It was dark and it was cold last Saturday by the edge of the Falls, but about 1000 riders were ready to roll out on the first ever Granfondo Niagara. The 6:45 AM start was a tad early as it was still dark out, but I believe the organizers needed to give the streets back by a certain time thus necessitating the early start. It didn't take long for the sun to come out as we rode north along the Niagara River towards Niagara On The Lake. The sunrise over the river was quite inspiring.
There were about 5 starting corals with the fastest riders leaving from the first corral. It was quite the hammerfest from what I could tell. My buddy Dan and I were in the third corral which took off at a good clip and maintained a nice 30 kph average over the 125 k route. The scenery was mind blowing...you have The Falls, The River, then Niagara On The Lake, then Wine Country, then The Escarpment, then back to the Falls.
My Garmin showed a total vertical climb of over 2400 feet over the entire course. It was way more hilly than I anticipated. There were a couple of nasty little 20% climbs, but the best was the famous Effingham Hill climb over the Niagara Escarpment. Those of you who have raced the Niagara Classic are only too aware of this climb. It peaks at about 16% but it went on forever. There was a individual KOM competition for the climb which was individually marked by your timing chip. On average it took about 7 minutes to climb.
My favorite section had to be the Welland Canal tunnel. The organizers fought hard to have one entire tunnel closed for the Fondo and it was spectacular. As you approach the tunnel it drops 19% and you have a full two lanes wide to tuck and go. Once inside the tunnel the lights which change in intensity like some Disney ride flash by in a blur. It was very surreal. Of course, the fun was soon interrupted by an equal 19% climb out of the tunnel on the other side. After completing the Effingham Hill climb you come back to the same tunnel for a second go at it. Neat.
All in, this was a fantastic event. Yes it was expensive at $250, but they hired an army of Cops and the roads were completely closed. In fact, for most of the route you had 2 full lanes to work with. The rest stops were plentiful and well stocked. I give it a 9 out of 10. (It would have been a 10 but for the fact I had to get up at 5 AM). The bonus part is that several spouses came along as well, for the casino action. It made for a great time.
I'm in for next year. I hope we get a large group from BCC to go. I didn't see any other BCC riders there, but it was cold and most people had their jackets on so it was hard to tell who was who.
Here is a video link of the start and a couple pictures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhWdEBjkWZI.