GUYSBOROUGH – After a wet and windy week, a calm day arrived with fog that burned off into a bright blue day as cyclists travelled the roads of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough for the second annual Lost Shores Gran Fondo on Saturday, September 9.
The Gran Fondo, a municipal event that is a unique partnership between the MODG and the small business enterprise Lost Shores enters its second year with more participants – 395 registered this year compared to 305 last year-- and a new 120km loop that brings more communities into the event, including Canso. Rob Carter, proprietor of Lost Shores, and Angie Tavares, the director of Recreation for the MODG, both spoke to The Journal about the Gran Fondo on Monday.
Carter said that along with the longer route, there were a few other changes and enhancements made for the event this year such as more, bigger and brighter signs. These added to the visibility of the event both for riders and motorists on the routes.
“We are not that far up the learning curve,” said Carter. “We have a way to go. Adding the new route, that worked; adding child care, that worked; adding yoga, that worked; we offered painting classes, that didn’t resonate with anyone.”
Speaking of the participants, they came from far and wide, even one from Paris; a man who had moored his boat in Larry’s River, set a bike on shore and headed to the registration table in Guysborough.
After last year’s event Carter sat down and went through the registrations and calculated the average age of participants; it was 54 and the needle on that number has not moved much this year. “There’s a lot of empty nesters and professionals,” said Carter speaking to the demographic makeup of the cyclists.
“There are ways we can expand our target audience which is why we added child care this year...to see if we could broaden our appeal to a younger group.”
One notable group of participants was the Guysborough Intervale contingent; many residents from that area participated in the event, cycling through their community with fellow community members cheering them on as they peddled past.
“The Intervale,” said Carter, “the amount of enthusiasm from that community is quite remarkable. That’s the kind of community spirit that we are trying to pursue.”
The Gran Fondo is unique in its ability to cover a wide area and include many communities in the event. “There are very few events that will include 25 communities so everything Angie and I do is to be as inclusive as possible...Here we have Intervale people putting on a show and in Larry’s River, I hear, they even had a fiddler out. They take a lot of pride in it,” said Carter.
Carter said of the partnership between himself and the MODG, “Angie’s triathlon experience is really valuable in terms of putting an event on that uses public roads and she has the scale that she can do it. What I bring to the table is the concept, the route, the photos, and the marketing and sales...So I basically deliver her 395 registrations and again we agree on how to produce the event, but once the people are there Angie and her team pretty much look after them. That’s a pretty amazing team she’s got.”
Tavares’ team consists of a hundred volunteers who are reliable, committed and enthusiastic. “There’s a hundred volunteers and they are amazing...they reinforce Guysborough’s warm hospitality which the riders saw in every community...you won’t get that in the city. Whether it was the residents cheering or the volunteers, the phrase ‘community spirit’ comes to mind because it is something that helps us market this area and the people appreciate it,” said Carter adding that the Gran Fondo has helped extend the tourist season in the MODG.
In conversation with Angie Tavares on Monday, she said, “Overall the event was a huge success again this year. The community involvement makes it what it is.”
When speaking to lessons learned this year that will carry forward into next year’s event Tavares said, “My main efforts go towards safety of the event...there are a few safety concerns that I’d like to address next year. I’d like riders to be a little more spread out instead of in a large group. We’ll look at that for next year.”
“The most successful aspect of the event,” said Tavares, “was the volunteers; having them all in place when they were supposed to be and being able to rely on them, and knowing that I did not have to worry because I had their word. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders by being able to rely on my community volunteers.”
Tavares was very pleased with the addition of the 120km route. “I loved reaching out to more of our municipality.”
The biggest benefit for communities along Gran Fondo routes, said Tavares, was the influx of visitors. “We have people arriving from two days prior to the event and staying two days after the event and they are spending time, money; spreading the good word about our municipality – the biggest thing for us is that these people are leaving the event with a smile on their face.”
And spectators leave smiling too. The atmosphere of excitement and energy at the start of the event on Saturday was palpable and infectious. “When they were leaving it is pretty exciting,” said Tavares, “When you see that mass group go out its just unbelievable; I get goose bumps even talking about it. Just thinking that we are providing the opportunity for these people, these participants, to come and see the beautiful area that we see every day of our lives. We live here, sometimes we take it for granted. These people are coming from away, from cities, and we’re showcasing our beautiful municipality.”
All that excitement wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers and the numerous sponsors of the event. Carter pointed out that the feeding of 500 people was a monumental task that Days Gone By Bakery fulfilled with great aplomb.
When asked what her final comments on the event were Tavares said, “September 8, 2018 -- anyone who would like to volunteer; we’ll find a spot for anyone who wants to help out. It’s great to feel connected to your community.”