Race Recap: The Inaugural Niagara Falls GranFondo

This weekend marked the inaugural ride of GranFondo Niagara Falls. It was a gorgeous 125km  mass cycling experience through the breathtaking Niagara Region. From the moment I heard about the event I knew it would be spectacular by its location, and it exceeded every expectation I had.GranFondo etc 079

Here are my top 5 moments at GranFondo Niagara Falls:

5. Riding through Niagara-on-the-Lake

This was the first out and back of the ride and we rode along the Niagara River to get there. On route we passed Fort George and there were many locals out along the streets cheering us on. Weird fact, the War of 1812 is my favourite war, so I loved riding through this area because of the history (I told you it was weird). We rode by the Brock Monument, Fort George, and even Laura Secords house. There were people in costume greeting us at the first Rest Stop which only added to the fun of the race and location.

GranFondo etc 108

4. Effingham Hill

This was a moment that I literally waited 20km for as I thought it was at the 60km mark, but was actually at 80km. I had heard horror stories of this hill while training, how friends of friends (who were good riders) had to get off and walk up. So I was eagerly waiting to see what Effingham had in store for me. The bottom of the hill was very sunny and as I began the climb, I wisely did a quick unzip on the jersey which I was thankful for because this became a hot one! I started the climb in a group with two other females, as we pushed to the steepest part one of the gals began to struggle, being the ever cheerleader I called out “we got this sisters!” and the one who was riding strong gave a “wooo, you know it” and the one who wasn’t veered and nearly smashed into me. She apologized and said “I can’t do this” to which I responded “yes, you can, let’s go” and together we all kept climbing. When we got to the top we all smiled and congratulated each other and it was a very cool moment of support and comradery. We all rode  near each other for the remainder of the race, so it was nice to smile and wave and encourage each other to push through as we moved along to the finish.   (Side Note: Effingham was tough (mainly because of the 80km before it), but personally I don’t think it has anything on the Beast of the East).

GranFondo etc 113

3. Riding under the Welland Canel

This moment was just pure fun. Riding downhill into a wonderfully paved deep dark tunnel. Shouting out the ultimate “hoser” call “Coo loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo”and  then hearing others do the same. An awesome moment.

GranFondo etc 115

2. The Scenery

This was what had me hooked from the moment I learned of the race location. Riding through the vineyards, HUGE bunches of grapes on the vine, large stocks of corn as far as the eye can see, and farms with horses standing at the fences watching us ride by – every view on this ride was absolutely spectacular.

GranFondo etc 108

1. Starting (and Ending) at Horseshoe Falls

Yup, it was as awesome as it sounds. Waiting at the start line for the race to begin and looking around to see the breathtaking views of the Falls. The enormous amounts of water rushing the edge and singing O Canada at this amazing site was all a moment to remember.   GranFondo etc 109      .

Other special moments included:

-Completing the event with my coach, but more importantly friend, Kim. She kept me moving and full of confidence in myself the entire time. And we had lots of laughs too! I knew I could do it because I had her there cheering and coaching me on.GranFondo etc 117

– The rest stops were huge spaces with fresh water, first aid, toilets, mechanical assistance teams, and most importantly FUEL! And a ton of it! I was shocked when I got to the first stop to see how much fuel was there, bars, gels, chews,  M&M’s, nutritional drinks, coke, and Champagne! and like I said, a ton of it!

GranFondo etc 111

-Feeling totally rocking in my outfit. This is my absolute favourite cycling kit and I was so happy to have found sleeves and a vest to wear as the temperature was chilly for most, but perfect for riding – plus I got tons of compliments on its floral pattern.

-The amounts of on route support were beyond anything I had seen at any previous race. Multiple police officers and volunteers at every major intersection, and multiple volunteers every where else. The teams of volunteers and Niagara Region staff support was mind blowing – I tried my best to thank everyone on route.

-Riding a demo Cervelo S5 after my brand new P2 had break problems. While getting the P2 tuned at the expo by the peeps at the Cervelo booth I was told that my bike was unsafe to ride and that they didn’t have the parts to fix it, so they offered me the opportunity to take a gorgeous S5 for a spin and obviously I said yes – and it was amazing! (and yes, I gave it back, because they had my credit card and id)

GranFondo etc 092-Making a weekend out of it. The husband came down and we had a great time taking in every kitchy moment Niagara Falls has to offer!

GranFondo etc 132

A couple suggestions:

1. I was disappointed with how small the expo was (although it did contain a Jackson-Triggs wine garden). I would’ve loved to see more opportunities to shop from a variety of vendors.

2. I wanted more on route entertainment! I would’ve loved to hear bands, dj’s, local musicians from the Niagara area etc. while at the different rest stops and on route – definitely an easy place for the race to grow next year.

Thank You

So in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I absolutely loved this ride! It was very well organized, had more than enough on route support, and the scenic views were breathtaking for the entire 125km. I can not wait to join the GranFondo team next year, for the 2nd annual ride!

Big thanks again to the volunteers, organizers, and residents of the Niagara Region for putting on such an outstanding cycling event!

GF thank you

My Top 5 Items Needed for a Long Ride

The snow has melted, my bike is finally out of storage (and tuned) and starting this week I’ll be taking my GranFondo Niagara Falls training from the studio and out onto the road.What the heck is GranFondo – click here!

While I never ride alone (I have a great network of very active and very motivational – and often as fitness crazy- friends) I like to be self-reliant and bring everything I need with me.

When I first started riding and racing last year I purchased this little pouch which fits under my seat (got it at MEC) and it has been serving me well every since. So, beyond my helmet, reflection/lights, and sunglasses, here are my top 5 items I never ride without!

1. Spare Tube and Tire Levers.

On my first group ride last year I learned from the experience of my friend Vince, that not only should you have an extra tire, you should also know how to inflate it (thanks for the lesson Travis!). And so I quickly went home and watch the YouTube video below and never leave home without them!

2. CO2/Pump.

I use CO2 canisters because I can never seem to inflate my tires enough with a pump and they just work for me. They are small enough to fit in my pouch and very convenient.  Just be sure the nozzles are closed when you puncture the canister – but you’ll likely only ever do that once.

3. Hydration/Fuel.

As the GranFondo is 125km, hydration and fuel is key. My recent running training has had me transition to Vega (VegaSport) which is a plant based nutrition vs many of the more chemical and unnatural fuels out there. For my marathon training I use the Pre-Workout Energizer, for during the Endurance Gel and Endurance Bar, and Recovery Accelerator and Protein Bar for post workout and look forward to see how this will transition to the bike.  I suggest starting with the bars for during and post and the pre workout drink crystals if you’re looking for convenience and good taste.

4. Cell Phone.

And no NOT so you can plug in your headphones and listen to music. That would be on my NEVER list of things to do (very unsafe as you can’t hear what’s happening around you). I’m suggesting using the cell phone in case you or someone along your route runs into trouble. Knowing you can make the call for help certainly brings piece of mind. Whether it’s an ambulance or cab, being able to make that call will make things easy and get you or others help quicker. Also consider adding an ICE contact – that’s “In Case of Emergency”. That way if something does happen to you, a stranger can help you out.

5. Cards.

Pick a card, any card! I’m taking about identification and credit cards. ALWAYS carry ID, if anything should ever happen to you, this will help others identify who you are. Credit cards can be used to cover a mid ride refuel or that cab ride in case of a bike mishap. I’ve also heard of people carrying bills to place inside their split tire. If laid along the split it can keep the tube from bulging out too badly until it can be repaired – now I’ve never had to try this, but it sounds like it might work (especially with our new plasticy bills).

 Some of My Top 5

Now all these items are great, but if you don’t know how to change your tube, your greatest bike adventure will come to a halt. So I suggest before hitting the road watch a YouTube video and practice in the comfort of your own house. A stress free environment will certainly set you up for success if you ever need to do a quick change on the road or during a race.

Did I leave something off that you bring to make your ride safer, more comfortable or more convenient? If so, add it to the comments!