One of the largest cycling event Southwestern Ontario has ever seen is set to wheel into Sarnia this summer.
Based at Mike Weir Park, the Bluewater International Granfondo — translated from Italian as ‘Big Ride” — takes place July 31 and is expected to draw 300 to 500 riders.
“It’s the biggest thing to hit Sarnia-Lambton,” said chief organizer and cycling enthusiast Ken MacAlpine.
“We have cyclists coming from the U.S. and as far away as Vancouver already registered.”
Sarnia is the only Canadian stop on the nine-event Giordana Gran Fondo National Championship Series. The collaboration allows riders to gain points for other Gran Fondo taking place in various U.S. states.
Sarnia’s proximity to the border is a big plus and a great reason for cyclists and enthusiasts to visit Canada, MacAlpine explained.
All proceeds will be donated to St. Joseph’s Hospice and the palliative care unit at Bluewater Health.
A former runner, the semi-retired MacAlpine said he got into cycling six years ago and has never looked back. Cycling is easier on the body and more social, he said.
“You can talk when you are biking.”
Calling it the “new golf, ” MacAlpine said interest in cycling has risen dramatically the past 10 years, but Canadians have a ways to go to match the ardor of Europeans for the sport.
“The passion is so strong in Italy, it’s the same as hockey in Canada,” he said.
The route will skirt the Lake Huron shoreline with the most advanced riders heading into the rolling hills of northeast Lambton.
MacAlpine said community support for the event has been tremendous, and gave a special nod to Sarnia Police.
Part of the event is casual cycling, so one needn’t be an experienced racer to take part in the Bluewater International Granfondo.
MacAlpine said training nights for beginners start May 11 and continue for 12 weeks leading up to the race.
Interested participants are invited to Blackwell Cycle, at the corner of Blackwell and Blackwell, at 6 p.m. A guest speaker will kick off the session followed by a guided one-hour ride.
Riding etiquette, nutrition and motivation are among the topics discussed.
The event features three courses - 50, 100 and 150 kilometres – with an entry fee ranging from $50 to $160, depending on distance and time of registration.
The fee includes free refreshments, a party with a live band following the race and a $150 Giordana-designed jersey.
Plus, there’s the “free good feeling you get” supporting the hospice and palliative care unit, MacAlpine said.
For more, visit www.bigf.ca