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Gran Fondo breaks attendance record

MultiSportsCanada’s Gran Fondo boutique bike race returned to Jasper on June 4 after a two-year pandemic interruption. | P.Shokeir photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Cyclists flocked to the sixth Gran Fondo in Jasper National Park on June 4 with the event drawing its highest attendance yet.

Although the final tally wasn’t available before publish time,  the Grand Fondo had just over 300 participants registered with around 270 of them able to attend.

“This is the highest attendance we’ve ever had,” said Trevor Soll, founder and director of MultiSportsCanada, which hosted the Gran Fondo.

“The feedback from all the athletes so far is they’re coming back next year and looking to beat their times from this year.”

The Gran Fondo had been on a hiatus over the past two years because of the pandemic.

Started in 2014, the race is the only event of its kind to take place entirely within a Canadian national park, which Soll said helped explain its appeal.

“There is that flair to it, and as well, it’s just the fact that it is Jasper, a great place to be,” Soll said.

“The roads are really in great condition, there’s plenty of mountain climbs that cyclists like to challenge themselves with, and I think, obviously, due to COVID, people are itching to get back in the saddle and start racing again and this is one of the first opportunities to do that.”

The weather turned out well despite gloomy forecasts, and most of the athletes showed up with only a few cancellations due to COVID or other commitments.

With a number of recent bear sightings, participants were briefed about bears prior to racing, but no human-wildlife encounters were reported.

“It was one of those flavourful add-ons to the event,” Soll said.

There were five routes for participants to choose from, ranging in distance from 65 km to 190 km, with all of them beginning near the Jasper Activity Centre.

Declan Unsworth ranked first in the 190k Forte Fondo, which was the longest route and involved 2,339 metres of elevation gain as it involved two mountain climbs.

Peter Osadetz won first in the Gran Fondo that was 165 km and had 1,691 metres of elevation gain.

Jeff Krar was first in both the 126k Leg Burner and the Marmot Hill Climb, Josef Labuschagne was first in the 100k Medio Fondo and Luke Weiser won in the Piccolo Fondo.

The shortest of the routes, and the one with the least amount of elevation gain (601 metres), was the new E-bike Fondo, which offered people an electric option to the Piccolo Fondo route.

The Gran Fondo helped raise funds for the Jasper Yellowhead Historical Society, which supplied volunteers in exchange.

Soll said a final fundraising total had yet to be tabulated.

Results can be found at www.granfondo-jasper.ca/results/

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