Last Sunday morning brought over 800 cyclists to the city of Pasadena, CA to participate in the first ever running of the Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo
in Southern California. Three courses were available to ride consisting of 25, 67 or 93 miles in length. All three courses included a traditional ride around Pasadena’s Rose Bowl before depositing the riders on the Angeles Crest Highway in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The start line expo was thick with Italian flavor with expo booths from such notable Italian brands as Selle Italia, Colnago, Santini, Carrera, Sidi, Limar in attendance. And it was with quite a bit of local fanfare - both the city's mayor and chief of police were in lycra ready to ride - that at 7:00 am sharp the two-wheeled tribe rolled out behind two Fiat 500 lead cars.
After riding through the picturesque Old Town Pasadena right down Colorado Blvd and winding through the residential area that makes up the famous arroyo leading to up to the Rose Bowl where we did one complete lap, the peloton headed to the hills where the real work would begin.
(Note: My Sunday Facebook post on the ride that called out the hard hand of the sheriffs during the ride blew-up pretty big. I spoke to the Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo technical director Sabra Nagel to get a official response & it is posted at the bottom of the page.)
Pasadena's beautiful city hall provided the perfect backdrop for the first-time appearance of a Gran Fondo. Helping bring some additional Italian flavor to the event were the two Fiat 500s that led the riders out of town.
Straddling his iridescent gold Colnago C59 spec'd with a Campagnolo EPS drivetrain, this guy was full of Italian flavor.
Former Pro riders and current Universal Sports
commentator Todd "Go-Go" Gogulski came down for the ride...be sure to watch Go-Go in the cable channel's upcoming coverage of the Vuelta de Espana.
Regular RBA readers might recognize Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez (L) from the feature story we ran on him in the June issue. Chief Sanchez was stoked to get the Mayor's permission to take a day off to ride his bike. Oh yeah, that's Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard standing next to him. Pasadena is a city that understands cycling.
The big celebrity of the ride was the legendary Franceso Moser.
Sure, you might look at him and say "just another old Italian bike rider", but I would wager that the former World Champion, Giro d'Italia winner and and three-time Paris-Roubaix winner could still kick the pasta out of about 98% of you reading this right now. Francesco's nephew Moreno is currently a rider on Team Liquigas.
After looping through Old Town Pasadena, the riders faced their first climb of the day as they exited the arroyo that is home to the Rose Bowl. This is where things started to get interesting as the local sheriffs seemed to take a particular interest in the Gran Fondo participants...and seemingly not as much in their safety as much as their strict adherence to traffic laws....and I mean STRICT!
I got into an argument with this guy over the heritage of his very rare yellow Colnago that he said he scored from Ernesto Colnago at the factory in Cambiago, Italy. While I was bringing up the yellow days of Michael Rasmussen, he said it was the legacy of Thomas Voeckler that the bike was based on.
While race promoters said the city of Pasadena and Los Angeles were "a joy to work with", Glendale and La Canada were less than friendly to the idea of a bike ride passing through their town...and just to prove it, the La Canada/Flintridge Sheriffs department put on a shameful display of "law enforcement" as they ticketed dozens of riders. One such victim of the seemingly over-zealous enforcement said, "The guy that pulled me over actually apologized for doing it, but he said the city "was adamant about giving tickets." And he first wrote 'failure to yield" on the ticket before crossing out the word 'yield' and writing the word 'stop' over it!"
Now none of this is about bashing law enforcement, but it is about commenting on what seemed to many, many people to be a level of law enforcement that was akin to "shooting fish in a barrel." Cyclists know the laws as well as anyone, but giving a person a ticket for slowly rolling through a quiet, uphill residential intersection in an organized ride just came across as a bit far-fetched. Imagine getting pulled over or ticketed EVERY time you went one mph over the speed limit or were late to a parking meter by one minute.We know the La Canada/Flintridge sheriffs were there ostensibly to provide safe passage, but the unfortunate result of their behavior was instead one that many felt bordered on harassment and a PR disaster.
Few things can bring as much joy to a suffering cyclist than to find a guy offering up a tray of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - I loved this guy! Over 600 gallons of water were provided to hot & thirsty riders. Another welcome site for everyone were the two FSA sponsored neutral support vans that provided wheels, tools and inner tubes to stranded riders.
From mountain bikes and hybrids to this classic Bob Jackson with aero bars and every carbon superbike imaginable, the variety of bikes found on the ride was impressive.
Bottom line, the Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo really wasn't the sort of ride that catered to the beginner rider. After rolling through the city streets, the riders began the long, arduous trek up Highway 2 into the San Gabriel Mountains. It was a hot and steep climb and for those doing the 92 mile ride there was 9200 feet of climbing. People, make sure you read the course map before signing up for a long ride.
Meet Marco. Marco thought he alone would be aboard a Cipollini RB1000 so he was bummed when I rode up next to him on our RB1000 test bike. "I'll have to kill you now!" he said. Marco, who is the chef at DaMarco Cucina e Vino
in Houston, Texas came out to ride and visit Disneyland.
When we drove up to the event today, I spotted this Trek TTX tri bike and commented how interesting it always is to see all the different bikes that show up at Gran Fondos. Turns out the bike belonged to 36 year old Andy Funk. "Oh I have a road bike," he admitted, "but I like the TT bike and I figure for anything less that 8 hours of riding, the TT bike works fine." Andy rode the long course in 5:30 and came away with the KOM award for his age group. Andy, you rule!
This was the well deserved reward for everyone who rode through the heat.
How about Daniel Barr with his sweet Colnago Master and period correct Mapei kit? Daniel said he spent most of his time one a single speed and had only owned the classic race bike for just a week prior to the Gran Fondo. Daniel toughed out the climbs with his small gear cluster...it was the one stop sign that he didn't come to a complete stop at that gave him trouble.
As both the KOM and overall winner of the Gran Fondo, "Real Deal" Neil was in big demand by the media and I had to stand in line to talk to him.
To the victor goes the spoils! One week after his second place finish in the Crusher in the Tushar, Neil was able to hold the Giro trophy presented to him by Francesco Moser. No, he didn't get to keep it. Next on Neil's hit list is the San Diego Giro and then the Las Vegas Gran Fondo followed one week later by the King's Ridge Gran Fondo where he will be going for his second win in two years.
The next Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo
will be held in Miami, Florida on November 11.
Sabra Nagel's response to the La Canada/Flintridge sheriffs seemingly ticketing as many people as they possibly could during the Gran Fondo...
"I was really as surprised as everyone else about the situation. I had gone through the Sheriff's department for a permit and had a contract with them to provide support the ride. I didn't know they would instead turn it into what many riders saw as a targeted enforcement event. I think many people who sign up for rides like this see an officer at an intersection and think they they are there to support them. Unfortunately, people told me the sheriffs stood there with ticket books in hand and instead cited as many people as they could for rolling violations. Especially on climbs, there are also plenty of riders who find coming to a compete stop difficult. If there's a group of them, it's far easier to slow down and roll through without having to un-clip and then start pedaling again - it's like driving with a manual transmission in a car. The sheriff's even ticketed (for impeding traffic) our neutral support vehicle that was trying to provide support for disabled riders. I mean, they knew we would be providing that service and even after the driver was ticketed, the sheriffs tried to pull him over two more times!
"I want to emphasize that we had no problems whatsoever with the police from Pasadena, Los Angeles, or even the Highway Patrol. In fact, officers from each of the departments had nothing but positive things to say about the ride. For the sheriffs, I think they were responding to problems they have with local riders who maybe do run stop signs at speed, but this was not that group. It just seems that the sheriff's only goal was to damage the ride and that's unfortunate