CLARE - The number 1,000 holds bright appeal for organizers of the Sept. 23 Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie. The fourth annual cycling event, the largest in Atlantic Canada, could be a record-breaker this year.
As of Sept. 17, there were 985 registrations, including 203 from out of province from Alaska to Australia. Registration ($99 CDN) is open until up until 8 a.m. on the day of the Sept. 23 event.
“The Gran Fondo has quickly grown to become a bucket list cycling and cultural experience,” said Clare tourism manager Larry Peach.
This year four rides on low-traffic roads are offered. Experienced riders will be challenged by the 160 km Super Gran and 120 km Gran routes, while intermediate and novice cyclists may prefer the popular 67 km Medio or shorter 35 km Piccolo rides.
Riders will navigate rolling inland roads along lakes and rivers, passing by towering wooden churches along the coastal route that hugs Baie Sainte-Marie.
New for 2018, the Children's ride (the Mini-Fondo: 2 km & 4 km) will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22. E-bikes are also permitted to ride in the 67 km and 35 km rides.
Also new for 2018: a shuttle service is offered for $40 return from the Digby Pines to the event location.
The entire community rolls out the welcome mat as residents enthusiastically cheer cyclists on from the roadside, waving Acadian flags and banging pots and pans. There are over 170 volunteers signed up for 270 positions.
Although a timed event, this is more a self-paced fun group event, rather than a race.
Organizers are working closely with the RCMP and NS Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to develop a traffic control plan to safely start the event at the Vélo Baie Sainte-Marie bike shop in Saulnierville (9976 Highway 1, Saulnierville). Traffic will be temporarily restricted from passing on Highway 1 from Eustache Comeau Rd. to in front of the bike shop from 8 to 10 a.m. (except in the case of local traffic and emergency vehicles). The same detour will be in place heading west at Patrice Road. Drivers can use Highway 101 for travel when possible.
The event will start at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the Vélo Baie Sainte-Marie bike shop (9976 Highway 1, Saulnierville). Lunch is included and is a choice of vegetarian chilli, BBQ pork or the fresh lobster in the shell. On Saturday, riders are invited to a social event for a taste of Acadian culture at the Clare Veterans Centre.