A Ride With Class – Little Rock Gran Fondo

What the Heck is a Gran Fondo?

The Italian phrase, Gran Fondo, is new to central Arkansas. Loosely translated, Gran Fondo means “great foundation”, “great distance” or “great endurance.” It can be a full-on race, or just a ride. It’s both a sporting event and a cultural experience.  The first Gran Fondos took place in Italy in the early 1900’s and they have been popular throughout Europe ever since. The idea of Gran Fondos is relatively new to the United States but gaining in popularity with more than 100 scheduled rides across the country in major cities this year. Most Gran Fondo events include challenging routes, fantastic giveaways, well-stocked aid stations, mobile tech support and a fun post-race party.

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Little Rock Gran Fondo

In Arkansas we have plenty of rides and tours, great events like the Big Dam Bridge 100, Tour de Rock, The Arky 100 and several others but we haven’t had a Gran Fondo until now. On May 31st 250 riders are expected to roll out of downtown Little Rock in the inaugural Little Rock Gran Fondo.

The Little Rock Gran Fondo promises to be a unique event, a long ride with style and comfort. Beginning with a champagne toast at the starting line on Main Street between President Clinton Ave (in front of Orbea) and 2nd Street, to the grand finish complete with VIP tent for registered riders and plenty of great food.

The ride will start at 8 am and once out of downtown the well marked course travels almost 70 miles through the rolling hills south of Little Rock. Every luxury has been considered for the ride including newly swept roads, the Spokes Bike Shop van as a sag wagon, and two extraordinary aid stations. Event organizers Michael Chaffin of the Capital Hotel and Tony Karklins of Orbea USA told me that the course includes 1.5 miles of off-pavement riding that they promise will be easy on the bikes and riders. A total of 2,200 feet of climbing comes in small hills and rises throughout the course.

Since one of the necessities of any real Gran Fondo is fantastic giveaways the organizers decided to go overboard. In the premium swag bags will include $75  Although  men and women first place finishers will receive awards, all other participants will be entered into drawings for various prizes.

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Also, cycling jersey’s and t-shirts can be ordered now from their online store.

The Food

“We’re going to pamper people at every turn.” – Nick Bradley-Hole (Hospitality Specialist for the ride)

Besides the champagne toast start, riders will be treated to two uniquely stocked aid stations along the route. Upon riding up to take a break, the plan is to offer each rider a wet towel to freshen up with, some Leiva’s coffee (and possibly espresso) among standard drink choices plus high-end food options. Food for the aid stations and Pop on Main will be sponsored by Ben E. Keith and Arkansas Times and prepared by the following chefs:

All these chefs are cyclist and specialize in healthy foods, perfect for tired finishers. Michael and Tony have secured the block (Main Street between Clinton Ave. and 2nd Street) so each Chef can create their own pop-up restaurant.

Riders are expected to finish between 11:30 and 1:00 and will have a VIP tent available to them provided by sponsor Arvest Bank. Once they finish a concierge service will provide secure bike parking for the cyclists.

The general public is encouraged to join in on the festivities and can enjoy all the food and festivities for just $35.00. If you’re not riding, come cheer the riders in and enjoy some great dining.

Promoting Cycling

Training rides start at 8 am on Saturday mornings at the Orbea Main store but tomorrow’s ride (April 26th) will start an hour later and will included a stop in Wrightsville where organizers will present Mayor McKinzie “Mack” Riley and local sports program director Ronnie Casey with bikes from Recycled Bikes for Kids.


More information on this great new event can be found on their website: LittleRockGranFondo.com or Facebook Page. Registration is capped at 250 riders and spots are going fast so hurry up and get registered on the USA Cycliing Website.

If you’d like to attend just the Pop on Main finish line events you can get tickets at the Eventbrite page.

Michael and Tony tell you what it’s all about:

Little Rock Gran Fondo answers…What is a Gran Fondo? from Michael Chaffin on Vimeo.

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