See the new route for the Vermont Gran Fondo

After two editions that challenged cyclists from all over the world, the Vermont Gran plans to kick things up a notch on June 4 with more challenging climbs, stunning views and a bigger post-ride party.

Repaving on Routes 125 and 73 will reduce sections of the Middlebury and Brandon gaps to gravel, so organizers have paired Roxbury Gap and Moretown Mountain with the Appalachian and Lincoln gaps. All told, the 2016 Gran Fondo route will make for 105 miles and more than 10,000 feet of climbing. And the course’s final ascent will take cyclists up the eastern slope of Lincoln Gap, with a 24-percent grade that’s purported to be the steepest paved mile in the U.S.

“We have too much respect for the Vermont Gran Fondo’s many friends and their finely-tuned equipment to ask them to bike over rugged surfaces,” says event director Sue Hoxie. “So we decided to make a virtue of necessity and give riders a chance to scale two new Green Mountain summits. And they’ll still be ascending Lincoln Gap. Indeed, for Gran riders, a full day of cycling will culminate in that legendary climb.”

This year’s Gran Fondo route will lead riders through five covered bridges in Waitsfield, Warren and Northfield and make available the many country stores along the route to supplement the usual well-stocked rest stops atop the App and Lincoln gaps. Roughly 10 percent of the Gran route will cover iconic Vermont dirt roads, which are hard-packed and easily navigable.

After two years with the start and finish at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl in Hancock and the après-ride party at New Haven’s Lincoln Peak Vineyard, further change is in store. This year the event will begin and end at the Woodchuck Cider House in Middlebury, with the post-ride festival taking place from 3 to 9 p.m. just a short, flat pedal down Exchange Street, on the Green in downtown Middlebury. There cyclists can listen to two live bands and enjoy free admission to both Foodaroo, with its array of popular food trucks, and the Midd Summer Fest, with tastings of adult beverages.

The Medio Fondo will be essentially unchanged from 2015, with 6,800 feet of climbing over 64 miles, including the Appalachian and Lincoln gaps. Piccolo riders will follow a route entirely within Addison County, home to what Yankee magazine has called the best road cycling in New England, covering 43 miles and rising 3,700 feet as they go from Middlebury to Bristol and Lincoln, then back again.

This year Gran and Medio riders will start at 9 a.m., and Piccolos at 11 a.m., to minimize the time gap between first and last finishers.

The fee is $110 for the Gran distance, $100 for Medio riders and $75 for Piccolo riders. Rates increase on February 1st and again on May 16th. Riders on all three routes will be supported by mechanics and sag wagons from local bike shops and bicycle-touring companies. All entrants are invited to pick up their registration packets and receive a complimentary bike check at Woodchuck Cider House from 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 3rd or the morning of the ride starting at 7 a.m. With registration, participants also receive professional ride-day photography; custom-designed cycling socks; and entry to the après-ride party. Vermont Gran Fondo cycling jerseys and shorts may be purchased at additional cost.

Evan Johnson

Evan Johnson is the staff writer for Vermont Sports Magazine. The native Vermonter enjoys steep and deep skiing and wandering all over the state by Subaru. Find him on Twitter at @evanisathome.