The Rapidian

"Rolling Party" for a good cause: MSU's Gran Fondo rides out this Saturday

MSU Gran Fondo will be rallying cyclists downtown for a series of rides to raise money for skin cancer research.
Gran Fondo riders

Gran Fondo riders /Courtesy of MSU Gran Fondo

Saturday, June 27 

6:00 - 8:00 am - Packet pickup at The B.O.B. There is no day-of registration.

7:30 am - 40-mile and 80-mile riders stage at starting line

8:00 am - 40-mile and 80-mile riders roll out

8:30 am - 12-mile and 25-mile riders stage at starting line

9:00 am - 12-mile and 25-mile riders roll out

10:00 am - 5:00 pm - Finish Line Festival with craft brews, a grand feast and live music

1:00 pm - Rider results and individual electronic chip-timing data posted onsite. Available at msugranfondo.com by 3 pm.

3:00 pm - Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Kid's Race (part of Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium)

3:30 pm - Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium Men's Pro Race. A series of 6 races on a short, closed course including men's and women's pro. The course runs along Fulton Street, so MSU Gran Fondo participants and spectators are in a great spot to take in the action!

In a short three years, the Michigan State University Gran Fondo cycling event has exploded into one of Grand Rapids’ most popular summer activities.

This Saturday, June 27, as many as 1,800 cyclists are expected to take part in Gran Fondo (Italian for “big ride”), a benefit event that raises funds for MSU’s College of Human Medicine and its efforts to fight skin cancer.

Gran Fondo’s success has even amazed Bob Hughes, who founded the event and is one of the organizers of Saturday’s activities. It is now ranked as the sixth-largest event of its kind in the country.

“I was trying to build an event that was a signature event in West Michigan, like a Riverbank Run for bicycles,” Hughes says. “We’re going up against these monster events in places like San Francisco and New York.”

But even Hughes could not have imagined the success of the event, particularly in partnership with MSU. Last year, about 1,400 cyclists took part in Gran Fondo, raising more than $140,000 toward the fight against skin cancer.

“We have an awesome team of people who put this event on, and it’s made a big difference (in its success),” Hughes says. “We’ve been learning every year, trying to do things to make it better.”

Saturday’s Gran Fondo offers participants, ranging from recreational riders to the most experienced, hard-core cyclists, a course that will be fun and challenging. Four separate courses have been set up, starting with a 12-mile course around Millenium Park, designed for families. There are also 25, 40 and 80-mile courses, the latter of which goes out to Lake Michigan at North Beach Park in Ferrysburg before making the turn back to Grand Rapids.

Each of the four courses will have stops along the way for food, provided by Gilmore Catering and featuring Michigan-sourced products. At the end of the ride, participants are invited to finish the day at the B.O.B. for the post-ride Finish Line Festival, featuring great food, craft beer and live music.

The first riders will roll out at 8 a.m., heading out on the 40 and 80-mile routes, with riders on the shorter routes to head out at 9 a.m. The Finish Line Festival will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 5 p.m. The ride begins and ends at The B.O.B. in downtown.

Kids will be able to get involved in the day’s activities with the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Kids’ Race, starting at 3 p.m., just before the Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium, a series of races for elite cyclists that begins at 3:30 p.m.     

Information about the Gran Fondo is available online at www.msugranfondo.com as well as the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/msugranfondo.

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