The Malibu Gran Fondo is an event in its second year, and is a different take on what a fondo can be. It’s true that “gran fondo” means “big ride,” but just how do you define “big”? A ride could be big in terms of rider participation, or in terms of the course, or perhaps in terms of presentation.
Serious Cycling, a high-end shop in the suburbs of Los Angeles, chose this last version of “big” to guide them as they planned their event, which was held March 5 and 6.
The primary route was a 151 kilometer ride that started in Westlake Village, wound up into Camarillo and Moorpark, then reached the coast via a descent down Potrero Canyon. Once at the beach, the route followed Pacific Coast Highway all the way down the coast to Latigo Canyon for the 11km long climb up to the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains. From there the course descended to Mulholland for a few rollers before the final descent down Westlake Boulevard and back to the finish.
It was an exceptionally well-designed course, given just how hard it is to guide riders of moderate ability over the roads of Malibu without taking them down a truly dangerous descent. There’s exactly one turn, about half way down Westlake, that has the classic mix of steep pitch, sweeping turn and an off-camber slope, and should give even riders of great ability reason to slow down.
The fondo was held Saturday. For those who stuck around for Sunday, riders had the choice of either a 20km time trial, or a 40km group social ride.
Alas, I missed Saturday’s ride. My radiator went on strike half way down the 5 in a spot that was not actually Coalinga, Hanford or Lemoore, but was sorta close to all of them.
Rain moved in Saturday night, roughly the same time I and my family did, though it ended early Sunday morning. I woke to damp streets, partly cloudy skies and a stiff wind off the ocean. It didn’t seem fair for me to contest the time trial without having ridden the fondo the day before, so I opted for the social ride, and boy was I glad I did. Rather than an out-and-back course, the TT was strictly westbound on PCH, into the headwind the whole way. Oh baby. My ride was a treat; I got to meet riders from the U.K., Germany and even Chile. They were a great bunch and again, members of the Serious Cycling team were there to provide a draft and support, even with our casual pace.
On Sunday’s ride, I heard from a number of riders who were amazed at one other unusual detail about Saturday’s ride. The Serious Cycling race team came out to act as marshalls and mules on the ride, maintaining a manageable pace that allowed a cohesive peloton to ride to the foot of Latigo Canyon. For some riders present, it was the first time they’d ever ridden in a group of more than four or five riders and they were pleasantly surprised at how much higher their average speed was thanks to the colossal draft provided by the group.
For all that cyclists may spend on their bikes, there really aren’t many events that aspire to an upscale or luxurious presentation. The Malibu Gran Fondo was distinctly different in that regard. By limiting the event to just 250 riders, organizers were able to select the Four Seasons Westlake Village as the host hotel. There was a reception for riders on Saturday evening and Sunday following the ride there was a great spread of fruit and breakfast burritos once you’d gotten your massage.
Even though I missed half the event, it was good enough I hope to return.