First, a quick lesson in Italian…”Gran” means big.  “Piccolo” means small.

You may remember this post from last July when I bought Melissa a bike and her first ride was to the top of Suncrest.  Well, that was a good first time bike ride.  In hind sight, that first ride was actually “piccolo” compared to the event we completed today.

Back in February, while Melissa was running an errand, I was anxious to register for a cycling event we could do together.  I chose the Moab Gran Fondo–which, from my understanding means, “The Big Ride.”     

Before I continue, I needs to give props where props are due.  We owe heartfelt thanks to Grandma Marlene and Grandpa Jerry and Jenny and Lane for taking care of the kids so we could sneak away for a spectacular time.  The kids had a full array of activities including swimming, ballet, and soccer and as always, they were well taken care of.

Now back to the event.  Melissa and I chose to carb load on Friday night at Pasta Jays (the last time we ate there was for the Moab Marathon about 5 years ago).  It was a great chance to relax and talk–mostly about the kids.

The following morning we enjoyed breakfast with Paul Frandsen as we discussed the details of the course.  We then rode over to the start (see above picture) before we launched into one of the most enjoyable portion of the course (I wish I had a picture).  Essentially, it was 17.5 miles of gently rolling hills along the Green River and thousand foot red rock cliffs looming overhead–truly, this was the highlight of the trip for me.  I did my best to stay with the front peloton and Paul, while Melissa stayed in the middle of the pack.

Once we were through the canyon, we turned south into Castle Valley and the climbing began.  This turn marked the beginning of about 5,200 feet of climbing and where the men became separated from the boys.  In this scale I would categorize myself as an prepubescent school boy–in other words, I was dropped from the main field.  Again, the scenery was amazing.  We had snow capped 11,000 ft peaks in the background and red rock desert vistas in the foreground.   

Again, the climbing was intense!  Or, put another way, salt was running down our faces and lactic acid was burning our legs.  A few miles from the summit, something happened to my hip.  I have a relatively new bike and I don’t think I have the fit dialed in just yet.  It became very difficult to pedal.  I know, forget the excuses, the fact is this was a tough ride!

The course summits at mile 40 with a peak elevation of around 8,300 ft.  It is then another 20 miles of descending back to Moab, complete with hairpin switchbacks, potholes, and loose gravel.  It was awesome!

So how did we do?

With a field of about 265 rider, Kevin finished in 59th place (3:52).  Melissa finished almost exactly an hour later in about 165th place (still waiting for official results). 

In short, it was a great time together and we are already planning a return to the Moab Gran Fondo.

Oh, by the way, a husband and wife team from Canada won the male and female divisions respectively.  Melissa and I plan to challenge them for the title next year– Eagle Powers come to me!