed King and Queen of the Mountain Contest. Cyclists on the 105-mile route will fight to the top of the Category 1 Honey Springs Climb to win bragging rights and prizes in each age group, for both genders."
All proceeds will go to the event's charity: Challenged Athletes Foundation's (CAF) Operation Rebound. According to Gran Fondo's website, the Operation Rebound program is "the premier sports and fitness program for American military personnel, veterans and first responders with permanent physical disabilities. It provides unparalleled opportunities to pursue active, athletic lifestyles by offering access to funding for equipment and training and competition expenses, Military Medical Center Physical Training (MMCPT) and sports clinics."
While mail-in registration has already closed, online registration will remain open until April 4 at noon for interested participants. More information on the event itself, including registration and scheduling, is available at the official Campagnolo Gran Fondo San Diego website:

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