Katie and myself signed up for the 90 mile course, not sure why given that Katie had done this course before and knew how challenging it was, maybe she held back on that information to get back at me for some frustration in how I manage our only employee. The long course was 91.2 miles, 10,862ft of climbing with 4 timed sections throughout the course giving way to a total of 15.6 miles of racing. The majority of those racing miles were climbing sections like Lookout rd as the first section of racing. (see maps and the details of the timed sections).
The way it works
3 distances can be selected, 20, 60 and 90 and in those length sections riders have sub-timed sections where “the race is on”. It’s not who crosses the line first in the end that wins but the one with the least time through the timed sections. Each rider has a ankle timing chip used for timing and each timing section is clearly marked with flags. The interesting point is IF you are going for the win you don’t need to have the gas on all day like you might in a training ride or race, so once you finished with Lookout section of the course, you can stop, chat, and slowly make your way back to the next feed zone and treat this like a fun day in the saddle with teammates and friends…. until the next timed section of course.
But you don’t have to race
Nope, you don’t, racing is not required, for myself, simply completing the 90 mile course was the pure focus after reaching the midway point. There’s no BAR/BAT points for those who chase points, and most of the swag given out is simply for those who finish so your passion to race it is purely optional, not to mention the 60 or 90 mile course is painfully hard (for most).
But it’s not a tour too
No, this was not a “fast Ride the Rockies. This was a breed of it’s own. Check the results or trust me, the starting line did NOT look like any tour I had ever seen, there was some serious Colorado horse power toeing the line, yet unlike a typical road race, however the instant disappearance of the race crowd had little impact on everyone else not wearing a team kit or with shaved legs, in short there was little concern with “getting dropped” as most just wanted a great day in the saddle. There might have been a group of riders near the front but for most I believe that group was of little importance.
The growing popularity of Gran Fondos
This year’s Golden Grand Fondo saw a 60% increase over last year and Gran Fondos are popping up all over the county now at a rate that is exceeding the number of new road races one sees, at least in Colorado. They are a race that allows non racers to still compete or just challenge themselves on a hard course. The reduced racing sections probably drop the liability for the promoters because outside of the racing sections, it’s an open road with no stop sign closures for the cyclists, you ride it just like you would a tour. Also given you can throw out categories the setup becomes also much easier to manage.
While this style of racing might not replace traditional style, it surely is growing as a way to complement to current appetite of the competitive cyclists regardless of whether you hold a license or not.