Add This Fitness Event to Your 2016 Travel Plans

The Gran Fondo Baie Sainte Marie is just about as much fun you can have cycling for 117km as I can imagine anyone having. Beautiful scenery, including coastal, inland, historic, with stops at charming local cafes in a community that has gone all in to support a big bike tour.

Gran Fondo Baie Sainte Marie Clare Nova Scotia

Drew borrowed his bike from one of the major sponsors, Velo Baie Sainte-Marie.

Drew borrowed his bike from one of the major sponsors, Velo Baie Sainte-Marie.

It’s not often that a first year event, especially one with all the logistical challenges that come with a cycling tour, is such a huge success. But the Municipality of Clare pulled it off, Acadian flags flying.

Gran Fondo Clare Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

With an original goal of 150 participants and a cap at 350, organizers quickly hit their target and decided to uncork the cap. The result was over 420 eager participants lining up at the start line in Saulnierville.

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

If you’re not familiar with Clare, it is the region locally known as La Baie, with the largest Acadian population in Nova Scotia. It follows along Route 1 between Digby and Yarmouth. It is a charming stretch of coastal settlements that can easily be in the running for Nova Scotia’s best kept secret.

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Mavillettebeach4

Mavillette Beach 3

A Gran Fondo is more than a cycling tour, it is a cultural event. With that in mind, participants were treated to a pre-ride mixer the night before that featured musical and dance performances, bowls of rapure, and a welcome from Samuel de Champlain.

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

 

Rest stops along the route featured salt fish, along with the standard fruit and water, and the route itself included views of beautiful churches, sawmills, fishing boats, and countless Acadian flags.

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

The 117km route follows the coastal road north to Saint-Bernard, then turns back inland to head south to Mavillette Beach before going north again to finish in Saulnierville. The variety of gorgeous scenery makes for a welcome distraction from the hills that you find once you turn away from the coast. There is also a 35km Piccolo, or P’tit Fondo.

The inaugural ride could not have had better weather. It was sunny and not too hot, with a tail wind to both begin and end the ride. Between 100 local participants, dozens of volunteers, many local sponsors and community members waving and cheering along the route, the community was out in full support of the Gran Fondo. I had a big grin on my face from start to finish on my ride. I wasn’t the only one.

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

The Gran Fondo is now one of two large fitness events in the region. Last weekends ride was followed by the first annual Marathon Baie Sainte-Marie this weekend, making this beautiful and culturally rich destination a growing attraction for those seeking unique fitness vacations, too.

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

Gran Fondo Clare Baie Sainte Marie Nova Scotia

We were invited to attend the event by the organizers to take photos and video that will be used to help promote the event next year. Look for that soon. In the meantime, here is some raw time lapse footage from the Piccolo route if you’d like a virtual ride.

Do you have any race related travel in your plans for 2016? What’s been your favourite race experience? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me @gillianwesleyns

Event Date: September 24-25, 2016

Website: http://www.granfondobaiesaintemarie.ca/en/

 

About the author

Gillian Wesley

Since getting together six years ago, we have given away our television, begun weekly DIY nights, experimented with urban homesteading, challenged ourselves to drive less (100 days car-free in 2013), and have learned more about food security. We have experimented with a range of budgeting strategies, all of which involve consuming less stuff. We buy food with reducing packaging in mind. We got a dog. We have been doing these things for a variety of reasons: financial, social, environmental, to achieve a better work-life balance. It has resulted in us enjoying an increasingly simple and satisfying lifestyle. We’ve been influenced by a lot of people we’ve encountered and things we’ve read about along the way, notably the Transition Movement, the Antigonish Movement, and, more recently, traditional Acadien living. And we’ve learned that we are by no means alone. There are many, many people who are taking steps to downshift their lives. Sign up for our eNewsletter, and we’ll send you a round-up of our new and upcoming projects once a month.

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