Avid cyclists should mark their calendars for this September as more than a thousand riders — locally and from around the world — come together in Tehachapi for the Gran Fondo.
This year’s ride is set for Sept. 15, with courses ranging from 18 to 100 miles to serve all skill levels. Participants will wear a timing chip that will record how long it takes them to complete a course, although the Gran Fondo is not considered a race.
Courses will go through downtown Tehachapi into Bear Valley, Stallion Springs, Keene and the other surrounding communities, bringing views of the desert and mountains.
“The ride is almost like a tour of Tehachapi and goes into every community,” said Michelle Vance, district manager of the Tehachapi Recreation & Park District and one of the organizers of the event. “It’s a great way to show off the community and provide great hospitality.”
For those who don’t want to participate in the ride but want to spectate, Vance said there will be various vantage areas where people can watch the cyclists ride.
All courses start at 7 a.m. Check-in for the event is 5-6:30 a.m. Sept. 15 at 125 E. F St.
Following the ride itself is the Gran Fondo Festival at Centennial Plaza, 115 S. Robinson St. The festival will include live music, food, info booths and more.
Vance said around 1,200 people are expected to participate in this year’s Gran Fondo, about 300 of which will be local riders. Participation in the event has doubled since it was first held in 2014 with around 600 participants.
The King and Queen of the Mountain awards are given to one man and one woman rider who finish with the fastest time on a segment of a hill during the 100-mile ride.
“The location of the hill changes every year so (the riders) won’t train far in advance for it,” she said. “The hill will be announced the week before the ride.”
The winners receive $500 and a special jersey. Those awards are the only ones given out at the Gran Fondo. There is no award for fastest completion of a course, as Vance said it’s not meant to be a race.
One of the regular participants is Tehachapi resident Cory Lockwood, who has won the King of the Mountain award nearly every year. Lockwood said he’s loved participating in the Gran Fondo.
“It’s one of our greatest events,” he said. “It gets people outdoors and brings people together, having a good time and enjoying nature and people’s company.”
Lockwood said cycling has become a big recreational activity in Tehachapi. He enjoys being able to share his passion for cycling with others.
“Cycling brings a good culture to the town,” he said. “It’s a very healthy and positive thing to do.”
Tehachapi’s Gran Fondo, one of more than a hundred held across California, has been ranked 13th in the state for several years now, Vance said. Tehachapi has also won the Best Century award from Cycle California! Magazine three times.
The cost to participate in the ride varies depending on the course. The price ranges from $65 for the 18-mile course to $130 for the 100-mile one.
Money raised from the event supports community nonprofit organizations and public safety efforts. Vance said the Gran Fondo usually brings in about $22,000 a year.
Cyclists must register by July 7. To register or for more information, visit granfondo.com.