|Pro rider George Hincapie was at the start and rode at least to Piermont,|
NY (other sightings have been reported)
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!|
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!|
|The first climb of the day on Henry Hudson Drive|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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!|
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|
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/ |
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|
|Franco Spaggiare, 77. After 65 miles he|
rode to Central Park in Manhattan
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|
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|
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.