Greg LeMond, shown hear winning Road Worlds, will be hitting the dirt in Hood River

Greg LeMond, shown hear winning Road Worlds, will be hitting the dirt in Hood River. Photo courtesy Greg LeMond

Former Tour de France and World Champion Greg LeMond to Hit the Dirt in Hood River

Greg LeMond has just announced that he will be riding the CrossMountain ride presented by Cyclocross Magazine at the Echelon Gran Fondo in Hood River, Oregon. It’ll come as no surprise to our loyal print magazine readers that the three-time Tour de France winner (’86, ’89, ’90) and two-time world champ (’83, ’90) is a fan of cyclocross. As LeMond told us for the feature story we ran about him in Issue 11, he pilots a Bobcat around his (rather large) backyard to create and modify a cyclocross course that he and his son use regularly, and he dabbled in ’cross to keep fit in the offseason during his illustrious road career.

The September 24th CrossMountain ride mixes paved road, singletrack and dirt forest roads in the stunning Columbia River Gorge of Hood River, with Mount Hood constantly looming as a spectacular backdrop. Although Echelon promotes several gran fondo events around the country, this marks the organization’s first foray off-road. There are 30 and 45-mile CrossMountain routes perfectly suited to cyclocross or mountain bikes, as well as several paved route options. All of the various rides roll out together, and complete nine miles before the CrossMountain riders turn off onto the dirt for the real fun.

Echelon Gran Fondo executive director Hunter Ziesing takes his motto seriously: “Make it hard, but make it a party!” Although completing the route will be an accomplishment, it’s not a race – there are plenty of gourmet food and beverage stops along the way, and all of the rides end with plenty of included celebration elixir at the Full Sail Brewery. We at Cyclocross Magazine see the event as a great way to transition between seasons in a fun way, gain some fitness before ’cross fully ramps up, and to spend a great day on bikes with friends. The CrossMountain ride is also a perfect way to introduce those relatively new to cyclocross to riding on dirt, and to introduce more folks to the joys of riding off-road on relatively-skinny tires.

We hope to you’ll join us – and Greg! – out there. We were excited before this announcement – now we can’t wait!

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, the Historic Columbia River Highway, as well as several new “Charities of Choice.”

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
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