Organizers say event was a hit with 130 plus cyclists
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Cyclists from this past weekend’s Gran Fondo event, from left, David Gagnon of Hubbards, N.S., member of the event committee and Charlottetown resident Shannon Burt, Oyster Bed resident Lionel Stanley and Halifax resident Stephen Beamish enjoy the waterfront view after finishing the final 57 km ride on Sunday.
It may have been the first year a Gran Fondo cycling event was held in P.E.I., but for David Gagnon it felt like déjà vu.
The Hubbards, N.S., resident used to live and cycle on P.E.I. in the 1990s and was one of the more than 130 cyclists who participated in the inaugural event this past weekend.
He said the event reminded him of some of the long bike rides he used to venture on in province.
While many of the routes featured in the event were familiar to Gagnon, there were also some changes.
“The only difference is that, of course, it’s organized, there are lots of people riding and, in fact, the roads have improved a lot since I was here,” he said. “So that’s a real treat as well.”
Event manager Mark Carr-Rollitt said the inaugural year went over well and has provided an opportunity to continue building up the niche event for the future.
Feedback from participants was excellent, said Carr-Rollitt, who also pointed to the near perfect weather for the event.
While riders were blown away by the conditions, they were also impressed by the routes, he said.
“The rides were a little more challenging than people realized because there’s a perception, certainly in Ontario, that P.E.I. is flat,” he said. “I think we’ve changed that (perception) a little bit, which is a good thing from a rider’s point of view.”
He said riders thought routes were well marked with only a couple of cyclists making a wrong turn before quickly being re-directed.
Although there was mechanical assistance for tune-ups at the new P.E.I. Convention Centre, where much of the event was based, he said it was rarely needed.
“We didn’t even have to fix one flat, which is pretty unusual,” he said. “We had one tech issue but other than that everyone’s bikes seemed to be in good shape.”
Cyclists were also treated to a number of events, such as the P.E.I. Jazz and Blues and Art in the Open festivals, while others made their own excursions to Cavendish and other areas of the province.
The true highlights for most were the gran and medio fondos held on Saturday, both of which explored the North Shore of the province.
Other rides included Friday’s route to Canoe Cove and Sunday’s final trip to China Point.
“P.E.I. is a great place to ride,” said Halifax resident Stephen Beamish. “The combination of the Confederation Trail and lots of nice backroads that are comfortable to ride on. It’s a great spot.”
Beamish, who comes to P.E.I. ever summer, was also raising funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation while enjoying the routes.
As of Sunday, he had raised more than $2,000 for the cause, something he does every summer during cycling events.
“My oldest daughter is 15 and she’s a type 1 diabetic,” he said. “That’s how I got into cycling. I was looking for a way to raise money for that organization.“
Carr-Rollitt said the next step for the group is to look at any adjustments that could be made for next year’s Gran Fondo.
“(At the end of the event) you say ‘did this work, can we do it but in a different way, can we adjust the route to a different location?’,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good first year and we’ve got something to build.”
Carr-Rollitt said many of the riders have already said they would return for the event next year.
Many added they would also be hoping to take more cyclists with them next year.
That’s something both Gagnon and Beamish are hoping to do.
“We’ll spread the word,” said Gagnon.