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First Vermont Gran Fondo seen as a success

ADDISON COUNTY — Organizers of the first annual Vermont Gran Fondo bicycling event this past Saturday say the event was a success and they plan to hold an even better event next year. The event drew 181 registrants. Of those, 160 starters pedaled their way through various cycling distances in and around Addison County on June 14, leaving organizers optimistic the event will have some staying power.
“All the comments have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Sue Hoxie, advertising and marketing director for the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, which took a lead in staging the event. “We need to make a few minor tweaks here and there, but really for a first-time event it went great. I think it’s safe to say this was the first annual Vermont Gran Fondo.”
Gran Fondo — loosely translated from Italian as “big ride” — describes a cycling event where participants ride not for the sake of a podium finish, but for a personal challenge. These races are common in Europe and some regions of the U.S.
Organizers of the Vermont Gran Fondo reasoned that such a race could draw scores of cycling enthusiasts to Addison County to discover tourism opportunities and great amenities that they might find worthy of revisiting.
Starting and finishing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl off Route 125 in Hancock, the inaugural event was organized into three rides of increasing difficulty: A Piccolo Fondo, spanning 46 miles and 3,100 feet of elevation encompassing the Brandon and Middlebury gaps; a Medio Fondo, covering 69 miles, 7,300 feet, including the Lincoln and App gaps; and the Gran Fondo, spanning 104 miles, 10,700 feet, and covering all four gaps.
Entry fees ranged from $75 to $100.
“It rocked,” Better Middlebury Partnership President Ben Wilson said of the event. “The weather was great, we were able to draw people from as far as the United Kingdom … and Ontario. People had a great time.
“From an economic development perspective, it certainly achieved what we were hoping it would and it did a lot to get the Middlebury brand out there to another new audience,” he added.
He credited Hoxie with doing a great job pulling the event together in collaboration with the BMP.
Some local merchants tried to attract the out-of-towners to their shops. Area artists fashioned nearly a dozen unique pieces of art out of repurposed bicycles and bicycle parts and exhibited them around downtown Middlebury. Lincoln Peak winery in New Haven hosted an after-race get-together for the cyclists.
Wilson hoped to see upwards of 300 cyclists registered for the event next year.
Hoxie said around 20 cyclists chose the Piccolo Fondo, while 100 did the entire Gran Fondo. The remaining 40 did the Medio Fondo. She estimates 50 percent of the riders came from out of state. The oldest finisher was 72 and the youngest was 10, according to Hoxie.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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