Bike race pits riders against themselves

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, May 4, 2012 6:05pm
  • Life

The Eastern Washington farm towns of Sprague, Tokio, Harrington and Edwall have never seen anything like a fondo, until now. That’s fondo, not fondue. It’s served with chips, mileage, medals and topped off with a festival.

The inaugural fondo, Jedermann Gran Fondo (translated as Everyone’s Great Race) is a 112-mile timed recreational bicycle loop race that uses very precise chips that electronically collect and process information.

The disposable chip, placed on the bike, records when the bike crosses timing mats at the starting line in Cheney and when the racers return to the same point. There are no age groups or divisions — just riders testing their strength and stamina against themselves and each other.

Emde Sports is sponsoring the event.

Marla Emde expects 300 to 500 riders, but hopes to see a thousand riders in a few years. Her husband, Michael, grew up with fondo and raced in Europe, where this style of race has been around for decades.

“We both raced for years. I met Michael in Belgium while we were racing bicycles. We like to get people into the sport … Even if they don’t stay with racing maybe they stay on their bikes more,” Emde said.

The distance can be a challenge.

“It’s not a very difficult ride as far as elevation gain goes, but we have prevailing southwesterlies, and on the way out it can be challenging. How well you do depends in part on keeping yourself in check and not going faster than you should go (to last 112 miles).”

Medals are given out for finishing the race in less than 10, eight and six hours.

If you’re already riding 100 to 150 miles a week, then you’re probably ready for a casual fondo. If you want to ride with speed, Emde suggested a few 75-plus milers a week.

For many fondo riders, finishing is more important than the time it takes. Those riders can be happy returning to the same fondo each year just to improve on their personal times. Then, of course, there are the serious folks who have an internal clock and can cover the route at speed.

Whatever your category, there’s a benefit for every participant.

“The traffic is really light. and it’s a beautiful ride out. It’s really cycle-friendly.”

Tomorrow’s not too soon to pedal with 112 miles in mind.

Urban forests: The My Neighborhood Forest Photography contest is under way. The U.S. Forest Service-sponsored competition celebrates America’s urban and community forests.

Urban forests include urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, public gardens, river and coastal promenades, greenways, river corridors, wetlands, nature preserves and natural areas.

The contest runs until July 22. The grand prize is $200. If interested, go to for details on prizes and contest rules.

Common sense prevails: The Discover Pass, the state’s recreation land pass, can now be used on either of two motor vehicles. If you have a current pass, just add the license plate number of a second vehicle on that pass.

An annual pass costs $30 and applies to land managed by Washington State Parks, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Department of Natural Resources. One-day passes cost $10 but are not transferable.

Eighty-four percent of Discover Pass revenues benefits state parks; DFW and DNR each receive 8 percent.

Let’s hope that making the pass available to two vehicles will encourage people to buy the pass because 2011’s sales were less than half of the state’s projection.

For more information, go to

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

Jedermann Gran Fondo

What: A timed 112-mile recreational bike ride.

When: July 21.

Where: Starts and ends in Cheney.

Cost: $80 individual; $160 two-rider relay team; online registration deadline is July 16.

Reward: Medals for completing the course in less than six, eight or 10 hours.

Information:; 509-953-9924.

History: Timed bike events have been run for decades in Europe. In Germany, they’re called Jedermann Rennen (Everyone’s Race) and in Italy they’re called Gran Fondo (Great Ride).

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