Cycling event to showcase East Kootenay scenery

Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo has 50-, 100- and 150-kilometre courses around Cranbrook and Kimberley for up to 500 participants

Cyclists in the Gran Fondo Whistler

Cyclists in the Gran Fondo Whistler

Cranbrook will play host to a mass participation cycling event this September.

The Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo is being organized by Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club, with sponsorship by St. Eugene Golf, Resort and Casino and Western Financial.

“Gran Fondo in Italian means ‘big ride’. It’s a cycling event, but it’s (part of the) social and cultural fabric of Italy and France,” said Glenn Dobie, chairperson of the Rotary Gran Fondo Committee.

“It promotes togetherness and camaraderie. It is not a race.

“Although people are timed because they want to know how long it takes them to travel, it’s just a personal goal.”

Scheduled for September 8, the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo will see up to 500 cyclists flock to the area and choose from a 50-kilometre, 100-kilometre and 150-kilometre course.

All three courses depart from St. Eugene on a quiet backcountry road that leads to the North Star Rails to Trails. The courses head along the Rails to Trails to Kimberley. From there, the 50-kilometre cyclists will turn back to St. Eugene. The 100- and 150-kilometre cyclists will ride from Kimberley on a quiet road before crossing the Kootenay River and continuing to Fort Steele. The 100-kilometre route finishes by coming from Fort Steele back to St. Eugene. The 150-kilometre route takes cyclists along the Fort Steele Wardner Road, then back to St. Eugene.

“The 150-kilometre route is for dedicated cyclists, people who really want to put a personal challenge before themselves. The 100 kilometres is still pretty challenging for a lot of people, but probably more within reach for a lot of folks. The 50 kilometre really appeals to recreational cyclists – family, friends, even a business that wants to have four or five people go out, set a goal and ride in an event that’s all organized,” said Dobie.

The courses will be clearly marked with aid stations positioned along the route to give cyclists food and drink. A post-ride meal will be held in the Pavilion at St. Eugene.

“It will be a spectacular backdrop. We won’t be going through much city traffic. We’ve carefully designed it to be as much as possible off highway, on back roads, incorporating Rails to Trails,” said Dobie.

Part of the proceeds from the Gran Fondo will go to maintenance and upgrades of the North Star Rails to Trails.

“That connector has been a fantastic addition to our communities,” said Dobie. “So we would like to support them to continue their goals.”

Other proceeds will go to Sunrise Rotary’s projects in Cranbrook and Kimberley.

Gran Fondos are a blossoming trend in North America. The cycling event is already held in Penticton, Kelowna, Banff, Whistler, Vancouver and Couer d’Alene.

Sunrise Rotary is using local suppliers to organize the event wherever possible, Dobie said.

“Everything we do, unless we can’t, we do it with local businesses.

“Even if the costs are slightly more, that’s not our concern. We prefer to support local businesses.”

The eight-person organizing committee hopes the Gran Fondo will become an annual event that will prove a boon to the economies of Cranbrook and Kimberley.

“One of our goals is to attract people to the community and showcase what we have here, and hopefully they will use it as a tourist destination more often, and bring economic opportunity to the area,” said Dobie.