What is a Gran Fondo?

The cycling marathon - Gran Fondo - is the ultimate cycling adventure

Gran Fondo means ‘big ride’ in Italian

Gran Fondos are mass participation cycling events that have enjoyed a huge amount of popularity in Europe for decades, and are now increasingly spreading around the world.

With a big start arch, beautiful course, thousands of other riders ranging from pro to beginner and a festival atmosphere of endorphins, spectators and volunteers, a Gran Fondo offers some of the most enjoyable challenges you can experience on two wheels. There’s food and drink stations along the way, as well as mechanical and medical backup, and everyone’s just darn-well having a good time. The Gran Fondo phenomenon took Italy by storm, and we’re stoked to help to bring it to North America!

So, why else do people take part? Well, there really is something for everyone. Fast or slow, new to riding or seasoned pro, pushing your limits or wanting to take in the surroundings, there’s a perfect group and speed taking part for you to join. You’ll find plenty of prizing to compete for thanks to chip timing, whether it’s a big cheque or bragging rights or personal pride, and a shiny medal gets placed around your neck to immortalize your accomplishments. With some events offering traffic free routes, it’s a perfect way to cycle in the world’s most beautiful locations. And when you cross the line, there’s a party to celebrate out in the sun and let the ride truly sink in.


It’s widely held that the first Gran Fondo was the Nove Colli [Nine Hills] in Cesenatico, Italy, 1970. Today, the event is still going strong as arguably Italy’s biggest cycling festival with 12,000 riders tackling distances in the valleys between 80-200 km.

Following the Nove Colli came hundreds of other events around Italy, especially boosted by chip timing technology advances in the 1990s. Most events have around 500 – 1000 riders, with some of the largest going beyond that.

In Italy, a Gran Fondo is considered at a minimum:

  • 120km+ long
  • Fully chip-timed
  • Age category prized


Imagine for one day, the best possible cycling roads are closed to traffic. Before you is an epic route with challenging climbs and thrilling descents. All you have to do is concentrate on the beauty around you. You’re feeling fit and you’re lined up for a huge ride with thousands of your fellow cyclists. It’s not a race, so there’s no pressure. You can ride whatever pace you want. You can even stop for all the food you need along the way – it’s provided.

And no matter what pace you choose, you’re not likely to be riding alone. There will be a fast bunch at the front if you want to keep up with them and you can count on local spectators cheering along the way. The scenery is better than you would see in a magazine. The ride ends with a massage and a party at our bumper Celebration Plaza, and everyone’s invited.

This is the RBC GranFondo Whistler experience – voted 2018 North America’s Best Gran Fondo  by the UK’s GranFondoGuide