For the first time, the famous Gran Fondo, took place in LA on Sunday, attracting more than 1,300 cyclists on Rodeo Drive. Starting in Beverly Hills, the 70 mile ride took completive bikers over flatlands and mountains and ended back in the ritzy city.
It caps “La Dolce Vita Beverly Hills” week. “It’s been a great week of Italian food, cinema, fashion, art, cars and now this,” said Mayor Barry Brucker, just before the start of the 72 mile ride. “It’s officially our first bike ride in Beverly Hills and I hope this becomes a yearly event for us.”
Gran Fondos (“Great Race” in Italian) are an Italian tradition that both cyclists and the sightseers enjoy. In the Beverly version, cyclists wore a computer-chip-equipped ankle bracelet that allowed time keepers to clock their six-mile ascent up Piuma Road in the mountains north of Malibu.
The star of the race was not the winner, but Ernesto Colnago, known for his high-end Italian bikes. Next to Colnago was a carbon fiber racing model that weighed just over 14 pounds and cost $14,000.
Cyclists – who paid $125 to enter – mobbed Colnago for autographs after the race.
“Los Angeles is a sort of paradise, a heaven for cyclists,” Colnago said in Italian. “Just think about it. Even some of the police go by on bicycles. And there are wonderful places by the seaside that are like the Riviera.”
The most civilized part of the competition was the VIP tent, where the penne Bolognese met with some lovely old Italian wines for a celebration.
Athena Countouriotis, 39, a pediatric oncologist from San Diego, bested all other women at 28 minutes and 17 seconds in her Specialized Roubaix. First prize was bike tires, a bike case and a helmet. Free trips to Italy were given out by a random drawing.