Texas Gran Fondo, Fredericksburg, TX
Texas Gran Fondo was terrible!!
No signs-no pit stops- no support- 90.00 to what?
April 5, 2014
I had really high hopes for this inaugural ride. I was sadly disappointed. First, the good. The route was challenging and very beautiful. Some of those hills were really tough - even harder than such popular hills like the Beast on the Beauty and the Beast Ride. The one at mile 80 was especially challenging. Route signage was adequate for the most part. But at the turn to the KOM segment, the turn signal came too late and was easily missed if you weren't paying close attention. Thankfully, they realized this and had a volunteer after the turn to make sure no one got off course. The finisher medals were nice. And finally, there was food (German sausages and pasta) and alcohol provided by local vendors at the end. The food was a little cold by the time we got there, but we were thankful for a bite to eat after a long hard day in the saddle.
And now for the bad. This ride was $100 per rider for the century and I have to ask: where did the money go??? To my knowledge it was not benefitting a charity so we expected our money's worth. We did not get it! First, packet pickup. The website said onsite packet pickup would begin at the start at 6 am. Well we arrived at 6. Unless you noticed a way to cut through a local community center alley, there was no way to get to the start by car as all the street entrances were blocked off. So that's mistake number one. Then when we got to the start, there was no packet pickup. A few volunteers were setting up the start line but they didn't know where packet pickup was (this proved to be a recurring theme through the day -- "I don't know"). A few of us drove to the hotel where early packet pickup was held to see if maybe the website was wrong. The folks at the hotel, however, had no idea where pickup was. So back to the start we went. When we get back, some volunteers were putting up the packet pickup tent. The first pickup did not take place until 6:55!!! And we waited that entire time in the cold. And then pickup was slow as they had not assembled any packets and were doing it on the spot. But they didn't have any t-shirts. Riders were handed ride numbers, ties to attach the numbers to their bikes, and wrist bands for lunch. No bags. No maps. No numbers for SAG. No snacks.
Rest stops -- All I can say here is wow! There were only 3 rest stops on the 100 mile route and they were very unevenly spaced -- at 37 miles, 55 miles, and 85 miles. We did not know this beforehand. And the rest stops were bare bones -- pretzels and jam to dip them in, bananas at stops 2 and 3, water at all, an electrolyte mix at 2 and 3, and thankfully peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at stop 3. So many riders were unprepared for the lack of fuel on this ride. And there were no stores along the route where you could buy anything.
Support -- This was essentially an unsupported ride, which was not communicated to us beforehand. Frankly, I would have skipped it. Except for 1 at the start, we didn't see a single SAG wagon on the route. The few riders I'm aware of that bonked, cramped too bad to ride on, or needed mechanical assistance had to wait until others saw their predicament and could pass on the word at the next rest stop. There was also no traffic support, but thankfully the turns weren't too difficult.
The finish -- we were told that food, including dessert, would be available until 5. Yet they were packing up over an hour early and there was no dessert, at least when we got there. We had to run in just to catch them to get our medals before they went home. And they ran out of t-shirts. This was after running out of most sizes at early pickup. How does that happen when you know how many signed up before the ride and there was no on-site registration?
They also said we would be able to purchase jerseys at the start. Yet they weren't taking orders.
Basically, as much as I enjoyed the route, it did not make up for everything else. Again, where did the money go?! Just because you call it a Gran Fondo does not a Gran Fondo make nor does it allow you to charge $100 and offer riders little for their money. To the organizers: skip the electronic timing and focus on the basics that most riders care about; study the well run rides.
I cannot recommend this ride until drastic changes are made. I will be skipping it until they figure out how to execute a quality Gran Fondo. There were plenty of better choices this weekend.
While the scenery was beautiful the ride felt more like the Texas Gran Fleecing. A badly run ride at best. Signage was horrible, numerous turns missed or nearly so. The food and drinks at the rest stops, which were few and far between was substandard. The volunteers at the rest stops were nice but I'm highly suspect of where the bulk of the $100 for registration is going, it sure didn't go into the ride. Stacks of XXL shirts for all the cyclists, really? It'll take a slew of outstanding reviews in the future before I'll try it again. Brian Faulkner
This event definitely showed problem signs of a first time event with what appeared to be inexperienced organizers. Nice people, good intentions, some classy touches, but missing the basics. I hope the ride survives, since Fredericksburg is a fun place to visit and the Hill Country has wonderful scenery while also being a challenging place to ride. I can echo the observations already made in previous reviews. With the Gran Fondo label, one might expect a large, party atmosphere, but it turned out to be less than 500 cyclists, capped by the organizers. There were only ~100 on the 100 mile route. I remember reading that the ride was a benefit for the Hill Country Memorial Hospital, but regardless the $100. Registration fee was pretty steep. There seemed to be very few volunteers and anecdotes support the statement that they didn't seem to know much. One would think the hospital could have recruited a lot of volunteers. One of my friends complained that they were not able to accept credit cards to buy a commemative jersey. If you didn't get there early, there were only XL T shirts. There was virtually no information in the event packet about the routes, safety, emergency numbers, etc. The maps on-line made it hard to tell what to expect on rest stops. I rode the 100 mile route. There were indeed surprisingly few rest stops, with sparse provisions. Not the place for an inexperienced cyclist. There was more than one corner inadequately marked. When riding in a group it was easy to not have visbility to corner marking on the pavement. One corner we nearly blew by had a volunteer inside the vehicle keeping warm, so a little more training there would have helped on directing a corner properly. Just before the beginning of the King of the Mountain segment, half our group blew by the corner. This was a dangerous thing as people yell "turn right"at the last moment and some people did and some didn't, collisions narrowly avoided. There was an ambulance there, and when we stopped to assess the situation , the story I heard was that a previous group was not so lucky, and one person got hurt. I also heard coments that no one had a number for the organizer or SAG wagon to pick up the guy's bike ( see race packet comment earlier). We also had a little encounter with a local sheriff, who actually gave a ticket to a cyclist for riding three abreast on the wide highway shoulder. Incredible! Next time the organizer needs to be completely aligned with the local law enforcement and make sure that all riders know the limits and expectations. There was quite a bit of chip & seal, but frankly one needs to expect this in rural Texas. There were some nice touches, like the BMW & Mini escort cars, the great micro-brewery and local restaurant food and good live music at the post-race area at the Hampton Inn. But a Gran Fondo needs to be run like a best-in-class for the basics, at the very least. I'd love to go again because of the location, route and challenging hills, but I'd have to hear the organizer outline in detail how the operation will be improved. –Jay G.