Riders enjoy cooler temperatures in inaugural Gran Fondo

<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The Cache Gran Fondo lived up to the meaning of its Italian name as a “great ride” for cyclists of various experience levels Saturday while being a positive event to raise money for health care in the valley.

It was the first organized bicycle ride for 15-year-old Zac Polukoff, who rode the 70-miler with his parents Jerry and Stephanie.

“It’s a good cause,” said Jerry, who is part of Logan Regional Hospital’s new interventional cardiology program. “That’s what motivates me.”

Funds raised by the event through rider registrations will help provide health care to people in Cache Valley with limited means, as well as support cancer services and pediatric rehabilitation, race director Troy Oldham said. Volunteers worked to make sure participants understood their importance in the race, even if it meant finishing later in pouring rain.

“The number one objective is make the riders feel like heroes from start to finish,” Oldham said.

Instead of being a competition for riders from start to finish, the race was set up to please pro and recreational riders, Oldham said. There were three routes created- a 50-mile, 70-mile, and 100-mile ride around the valley. Within each race, there was a hill challenge and a sprint challenge to add a competitive edge for riders who wanted one, he said.

The overall winner in the female division for the hill challenge was Heidie Moser with a time of 23:40.27, according to preliminary race results. Mark Smith was the overall winner in the male division at 19:58.64.

For the sprint challenge, the overall winner in the male division was Melvin Pearson at 2:15.10, and Brigitte Felt for the female division with a time of 3:02.3, according to preliminary race results.  

Utah is not a stranger to Gran Fondo races, but this is the largest one held in the state so far, Oldham said. Over 400 people showed up to race Saturday, beating the Gran Fondo Moab by nearly 200 riders. It remains to be seen how many the Tour de Park City will have.

Even versus the other races in Utah, the Cache Gran Fondo has some of the most beautiful scenery in its routes, Oldham said.

Lawrence Allen, one of the first group to finish the 100-miler, said he bikes the same route almost every week. The 100 mile route started at Logan Regional with all the others and then traveled up Hwy 91 through, through Weston Canyon and Malad, down 15200 North into the west side of the valley, and ending at 100 W Center St. to cheers and applause from friends and volunteers.

Oldham wanted to ensure all riders felt like champions. Each Fondo rider was given a small medal and had his or her picture taken on a podium after the race.

“The idea of the Gran Fondo is you kind of try to provide something for everybody,” Oldham said.

While the first goal of the race was to ensure there is something for everyone, the second is to pretty much make it a party, he said. Local charities ran support stations along the route and were encouraged to make the booths as unique as possible. Riders will vote for the best station and Logan Regional promised to donate money to the winning charity, Oldham said.

The planning group also worked with the Logan Downtown Alliance to put together a street festival on Center Street between Main Street and 100 West. Sponsor booths demonstrated products and services like gymnastics until the afternoon rain forced many to close.

The weather conditions cleared up just in time for the majority of the race, Oldham said. From scorching temperatures to pouring rain this week, organizers did not know what to expect. A light rain sent riders off on their races in the early morning at Logan Regional’s starting line.

Andrea Danahay, who rode 50 miles for the first time at the race, said the ride was beautiful. Donahay signed up with coworkers from Cache Valley Bank, one of many businesses that sent teams to ride the race.

“It was kind of sprinkling at the beginning and everybody took off, and I’m just pacing myself at the back of the pack, where I need to be,” Danahay said. “Slow and steady gets it done.”

Danahay said prior to this ride she had only ridden 30 miles, but may ride again depending on how she feels Monday.

Oldham and other organizers have big plans for the “big race” should it continue in years to come. Oldham said he hopes to raise enough money from admissions to run service projects for the towns the race goes through as a sort of “thank you.”

“For us it’s as much of a fundraiser as a friend raiser,” Oldham said.

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