Take a scenic course, add cyclists of all ages, mix in food and drinks of all kinds, cheerful spectators and top it off with live music, and you have a gran fondo.
• What: Rensselaerville Cycling Festival
• When: Sunday, Sept.28, from 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Where: Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville
• How much: Free for spectators
• Info: rensselaervillecycling.com
These parties on wheels began in Italy in the early 1900s and have been a part of Italian culture for more than 100 years. Entire towns shut down, wine flows and cyclists pedal through towns and over mountains.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, the hills of Rensselaerville will be the place to be for the first annual Rensselaerville Cycling Festival.
Professional cyclist and organizer of the event, Tyler Wren, said when he came to the Capital District in 2012, he was amazed at the terrain in Rensselaerville.
“I was pretty taken immediately with how fantastic the riding is here, the varied terrain with climbs, level and lots of options,” he said. “I was also taken back by how few cyclists are on the roads here.”
Wren soon met other cyclists in the area who were interested in organizing a cycling event.
“The timing was right,” he said. “We got to know each other riding, and at the end of last year we decided to organize the event together.”
A few of Wren’s professional teammates will be at the event, and there will be competitive courses, but Wren wanted the festival to be for everyone.
“We have a little bit for everyone. A real difficult and challenging 84-mile ride for enthusiasts, a 55- and 25-mile ride for those not as ambitious, an 8-mile for very beginner riders and we have a kids mini ride for the little ones with free Stewart’s ice cream,” he said.
Wren said the event is more than a sporting event, and more of a cultural experience for the whole community.
“People can expect a showcase of this area and all the things that are going on. We pass by working farms, some of which will be at the post ride farmers market,” he said.
Wren said the entire town has been involved in the event.
“The local bookkeeper just signed up and he’s 70 years old,” he said. “Down here in Rensselaerville, a lot of people have dusted off their bikes and are getting ready for the 8-mile ride.”
The “Gran” course, designed by Wren is 84 miles and includes 8,000 feet of paved and dirt roads that climb 8,000 feet through state forests and historic villages. At 55 miles, the “Media” tours the hilltowns and ascends into the Catskills. The “Piccilo” is a 25 mile course with views of the Catskills through rolling hills, forests and farmland. The 8 mile “Festival Ride” is described as your favorite Sunday drive on two wheels and ventures into charming rural roads and parades up Main Street. Wren warns, there is a hill, however.
“We had trouble finding a flat route for the 8 mile ride, so that does include a hill,” he said. “We are in the hilltowns.”
From the beginning, Wren wanted the event to be more of a fun community experience showcasing the area, the vendors, the farmers and the brewers.
Although the courses may seem “race-like,” Wren said they most certainly are not.
“We want people to take the time and enjoy the views,” he said.
Treats and surprises will be given along the way, and aid stations will be stocked with energy bars and drinks.
The Hamlet Stop will feature live music from “Wadhams Waddlers” where cyclists can grab a few slices of New York apples covered in locally-made peanut butter from Saratoga Peanut Butter Company and Saratoga Apple. Riders can sip on coffee and taste a pastry on Johnny Cake Hill Road in Westerlo, grab an ice cream at Potter Hollow Base Camp, freshen up with an old-fashioned soda in historic Prattsville and sip on a glass of alcohol-free wine and chocolate at The Whinery.
Carey Institute for Global Good will be at the finish line to give every rider 21 and over a custom pint glass filled with locally-brewed beer from their agricultural initiative, the Helderberg Brewshed.
In addition, a barbecue, bike vendors, a farmers’ market and live music from “The Lustre Kings,” “Black Mountain Symphony, “Wadhams Waddlers” and Emileigh Tanner will take over the town.
The kid’s Mini-Fondo is free and open to anyone under 12 years old with a bike and a helmet. The kids will line up at the starting line at noon, and everyone will go home with a prize.
It all takes place on Sunday, Sept. 28 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville. Find more information at rensselaervillecycling.com.