More than 200 bicyclists from all over the region descended upon Cottage Grove early Saturday morning, but even more will have the ability to participate virtually soon. The Oregon Gran Fondo, an annual biking event in the community returned for its tenth anniversary with 210 participants.
For the first time, the event, which sends bicyclists along four different routes, started at Bohemia Park as opposed to its traditional starting location on Main Street.
Also a first for Cottage Grove’s Gran Fondo, the race will be virtually simulated online for bicyclists around the world to participate in from the comfort of their homes.
iFIT, an interactive fitness and workout app that is partnered with ‘NordicTrack’ workout equipment, was onsite while social media influencer and iFIT trainer Travis McCabe was also involved.
The 25-mile mini gravel event was filmed with drones and other equipment. Those with an at home iFIT enabled bike, or iFIT app on their smartphone or tablet can explore the virtual simulated route when it goes live.
“June 11th they are going live to four million users on their platform, featuring Cottage Grove, Oregon. They’ll feel the climbs, all that is inaugurated,” said Mike Ripley, who is associated with Mudslinger, and is the event organizers. “They’ve been here three times filming drone shots. It’s bigger than anyone knows. This is global. There are people in the Netherlands next week …. I had a guy from Alabama wanting to buy socks from me to wear them when he is riding with Travis McCabe. He’ll be climbing the gravel in Gowdyville (virtually).”
An Italian phrase, “Gran Fondo” translates to “Big Ride.” The first event, called “Adventure”, which is 130 miles, met up to the name. Starting bright and early at 7 a.m., nineteen riders took off on a rout that took them close to Reedsport. Anthony Langford finished first with a time of 6:42:41 with an average of 18.4 MPH while riding.
“130 miles is a long ways. Once every month I try to get a six- or seven-hour bike ride in, then lots of little rides. Rides like today is about having the right amount of food and water and to make sure to pace yourself. Don’t go to hard. That’s kind of the big deal,” said Luke Demoe of Eugene, as the 130-mile race was getting ready to begin. Demoe finished second in the “Adventure” event.
According to the Mudslinger website, the Gran Fondo is not a race, but rather a “mass start event designed to draw the community together and give everyone a chance to enjoy the fun of riding a bike on the same course as the pros.”
“Mudslinger events has been around for 20 years; I started doing events in 1991. This is the seventh year I’ve put it (the Gran Fondo) on,” said Ripley. “It’s part of the Oregon Triple Crown, which is five different events. If you finish three of them you get a jersey. We have food, friends, and is a great chance to get to meet some people. Mudslinger is family-based.”
The site also states “Gran Fondo rides have their origin in Italy and France, where the general public was invited to ride a single stage of one of the professional grand tours, the Tour de France, and the Giro D’Italia after the pro race went through. Everyone, of any age and ability, was invited to participate.”
The mini gravel event was taken by Josh Weissert with a time of 1:15:48 at a 14.8 MPH rate. With a time of 3:11:06, Danny Weikel averaged 20.3 MPH to finish the Medio route (71 miles) in first, while in the Gran Route (117 miles), Robert Cummings came out on top with a time of 5:07:3.6 and averaged 21.6 MPH. The Gran Route dropped the riders only 30 miles from the coast.
In alliance with the Gran Fondo, several local businesses were open for special events throughout the day in the downtown area, including sidewalk sales, flea markets, and live music among other events taking place.
“I think the first weekend of June is a key. I’ve articulated this to the city and the chamber, the first weekend of June Cottage Grove needs to own it. The whole state needs to come to Cottage Grove. That’s my goal, all businesses can do something, make it a real big thing for the community,” event organizer Mike Ripley said.
For those more interested in running, in 2023 Ripley will be putting on a half and full marathon in Cottage Grove the day after the Gran Fondo is completed.