The Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride – a 45-year spring tradition in Minnesota – is starting a new tradition this year by adding a Gran Fondo (the Minnesota Gran Fondo) to their already solid event.
The Ironman is a typical one-day event ride with the mild twist of offering a metric century and a century route early in the season. Given that some years it has been snowing during the event, and the weather is always unpredictable, some of the ‘iron’ of the event is hauling out of bed and putting butt to seat. (True fact: The nicest weather for this event in recent memory occurred in 2007, a year I was unable to attend.)
A gran fondo is a timed event, but not a race. It’s a mass start event for all ages and abilities, and allows individuals to measure their own time more formally. Ironman will be offering this option on the 68- and 100-mile routes. Participation will require showing up and checking in at Lakeville at a proper time – although, really, to hit the rest stops on the 100-miler, this was always an unstated requirement of Ironman participation. Riders not participating in the gran fondo will likely want to start earlier or later to avoid the mass start!
Adding a gran fondo to this event is a great enhancement that fits well with the routes, and also with the sense of achievement shared by those who complete the longer routes. The mass start will also be an exceptional opportunity for cyclists to create community and meet other riders of similar ability and ambition. While I don’t always see it happen, I find large community events such as the Ironman are a great way to network with other cyclists and meet people outside your normal circles.