Cyclists converging for first Gran Fondo

260 cyclists depart St. Eugene Mission Sunday for start of highly anticipated ride.

The cyclist quotient of the Cranbrook-Kimberley will be surging this weekend, as 260 cyclists converge for the much-anticipated Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo.

The public is advised that the North Star Rails To Trails will be closed for a short while on Sunday — from 9 a.m. to noon — to accommodate the event, which is featuring 260 riders. Cyclists have come from as far away as Ottawa, Ontario, from across Western Canada, and from Washington state.

The event is being presented by the Sunrise Rotary Club and Western Financial Group.

“We’re thrilled with the response,” said Glen Dobie, Chair of the event. “It’s exceeded our expectations — we’re prepared for it and we’re looking forward to it.”

The event will be hosted by St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino and will encompass some of the most spectacular scenery and hospitality in the region.

Riderswill choose from three different course lengths — 52 km (the Piccolo Fondo), 102 km (the Medio Fondo) or 152 km (the Gran Fondo) — and ride at their own pace. The three different rides leave St. Eugene at 10 minute intervals, starting with the piccolo at 9 a.m.

The ride starts off from the St. Eugene Resort, comes back to Cranbrook via Mission Road, hooks up  with the Rails to Trails at Echo Field Road, then heads north to Kimberley. The Gran and Medio rides proceed via Meadowbrook to Wasa, then south down to Fort Steele.

At the Fort Steele junction, Gran riders will do a 25-kilometre loop out to the Kootenay Trout Hatchery, and back to St. Eugene. All riders should be completed by late afternoon.

More than 100 local volunteers are taking part to mount the event. Aid stations and support vehicles are also taking part, so the motoring public is advised to be aware of the cyclists and share the road. Traffic control and signage will be in place throughout the route. Residents are also encouraged to greet the riders who will be converging on the community this weekend, and  help make them feel welcome.

Sunrise Rotary invited other service groups from the community to help out manning the aid stations. These include the Mark Creek Lions, the Wasa and District Lions, the Kimberley Rotary Club, the Cranbrook Rotary Club, and the staff of Falkins Insurance, which is affliated with Western Financial Group.

Funds raised from the event will be used to enhance and maintain the Rails to Trails system as well as support other local community service projects,” said Dobie.

“Members of the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club had a dream to create a cycling event that would utilize the fabulous Rails to Trails system between the cities of Cranbrook and Kimberley,”

Dobie said. “We also hope the Gran Fondo will encourage healthier lifestyles, support our local businesses, and serve as a fundraiser for our Rotary Club.

“We have an opportunity for the Gran Fondo to become a major tourism draw for our area. Let’s be sure to treat our visitors well.”