My main regret about last year is that I missed out on the inaugural Gran Fondo Hincapie. A great many friends and readers rode, and everyone I talked to had an amazing time. There were several VIP guests, over 1,000 riders, and they had pretty good weather. The course itself was as brutal as I expected, with some of the most challenging climbs in the southeast, and I understand that despite the suffering, it was a jovial, festive atmosphere.
Just recently when looking at my busy fall schedule, I was on the fence on whether to participate at Hincapie this year. At first glance, it just seemed like too much. After seeing what they are doing this year, I’ve decided to take the plunge and ride.
What really swayed was the latest news update about what they are adding to the 2013 ride. You can read about it here. To be honest, they could rest on their laurels, relying on George Hincapie’s celebrity to draw riders, and just phone it in. This shows me that they are genuinely doing everything they can to make this a memorable experience.
There are a couple changes I really like. The expanded packet pickup is going to be a major help. If I remember correctly, last year they required that packets get picked up Friday night in Greenville. Getting there on a Friday would be logistically challenging when people are coming in from out of town. Additionally, they are moving the start time to 9am, which will make it easier for same-day travelers. Not to mention, that’ll help with the temperature on this late October day.
Many of these changes are logistical, and they probably learned from their first experience last year. They will have full SAG support, and I am betting it will be superior to other rides, closer parking, shuttle service, and more. It sounds like smart event planning to me.
They are also adding fun stuff like a 5k, Beer School (!), and by marking off the switchbacks on the Green River Cove Climb. Having ridden Green River a number of times and counted the switchbacks, I’m curious what sort of fanfare they’ll add to spruce up the climb.
I’ve heard a couple complaints about the price. True, it is more expensive than other rides. My first reaction last year was the same as many others. That’s a lot to spend to ride a bike all day. This year my perspective on event prices has changed simply because I’ve met a number of ride organizers, and learned what goes into these events. Many will lose money the first year. These things aren’t cheap, especially when you have state of the art timing systems. Hincapie is a premium ride, and given the high percentage of people who have registered for the VIP package, it seems that price is not that big of a deal.
I’m going to ride, and I’m already getting excited. The colors should be beautiful. I may get to meet a few of my cycling heroes. And this will be a fitting finale to a great season.
See you in a couple months, George.