A grand ride for all

Nearly 900 cyclists take part in Coeur d'Fondo

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Larry Gray of Tigard, Ore., rides along Highway 97 next to Lake Coeur dŐAlene during SaturdayŐs Coeur dŐFondo.

COEUR d'ALENE - Twyla Jensen is a runner.

But on Saturday, for the first time, the Coeur d'Alene woman competed in an organized bike ride. She even bought a new bike on Friday.

Money well spent because it was, she said, an awesome day.

"It's gorgeous," Jensen said as she pedaled along Highway 97, not long after cresting the steep climb up Beauty Bay. "I'm having a great time out here."

Jensen was joined by about 900 cyclists for the inaugural Coeur d'Fondo that offered riders choices of 15, 37, 84 or 108 miles on a scenic trek around Lake Coeur d'Alene.

With sunny skies, little wind and temperatures in the 60s and 70s, the fundraiser for the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation went off even better than expected.

Organizers figured on about 400-500 cyclists, and ended up with double those projections.

Just before the 8 a.m. start at Second and Sherman, Mike Ward couldn't help but smile as he eyed the colorful mass of Spandex-clad cyclists waiting for the green light.

The idea started over a conversation and a beer. Must have been some conversation. And some beer.

"I can't believe this has been received so well," said Ward, one of the event's planners. "The community obviously loves it."

The cycling extravaganza was billed as part of a nationwide phenomenon - such rides are wildly popular in Italy - that united families, casual cyclists, top road racers and triathletes for one day, for one event.

Some came to race.

Some came to cruise.

All came to have a grand time and for the most part, they got it.

It featured spectacular scenery, long, grinding hills, screaming-fast downhills, aid stations, and plenty of encouragement along the way.

There were about 300 riders in the Piccolo Fondo, which covered 37 miles to Harrison, where participants boarded a cruise boat back to Coeur d'Alene.

Another 260 or so completed the Gran Fondo, 108 miles, that took riders around Lake Coeur d'Alene, through Harrison and St. Maries before turning back to Cd'A on U.S. 95.

About 200 went for the 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.

About 100 joined the Family Fondo, 15 miles round-trip from downtown Coeur d'Alene to Higgens Point and back.

The rides, while timed, were not considered races, which was just fine with everyone on two wheels.

Brian Hadley of Coeur d'Alene, a top triathlete, completed the 108 miles in 5 hours, 9 minutes. He liked what he called a "spirited" camaraderie among even the fastest cyclists. There were times someone pushed the pace, but most often they helped one another.

"Riding in a group like that, everybody working together, that was the coolest part," he said.

Mitch Lile of Hayden, who just must moved here from Alaska, was chatting with a fellow rider as he powered his way up the climb around Powerhorn Bay.

He planned to go 37 miles, then hop on the boat and relax.

"It's beautiful," he said. "It couldn't have been a better day for it."

Brandon Olson of Spokane Valley was thrilled when he heard about the Coeur d'Fondo and the course that offered breathtaking views of Lake Coeur d'Alene and a chance to ride with others on Highway 97.

"To be able to ride on this sounded awesome," he said. "It's the perfect time of the year for something like this."

There were some bumps along the way, including a few crashes, including one cyclist who needed nearly 40 stitches around an eye injury.

There were plenty of flat tires, including the stretch along U.S. 95 from Higgens Point to the Highway 97 turnoff.

And there were several instances of vehicle drivers honking at cyclists to encourage them to move to the shoulder of the road, but for the most part, traffic was smooth and everyone came through OK to enjoy the Oktoberfest festivities at the finish that featured beer, music and food.

Charlie Miller, executive director of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, said riders indicated they had a blast.

"We're successful if they're happy and they want to come back.," he said.

Safety of riders was the number one concern. Having a good experience was number two. Around 75 volunteers helped make that happen.

He believes Coeur d'Fondo is another event to put Coeur d'Alene on the map.

"We're coming back, bigger and better next year," he said.

Cyclists await the start of Coeur dŐFondo at Second and Sherman on Saturday.


Cyclists make their way around an uphill turn at Beauty Bay.


Mitch Lile of Hayden pedals up the steep climb near Powderhorn Bay.

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