Four cyclists, one on a recumbent bike, at the intersection of Routes 176 (U.S. Highway) and 108, on the east side of Tryon. They headed east on 176 to climb the Saluda Grade. (photos by Mark Schmerling)
Four cyclists, one on a recumbent bike, at the intersection of Routes 176 (U.S. Highway) and 108, on the east side of Tryon. They headed east on 176 to climb the Saluda Grade. (photos by Mark Schmerling)

Gran Fondo brings more than 1,200 cyclists through area

Published 11:07pm Monday, October 28, 2013

Early morning frost, and a starting temperature of just over 30 degrees, were no match for more than 1,200 cyclists from all over the U.S. and the local area, who completed the 15-, 50- and 80-mile versions of the Gran Fondo Hincapie bicycle event on Saturday, Oct. 26.

The two longer routes traced parts of Polk and Henderson counties in North Carolina, and Greenville and Spartanburg counties in South Carolina. All rides began and ended at Hotel Domestique, located off Old U.S. Route 25.

John Cash and George Hincapie. (photo submitted)
John Cash and George Hincapie. (photo submitted)

This was the event’s second year. Organized by 17-time Tour de France competitor George Hincapie, the ride benefitted Meals on Wheels of Greenville (SC). The ride provided riders of all levels the chance to ride the same roads that Hincapie trains on, and share the roads with Hincapie.

Several riders, including local John Cash, rode with Hincapie as they completed the Gran (80 miles and some 7,300 feet of elevation gain). Riders on the Gran had demanding climbs on Skyuka Mountain, Howard Gap, and Green River Cove roads. Those who chose the Medio (50-mile version) cycled up the Saluda Grade and Callahan Mountain Road (in South Carolina, near the Greenville Watershed), as part of 4,500 feet of overall vertical gain. The Gran and Medio routes overlapped for much of the way.

Some riders selected the Piccolo (15-mile) ride, which offered proportional challenges and fine scenery for less-experienced riders.

One of the most inspiring performances was turned in by 8-year old T.R. Newnam who completed the 50-mile ride with his father, Todd.

Five refreshment stops gave riders a chance to rest and re-fuel. All were available to riders on the Gran, while three of those were located on the Medio route (in front of Nature’s Storehouse, Tryon; near Saluda Elementary School; and on Calahan Mountain Road. Meals on Wheels of Greenville vans were at each stop, providing food, beverages and other nutrition at no charge.

Proceeds from last year’s event provided more than 7,000 meals to homebound clients in Greenville.

“We have been honored (as the beneficiary of this event),” said Catriona Carlisle, executive director of MOW Greenville. “They (George and his brother Rich Hincapie) have been a tremendous partner to Meals on Wheels).”

The presence of signs marking nearly every turn, as well as markers on the road at turns, allowed cyclists to simply pedal and not fuss about directions. In addition, organizers collaborated with law enforcement departments in all four counties (including the Saluda and Tryon police departments) who limited traffic on many roads, and also assisted with traffic control and directions.

Hincapie team members provided SAG (support and gear) vehicles to assist riders with physical or mechanical issues. Other individuals helped direct cyclists at turning points along the routes.

Though not a race, the event included King of the Mountain (KOM) timing and awards for riders who turned in the fastest times on the major climbs. Winners’ names were not available at press time.

 

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