A sold-out Grand Fondo Badlands took to the streets on Saturday morning, July 8.
The Grand Fondo has become a staple in the valley and attracts riders from all over the province. This year it took on a new life as TransRockies Race Series became the host. With that came a record field of over 800 riders at the event, all there to take on the scenic but challenging terrain of the badlands.
“We have done lots of other fondos before. We used to organize the Grand Fondo Highwood pass, we also organized one down in Moab, Utah. Other than that, we do mountain biking events, trail riding events gravel cycling events,” said President and Chief Cycling Officer, Aaron McConnell. “I had a chance to ride the course before I knew we were taking it over, so I knew it was a beautiful route.”
In talks with the previous organizer and knowing how good the ride was, he said they were open to taking it on.
Smiles were abound on the course as the riders took off at different intervals for the four distances in a non-competitive race. There was a great cross-section of riders, from seasoned veterans to many taking on a distance ride for the first time.
With such a success at their first event was a boon for the organizers, but McConnell says they believe there is room to grow.
“We just want to see how things work this year and maybe see where there is room to grow as long as we can keep the experience really good, we will grow if we can,” said McConnell.
While the Fondo saw 800 bikes on the course in one day, residents have noticed the growth of cycling in the valley for a few years. Both with locals and riders coming to enjoy the Badlands and river valley.
“We have been organizing events for a long time. Events have that ability to create a reputation for a community around a sport. A lot of people wouldn’t have known this is a road cycling destination without first being attracted to the event,” said McConnell.