Monthly Archives: April 2015

Three Weeks to Go – Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY 2015

Please don’t worry; if you have not registered for this year’s Gran Fondo NY you still have time and there are still spots available!  If you are a relatively new rider you can still get ready for the Bear Challenge and be a Pro for a Day – a 50 mile ride from the GWB to the top of Bear Mountain then take one of the special GFNY buses back to the pro finish line right in front of Strictly Bicycles on Hudson terrace in Fort Lee.  All you need to do is register, join our C Group for the free training rides these last two Sundays prior to the event, and ride your heart out on May 17th!  Experienced riders – what are you waiting for; don’t you want to be part of a positive life-changing cycling experience?  If Amani Toomer can do it, so can you!

Veronica and Amani April 2015

Yes, that is former NY Giant Amani Toomer (who will wear his number 81 for GFNY 2015),  being interviewed by Veronica Contreras (sportscaster for Telemundo 47 and GFNY 2015 participant-in-training), in the Strictly Bicycles parking lot after one of our training rides.

Yesterday’s training ride was so much fun.  Uli and Lidia were away participating in GFNY Colombia and one of our ride leaders was out so Heidi, our Group Rides Team Leader, and me had responsibility for the C Group, about 35 cyclistsa ll to ourselves, while Jared went to relax with the B’s (some of our cyclists at one of our water stops at Rockland Lake)

C Group Rockland Lake

I had a great time riding with out group; especially because it was a little windy (no matter what anyone says, it is always a headwind) and a couple of times during the ride I got to chase from the sweeper position at the back of the group – I felt like a pro speeding (if you can call what I do “speeding”) past the long line of cyclists to get to the front and take my turn so Heidi could have a little break…..  Our C Group is an amazing collection of cyclists, from all walks of life and a wide variety of cycling experience; we all manage to work together, help each other and enjoy the ride (if I did this correctly the ride is HERE.

For those of your who are participating in GFNY for the first time, or perhaps have not had the opportunity to ride with us over the winter and spring, let’s talk about the race course for a few minutes.

Please get to the start line early; aim to be there no later than 5:00 AM so that if something happens – it takes longer to get ready, there is traffic, the parking plan didn’t quite work out, you have a mechanical, whatever – you still have lots of time; you can’t get on the start line at 6:00:01.  Enjoy the camaraderie, talk to the other GFNY participants, watch for some of the ex-pros, sponsors, and VIP riders as they pass on the right to get to their corral, listen to the announcer – there is plenty to do if you are early, there is nothing to do, except cry, if you are late!

No matter your corral, be careful once the race starts.  There are people further back that are racing to get to the front – the best rule is keep to the right except to pass although the bridge is very wide and many people are moving quickly so be aware of your surroundings.  There are several potential bottlenecks – the first one is when coming off the GWB; there is a 270 degree right turn where the road narrows so please slow down and be careful.  There are two other other turns (one right, one left) before we make the right turn onto River Road where it becomes a downhill very quickly  (by the way, if you see two people standing on the corner when you make the right please say hello to Cary and Anita – those will be my in-laws who have come out to every GFNY event to say hello as I pass).  The left rurn into the park is very sharp and very fast – it is a downhill to the entrance so for many the speeds are high – USE YOUR BRAKES early so you don’t overcook the turn, not everyone has the same bike handling skills and if you are racing this IS NOT the spot to make up time.  Once inside the park the keep to the right rule works really well – let the fast people go  (make a mental note of some of the numbers – if you race smart I guarantee you will pass these people a few times throughout the day!)  Ride to your capability and remember to save some energy, there are 95 miles to go!  Be careful on the roundabouts and ride steady on Alpine Climb out of the park.  When I am coach cyclists up that climb I tell them to glance up to the left from time to time – as you see the ridge line begin to get closer to the road we are riding you will start to hear the sound of water – you are then 200 meters from the top – an easy left and a right and you will see the road begin to flatten out, click up two gears and GO!  From there its a couple of hundred meters to 9W and the open road.

(By the way, if you can bypass the rest stop in Piermont please do so; wait until you get to Rockland Lake so you can completely fill your two water bottles, use the restroom, grab a snack and go)…..

Next potential bottleneck – when we take the right turn into Tallman State Park  there is an immediate grade change UP that slows people down because most participants don’t know its there – you hear a lot of clicking and clacking as they change their gears – be ready for the slowdown, and then be careful because the descent through the park is steep, there are three blind turns, and the road is not great – USE YOUR BRAKES!

After that is is clear sailing through Piermont – just be careful for cyclists entering and leaving the first rest stop immediately past the town center – and then through Nyack to a couple of short but steep climbs.  You will come through Nyack and near the end of town will head down to the water for a little bit, make a left to go up one block, make a right onto the main road and then about 1 km ahead you will make a sharp left onto Old Mountain Road – two climbs, short and sharp, onto 9W, a short steady uphill on 9W and then the fast descent to Rockland Lake – please ride at your skill level and be aware that there are people on the road who may not ride as well as you…….

The Rockland Lake rest stop is a great place to fill up on water, snacks, use the rest rooms and go.  If you are doing the Bear Challenge you are about halfway there already!

Just so you know I expect to retain my course record again this year; I usually start with the #3 on my bike and each year 4,997 riders pass me – so please feel free to say hello as you pass…..our Gruppo Sportivo is lucky to be sponsored by DeRosa, the world’s finest bicycle company, so if you see a slow guy with this bike (except I just changed my bar tape to white) please say hi!  There are only 6 of us from the team riding that day – Uli and Lidia are a little bit busy, doing what I don’t know….


OK, so you head out from Rockland Lake onto 9W – there are a couple of little “bumps” but nothing crazy so just steady your pace until you get to the section where you can simply coast to the next turn – a couple of little rollers and a big switchback down to the water through Haverstraw.  Stop if you need to fill up, fuel up or something else – next stop is Bear Mountain.  The ride along the water can be a little windy – as I said before it is always a headwind – so if you can ride behind someone or a small group that is riding your pace by all means do so.  If you need a lesson in drafting please talk to my good friend Ektor – we ride together quite often and he is a super skillful bike handler – actually he inspired me to ride all winter – and when it is my turn at the front if I don’t turn completely around I don’t see him behind me – he is thatclose.  On one of our rides he was so close that I almost dropped him into the laundry when I went to wash my cycling jersey – he was hiding in the pocket!


If you can, ride together along the water!  There will be a left turn – short, a little steep – to get to 9W and then we head north to Bear Mountain – but first you need to do Baby Bear…..which we will talk about, along with the Beat Mountain climb, in my next post…..

Enjoy your week, please get out and ride…..see you in three weeks!



Four Weeks to Go – Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY 2015

If you haven’t signed up to participate in this year’s GFNY, do not despair – if you know how to ride a bike and would like to be part of an incredible life-changing athletic event you still have time and there are still slots available!  If it is your first long distance cycling event, or if you haven’t been on your bike for a while, do the Bear Challenge; 50 miles to the top of Bear Mountain and a bus back to the finish line in Fort Lee.

I do not have the words to describe the feeling of being with 5,000 cyclists from every corner of the world – ex-pro to novice – all of us lined up on the George Washington Bridge ready to ride together; some participants racing against each other from start start to finish (that’s maybe 25 of the 5,000) and others participating in a race with themselves, simply riding to do their best.

For some the best is to finish, for some to beat their prior years’ time and for others to meet their friends at the finish line, compare times and retain one years’ bragging rights!

Inaugural Gran Fondo 2011 – I signed up and didn’t have a clue, but being the (please choose – inspirational cycling teacher OR pain in the neck) I convinced two of my students to sign up as well; this is the three of us at the end of the race – right after we got off the bus from the rest stop somewhere in W Nyack:


In September 2011, I was asked to become a member of the GFNY Ambassador Team – Gruppo Sportivo Gran Fondo NY – which supports the theory that it pays to be lucky rather than smart, rich or good looking!  Inspired by my team membership I raced to the finish line in less than half a day, completing the event in under 12 hours (just to give you some perspective the race winners finish in 4+ hours) and the reason you get to see the NYC skyline in the background is because the finish line and all the staging had already been taken down when I arrived.  Pictured are my friends Kevin, (me), Uli (GFNY CEO), Don Alberto and Atam.  It took us a while but we made it together from W. Nyack all the way home (back then I had no idea where I was  – Don Alberto laughed at me because I called my wife and told her I would be back in under an hour and it took us more than two – but now when we hit W. Nyack we know we are almost there!).

2012 GFNY

The 2013 GFNY was an epic event – it rained all day, from start to finish, without letting up.  I rode most of the day on my own and when I got to the stadium in Pomona I thought I caught everyone – there must have been 1,000 cyclists in the parking lot and inside the building.  As it turns out they were waiting for the buses that the organizers arranged to take them to the finish line.  I filled my water bottles and kept going – imagining I was Andy Hampsten in the Giro D’Italia.  If you don’t know the story, Andy Hampsten is the first American to win the Giro D’Italia, solidifying his win with a searing descent down the Gavia in a snowstorm.


I don’t have any photos of my ride from that year…..but here we are at the start line, cheering like crazy, mostly to keep warm!!

2013 start line

Bring in 2014 – beautiful day and fantastic ride.  I had an opportunity to ride with a friend from Italy who got me to the bottom of Bear by 10:30 or so, super fast time for me – but the greatest part of the day for me came when I was descending down Bear – I saw my wife Melanie climbing Perkins and it brought tears to my eyes – it was her first time going to the top of Bear and it made me really happy to see her doing so well!

This is the start line of GFNY 2014 – Heidi, Odette, Steven and Melanie getting ready to get to their start corrals on the GWB.

Start of 2014 GFNY

The 2015 Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY is four weeks away – please join us and be part of something really special!

A few of us were fortunate enough to be able to get out and ride during the winter – it is the first time in my AC (after cycling) life that, due to the inspiration of a friend and my wife, I rode at least once or twice a week no matter how cold it was and I am definitely grateful for having had the opportunity to do so!  Even my wife Melanie got in on the act, supporting GFNY at Rockland Lake for a half-marathon:

Snowy rideMelanie training for her half marathonPie Lady 13

And it seems Melanie is at a secret training camp for GFNY 2015, hoping to beat her own time to and up Bear this year….I bet she does!

LOML in secret training

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