The Gran Fondo Florida stands as a beacon of warmth and rolling terrain for road cycling enthusiasts looking to escape the biting chill of winter and kick of the cycling season right. Nestled in the heart of Dade City, FL, this Gran Fondo National Series event promises a unique blend of picturesque landscapes and challenging hills, making it an early Spring adventure you wouldn’t want to miss. With routes traversing through serene horse farms, lush orange groves, and the potential tracks of an Olympic road race course, Gran Fondo Florida positions itself not just as a race, but as a cycling experience of a lifetime. The team at Strambecco has chosen it as one of the best road cycling events in the Southeast.
Event & Course Info
Despite being the “easiest” GFNS event based on total elevation gain, do not be deceived. The Gran Fondo Florida is renowned as Florida’s most challenging gran fondo, packed with relentless rolling hills that will test your endurance and strategy. It’s a perfect stage for those looking to get their cycling season up and running, offering a warm embrace away from colder climates. Results from Gran Fondo Florida can secure your place at the 2024 USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships, showcasing your achievements and paving the way for future glory.
As is customary for GFNS events, there are three events to choose from: Gran, Medio, and Piccolo. Riders will start in waves from 8:00 AM, with the course well-marked and supported by law enforcement, aid stations, mechanics, and sag vehicles.
The Gran Route features 96 Miles of non-stop rolling hills through horse farms, orange groves, and crystal clear springs with 2,700 ft of elevation gain. The Gran route is the ultimate challenge, and participants will find themselves navigating through the heart of Pasco and Hernando Counties, experiencing the area’s winter training grounds for world-class triathletes. It’s a journey that commemorates parts of the proposed Olympic road race course and traverses through historical cycling territories like the Darby Road. Four aid stations are strategically placed to provide sustenance and support, ensuring riders stay energized throughout the course.
Opting for the Medio Route offers a balanced 55 miles ride, featuring a 1900 ft elevation gain. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a challenging yet less daunting experience compared to the Gran route. Riders will still get to experience the beauty of central Florida’s landscape with a balanced mix of hills and scenic rides through farms and groves. Two aid stations are available to provide necessary support.
The Piccolo Route is the shortest of the three but still offers a respectable 1300 ft of elevation gain over 36 miles. This route is perfect for those who are newer to gran fondo events or prefer a less strenuous journey. Riders will enjoy the same picturesque scenery and rolling hills, albeit in a more compact experience. One main aid station and a mini-aid station are placed along the route to ensure riders are well-hydrated and fueled.
The Gran Fondo Florida features timed-segment racing, where only specific segments of the race are timed, and your placement depends on your performance in these segments. Top 3 finishers in various categories will be celebrated and awarded, with Gran Route age group winners receiving custom kits.
To ensure a safe and orderly event, riders must maintain a minimum progression speed of 10mph or risk being directed to a shorter route, and cutoffs enforced for those unable to do so. This ensures everyone can complete their chosen route safely and enjoyably. After the ride, participants can enjoy food provided by Pig on the Road Kitchen, engage in a prize raffle with over $5000 of prizes from series sponsors, and relax with a post-ride beer from Dade City’s first and only Brew House.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
Extend your stay after the Gran Fondo Florida to explore the beaches in Tampa and St. Petersburg or visit the world-renowned Walt Disney World theme park in Orlando. The central location of Dade City offers a plethora of things to do for cyclists and their families. The host hotels for the event include the Best Western Wesley Chapel and the Hampton Inn Dade City Florida. For those that prefer a more home-like experience, there are plenty of vacation rental options in the area to suit a variety of needs from farm stays to villas. There are even a few one of a kind camping locations nearby for an extra unique experience.
The culinary scene in Dade City, FL, is a delightful blend of Southern charm and diverse flavors, with a range of eateries offering everything from classic American comfort food and barbecue to international cuisines. The town’s historic atmosphere adds to the dining experience, with local restaurants often housed in charming, vintage buildings, providing both a taste of the region’s past and its current culinary innovations. Local favorites include Green Door on 8th, The Farmhouse Market & Cafe, and Florida Cracker.
Dade City beckons adventurers and athletes alike wth its lush landscapes, rolling hills, and unique terrain, this small town offers a variety of activities to satisfy the cravings of outdoor enthusiasts. For cyclists, the Withlacoochee State Trail presents a premier destination. Stretching over 46 miles, this paved rail-trail offers a smooth ride through some of Florida’s most beautiful natural settings. Starting just north of Dade City, the trail winds its way through small towns, forests, and past waterways, providing a full spectrum of scenery to enjoy. Whether you’re on a road bike, mountain bike, or even a unicycle, the trail is accessible and enjoyable for all. Along the way, there are plenty of rest stops, parks, and quaint towns to explore, making it easy to turn your ride into a full-day adventure.
For those who prefer to explore on foot, the Withlacoochee River Park is a treasure trove of hiking opportunities. The park encompasses over 400 acres of pristine Florida wilderness, offering miles of trails that cater to all skill levels. March is an especially great time to hit the trails, as the cooler temperatures make for a more comfortable hiking experience, and the blooming wildflowers add a splash of color to the landscape. One of the standout trails is the River Ridge Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that takes hikers through a variety of ecosystems, from hardwood forests to wetlands, providing a comprehensive view of Florida’s natural diversity. Along the way, keep an eye out for local wildlife, as the park is home to a variety of birds, deer, and even the occasional armadillo.
Dade City offers unparalleled kayaking experiences along the Withlacoochee River for water sports enthusiasts. This river stretches for miles, providing a serene and scenic backdrop for a day on the water. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, the Withlacoochee River has something to offer. There are calm stretches perfect for leisurely paddles, as well as more challenging sections for those looking for a bit of adventure. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by lush foliage, and you might even catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, including turtles, fish, and a variety of bird species. There are several local outfitters in and around Dade City that offer kayak rentals and guided tours, ensuring that you have everything you need for a successful day on the water.
The Gran Fondo National Series was established in 2012 and comprised 10+ European-style rides/races staged in the United States. Every GFNS event offers courses covering 30, 60, and 100-mile journeys through some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain in endurance sports. Timed sections allow riders to compete in specific course segments, while casual cyclists can ride at their own pace. Participants can ride as individuals or on teams. GFNS awards special prizes to the top riders in every age and gender category. Each rider is assigned an electronic timing chip to keep track of their progress throughout the course and to allow riders to compete for the best time through highlighted sections.
For the most competitive cyclists, the series partnered with USA Cycling to bring the one-day Gran Fondo National Championship into the portfolio of official USA Cycling National Championship events. The event is held annually, and a national championship jersey and medal are awarded to the overall winner in each Gran Route age group category. The USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championship event will be held at Gran Fondo Maryland in Frederick, Maryland, in September.
To compete in the National Championship category, riders must qualify by meeting specific criteria, including results and rankings in Qualification Events. However, all riders are welcome to participate in Gran Fondo Maryland and ride any of the normal Maryland Gran Fondo routes (Gran, Medio, and Piccolo), regardless of qualification status.
GFNS-owned events include Gran Fondo Florida; Tour of Georgia Gran Fondo; Highlands Gran Fondo; Gran Fondo Asheville; Boone Gran Fondo; Golden Gran Fondo; Gran Fondo Maryland. Partner events include Cheaha Challenge; Vermont Gran Fondo; Utah-Cache Gran Fondo; Virginia’s Blue Ridge Gran Fondo; 719 Ride; Mt Evans Hill Climb Gran Fondo. These events consistently rate as some of the Best Road Cycling Events in the Southeast, New England, Rockies / Colorado, and in the Southwest / California.
GFNY Florida Sebring which is part of the GFNY World Series is another premier road cycling event that takes place in-state. For multi-sport endurance athletes looking for other events in the state of Florida and broader Southeast region, be sure to check out our full list of Strambecco Best in Class trail running, gravel and mountain biking events.