What is a Gran Fondo?
A Gran Fondo is an amazing mix of the best aspects of each: a long-distance bicycle group ride, a race and festival! Often hosted by a professional cyclist or patron, the premiere routes are celebrated for their heritage, difficulty or scenery, if not for their use also as a professional race course. The events are timed, and participants can race the clock or simply challenge themselves to complete the course within the designated cutoff. Along the course, riders receive well-staffed support similar to a road race: course marshals, volunteers, signage, lead and sag vehicles and mechanical assistance. Unlike a race, rest stations along the route welcome and encourage riders to linger and enjoy food and drink. The festival is what sets these events apart from your average group ride. Communities come together to welcome riders, cheer them along the route and enjoy the excitement of the event. At the finish line, participants celebrate their achievement, relax and enjoy the festivities together.
Read more about the Gran Fondo tradition at Bicycling Magazine: “Once you set off on the rolling party known as a gran fondo, it will all make beautiful sense…”
What type of bike should I ride?
The Alpine Loop, Shenandoah Mountain Century, Shenandoah Mountain Adventure, Mt Solon Metric Century and Valley View Challenge routes all take place on road surfaces – participants will ride road cycling bikes.
How do I know if my bike is a “road” bike?
Road bikes have large wheels with smooth “skinny” tires and handle bars that typically curl downward – just like the bikes you see in the Tour de France. If you’re not familiar enough with your bicycle to know this designation, it’s likely that you’re not quite ready for the 108, 100, and 78-mile routes just yet. However, if you’re an enthusiast who frequently rides a hybrid, touring or tandem bicycle, the Valley View Challenge 36-mile or Mt Solon Metric Century 100-kilometer (62-mile) routes might be just the experience you’re looking for! More info about equipment regulations.
I heard there is dirt on the Alpine Loop?
You heard right! In total there are about 10 miles of dirt road on the Alpine Loop, all but nearly 1 mile of which being uphill. A ‘cross bike is not needed, road bikes are appropriate. That being said, it is advisable to leave your light weight race tires at home. Flat-resistant 25c or 26c tires are strongly recommended. The Shenandoah Mountain Century, Shenandoah Mountain Adventure, Mt Solon Metric Century and Valley View Challenge are entirely paved. More info about recommended tires.
Are the hills steep?
That, they are. Easy gearing is a must for the Alpine Loop! A compact, triple or a very large cassette will do the trick.
How many rest stations are there?
Let’s break this down by route. Check out the Rest Stop Guide for full details.
Valley View Challenge (36-mile) route: there is a full rest station located at mile 17.
Mt Solon Metric Century (62-mile) route: there is a full rest station located at miles 17 and __.
Shenandoah Mountain Adventure (78-mile) route: at miles 30, 40 and 58.
Shenandoah Mountain Century (100-mile) route: at miles 30, 40, 58 and ___.
Alpine Loop Gran Fondo (107-mile) route: at miles 30, 40, 63 and 88.
Are there time cutoffs?
Yes, to better ensure the safety of participants, volunteers and the communities along the routes, time limits of very reasonable amounts will be upheld. Exact milestones are available here. Any riders who are unable to achieve the time limits will be given the choice to join a different route, shuttle to the next aid station or directly to the finish line – depending on the circumstances and location.
So, it’s not a race, but there are King (and Queen) of the Mountains prizes?
Yes! Since there is always some competitive nature to a group ride, we’re hosting KOM competitions along the routes. All riders – including those in the Valley routes – can clock their fastest time up our newest timed segment on the short but infamously steep Mole Hill. It’s a friendly way to compete within the ride, and test yourself against an unyielding competitor – the mountain! Apart from the KOM throw down (should you choose to), we hope you’ll enjoy the camaraderie of riding alongside friends and fellow cyclists, and find little incentive to push your limits on the downhills. In fact, in the spirit of safety, such nonsense will be strongly discouraged. Alpine Loop riders will compete in three timed sections, Shenandoah Mountain Adventure and Shenandoah Mountain Century riders will compete in two timed segment. (See Routes for info.)
Are there prizes or medals?
All Alpine Loop finishers arriving ahead of the time cut will receive a special European-style commemorative token – a handmade Swiss Glocken. If you want that bell, you have to aim for the Alpine Loop! Alpine Loop riders who cross the finish line after the time cut will receive a 2017 Finisher Medallion. Riders completing all the other event routes will receive 2017 Finisher Medallions.
Sometimes it’s the rider who bravely rides on instead of dropping out who deserves the prize. And that’s why we have something special in store for the final Alpine Loop finisher to cross the line before the time cut!
What about registration? Is it open? Are there field limits? Can I register on site?
The link at the top of this page will take you to the BikeReg.com online event registration home page for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Registration is based on first come, first serve until the field limits have been reached. In previous years the event has sold out in advance. Hopeful participants are encouraged to register early. There will be no onsite registration.
All participants will be required to check in, confirm registration and sign an event waiver.
Where is check-in at the event?
On Saturday, September 30, check-in will be hosted at a downtown Harrisonburg location to be announced, 2-6 p.m, Downtown Harrisonburg. On Sunday, October 1, check-in will take place at the Start location at the Turner Pavilion in Downtown Harrisonburg. Click here for a map of activities.
BE IN LINE FOR EVENT-DAY CHECK-IN NO LATER THAN 7:15 A.M.TO ALLOW ALL PARTICIAPANTS AND VOLUNTEERS TO THE START LINE BY 7:45 A.M.
Where can I park?
For participants picking up registration on Saturday and/or attending the Cycling Capital Celebration pre-event dinner, parking is available in the municipal parking deck located at 51 West Water Street directly across from Bella Luna Woodfired Pizza. (Google Mapping directions to this destination works with the one way street!) Free, all-day parking is available at the Start and Finish Line Festival Location – map and directions will be posted. All the info you need to plan your visit.
Will there be food at the finish line?
YES! There’s going to be a full meal waiting for you at the finish line. Participants can look forward to ice cold chocolate milk, iced tea, lemonade, sodas, and recovery drinks; and beer (for sale or with cycling participant token) in the Beer Garden. Also in the Beer Garden, there will be complimentary fresh hot pizza from Chanello’s of Harrisonburg. The Gristmill Bakery will provide an incredible selection of Alpine-inspired cookies.
Is the food included in the cost of registration? How can my family and friends get in on this deal?
Yes, one meal is included for cyclists who register for the event. You will receive a special wristband so you can access the catering tent. Wristbands will be available for spectators via event registration IN ADVANCE ONLY. (Beer – beyond your first – are provided at additional costs.)
Will there be entertainment at the finish line?
There will be beer and music! We’ll be hosting FREE raffles for merchandise and gear, leading up to the KOM podium ceremony. It will be a great time to kick back and relax! Full details about the Finish Line Festival are here.
Did these topics answer your questions?
We hope so, but if you have any questions, please e-mail Erin @ AlpineLoopGranFondo .com (no spaces in the actual e-mail address… trying to deter spam bots). If you’re still wondering – someone else is too. We’ll keep updating this page accordingly.