Rising to the Challenge

15 08 2016

Five years ago, Fondos were everywhere.

The big, organized group rides offered growing legions of cyclists the chance to attain personal goals, compete against others, visit new places, commune with each other. Signing up for a Fondo became a kind of affirmation of your dedication to the sport.

I did two myself; the inaugural Whistler Gran Fondo and the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa, California. I loved both experiences. I enjoyed the training, the camaraderie at the start line, the legions of helpful and cheery volunteers, the snacks along the way, the reward of the finish celebration, the settings. It felt good to be king of the road for a day.

Warming up for Sunday's Cypress Challenge with the Just Giver crew from Coquitlam on Saturday.

Warming up for Sunday’s Cypress Challenge with the Just Giver crew from Coquitlam on Saturday.

But Fondos are expensive. All that organization, security, traffic control costs money. Sign on for a destination ride and you’ve also got to factor in travel, food and accommodation expenses. Even a relatively local Fondo like Whistler can set you back $1,000 for the weekend when you add up the entry fee, an overnight stay at a decent hotel in the village, dinner, breakfast the next day, maybe a celebratory beer or two, gas to get home.

On August 28, the Fraser River Fuggitivi will be holding its third annual Fondon’t.

It’s our club’s own modest attempt to capture some of the qualities of the Fondo experience without the hit to the wallet.

We’re promised an epic route by this year’s organizer: the first Fondon’t traversed the eight major bridges in the Lower Mainland; last year we climbed Mt. Baker; this year’s plan is still a mystery.

There will be snack stops and some sort of post-ride celebration.

Most importantly, there will be camaraderie.

But there’s a third option.

Modest charity rides to support a cause or organization may not offer all the bells and whistles of a full-blown Fondo like police escorts and a beer ticket at the end. But they do give cyclists a chance to gather for a ride en masse, share experiences on the road, and support a worthy cause. All for a fraction of the entry fee to a Fondo.

Sunday I did my third such ride this season, including the Canada Day Populaire.

The Cypress Challenge for Pancreatic Cancer was my chance at redemption for the beat down the 11 km ascent of Cypress Mountain administered to my wearied legs a month ago when it was the third climb of the Triple Crown For Heart to support the cardiac ward at Children’s Hospital.

Both rides were organized entirely by volunteers; most of the modest entry fees went directly to the rides’ causes. Both rides enjoyed support from sponsors that supplied snacks like power bars, energy drinks, at the start, along the way and at the finish. Both rides attracted plenty of like-minded cyclists keen for a big day out.

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The support of sponsors like VeloFix give charity rides like Sunday’s Cypress Challenge some of the trappings of more expensive Fondos. They also give me a chance to get a wobble in my rear wheel fixed for free!

While the Triple Crown was held on a dreary, cool day, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the Challenge, sunny and warm all the way to the summit.

Five of the FRF rode all the way from New Westminster; a sixth joined us at the mountain. All but one achieved new Personal Bests going up the mountain; I bettered my time from a month ago by 19 minutes, last year’s effort by seven minutes.

Five of the FRF roll to Sunday's Cypress Challenge.

Five of the FRF roll to Sunday’s Cypress Challenge.

The FRF is ready to rise to the Challenge of climbing Cypress Mountain on a warm, sunny day.

The FRF is ready to rise to the Challenge of climbing Cypress Mountain on a warm, sunny day.

At the top, in warm sunshine, we snacked on fresh bananas and peppers, breakfast burritos, cinnamon buns and even cricket protein bars. I wasn’t in a buggy mood, but one of our members assured us it didn’t taste anything like cricket (not that anyone would really know).

Trying to decided who's going to brave the cricket protein bars.

Trying to decided who’s going to brave the cricket protein bars.

With no washed-up ex-Grand Tour winner to keep us around for photo ops and idle chitchat, we quickly descended – quick being the operative word – then rendezvoused with the rest of the FRF contingent that timed their Sunday route to intersect our return so we could ride home together.

A dozen FRFers strung along in a pace line in the bike lane may not look quite as impressive as a few thousand roadies crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge. But it is a heck of a lot cheaper.

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