Sunday, May 29, 2011

Local Bike Club to Host Bergen Bike Tour June 5

Annual Event raises money for local charity
May 30, 2011
By Ted Semegran

Join as any as 500 to 600 cyclists this Sunday, June 5 for the Bergen County Bicycle Tour.

This is the seventh year the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey has sponsored a major cycling event through more than 18 towns in Bergen County.  

It enables cyclists of all skills, young, old, practiced or beginner, to take part in the activities and see parts of New Jersey that they have never seen, with distances ranging from 5 miles to 45.

Cycling the distance should make you feel good in more ways than one, because the money raised will be donated to the Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon, a locally-run charity to send gifts to the solders in Afghanistan. 

The start site for the event is Lot B of Bergen Community College at 400 Paramus Rd.  The 45-mile ride starts at 8:00 AM, the 25 mile ride at 8:30 AM and the 12 mile ride at 9:00 AM.  A 5-mile flat, family-friendly ride for kids of all ages starts at 10:30 AM.

The cost to join the event is $15 day of the event or $10 if you get in your registration before June 2.  Go to to register. 

At last year’s ride participants rode through18 different towns in Bergen County. There is nothing more spectacular than the 75 or more parents and children on bikes leaving Bergen Community College at 10:30 AM escorted by a Bergen County policeman on motorcycle.  The faces of the parents and kids, when they return, having successfully completed the course is also wonderful.  Most rode on the road for the first time. 

Why did we choose Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon as our charity?  Well, the son of one of our board members, Diane McNally, was in Afghanistan and was getting goodies from a New Jersey-based charity.  We later learned Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon charity was being run by a Bergen County resident, Alan Krutchkoff. 

This fit perfectly with our interest in supporting locally managed and relevant charities.  Our club, for example, donates significant money from our Ramapo Rally event to Ridgewood based Camp Sunshine, a camp for disadvantaged kids. 

Last year, the Bergen County Bicycle Tour had over 600 cyclists. 

Like last year, this year when cyclists come in from their rides they will be served goodies like hot dogs, oatmeal cookies and drinks. A raffle will be held with bike-related prizes.

A rest stop at Cyclesport in Park Ridge for the 25 and 45-mile riders will have goodies as well.

Last year’s event netted about $3600 for the charity.  The club kicked in the remaining $400 to make it an even $4,000 check for Adopt-a-Solider Platoon.

We are continuing with our $10 pre-registration fee (need to register by June 2).  Go to and get the details to either register with and/or send in a form to our PO Box in Haworth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Be and Angel Ride for a Cause: AngelRide 2011

May 18, 2011, Written by Maura Casey
Editor, Jen Benepe
In 2002, Mystic businessman Fred Brooke wanted to help the family of Angel Uihlein, an 11-year-old girl with leukemia. The best way, he decided, would be to collect pledges for a swim across Long Island Sound. 
And it worked; after swimming six hours a day for eight days, he raised $35,000 to help the family.
That gueling physical feat helped Angel get a life-saving bone transplant and she’s now a healthy 20-year-old studying to be a nurse. And it was a transformative experience for Brooke.
The simple idea, to transform the lives of young children aged 7 to 15 suffering from debilitating conditions, also helped actor Paul Newman start the Hole in the Wall Gang camp in 1988, a place where they could relax, have fun, live their lives like children really should, and at no cost to the parents. 

Film actor Newman who appeared in major box office successes films like “Cool Hand Luke,” and “The Sting” died in 2008, but he said he wanted children who were suffering to have the opportunity to “hike, fish, and raise a little hell.”

Newman was also a very successful humanitarian, and created food company Newman’s Own, which donated all of its post-tax profits to charity, which exceeded $300 million from 1982 to August 2010 according to the company’s website.  
One day Brooke attended a fundraising event for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and realized he could take his small, one-person challenge, and replicate it on a bigger scale.
His effort has now been translated into one of Connecticut’s iconic outdoor events: the AngelRide, a demanding two-day, 135-mile ride over rolling Connecticut countryside.
“The first day is an eye-opener,” said Mickey Gilliland, manager of Rose City Cycle in Bozrah, CT, and a veteran of two rides who says the hills can be daunting. “I ride a lot, and I was tired,” he said.
And in exchange for all the fun suffering, the organization asks cyclists to raise money to help bring a virtual Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to hospitalized kids who can’t make it to the camp itself.  (See a little video about the outreach program here.)
This year’s eighth annual ride which will take place May 28-29, starting in Norfolk in Connecticut’s Northwest Corner and ending in Mystic along the state’s shoreline.
The physical effort of the ride underscores the cause, bringing a fun camp experience to kids who are suffering. “The camp gives the kids whatever they need that medicine can’t give,” said Brooke. This is what inspired him when he met Angel Uihlein.
“She couldn’t use half of her body. She had a cane. And she got up and said, ‘When I was 7 years old, I was given about six months to live. But then I attended camp and I decided after a week there, I could do anything I wanted to.’  She’s now a senior at Harvard,” Brooke said.
The route brings riders the easiest and safest way from northwest Connecticut, not far from the Berkshires of Massachusetts, to Mystic, CT according to the organizers. Two-day riders must raise a minimum of $1,000; those who ride for only one day are responsible to raise $500. (Currently the two-day program is sold out at 235 riders, but cyclists can opt to do 50 miles the second day.)
The first 225 riders of the two-day journey make up the only outside group allowed to stay overnight at the original Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn., which is now one of 11 Hole in the Wall camps around the world, including locations in Florida, California, New York and North Carolina.

Among the riders are many family members of children staying in the camps, or others affiliated with the program that want to show their support.  
Set up to look like a town in the great Old West of America’s pioneering days, Newman wanted the spot to be a summer haven for children struggling with diseases ranging from sickle cell anemia to cancer.
“We help to restore joy and laughter in a time often laden with fear, stress, and uncertainty,” says the organization’s website.
Some children are too sick to make it to camp, even though they have a full staff of doctors, nurses and a 24-hour medical clinic.
Others become ill during times of year when the nearest camps are closed. That’s where the outreach program kicks in and the organization sends its best counselors to visit thousands of kids who are staying in hospitals.
The challenging ride supports the outreach program that brings happiness and joy to children, said Brooke. Last year the event raised nearly $500,000 in funding.
The first day the route is 85 miles, from Norfolk to the Ashford camp, with rest stops, food and drink every 20 miles. Vans carrying luggage and gear pass riders every 20 minutes to let them know they are never far from support.
The exertion is worth it, said Gilliland: “They take such good care of us, and when you pull into the rest stops you get such a welcome you feel like you are winning the Tour de France.”
The evening of the first day riders can stay at the Ashford camp, complete with massages to soothe aches and pains, entertainment, and plenty to eat:  “The food is so good it’s the only bike ride you might get fat on,” said another cyclist Fairfield, CT resident, Martha Smiles. 
Those who don’t want to bike the entire two days can participate in one of the smaller legs the second day. Adults can join the pack at the camp Sunday morning to enjoy breakfast before heading out for the final 50-mile ride to Mystic.  Young adults 11-15 can join adult companions at the 25-mile rest stop. Kids 7-11-years-old can pick up the ride for the last six miles. Each leg has minimal fundraising requirements. 
The finish line features a picnic for 1,500 people, entertainment, and activities for kids. The race is supported by 350 volunteers – about one volunteer per participant, said the organizers.  More than 20 motorcyclists will escort the ride, traveling to intersections to hold traffic for safety, and helping riders in need along the way. 
Wrote Newman before he died:  “I’ve been accused of compassion, of altruism, of devotion to Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim ethic, but however desperate I am to claim ownership of a high ideal, I cannot. I wanted, I think, to acknowledge Luck; the chance of it, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, made especially savage for children because they may not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”
For more information or to sign up,  go to or call 203/777-0522. 

Monday, May 09, 2011

New York Gran Fondo Wows (c)

Pro rider George Hincapie was at the start and rode at least to Piermont,
NY (other sightings have been reported)
May 9, 2011
All Photos, Benepe (c)
Yesterday's long anticipated Gran Fondo New York made even the fittest riders exhausted, and brought surprising results in all fields.

For one, the race format, which has its roots in Italy, brought many Italians to start line, most of them exceptionally fit,  ready for their American adventure and perhaps one could say, much more experienced in the art of Gran Fondoism.
Clayton Barrows in his Rite Aid days

Riders from 54 other countries were also represented at the Gran (103 miles) and Medio (65 miles) Fondos, the first of their kind to come to the New York area.

But it was an American who won the 103-mile distance's timed climbs: Clayton Barrows, a 28-year-old and ex-pro rider from the Rite Aid team who now competes with a local club.

"We didn't ride very hard between the climbs, but when we got to them I just went as hard as I could," said Barrows. "A race like the Gran Fondo is really great because it gives us a chance to be exposed to riders outside of the race community," he added.

Barrows who is studying for his PhD in energy engineering at Pennsylvania State University came in with a time of 24:53:97 over four challenging hills, including Perkin's Drive in Harriman State Park, and Buckberg Mountain Road in Tomkins Cove.

His New York-based amateur team, Stan's No Tubes/ AXA Equitable, affiliated with the Century Road Club Association, also clinched the team title with a combined climb time of 1:43:47:65.
Capt. Mahon riding to the race from Fort Lee, NJ on an empty highway--wheeee!
Known more for his prowess at criteriums, Barrows won last year's Grant's Tomb Crit which draws mostly local riders. He came in 12th at last year's Tour of the Battenkill in upstate New York, a 60-mile race with similarly challenging climbs to the New York Gran Fondo.

Marti Shea, 48, was the first place finisher for the women, completing the climbs in 29:17:66, only five minutes more than Barrows who is 20 years younger.

A previous Olympic trial runner, Shea said yesterday's race was relaxing in between the climbs: "I took advantage of the whole day and had fun," she said, stopping at all the rest stops and talking to fellow riders. Nevertheless don't be fooled by Shea's casual comments: she won the Hill Climb Series, a hill climbing race over several northeastern mountains for 2010 and 2009, as well as several other hill climbing events over the past six years.

Shea was also 28th overall in the combined men's and women's fields.  Shea's husband, Joe Tonan, 46, was second in his age group, and both will now qualify in the top ten percent finishers to attend the UCI World Championships in Belgium this fall.
The first riders coming across the bridge--what a rush!
Shea confounded the race timers at the finish who thought a mistake had been made when they read her age. Owner of Select Fitness, a training company in Marblehead, MA., Shea said she completes 10 to 15 bike races a year but this was the first Gran Fondo she had ever done.
The first climb of the day on Henry Hudson Drive
Yesterday's Gran Fondo event included more than 1,100 finishers in the 103-mile race, and over 200 finishers in the Medio Fondo. The longer race included four challenging mountain climbs, and the first for all racers was over Little Tor mountain on Central Highway that took riders from New City and dropped them down into West Haverstraw on the other side.

What mattered was not the overall time that took cyclists to complete the tour, but the time riders spent going up timed climbs, two for the medio fondo, four for the gran fondo.

Cynthia and Nikolaus Ware at the first timer
"It was great watching the first guy come up all by himself, then suddenly there was a whoosh and a wave of riders came up behind him," said Cynthia Ware who was noting times and numbers at the start of the first climb with her son Nikolaus and fiance Robert Youngz. Asked if she enjoyed working at the race for Super Race Systems, a race timing company, on Mother's Day, she said, "I love it, it's been huge fun." Her son Nikolaus agreed.

BBB also did the race just to see how challenging it was. There was no doubt that from the beginning to the end, the race organizers Lidia and Uli Fluhme were determined to surprise, delight, and yes, challenge the racers.

It started out inauspiciously, with a beautifully empty second level of the George Washington Bridge.

I rode to the race in the opposite direction with Captain Bob Mahon of the Clarkstown Police, entering the course from Fort Lee, and coming to the front of the start line inside the bridge (that was a cool trick that I bet a bunch of you will try next time.)

At the start line was a surprise visit from BMC-team pro racer George Hincapie who showed up all smiles but apparently may have left the course before the finish (his whereabouts at the finish or his total time have not been confirmed yet by the organizers.)
The first rest stop in Piermont, NY where riders had bagels, drinks, bananas and other snacks
Hincapie's time was not reported in the final results, but it's not unusual for race promoters to bring in big names for a race, and for those riders to take off before the event is finished.  Nevertheless, Hincapie's presence, combined with the first-ever closed bridge cycling event offered a stimulating start to the cool 55-degree weather.

And these organizers would not disappoint.

From the beginning not one hill was left undisturbed. Instead of taking the mostly flat Route 9W, the course took riders along what is casually called "River Road," and formally known as Henry Hudson Drive, a 7-mile, north-bound hilly route that starts in Fort Lee, NJ, and ends in a killer, one kilometer climb to the top of Alpine Drive in Alpine, NJ.
The Piermont Fire Dept. was there to assist too

And that was just the beginning.

After a relatively easy eight more miles to the first rest stop in Piermont, NY, a favorite destination for many local cyclists, the race began its climbing stages in earnest, first through Nyack, back up to Route 9W, over Hook Mountain, then over to South Mountain Road in New City, NY via Routes 9W and 23.

On Hook Mountain I took a few minutes to appreciate the fact that hand cyclist JohnTartaglio, 24, was doing the 103-mile course.

At Central Highway/ Little Tor, the wheat were separated from the chaff, including yours truly who used the excuse of having to stop and take photos to get off the bike. My legs felt like they were churning not butter but lead, and I kept looking at the road wondering where the steepness was coming from since it didn't look so bad.

The second timers of the climb were located at the top, but some riders were so exhausted they didn't care as they rolled their bikes casually over them---while walking.
John Tartaglio, hand cyclist cresting Hook Mountain
Anyone doing the 65-mile Medio Fondo had to descend another two miles into West Haverstraw, and then climb back up the other side of Central Highway/ Little Tor, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe Uli and Lidia Fluhme belonged to the Secret Society of Unintentional Torturers.

Yes, it's a made up name, but I kept wondering what kind of personalities these two had, to take normal people up these roads. It became an internal back and forth dialogue of "You can do this, no you can't," accompanied by severe pain.

Cyclists at start of Little Tor
The joke was on us, but so were the benefits, since such a Gran Fondo could never live up to its name if it were anything other than Grand. And with finishing would surely come boasting rights. And I would be damned if I didn't finish.

On the way down the other side of Central Highway and on my way to the second rest stop in Haverstraw, I passed my colleague Captain Bob Mahon who was on his way back up the mountain already, and way too cheerily called out to me from the corner.

If I had had my druthers I would have skipped this part altogether, especially the climb back up from the town, where unbridled SUV drivers pushed me to the curb and dangerously into the open drains alongside the road, but no biggie I didn't go down. I just wish SUV drivers could exchange places with us for one day and see how obnoxious they can be.

I am not sure why, but after the turn up the mountain, a woman driving a car called out to me and asked if I needed help: I said, "Yes, could you drive me to the top," I said, but she probably thought I was joking and drove on.
Sign in Italian: should have read it first!
A nice touch were the signs marking the climbs with Italian names. This one said "Colle della Punta Rocciosa," average (grade) 8.4%, Max (grade) 14%, 280 feet."

I haven't forgotten that the average grade on Mont Ventoux, one of the steepest climbs in the Tour de France is less than the max on the Colle della Punta Rocciosa, and even Mont Ventoux felt easier than this.

Cyclist at West Haverstraw rest stop
After making the trip back along South Mountain Road, the route became much more direct, passing through New City, Blauvelt and Strawtown Road before turning left in West Nyack.

The roads along this portion were extremely beautiful, though also at times remarkably lonely. I remembered riding these routes before with my Colombian cycling friends and was grateful because I knew the way.

And though the route going up to Haverstraw was well marked, with numerous police and other volunteers holding traffic and showing us the way, the return was not as well marked and at one intersection the officer seemed to be daydreaming.

There I nearly got mowed down by crossing cars. However, almost all the towns reported that the race went off very well.

Cyclists should be mindful to never curse at or harbor negative thoughts for the police in any of these towns in the future (red light tickets and otherwise), because the officers did a terrific job guiding drivers and keeping the roads open for cyclists to pass safely and smoothly through intersections.

If anything, the Gran Fondo brought police and cyclists together in harmony.

One cyclist riding, the other walking up Central Highway/
Little Tor
Still, I kept checking to make sure I was on the right track, and occasionally I passed other riders wearing the now ubiquitous black Gran Fondo uniform that came with the entry fee, many of whom were dropping like flies along the roadside.

The return was an exercise in how not to quit: In Palisades, NY, with no food or water, and legs feeling like plaster, I almost called a friend for a ride home, but realized I hadn't eaten or drunk enough and stopped for a breather.

Despite the terrific organization of the route and the placement of the four rest stops, the last rest stop came too late and in a skippable location, at the valley of a hill right before the entrance to IBM in Palisades.

I am sure the organizers had had no choice but to put it there, but by then I had already been out of fluids and food for about 12 miles, and I could not imagine climbing another hill from a dead start. I opted to fly up the hill instead of stopping, and then take a break at the Market in Palisades, NY for ice and iced tea--with the emphasis on ice.

Antonio Spaggiare, 46, after finishing 103 miles
Another small blunder occurred at the turn back onto River Road at Alpine, NJ, where I missed the signs and saw no one directing traffic. A word to the wise: always read and memorize the race course before you leave home.
Franco Spaggiare, 77. After 65 miles he
rode to Central Park in Manhattan
There were many surprises to this race. For one, I did not think I could finish and I did. But there were so many other accomplishments much greater than my own.

Among them was Antonio Spaggiare, 46, and his father Franco, 77, of Sant' Agostino, Italy.

Antonio who completed the longer course said he does on average 10 Gran Fondos a year, and this was one was "Really hard."

Group from  Italy loving the event at finish line represented co-sponsor Avis Faenza
The elder Spaggiare, appearing fresh as a daisy after riding 65 miles, asked me in Italian how he could get to Central Park to do more biking. A race-worker switched from English to almost perfect Italian to give him instructions on how to get there--another 6 miles from River Road, which would bring his total mileage to over 71 for one day.  Not to mention there was another steep climb leading out of the park before he reached the GWB.

With them was an entire entourage of Italian women representing a race co-sponsor.

Among the women who finished the race there was 67-year old Melinda Beige from Park City who finished the 103-mile course.

Michal Seidenman of Tenafly, NJ completed the 103-mile course, and said she tracked over 8,000 feet of climbing in the day, with a time of 0:50:37:69. Riding with her friends from the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey, Michal said, "It was a great event, I definitely will do it again next year!"

Both among men and women, the largest number of competitors were in the 44 to 49 age group.
Captain Robert Mahon who helped organize volunteers and police officers for the New City section also participated in the 65-mile distance.

He said after four hours he began to realize that maybe he needed new cycling shoes his feet hurt so much. "I've done 50 miles a number of times before, and this was the hardest cycling I have ever done," said Mahon who only stopped once to eat a cookie.

And although most of the race was pretty safe, only five accidents have been reported so far.

Descending the hill from State Line to Palisades, NY, a male rider was injured with a broken collarbone or wrist when he collided with three other unhurt riders.  Sonya Harum who was working inside the Market adjacent to the crash at the time said, "It was pretty terrifying," as she described a four-person crash, with cyclists skidding more than 20 feet. "We all kind of ran out to help," she said. The rider who was hurt has not been identified and was taken to Nyack Hospital, confirmed Sargeant Sullivan of the Orangetown Police Dept.
At the finish line in Palisades Park, Henry Hudson Drive 
Later, three cyclists went off the mountain on their descent south on Central Highway, one breaking his collarbone, the second hurting his back, and the third losing consciousness. Two of those riders were hospitalized, the third refused medical attention, according to Mahon.

A fifth, unidentified male rider sustained minor injuries in Piermont, NY and was taken to Nyack Hospital, according to Officer Gaynor of the Piermont Police Dept.

No word still on the 10 percent top finishers who will be qualifying for the UCI World Championships, but those results should be up shortly on the Gran Fondo site.

Monday, May 02, 2011

An Italian Tradition Comes to New York

Riders of the 100-mile Gran Fondo will need to ride to Bear Mountain and back, largely on Route 9W
May 2, 2011. Photos, Gran Fondo NY.
A grand Italian tradition is coming to New York on May 8 and will include a star appearance by Italian rider Gilberto Simoni, kissy-face with Miss Italy 2009 and her sister, gifts from a pasta sauce maker, and prizes that include two Pinarello bicycles.

The event is New York’s first Gran Fondo, a race format that originated about 40 years ago in Italy and is now being brought to the tri-state region by a Pole and a German who have a great love for cycling

The style of race, a mass start with mixed fields in many cases combining men and women of all ages with some professional riders has risen to huge appeal in Italy, and is now catching on in the new world.
Uli Fluhme once raced with Gerolsteiner

“We decided that New York really needed this,” said co-organizer Ulrich “Uli” Fluhme who had ridden several Gran Fondos in Italy with his wife Lidia. “We have the races in Central Park, and big tours like the Five Boro Bike Tour, but we really needed something in between with a real challenge,” he added.

The George Washington Bridge will be the start
The top 10 percent finishers of the mixed format race that is a combination of a regular road race and a tour will gain automatic placement in the World Amateur Championships that will take place in Belgium this September 10 to 11.

Computer chips that riders wear will determine their times on four challenging climbs scattered through the 103-mile stretch from the start at the George Washington Bridge to Perkins Drive at Bear Mountain, plus a few bangers on the way back to the finish in Fort Lee, NJ. 

Using the climbs to time racers saved the organizers from having to time the whole race which they said was too difficult to arrange in New York, but also allows riders the luxury of riding together, male and female, and all ages groups, a total of nine from 18 to 65 and over in social empathy during the non-timed sections.

These are just some of the appeals of the Italian-style mass race which could be one of the most ambitious undertakings that has already attracted 2,000 entrants, many of them blasé New Yorkers who have seen and ridden just about everything, as well as cyclists from 55 other countries.

The start of a Gran Fondo in Italy earlier this year that Lidia and Uli Fluhme completed
The other major appeal is the introduction of the first Gran Fondo, which translates to Long Endurance, for New York, a tradition that grips Italy from the spring months through September and sometimes draws as many as 11,000 riders, among them the most famous, Gran Fondo Nove Colli (Nine Hills).

What’s more, the organizers managed to convince the officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close a portion of the lower level of the George Washington Bridge and oncoming ramps for the race start, an act that has never before been accomplished for a bike race in known history.  How did they do it? “Lidia’s persistence,” said Mr. Fluhme. The closing off of the ramp leading to the bridge on 165th and Riverside Drive as well as the two lower level lanes will cost the organizers about $10,000, a fee which includes laying down carpets so cyclists' wheels don't get stuck in the grating.

"The Port Authority is really happy to be involved in the Gran Fondo,” said Mr. Fluhme. Seventy other policeman had to be hired overtime for road closures along the route, among them along the stretch through New City, NY, the site of the Little Tor climb, and where avid road cyclist and Clarkstown police captain Bob Mahon will be organizing his force to police the event.

Lidia Fluhme at a Gran Fondo in Italy this spring
Little Tor is just one of the climbs that give even the most experienced weekend riders groans of pain, because it has the appearance and feel of a vertical wall. Buckberg Mountain Road in Tomkins Cove is a climb that looks and feels almost as hard even if it isn’t.

"That climb is really hard," said Nyack Bike Shop owner Jim Skelley. He knows, his house is on the road, and he has to climb it on every return from Harriman State Park.

Two distances will be offered, the “Gran Fondo” distance of 100 miles, and the “Medio Fondo” a mere 65 miles. Both races will have timed climbs, the only portion of the “race” which is timed, but only the Gran Fondo top 10 to 20 percent climbers will be eligible to qualify for the International Cycling Union’s 2011 Amateur World Championships, said Fluhme.

The Fluhmes took racers on pre-race training rides all spring along the arduous route
The rest of the ride can be done in a social fashion as long as riders make the cut off. "Him and her" categories are also included so couples can compete together, and the organizers also have a team competition category. Riders are paying handsomely for this torture with fees of $231 for the full distance, and $184 for the lesser distance.

Those fees are pretty hefty compared to prices people pay in Italy, from $30 to $70 per event, but Fluhme said the prices reflect the cost of road closings, racing chips, permits and jerseys which become more expensive when you order closer to the event (riders who signed on earlier received discounts, and paid $195 and $165 before processing fees).

A rider on a training ride this spring
Those kind of fees however stand to pay off well for fondo organizers in the U.S. who with efficiencies could earn from $50,000 to $200,000 a race.

The handsome pay explains the sudden explosion of Gran Fondos in the U.S. with stiff competition from a series put on by another organizer with events in California, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia this year, fondos that are co-sponsored by Colnago bicycles.

But the fees also compare well to the growth in the outdoor race industry. The New York City Triathlon costs $400 per entrant, the NYC Marathon $270 per person, and the Iron Man NYC for 2012 is expected to cost close to $1,000 per competitor.

American based Fondo organizers also gain from the pre-race commercial expositions.

New York's will be held at the Roseland Ballroom on Friday and Saturday, with booths going for a minimum of $2,000 a piece for bicycle retailers and suppliers who want to reach the cycling market in the city.

That rate is on par with the cost of booths at Interbike, the biggest commercial bike show in the U.S. that attracts approximately 20,000 visitors for its three-day event held annually in Las Vegas.

That price is a pass on for rent, furniture, Internet, lighting and security, said Ms. Fluhme who said that the expo was not to make money but to give exhibitors a chance to show their wares.

Mr. Fluhme says his Gran Fondo overall this year will be an investment and may not even break even. In any event he says his event is a competition while the majority of Gran Fondos in the U.S. are not.

Despite high entry costs, the new format promises to unleash a flurry of fondos across America, perhaps each claiming to be "the" U.S. based fondo (Colnago's fondo website is called Gran Fondo USA, which gives the appearance that it is the only fondo game in the U.S.) It's unclear if there can be more than one fondo held in any one city, but given the complexity of organizing them, so far it's been first come, first served.

Participants will also be amply rewarded by the experience, a great loss of weight in one day, guest appearances and many participant goodies.

For one the whole aura of a mass ride adds an element of fun to the day. One blogger April Pedersen Santinon describes the Italian Gran Fondos in a way that makes them sound like one big cycling party.

In addition to participation by climbing specialist, two-time Giro D’Italia winner ex-pro rider Gilberto Simoni, the event will also be attended by Claudio Chiapucci three time podium placer at the Tour de France. Both riders were implicated in doping scandals during their hey dey, Simoni for cocaine, a charge that was eventually cleared.

Chiapucci was known to be a client of Dr. Francesco Conconi, an infamous provider of banned performance enhancing substances to the cycling profession. Conconi was found “morally guilty” of drug use but never convicted, according to several news sources. 

A jersey is part of the package
Regardless of the drug implications in their pasts, both riders will prove to be substantial pulls for Americans who have never ridden in the field alongside such iconic racers of European ilk. Just the anticipation of riding with this crowd of seasoned racers gave some registrants a thrill.

Along with the famous Italian riders will be one surprise appearance by a previous American pro whose identity will not be revealed until the day of the race.

Part of the Italian tradition, to not allow riders to go home empty handed means that the Gran Fondo NY will be heavily stacked with promoters wanting a stronger connection with the U.S. cycling market. For that honor they’ll be handing out goods generously, including goodies from Pinarello bicycles (for the two overall winners), Mavic (carbon wheelset,) Campagnolo (Chorus gruppo,) Limar helmets, Diadora riding shoes, Selle San Marco seats, and Gioradana apparel—not to mention Delverde Pasta, Lucini pasta sauce, and Erin Baker cookies.

Documenting this first ever event for New York will be television crews from Bike Show TV, and a host of other Italian journalists eager to capture their tradition being played out on American soil.

Heavy competition from other Gran Fondo organizers in the U.S. and other countries outside of Italy have led to comparisons and claims about what makes a real Gran Fondo.

Mr. Fluhme who himself once raced professionally for Gerolsteiner in Germany left racing for a job as a lawyer in finance, and now at the age of 36, has come full circle and left his UBS banking job for cycling. “In Italy the level of competition at the Gran Fondos is really hard, and that is what we are trying to bring here."

If you want to read more about Gran Fondos in Italy, read Ms. Santinon's blog Gran Fondos and Other Big Rides. She'll give you the pros and cons of this cycling format in full detail.