Uli Fluhme, La Fondo Parte Seconda

Whose yer GRANny?
 
Uli and Lidia Fluhme are at it again, this, the second installment of what they hope will be a NY tradiation has some route changes, more police support and a bigger prize list. I asked Uli a few questions about the changes to the Gran Fondo New York:
 
NYVC: What did you learn last year that has changed your event this year?

Uli Fluhme: Last year, we paid for over 100 police officers along the route to make the course safe. It was a massive logistical effort from the get-go and nothing like it has ever been done on the GWB, in Bergen, in Rockland or on Bear Mountain, let alone all those entities combined. But we didn’t expect that cyclists would necessarily be given the right of way at every single intersection by the officials. Witnessing that on the day in person was a huge surprise for us and an eye opener in terms of future possibilities.

We’ve had great meetings with officials since and they agreed to ramp up police presence even more. We will now have almost 150 officers working along the GFNY route. The majority of the participants didn’t have to stop even once at an intersection. And that is what a Gran Fondo is about, not just some fancy food at the finish.

NYVC: Which parts of the course are closed to cars?

Uli Fluhme:The course is split into full road closures, partial road closures and moderated traffic. Closed e.g. is the start on GWB and all the way through Palisades Interstate Park (River Road) as well as Bear Mountain. Once we get on 9W, the Blue Knights motorbike crew will guide larger groups. They are in radio contact with the officers at the intersections. Some other parts like around Piermont/Nyack are partially closed. The remaining parts of the course have police moderated traffic like you would see it at other races, think e.g. Tour of the Catskills.

NYVC: Why did you change the course?

Uli Fluhme: We only changed it marginally. The descent from Little Tor turned out to be even trickier than anticipated during course safety meetings with officials. Riders came flying down onto the 202 which resulted in a spontaneous full road closure of the 202 by police to ensure rider safety. We decided that this is an unnecessary burden for residents in the area. It opened up the opportunity to ride through the heart of Haverstraw which is a charming town once you get off 9W. Everyone there is enthusiastic about the event going through. Plus, we can finally use a new timed climb that we already wanted to incorporate last year. It’s a hidden gem in Pomona that we call "Colle Formaggio".

NYVC: What surprised you most about how the event came off?

Uli Fluhme: Two things: the overwhelmingly positive reception by residents along the route and the police support. Everyone is excited that we’re coming back. It’s such a unique thing to now have 5,000 riders from over 70 countries travel on this beautiful route. We have groups from Canada coming down two months before the event to train on the course. Groups of up to 100 Italians, Brazilians and Mexicans descend on the area early to be competitive. How cool is that?

NYVC: Was there an aspect that turned out to be more difficult that you hadn’t really considered going into it?

Uli Fluhme: A proper, Italian style Gran Fondo is so much more than just a century ride. Our goal is to put up a Gran Fondo in the Italian tradition. These events are highly competitive in Italy. After U23, amateur racing in Italy is mostly happening at Gran Fondos. If you don’t make the jump to pro as a U23, Italian racers abandon the aspiration of a pro career and turn to Gran Fondo, simply because no amateur road race has the financial and political backing to get exciting courses like mass participation events have. At GFNY, we can split $500,000 of permit and police fees among 5,000 riders but not 150.

Meanwhile, the majority of Gran Fondos in the US are fancy-label Century rides. But participants are not stupid. They’re not paying $200 instead of $50 just to listen to the Italian anthem, have a couple of Ferrraris at the “start” and get some Italian snack at the finish instead of a Bagel while they still have to ride in open traffic with a cue sheet.

NYVC: Are you considering any other events or races in the future?

Uli Fluhme: We’re very focused on making GFNY an unforgettable experience for everyone. To accomplish this goal, we are working on several initiatives: bringing in new participants into the sport of cycling, expanding the GFNY team into a multi-faceted racing team, forging global partnerships and bringing a new pro cycling race to NYC.

GFNY offers free group training rides for all registered participants to offer a positive, social setting for preparing for the event. Our ambassador team “Gruppo Sportivo GFNY”, a fully sponsored eight rider squad of cycling enthusiasts, lead weekly training rides from November to May for all levels. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, we’re able to keep these rides completely free for GFNY participants. We’d love to open them up for everyone but would be facing weekly groups of 500 and more riders, which we simply can’t handle. It’s so much fun to see former newbies now race for CRCA teams. There’s nothing more satisfying than having someone say that he never thought he likes competing on a bike before he did GFNY and that he now races for a club.

GS GFNY is the base of what will be a racing team in 2013. We’re a club already and most of us race but we intend to expand next year. Two other projects that we push out of GS GFNY: women’s cycling and U23 racing. Cycling is a male dominated sport. 85% of the GFNY participants are men. But I’d like to put it in a more positive light: that’s 15% women compared to a mere 5% in Europe. Still, most mass participation running events are equally split among the genders, some even have more women than men. Cycling doesn’t have to be a macho sport. Women can be tough as nails and cycling doesn’t have to be a sufferfest 24/7 to be enjoyable.

For all the things we might disagree with the UCI, there is one thing where we agree: Gran Fondos are the ultimate platform to develop Junior racers who aim to become professionals. The UCI created the "Challenger" category for this purpose at their UWCT Gran Fondos. Criteriums and circuit races just don’t prepare a young racer for the length and challenges of a pro race. It’s my personal goal to develop a junior GF squad that enjoys the support of the GFNY sponsors. A big part of the team will be sports ethics education. Living an ethical life has more value than winning races by taking drugs could ever have.

On a global scale, we’re excited to partner with the inaugural Gran Fondo Roma in October. It will be a sensational race, starting and finishing at the Colosseum and broadcasted live on national TV. It’s the beginning of a world spanning partnership of Gran Fondos in the capitals of the world. This partnership also allows us to have a meaningful relationship across both events with “Operation Smile”. It only takes $240 for an operation that changes the life of a child for good.

That leads us to the pointy end of the spectrum: we want to bring professional cycling to NYC. I grew up watching Hinault battle Fignon on a tiny black and white TV and have never missed a Tour or Giro since. We’re currently working on a Pro Tour race at the front of the pack as well as bringing the Giro to NYC. It’s exciting times for cyclists in NYC and we’re delighted to see the cycling community in the city come together to make big things happen.

 

54 Comments

Wheelie Ferrule

Everybody, grab your bikes, shut up and listen
Uli is back with a new Fondo edition
Get your cadence up and hop on my wheel
Ridin’ 9W at $250 is such a deal!

I got a fondo fred shirt and I’m looking hot
I’m off the front and I won’t get caught.
Is this a ride or is it a race,
either way I’ll force the pace.

Pick up the pace before I drop ya!
Like MC Hamma said, “Now that’s proppa”.
I’m not on a team, but I fly at 18 miles per hour
Dropping mad watts cause I have the power.

Uli’s making bank, and we all got chumped
but i’m with my fred cronies, so i’m still real pumped
don’t got a license but I can say I race
18mph is how we set the pace.

oooo weee, oooo weee……..

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West Coast Reader

Sounds like he’s building it right. I’d go if its wasn’t so far, the prospect of not having to stop at every single light is a very cool feature, without it I wouldn’t pay. Then the post race food, even if its Italian I would probably just go hit a cool restaurant with friends, maybe having a semi-restaurant venue where one could pick the food (yes it can be Italian) of a selection of booths of particular restaurant featured at the post race venue? He could charge the restaurants/cooks wanting to show their stuff off a booth fee at the post race venue area (with seating). So it involves local restaurants/businesses with the thinking you’ll go to their restaurant if its good.

Got to get as many angles in so they can keep doing the Fondo year after year.

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Jelly Fork

Interesting how it all works out.

Granfondo: 5,000 @ $250 each = $1,250,000. Enough for big money prizes and full road closure permits.

Battenkill: 2,700 @ 75 each = $206,250. A lot of work relative to the amount of revenue generated.

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Arno Rivnut

The Berkshire Classic in May is a far more interesting route(s), smaller crowd and no traffic lights…9W is a great training ride but certainly not worth paying money to ride with more people than usual…and it’s mostly in New Joisey.

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Lorenzo Internal Routing

Make no mistake, big infusion of money into cycling by these Fondo-type riders passively benefits the hardcore enthusiast significantly.

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Vincent Neck

$240 to ride 9W and one of the things I get is an authentic Fred Jersey? No thanks – I do this every weekend with my team and our kit is much nicer than a fred jersey. Berkshire Classic sounds way more interesting.

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Gios Bartape

[start irony] sure riding long distances will make juniors better cyclists. Racing distances that juniors can actually compete in won’t make them better cyclists at all. Crit riding is for bowling league level cyclists. Real racers gran fondo or not race at all. [end irony]

With exceptions to the pure sprinters guys, the guys who win crits and circuit races are the same guys who win harder longer races. Its not two different style of cyclist. If you can pedal a bike fast in circles or in point to point races, you can pedal a bike fast. Dumb argument. And many countries develop juniors through short fast racing like track and cross.

By the way, the guy who “won” GFNY last year is a neanderthal crit specialist.

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Flabio Fondonneur

If I come close to crossing the Fondo line first, I’m going to scream like Mel Gibson did in Braveheart: “Willllllllll Schneiiiiiiiderrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!”

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Eliot Chainline

Today’s news has me wondering whether I should seek a GFNY refund.

I’m a 45-year-old Fred who dopes to finish mid-pack in Cat 4 races in Central Park.

So, my question is, will you be looking for just anabolic agents, or beta-2 agonists, diuretics, EPO and banned stimulants as well?

Also, will I pass the test if I do 7 or 8 bong hits before my call-up? ‘Cause WEED makes me fast!

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Xenu

The UCI has set a minimum for body thetans (see rule 3.13.1911). Dianetics will put you below minimum. If the officials bring an E-meter, you’re screwed.

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Astro Turf

The fact that New Yorkers (or anyone) would actually pay $250 to ride 9W up to Little Tor area is the best proof yet that NYC has lost its edge–what a bunch of lemmings. Paying $250 or more for Fondo in Lake Como or Dolomites = so worth it. Paying $250 to ride to Orchards? The 45-year old Fred/Stoner has the right idea I think although he shouldwatch the “white line” rule :)

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45 year old Phred

Do you know of any free flights to Italy that I am unaware of? I rather ride there as well for my $250, but after flight and hotel it is more like $2500. I know I am probably not the accomplished cyclist you are, so GFNY gives me something to really look forward to. Even if I am just riding to Lake Cuomo instead of Lake Como.

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Victor Polished

I was there back in 1981, I was the first guy to ride a track bike up 9W, in front of the punk kids at CBGB’s.

I was there when Moser broke the record for climbing Little Tor.

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Eliot Chainline

wow. so we pay $250 to do what is essentially a routine NY-area training ride. and we get to do it with a “team” (GRUPPO SPORTIVO GRAN FONDO — hehe) “sponsored” by your “sponsor” that is outfitted with custom-colored/branded pinarello dogma 2s?

http://www.granfondony.com/sponsors.php

The bikes are custom w/GFNY logos, and “top of the line,” so, without getting into a debate about group sets, say it’s outfitted with Campy EPS Super Record 11, that retails for around $16,500 for a complete bike.

You have 8 team members (including Uli & his significant other: http://www.granfondony.com/grupposportivo.php.)

That comes to maybe $132,000 (ok – we know you got it wholesale – so maybe less than that, but still) in sponsored bike gear for….the sponsors.

Don’t sponsors, I dunno, typically *offset* the costs associated with putting on the event rather than outfit the business (er, “team”) putting the event on with 100 lbs of blingy carbon fiber? No wonder it’s $250 a pop.

I was about to sign up for this…but geez….this is mad shady.

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Jacopo Seatmast

You should speak to the folks who rode it last year. I felt the same way, I’m not paying that much money to ride the roads I ride on for free all the time. But, they do provide lots of support and there are prizes, though for most of us there is no way we are getting any where near close to a prize. I would do this if they skipped the jerseys and knocked the price closer to $100.

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Jules Seatmast

GFNY is imo not meant for NY’kers. It attracts cycling tourists from over the whole world, which is good for everyone. Maybe 5 to 10% are people who live in the city.

And Ullrich is not only riding a custom Pinarello Dogma he also has a sponsored SRM powermeter (do the pro teams get sponsored by SRM as well?) Giordana as a clothing sponsor, the list with sponsors is too long from thousands of water bottles to food and helmets. As far as I have heard he does not pay a single penny for all this directly.

No matter how you look at it I think GFNY is a huge success since they sold out already a while ago and this being only their second year. I am personally not interested in the race but think we as a cycling community can be happy having such an amazing cycling event in our city.

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Eliot Chainline

Dogmas, Giordana, powermeters….to outfit the promoter and his pals?

While we pony up $250 to get a bag with some water bottles, a fugly jersey that i’ll never wear again and a $10 bottle of wine?

Something’s rotten….

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Sander Lorica

GFNY brings tourists and money and an enthusiasm to NYC that is much needed.

What a bunch of whining entitled crybabies. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Problem solved. Now go crawl back in your hole.

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Wheelie Ferrule

I am going to unofficially turk the fondo. I’m doing a training ride so the turking will be inevitable. Fondo, Here I coooooooooommmmmmeeee. Yeeeeeeeeee Boyeeeeeeee!

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GFNY

So let me get this straight. The 5,000 people who are riding this weekend’s Gran Fondo, and helping to grow what we can all agree is a great sport / exercise, are Fred’s but you Mr. Cat 4/5 “racer” who pays $250 a month on a coach, buys that fancy new team kit ever year, thinks that the 404 tubulars are really going to make the difference this season in that 3 lap central park race at 6:00 am on Saturday’s isn’t the Fred.

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Gaetan Brazeon

you are defensively “clarifying” a position that i don’t even think anyone turked in the first place.

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Oscar Meyer

I’m tired of all this turking.

From now on, I wanna bologna.

Scuzzy, but I need to go watch streaming Giro coverage now, ciao!

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Housatonic

unless you are an actual professional getting paid enough money to make a living racing your bike year in and year out, you remain in some state of fred-ness. however, once a pro, always a pro (i.e., loehner and many others).

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Freddie Freeloader

Speak for yourself poser. When everyone at work sees MQs awesome pics of me in my super hero costume racing in the park, I am sooo pro

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sinep

unless you are an actual professional getting paid enough money to make a living racing your bike year in and year out, you remain in some state of fred-ness. however, once a pro you remain perpetually in a definitive state of fred-ness.

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