Gran Fondo Santa Clarita a First?

What are really fondos?

Are they races or leisurely tours? I don’t really have answer because it can be both.

For me, I just take them as they go. I’m fine to ride in a group, but if people get a little competitive, then why not.

I circled the Gran Fondo Santa Clarita because I wanted to support the good people of Road Bike Action Magazine and the SCV.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the century or 60 miler, because doing the longer ride meant getting there an hour and a half earlier.

I’ve been waking up at 5am on my own on most days, so I set my alarm at 6:20 and let fate take its hand.

Thanks to being completely zonked the night before with the neighbor’s dog barking outside, metric century here I come!



Neutral starts provide a great selfie opportunity.


Getting out there, the event looked well laid out and I registered super-efficiently.

I also loved having a sticker on my seatpost instead of the typical fumbling around pinning a number on my jersey.

The ride had a neutral start led by the Sheriffs keeping a reasonable pace, but as we hit the timed segment right before mile 8, things didn’t tick up too much.



Rolling by the timed start.


To be honest with you, I’ve never climbed Bouquet Canyon before and my memory of descending it lacked details.

That worked to my advantage because it was far flatter than I thought with the pitch averaging 2% for the greater part of the climb.

I ended up doing a decent amount of pacemaking while taking some shots at the front, but I still had time to notice how rustic Bouquet Canyon is.



Not only am I taking pulls at the front, I’m also Ansel Adams taking a pic of the Big Oaks Lodge.


Things started getting saucier as the dam for Lake Elizabeth approached and the steepening started to fragment the group.

Along the way, there were these short accelerations that you would have thought were attacks, but the leader slowed it down before anyone reacted (which wasn’t going to be me), almost like someone was trying to take seconds off of a Strava segment.



The climb brought a narrower field.


At the peak adjacent to Lake Elizabeth, a couple of us pulled over for an “adult” break, but catching back to the ten people who had passed was quick work.

As we were nearing the highest point of Bouquet Canyon when a couple of riders took off in a mad dash.

I did what I had been doing all ride long: take a picture.

When I realized they weren’t taking the gas off after peaking, I knew they were trying to make the lead group far more lonelier.



See those specs ahead? That’s the cue to get racing!


Even though the odds weren’t in my favor,I decided to take up the chase alone hoping my weight issues would help in the descending department.

I cranked and tucked enough to not only catch them by Elizabeth Lake Road, but the best time of the day on this stretch going solo.

I honestly don’t know how I got this skill…



Back in the fold.


As I joined this gang (the smallest possible number of people making it one of those groups), one of them looked back and saw the field scattered enough proposing a pact to stick together.

Knowing the high winds we were about to face, this was a tenable move as the string of soloists behind disappeared into the rollers.

After 6.5 miles of undulating terrain, we made our turn onto San Fransiquito Canyon shifting back into our small rings for this climb.

It was shorter than I thought and I when I saw the pit stop at the top, I told them I was grabbing water, but that didn’t stop them from taking off.


Wanna do a water break guys?


I overshot the stop cause holding a camera impeded my braking and after refilling my two water bottles, once again I was on the chase again.

The descent was fast, but not enough that I couldn’t take in the quaintness of the town of Green Valley.

It was an oasis of forest with a small town that looked like it could have been placed high in the San Bernardino Mountains.

I questioned if I left too large a gap to close, but after a half mile onto Spunky Canyon, I could see the other two in the distance.

As I left the trees, I could see I was gaining and even as we hit the steeper portion of the road, I knew I was closing the gap.

I rejoined but just long enough for my ignorance of the terrain to kick in.

They took off for the peak and once again, I was playing catch up.


When people sprint, you know you’re near the top.


The gap wasn’t as large as the last and we were gruppo compacto before we made the turn onto Bouquet Canyon.

We rotated through the descent when at mile 49, I realized we were five miles from the end of the timed segment and I had a chance to win this thing!

Knowing I have subpar sprinting ability, I thought about using my downhill skills for a breakaway, but the presence of headwinds instantly squashed that idea.


Going down Bouquet Canyon far more fun than going up!


With about two miles left, one of the riders pulled off the back while neither spinning nor pulling off the road.

It was the same spot where I had a massive foot cramp a couple of years ago, so that’s what I thought it was (it turned out being a flat tire).

Needless to say, my odds of taking this increased and our turns at the front became shorter and shorter.

As the 1km sign came up, James (the other rider) pulled off and I made my attack:


The final 1km….


I thought this was a good move because if it didn’t stick, I still had time for another move.

Of course, he was on my wheel the whole time so I took the throttle off the engines pretty soon.

I didn’t even bother to keep looking back because normally I have little chance of getting myself back into a sprint.

As we peaked over our final roller, James made his move, but knowing we had a headwind and 500m left, I thought why not give it a try?

I slowly made progress and closed on James with plenty of space left to the line.

You could say I should have waited a little while longer to pass so he couldn’t grab my wheel, but I was pretty sure I came in front, although it was narrower than I had hoped.

As I shook hands, I knew who won the sprint was moot because the overall winner probably depended more on where we started the timed segment at the beginning.

James thought he was in the front at that point, so my chances looked good.

We made our way back early enough to the festival that lunch wasn’t ready yet, so I hung with Nina at the Santa Clarita Valley Bicycle Coalition booth for awhile.

The work that she and the rest of the group put in is really inspiring, I felt like doing this ride was at least a small sign of support for the cycling community.

I also ran into Cameron Bond who won the u23 for the century. I’m glad I wasn’t up against that…



Happy finishers (photo: Nina Moskol)


I finally got my food, talked with a few cyclists and said my goodbyes as I made my way for family obligations.

The timed results were posted later that night and it listed me finishing 4th?

Somehow, my listed time was 25 minutes slower than what I saw looking at my Garmin at the timing points.

My Strava time was slightly longer than what I eyeballed, which is understandable since I stopped twice, but it also matched the times of the two riders I was with.

Being at the front the whole time, I never saw anyone pull off in front of us nor did my camera pick it up, so this is quite a head scratcher.

So although I should have finished seven minutes ahead of the “leaders”, I’m now at home without any parting gifts.

I don’t sound bitter, do I?

All this aside, this was a fun ride that was properly placed in the season to take advantage of American Oktoberfest weather.

I’m sure the Gran Fondo Santa Clarita will be back next year, but many more riders too.