The Santa Monica Mountains have played host to more than 800 cyclists in one of the most prestigious international amateur cycling events, Gran Fondo Italia.
Cyclists of all abilities enjoyed a taste of Italian-style cycling last weekend: from Rodeo Drive, to the Pacific Coast Highway, and through the Santa Monica Mountains.
Consisting of two courses 48 and 98 miles in length, the race culminated in a post-ride celebration and expo at Beverly Canon Gardens.
“The event was a great success and provided a truly unique experience for cyclists,” commented Greg Hendrickson, President of Gran Fondo.
Modeled on the popular cycling event format that originated in Italy, the ride included a mass start on Rodeo Drive, complete with an official Italian-style start celebration, lead-out and police escort.
“The cyclists held a controlled rate for the first 12 miles, with lanes closed to traffic,” Hendrickson explained. “Long course riders headed into the Santa Monica Mountains for the challenging Piuma Road. Cyclists of all abilities experienced the best of Italian-style cycling with an unforgettable ride.”
The event also showcased Italian food, wine, tourism, and culture.
“Gran Fondo Italia was a huge success for our organization,” said Matteo Gerevini, Gran Fondo Italia CEO. “We’re proud to bring a unique Italian experience to the American public through food, wine, tourism and culture while promoting amazing destinations and courses for cyclists nationwide.”
Among the riders this year was Justin Minyard, founder of Operation Shifting Gears, a non-profit organization that helps veterans transition from the military to their civilian life by facilitating their recovery from physical and mental injuries through cycling.
Sergeant 1st Class Minyard was previously wheelchair-bound due to severe chronic pain as a result of injuries sustained during rescue missions on 9/11 and subsequent army deployments. Minyard is now able to ride with the assistance of a Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) device.
“I have a small device similar in size to a pacemaker implanted near my lower back and this device sends an electric pulse to the nerves in my spinal column. This pulse basically tricks my brain into interpreting a pain signal to what I describe to other patients as a tingling sensation,” Minyard explained.
Minyard’s cycling efforts are also part of Race Against Pain, a community of chronic pain sufferers who are raising awareness of alternatives to opiates for chronic pain management.
“Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain every day and it can be absolutely debilitating,” Minyard said. He has made it his mission to lead by example and make the most of his situation.
“There was absolutely a period of my life when I thought I might not live beyond the age of 30, let lone walk again so the thought of riding in a race like the Gran Fondo Italia was incomprehensible.”
“When I talk with other individuals dealing with chronic pain I can speak about some of the difficulties and challenges I have encountered in my past,” he explained. “When I couple that message with real life living proof in the form of long distance cycling, I hope to show and encourage other patients dealing with some of the very same chronic pain symptoms and conditions that recovery is possible, there are many different ways to effectively manage pain, and ultimately you can absolutely have an incredible quality of life despite some very challenging circumstances.”
Minyard’s ride paid off this year in more ways than one, he was also the lucky winner of a Colnago C60, offered as a prize by the famous Milanese bicycle manufacturer as a special edition bike made in honor of the company’s 60th anniversary.
The prize was presented at a red-carpet event at Mr. C Hotel, Beverly Hills.
For more information on the event, visit thegranfondoitalia.com.