Echelon Mt Hood Gran Fondo flyerby Josh Liberles

Cyclocross Magazine is partnering up with Echelon Gran Fondo to bring a first-ever dirt option to the organization’s rides. In addition to a variety of road offerings, the Hood River, the Oregon fondo adds “CrossMountain” routes – either 30 or 45 miles mixing paved road, singletrack and dirt forest roads in the stunning Columbia River Gorge. All road and CrossMountain riders start off together en masse, giving dirt-seekers an opportunity to hang out with their less enlightened brethren a bit before turning off for the real fun. One aspect we find particularly appealing as a break between our summer and fall competitions – it’s decidedly not a race. There’s plenty of challenging terrain, and you’ll know you’ve gotten in some good training when you’re done, but you’ll also be regaled with high-profile bands, rest stops with gourmet food, Pacific Northwest microbrews and the general gran fondo ethic of: make it hard, but make it a party. And Echelon Gran Fondo is offering 2 pairs of free entries to the event to readers! (Details below.)

    Exploring the singletrack around Mt Hood. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Exploring the singletrack around Mt Hood. ©Cyclocross Magazine

As much as I love cyclocross racing, dirt rides and – I confess – road races, perhaps my favorite bicycle excursion of all involves getting way off the beaten path, pedaling for long distances and traversing a mix of road and dirt surfaces. Cycling always brings me a sense of freedom, and these adventurous forays, often into the unknown, turn that experience up several notches. And, of course, a ’cross bike is the perfect vehicle for these explorations. There’s always the extra sense of accomplishment as I crest a long, steep dirt grade or tackle a descent that’s really better suited to a mountain bike – after riding miles of undulating terrain just to get there.

Have a friend interested in cyclocross, but who perhaps is a little timid about diving into competition or hurtling into barriers at Mach speed? This is the perfect next step for that would-be racer, and it’s a great way to spread the cyclocross love and attract new disciples to the sport. Many of the CXM staffers will be there, either using it to ramp up their preparation for the season, or just as a nice way to get in an awesome ride while connecting with kindred spirits along the way. Whether you’re coming down from the adrenaline high of the CrossVegas / StarCrossed / Rad Racing kickoff races, looking to jump start your October campaign, or just trying to get the most enjoyment you can out of your season, this is the perfect way to do it. We hope to have the opportunity to turn the cranks – and break bread and tip beverages – with as many of our print magazine and online readers as possible.

The Mission – and Perhaps More Dirt Fondos
The Hood River ride is one of six gran fondos that Echelon hosts; the others take place in Tucson, Seattle, Fort Collins, Palo Alto and Napa. Depending on its popularity, other venues will likely follow suit with CrossMountain options in 2012 – something we at Cyclocross Magazine would love to see.

I recently met with Hunter Zeising, the executive director of Echelon Gran Fondo, to talk about the company’s rides and vision. He sees cycling as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and his gran fondo series as the ideal vehicle to get more people on bikes. The charities Echelon supports echo that ethic, with funds raised going towards cancer nonprofits local to each event as well as national in scope, with prevention often a specific target. Zeising hopes to improve each community that the Echelon Gran Fondos visit; for example, the Hood River event will benefit the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon’s top cancer research center.

Ride participants can either pay a flat registration fee of $100 or enter as a fundraiser, with a $50 registration fee and a minimum of $250 of collected donations. Fundraising incentives for ambitious folks reaching prescribed levels include free entry into future fondos and a smorgasbord of prizes.

What: Echelon CrossMountain Gran Fondo
Sept. 24th, 2011
Hood River, Oregon
More Info:

Contest: Echelon Gran Fondo has two pairs of free entries available for the September 24th event! All we need is your name, address and a description of your own personal favorite mixed terrain adventure close to your home. Entries should be between 250 and 400 words, and if you have a photo of the course, or just a good shot of yourself, we’d love that too. Entries due August 20th. The best entries will be posted on, and we’ll announce the winners in early September. Email your entries to: [email protected]