As cycling trends change all over the country, so do the events. A trend we have been seeing with road cycling in the United States in the past few years is the Gran Fondo.

This style of event originated from Italy. Gran Fondo means “Big Ride.” The idea is to allow everyone to participate no matter their athletic ability.

There are normally three different mileage options incorporated in the ride. The riders leave in a large group, each with a timed chip. There are usually a few prizes given out to the riders who choose to race in every category. Afterwards there is always a large feast so cyclists can eat amazing food and chat with friends. This allows everyone to enjoy cycling at their own pace.

Locally, the Cherry Roubaix directors have followed that trend. Originally the race was a three-day event, with Friday night sprints and Saturday criterium in downtown Traverse City and the road race on Sunday in Leelanau County. After several years of putting on a successful race which, for a few years, coincided with a state road race, the directors decided to take a different view.

The three-day event took a lot of manpower, including volunteers and emergency personnel. The directors felt that this had been a great community event but was missing one thing: the community. Year after year they had volunteers from the cycling community help, but those people could never participate in the race itself because they were not necessarily racers.

In the past few years the race has changed to a Gran Fondo so everyone can enjoy the hilly course. It now starts in downtown Traverse City and ends at Herman Park in Suttons Bay for a large pig-roast feast.

Even though we still have volunteers to help and the emergency personnel in Leelanau County are wonderful, we don’t need quite as many as we once had.

The directors have also taken community another step.

The proceeds from this event now help the youth Hagerty cycling team. Cherry Roubaix is able to pay for all the youth on the team to train during the winter at the Hagerty Ironworks gym. Proceeds also go to the TART Trails.

This year’s event was an excellent ride. Organizers even held the Gran Fondo while putting on the state road races this year. It truly became a ride for everyone in our community.

If you missed this ride but are interested in doing a local ride, there are a few coming up this fall. The Leelanau Harvest tour is September 14 starting at Suttons Bay High School. This event is not quite a Gran Fondo, but I will tell you from personal experience that the food stops and lunch are excellent.

Another great ride to consider is the Cadillac Rotary White Pine Ride. This ride is also a great community tour benefiting a great cause in the Cadillac community.

We don’t have to be racers to enjoy events that push us to try something new. We just have to believe in ourselves to enjoy our time on the bike.

Bicycling is both family business and after-work passion for Meagan McLain. She is the marketing manager at McLain Cycle & Fitness and the kitchen designer for McLain Designs. Learn more at mclaincycle.com.

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