Cd'A catches 'Fondo Fever'

Mass ride will take cyclists around Lake Cd'A

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Conrad Frank pedals away from a press conference Thursday announcing the Coeur d'Fondo cycling event that will be held Sept. 29.

COEUR d'ALENE - On the morning of Sept. 29, a few hundred cyclists will gather in downtown Coeur d'Alene, and wait for the starting gun.

Then, they'll head up Sherman Avenue, curb to curb. It will be a colorful, moving mass of bikes, spinning tires and pedaling legs.

"It's going to be neat to see that," said Steve Wilson, CEO of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce.

Oh, and this is not a race.

Welcome to Coeur d'Fondo.

The cycling extravaganza, part of what's billed as a nationwide phenomenon and wildly popular in Italy, will take riders on spirited treks, one as far as 108 miles or another as short as 15 miles.

It will unite families, casual cyclists and triathletes for one day, for one event, said director Isaac Mann. There will be scenery, there will be a boat ride, there will be challenging hills and there will be plenty of help and encouragement along the way, too.

Those who want to go fast, can.

Those who want to cruise, can.

In other words, Mann said, it has something for everybody.

"I love that," he said Thursday.

Organizers announced the first Coeur d'Fondo to benefit the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation during a press conference at Independence Point.

It's basically a really "big bike ride," said Charlie Miller, foundation director. "Fondo Fever" has gained a strong foothold, with many major cities hosting rides.

A Gran Fondo in Penticton in Canada attracted 2,500 riders in only its second year.

"In Italy, entire towns shut down, wine flows and thousands of riders pedal over classic mountain passes, through vineyards and along famous race routes," according to a press release.

"These events are really blowing up around the nation," he said.

Miller said this area has the resources, the communities and the courses to pull off Coeur d'Fondo, which will include four distances.

* Gran Fondo - 108 miles that will take riders around Lake Coeur d'Alene, through Harrison and St. Maries before turning back to Cd'A on U.S. 95.

* Medio Fondo - 84 miles, also around the lake, and over a bridge on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes before merging with the Gran route.

* Piccolo Fondo - 37 miles to Harrison, where participants can board a cruise boat back to Coeur d'Alene.

* Family Fondo - 15 miles round-trip Higgens Point and back.

The rides are timed, but "it's not a race," Miller said. "It's a nice, spirited ride."

There will be aid stations with food and drink every 20 miles or so, help available on the courses for those having mechanical difficulties, and caution vehicles. Traffic isn't expected to be heavy in late September, so there shouldn't be any problems between cyclists and vehicles on Highway 97, organizers said.

Those who want to push the pace can earn medals by finishing with a set time. For instance, in the 108-mile Gran Fondo, breaking 6 hours will be worth a gold medal.

Wilson said Coeur d'Fondo could be as popular as triathlons, easily attracting hundreds to the area.

An estimated 250 riders are expected this year, and more, many from the Seattle/ Portland corridor, down the road.

It's being tied to the downtown Coeur d'Alene Oktoberfest to give riders another chance to celebrate afterward and reward weary legs.

"It's another event to put Coeur d'Alene on the map," Wilson said.

Cost is $75 for the three longer riders, and $10 for the family ride.

Info: www.cdagranfondo.com

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