GFNY is a personal endurance challenge where you compete against others, the clock and yourself. GFNY NYC serves as the GFNY World Championship for the GFNY World Series of races.
GFNY World events provide you that same challenge in locations around the world. Additionally, you get the chance to qualify for a front corral start at the GFNY World Championship in NYC.
All GFNY events provide the following for you to BE A PRO FOR A DAY:
The vivid green cycling jersey is a GFNY hallmark. It represents a global cycling community, a ‘family’ of like-minded people who come together to share the road and Be A Pro For A Day. After each race, each race’s GFNY jersey becomes a badge of honor for riders who took part in the event.
GFNY is a race and personal challenge. Every rider gets chip timed from start to finish regardless if they compete for the win, to set a personal best or just to complete the event.
First and foremost, ALL riders regardless of ability, talent, level or placement in the start corrals will BE A PRO FOR A DAY ®.
All GFNY World races offer the long marathon route, which is 110-180km long, and a medium route that is 40-90km long. Every finisher, regardless if they finish the long route or medium route, receive a Finisher Medal.
The Long Route finishers are ranked by finish time, and age group podium winners are invited on the podium during the Awards Ceremony.
The Medium Route is not competitive. Riders are chip timed start-to-finish, however the finish times are listed alphabetically by the rider’s last name.
The authentic granfondo in Italy that kicked it all off
Just a short year before the first GFNY race, Lidia and Uli Fluhme were ready for the start of their first granfondo together. A small, but authentic Italian granfondo event in the North of Italy, about 800 riders stood shoulder to shoulder with Lidia and Uli as they got ready to test themselves between Lago Maggiore and the Italian Alps. Everything about the race said, “authentic Italian granfondo”. Beneath their wheels the closed (or police moderated) roads that led them to steep and difficult climbs. Around them, the vast array of colors on the kits of the riders and their teams. In front of them – “a tutta” – all out – the traditional fast Italian start that wasted no time in forming front groups that would offer them stiff competition over the 141km course. While the atmosphere was fast and festive, the climbs were steep and unforgiving. Lidia, a multiple Ironman Hawaii finisher, was forced to dismount on one of the climbs. Challenge accepted! This was it! Lidia was hooked. She had to bring this feeling back with her to New York City!
But the roots were made back in 1995
The other races weren’t like this. In 1995, then 20 years old, Uli Fluhme, was taking on the mighty Oetztaler. It was not for the faint of heart with 235km of distance and 5,000m of climbing. But that was what made this, his first granfondo, special. A competitive racer, Uli was not satisfied by the endless go-rounds of criteriums and circuit races attended by his team. This was different. Racing against riders of every level, from pros to beginners, starting in Austria, winding into Italy, and making its way back into Austria, the granfondo format of the Oetztaler had it all. Distance, climbing, competition, and now matter the outcome, the satisfaction of completing a challenging course. There were no DNF’s for not finishing with the pack. If you were dropped by the pack, your day was still made with your finishing time. This was the traditional, Italian granfondo model but mostly in Austria. Three years later, on May 1, 1998 Uli was finally on the start line of his first Italian granfondo: the 10 Colli Bolognesi.
Why Gran Fondo New York?
You could say that first granfondo Lidia and Uli did together left some permanent marks, and in a very good way. It left a mark on Lidia in wanting to bring that challenge and that feeling to New York, and eventually, the rest of the world. Upon returning to New York, Lidia and Uli set out to organize Gran Fondo New York.
The New York cycling scene had a lot. But it didn’t have it all. There were criteriums, and circuits, for the hardcore racers. But there were also cyclists that wanted to challenge themselves against competition, terrain, and the clock. The crits and circuits were short and repetitive. The bike tours were slow, and on open roads. They were tours, not races. Not competitive, but rather sightseeing excursions.
Lidia and Uli saw a unique opportunity to combine their two passions – granfondo, and racing in New York City!
She quit her job for it!
Like anything else in this world, a significant achievement requires significant commitment. Lidia understood that in order to create an authentic granfondo experience in the greatest city in the U. S. it would take nothing less than a total commitment to the success of the event. She left her job and founded GFNY, and it was on! During this time, Uli continued to work as a lawyer as Lidia began to introduce the granfondo concept to the towns that would be needing to be involved in supporting the authentic granfondo model.
This was no mean feat, to explain and illustrate the concept to the towns. With so many towns, police departments, municipal utility organizations, of course, citizens to educate about the concept, it was an exercise in persistence and passion. With literally hundreds of stakeholders to please, and the knowledge that even one “no vote” could kill the whole concept, Lidia presented the race consistently and authentically, letting the passion for cycling show through, and clearly demonstrating the benefits to these communities, in being part of this unique experience.
Lidia conquered George Washington Bridge
During this time, they knew, though, that the biggest obstacle to success would be getting the start line on the George Washington Bridge. An iconic start, for what would become the iconic granfondo experience in the United States, without the GWB, it would not be a New York City start. With attempts to start the race in the Borough of Manhattan the safety demands of the city proved too restrictive for holding a competitive race in the spirit of an authentic Italian granfondo. Lidia persisted with the Port Authority to gain the bridge. One Sunday in May! Why not be a part of something great? Finally, her persistence and refusal to take no for an answer paid off as the Port Authority agreed to host the start line on the New Jersey bound side of the bridge. Thinking asking $50,000 for a few hours of the bridge would end the discussion and push Lidia away, they offered a deal. Lidia and Uli agreed – to the surprise of the Port Authority, and one of the most revered start lines in cycling was born.
Gaining the bridge meant everything to starting in NYC and providing a pro and iconic start to the race. To this day, the third Sunday in May, riders from over 90 countries gather on the lower deck of the bridge to watch the sun rise, connect with each other, and enjoy the amazing views of Manhattan to the South, and to the Hudson Valley they will be riding along to the North.
By September of that year, Uli come to the end of his contract and offered to work half-time for the company so that he could put more of his time behind GFNY. The company instead offered a full-time position in Switzerland, which would mean giving up GFNY and moving to Europe. Uli left the job to focus on GFNY full time.
Thresholds are there to be ignored
Registration for GFNY soon followed. Lidia and Uli’s go/no go plan were to try to have 2000 riders by February, and if they couldn’t meet that mark, they would cancel the race. February finally came, and there were only 1000 riders, but they knew that to keep going was the right thing to do. By the inaugural race day on May 8, 2011, there were 1,900 racers registered. It was not enough racers to cover the costs of the race, but they knew they were on the right track. On May 8, 2011, the race began to present itself to 1,900 riders. 1900 riders made the choice to Be a Pro for a Day! Lidia and Uli loved the event, and how it went, they knew that it was the right thing to keep going.
The 2012 race had over 4000 riders and ran right in the middle of an American granfondo boom. The phrase granfondo had made its way to America, but there was still only GFNY that understood the authentic granfondo experience. There were casual bike tours that featured Italian food at the aid stations, or timed climbs, but only GFNY offered authenticity in the form of closed intersections that allowed riders to focus on competition. One rider described this monumental heavy lifting and financial commitment to the race as “a nice touch”. But to this day, that “nice touch” serves as one of the key differentiators in offering a pro cycling experience, as opposed to a bike touring experience.
The clatter, din, and noise of everyone yelling granfondo during that time, with the addition of miserable weather in the 2013 edition of the GFNY had a significant impact on the 2013 attendance. Fewer riders committed to the 2014 race, but a loyal and hardcore group of GFNY fans was building and forming the foundation of a worldwide peloton of GFNY participation on four continents.
Gran Fondo New York in…Italy??
A loyal core of riders and racers means a hardcore hunger for more. As GFNY started to build momentum in the U.S., loyal riders were asking how they could do more. Initially, Lidia and Uli, encouraged those who asked to get to Italy. See the birthplace of granfondo. Inject the passion of travel and perspective into the passion for cycling. But where to start? While still growing the GFNY brand in the U.S. there was only one place to expand to that made sense – the mother land – Italy. The GFNY Italia experience was born in the Mediterranean town of Terracina, a short, 90-minute drive from the Rome airport, and a true slice of what Uli later referred to as “authentic Italy”. This was not tourist Italy, this was living Italian, as Italians did every day. And most importantly, racing as Italians did.
And on September 20, 2014 – the inaugural GFNY Italia race was on in Terracina. The first GFNY outside of New York, and the U.S. This was just the beginning of the global cycling marathon series that now covers 20 races annually on four continents.
In Italy, racers from the U.S. felt comfortable doing a GFNY event. While European racers came from all over the continent to try their luck on the Panoramica of Sperlonga, and the other epic climbs, then descending, back to the sea for a celebration.
Gran Fondo New York…everywhere!
During the planning of the GFNY Italia experience, Lidia and Uli were contacted by Shaun Gad on the Mexican island of Cozumel, in Quintana Roo. Shaun, his wife Daniela, and their partners the Gonzales brothers had assisted the Mexican and local governments in bringing Ironman to the Island. But as they were primarily cyclists, they were looking to create a non-triathlon cycling experience, and race on the Island. Lidia was familiar with Cozumel from racing and completing Ironman events there. Both Lidia and Uli loved the Island, and so after a brief conversation were on the next plane to Cozumel to plan the first Latin American GFNY event, GFNY Cozumel.
The inaugural GFNY Cozumel was running on November 20, 2014. During the event, Uli had an extra bottle of water left prior to the end of the race. In the group that he was riding in, he asked who needed water. The bottle was handed off to Juan Carlos of Colombia. He gladly took the bottle, and soon after, GFNY Columbia was organized by Juan Carlos for the following March.
GFNY was now on three continents. North America, South America, and Europe.
Excited and entrepreneurial riders started to spread the GFNY series around the globe. While man organizers succeeded in creating new races in the GFNY format, several did not do so well. With a commitment to maintaining the high standards now established for the GFNY brand, Lidia and Uli were careful stewards of the GFNY Global Series and had to make some difficult decisions surrounding GFNY events that were not working out. Compromising quality for quantity was not in the GFNY playbook, and while some of those decisions were difficult, each was a learning experience that helped Lidia and Uli support organizers in just about every corner of the world.
The commitment to quality was the key component to the idea to start GFNY Apparel in 2017. The GFNY jersey had always been mandatory at all races, and the design process was constantly evolving. As passionate cyclists, Lidia and Uli’s commitment to quality and to not wanting to market anything that they themselves would not wear was a key driver in seeking to exercise control over the design and quality processes. The universe of jersey cuts, colors, and quality were a constant struggle for maintaining the consistency the brand deserved. Being consistent with high quality apparel, on the money sizing, and trendsetting color palettes and design patterns became a significant improvement to the rider experience, and a hallmark of the GFNY brand. The GFNY jerseys from all over the world became as much a part of the rider experience, and as much a trophy as the finisher medals.
2018 saw the continued evolution of the GFNY brand expanding to new places, new races, new faces. It also saw an expansion of the GFNY Apparel line into GFNY Sunglasses. Once again brining a cyclist’s eye, functionally, and aesthetically, Lidia researched, tested, and pushed the limits patience, passion, and persistence to create an eyewear experience that was made for cyclists both on and off the bike. To wear not only the cycling identity, but the GFNY cycling identity in a trendsetting eyewear line that transcends current fashions, while providing functional features that benefit cyclists in all conditions. It took ten months to get it right, and the GFNY Sunglasses were on display at the GFNY World Championship NYC expo in May of 2018, and once again, a product that Lidia and Uli are proud to wear themselves.