Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Enjoying the View and the 'Big Ride'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Enjoying the View and the 'Big Ride'

Article excerpt

FORT LEE -- Fair Lawn bicyclist Michael Califano refused to mince words Sunday after finishing his first Gran Fondo New York.

"It was hard," Califano confided, mere moments after completing the annual Italian-style cycling event. "It was actually very, very hard and I am exhausted from it."

This weekend, the yearly race attracted more than 5,000 elite cyclists from 48 states and some 70 nations -- including Brazil, Germany, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

For the first time this year, professional cyclists were allowed to register for the race, which ended Sunday in Fort Lee, the site of the finish line for the first time in the event's five-year history.

Spectators and supporters lined Hudson Terrace for the race's last half mile, cheering on loved ones and friends who crossed the finish line drenched in sweat, arms hoisted victoriously in the air above them.

One couple shared a kiss as they glided beneath the mammoth, inflatable arches marking the end of the race.

Califano, who first got into the sport just over a year ago, said he had never competed in a bicycling race before Sunday.

"I sure know how to pick 'em," he said.

The Gran Fondo New York started at 7 a.m. from the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge. The course covered more than 100 winding miles of road in both North Jersey and New York, with rolling hills and serpentine stretches.

Gran Fondo loosely translates to "Big Ride" in Italian. Big indeed, Califano said.

"There were some relentless climbs out there ... just one climb after the other," Califano said, noting that the heat and humidity didn't make the race any easier. "It was challenging but rewarding, with a nice mix of people; I started out with a pack of Colombians and finished with a bunch of Italians."

Several other cyclists noted that the muggy air made the race even more demanding this year.

"The heat plus the humidity from the rain the day before meant you had to stop to get water more often," said Chiam Mandelbaum, a new grandfather who lives in Teaneck and finished his fourth Gran Fondo on Sunday. …

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