Too early to start thinking about a November ride in sunny Mexico? I know we’re still waiting for the warm days of Spring to arrive across much of the North American & Europe, but if you’re like me (and a lot of other PEZ-Fans, then choosing your events, planning your training, and then scheduling time away from work and other commitments means looking ahead is a fact of life. But it’s a good one when the goal is one more fantastic ride and some Caribbean sunshine to warm your bones and top up the tan before winter sets in (uv’s be damned!).
November 23, 2014 marks the inaugural GFNY Cozumel Mexico, offering 100 mile & 50 mile routes around the island of Cozumel. The terrain is mostly flat, but the winds can be fierce, and sunshine is almost 100% guaranteed. And as part of the well-established Gran Fondo NY grando fondo series, you can expect riders to be well looked after.
I recently talked with Shaun Gad of GFNY Cozumel about bringing the series to Mexico.
PEZ:This is the inaugural year for the Gran Fondo Cozumel – how did you get the idea and get it off the ground?
Shaun: I’ve always known about Gran Fondos and fell in love with the concept since the beginning. The truth is I always wanted to bring it to Cozumel but only after I saw events like the Ironman, half Ironman, ITU championship on the island I started to really feel it was possible to bring a Gran Fondo to Cozumel. My partner and I are avid riders/racers and have always loved riding in Cozumel, especially since it has over 20 miles of oceanfront riding and a cycling path where you see all types of riders every day. We have been in talks with the government for over 2 years to bring a Gran Fondo to Cozumel and since Cozumel and its people really support cycling and triathletes they had no problem with rolling out the red carpet to help pave the way. After we received the green light we contacted Gran Fondo NY to see if they would be interested. Not only were Uli and Lidia (the owners of GF New York) interested but they did the Ironman twice on the island and decided to fly down right away to meet us. From there everything just moved smoothly especially with all the support we’ve received from the locals to all the riders around the island, Mexico, and the US who fell in love with the island and love cycling.
PEZ: What makes Cozumel a good destination for your event, and how did you choose the location?
Shaun: First of all flying to Cozumel is very simple with direct flights from Miami, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Denver and nearby Cancun with arrivals from every major city, there’s really no hassle to get here. Cozumel is a small island with a big heart and treats the tourists like here family. The people over here have embraced our athletes as you can tell by just taking your bike for a spin. Everyone waves says hello and just smiles at you while you’re riding, there’s really a lot of respect for the riders here. I believe that’s the reason why the government decided to design a 35mile cycling path that goes all the way around the island.
PEZ: What type of rider should consider this event? What type of terrain does the course cover and are there any major obstacles enroute?
Shaun: Cycling in Cozumel is very easy with no traffic, friendly drivers, and great weather year round. But that’s not what makes it special, all you need to do is get on the bike and ride by the water and then you feel a sensation that can’t be described. I’ve ridden many times around the island and seen groups of dolphins in the water as I’m riding. It almost feels like they’re joining me for the ride. The cycling atmosphere here is very active, you see cyclists all day long especially in the morning and evenings where you see many teams, triathletes, and local cozumelenos just riding for fun. The sport has grown to a point where we have races almost weekly and people come from the neighboring towns, like Cancun, and Playa Del Carmen to race with us. As flat as the island is you shouldn’t let that fool you, the headwinds on the other side of the island are just as difficult as any grade 7 climb with winds either coming strong into your face or beating you from the sides. The people here know how to ride in the wind and in groups to stay aero. You really need to have a strong core and understand how to handle the wind. Its not like climbing where you know how much longer it is to the top or how much effort it will take to get there. The trick with the wind in Cozumel is that it changes directions all the time so you need to be prepared. The kite surfers and bikers in Cozumel are very similar – we’re always looking at the wind reports in the morning to see how to tackle it.
All types of riders can come here and test there abilities. Some of the best riders in the world and Mexico already train here and find it a perfect place to get stronger.
The smooth roads are quite possibly the best in Mexico.
PEZ: Mexico is not exactly known for its great roadworks department – but as hosts of a gran fondo, obviously well maintained roads are a key ingredient to attract riders to your event. What are the roads like on Cozumel?
Shaun: The state and local government really support our roads – I think they understand how much the sport has grown which is why we have such great and smooth roads. The cycle path around is the island is only two years old and is always being updated so you can see how much the government cares about there roads.
Here’s a quick ride around the course.
PEZ: As part of the well known GFNY gran fondo series (Gran Fondo New York) riders familiar with the brand will have certain expectations. What makes GFNY events stand out from others?
Shaun: First of all we’re very honored to be apart of GFNY. When we were thinking which Gran Fondo to bring to Mexico it really was a no brainer since we saw how well organized and just a ton of fun Gran Fondo NY is. What makes us stand out is that we stick with the true standards of the Italian Gran Fondos. Our roads are 100% closed, the course is fully timed, there are 6 aid stations, plus Sag supports and mechanical support stationed and rolling. One new advantage for all GFNY finishers is that anyone who finishes at any of our GFNY events whether Italy, NY, or Cozumel will get a front corral start in their next GFNY event. This is obviously a big advantage to being further back in the field. We are also a part of Super Prestige where you can earn valuable points at each Gran Fondo Super Prestige for the gran finale in NY and get your bragging rights.
Riders will receive special rates and packages at several hotels, including the Presidente Intercontinental.
PEZ: Your website mentions you’re working hard to align with certain hotels to provide a great experience and even special rates for GFNY participants. What types of hotels will you consider, what do you look for in a hotel, and do you have any hotels lined up yet?
Shaun: While all the hotels in Cozumel are really accommodating we want to make sure that our participants will be well looked after. We are all athletes so we want to eat well, sleep well, and make sure our bikes are taken care of. Our host hotels will give special rates plus offer special meals just for our athletes. They will all be bike friendly and the larger chains will most likely have bike mechanics in the hotels themselves. We understand that riders are traveling a ways to get here and the most important thing is that our hotels take care of our athletes needs. We have already announced our first and premier host hotel which is the Presidente Intercontinental – a true 5 star hotel and a part of the Leading Hotels of the World. They know what it takes to host big events and this is why we chose them as our first Host hotel. In the coming weeks you will see some more Host Hotels added to our list that we feel meet the standards. At the end of the day the great thing about a host hotel is we take the burden of you searching for better rates plus you get to be around the Gran Fondo ambiance since everyone else in the hotel will be doing the Gran Fondo with you. You can all share your experience and excitement of this great challenge.
Riding this gran fondo isn’t just about the bike.
PEZ: What would you suggest as the ideal length of stay on the island as part of the gran fondo experience? What other recreational opportunities does the island offer?
Shaun: Cozumel has a ton of exciting things to do, the island is world famous for its scuba diving, beaches, snorkeling, turtle watching, deep sea fishing and just having a great night out in one of there great restaurants or bars. I would suggest a 7-10 day stay on the island if you really want to experience the Gran Fondo plus the island. If you want to have a great taste of the island and the Gran Fondo then I would suggest 4-5 days. Lastly if you want to just come for the Gran Fondo then I recommend you at least visit the downtown area and enjoy the heart of our town which has many things to do in one night. No matter what I’m sure after a visit to Cozumel you will want to come back for more.
PEZ: While most PEZ-Fans are relatively accomplished cyclists, gran fondos are growing quickly because they appeal to new and recreational riders. They’re also a good way to get your non-cycling spouse out for a ride. You’ve partnered with AthletiCamps – who long time readers will know as a regular contributor to our ToolBox training columns. What do they offer as training programs specific to your gran fondo?
Shaun: Bruce Hendler who owns Athleticamps is a very accomplished coach – I’ve actually been using him as my personal coach for the last 4 years and have seen a great improvement because of his plans. Through all the training we have done he understands what it takes to ride on this island and with the wind, so I automatically thought he was a perfect match. Bruce really looks deep into how his athletes are training and puts together the best plans in my opinion. In the coming months he’ll post training articles about how to get prepared for the big day. For now if you go to our training page you will see two types of 12 week plans that Bruce put together, a heart rate training plan, and a power based training plan. Since power meters are becoming more and more affordable and popular, it was important to add the training structure to our plans. Most people would pay a bit of money to get a plan like this and Bruce put it together for everyone to use and see results. AthletiCamps is also putting together a training camp for the event which they will be announcing soon. If you’re looking for something more personal he obviously is an amazing personal coach and offers various styles of coaching.
Get more info: