New York City is home to the United Nations, was the landing point for the huddled masses from the old world and has 800 languages spoken in it.

The perfect fit for the Campagnolo GFNY World Championship.

Top riders from the the GFNY World events across the globe will join local riders on Sunday, May 20 in what is a truly international event.

Coming off the GWB. Credit: Sportograf
Riders hail from 100 nations and -- staggeringly -- a full 40% of the peloton that will marshal on the George Washington Bridge travel to the United States for GFNY. This year, competitors from GFNY Jerusalem and GFNY Costa Rica will be in the mix for the first time.

The cosmopolitan mix makes for a special atmosphere in the huge packs that head north to Bear Mountain on the west bank of the Hudson.

Riders are released on the GWB in 2017. Credit: Sportograf
Snippets of Spanish, Portugese and dozens of European and Asian languages from the truly international field can be heard as the universal calls and grumbles of any group ride are aired. 

By the closing stretch of the course of 100 miles/160kms and the final sharp climb up from the Palisades, which rounds out the 8,000 feet or so of climbing (2,450 meters) the field is spread out and the chatter is significantly less.

(See the course map at the bottom or click here for a RidewithGPS map)

Uli Fluhme, CEO of GFNY, is a busy man in race week, but he spared us a few minutes to discuss the 2018 event.

"The course remains the same, the course is established now," said Fluhme.

"Every year we are getting a little bigger," he added. That extends beyond just the number of entrants, which he estimated would be around 300 higher than 2017 coming in just under the 5,000 mark.

The GFNY Welcome Zone and Cafe in Fort Lee's Pip Park is open for four days prior to race day this year and there are more pre-event activities and rides on offer.

And as well as more GFNY World events each year, the brand is growing in other directions. There is now an apparel line alongside the official race jerseys worn by all riders and other spin-offs include GFNY coffee from Colombia and sunglasses.

As for advice for the rider tackling the ride to Bear and back for the first time: "There's no one thing," he said, but he does recommended listening to the hour-long podcast he recorded with Vito Valentini, founder of Gavia Cycling and a member of the Gruppo Sportivo, which is packed with tips for the GFNY virgin. (Episode 22)

We have our own simple -- but vital --pointers to help you reach the finish line in Fort Lee across the river from Manhattan and the post-ride party with less stress.

Key Points:

  • Budget some time for the Expo at Penn Pavilion where you pick up your race packet. There will be a good selection of exhibitors, jersey exchanges (they are cut tight) take time and the scale of GFNY means the crowds will be thick. Open 11-6.30 on Friday and 11-5.30 Saturday
  • Read the GFNY logistics guide. Like everything GFNY, it is extremely well done and well organized
  • Follow the rules. Don't be the one who does not attach their number and is refused entry to the GWB at 6.15 am (it happens)
  • Work out your timings to reach the bridge. Add in a safety margin. Add another 15 minutes. The number of riders means it takes longer to get on the bridge than you imagine. And if you are coming from the New Jersey side there will be long tailbacks on the bike path over the bridge. I'm not joking
  • Then keep moving once you arrive at the bridge and the crush at the bottom of the ramp with the various checks and bag drops. Don't think you're done. There are portapotties halfway up, but until you make the lower deck of the bridge itself you may still find yourself the wrong side of a cut-off and starting at the back. They don't muck about
  • Bottom line -- GFNY is a huge event. Everything takes longer with thousands of riders and rules are enforced

Start of 2014 GFNY with Manhattan skyline. Credit: Sportograf
After all that, On the bridge, you will be directed to the correct starting corral.

VIPs, top charity fundraisers and winners from the GFNY World series around the globe start at the front and those tackling the 50-mile GFNY Bear ride at the rear. The GFNY brand has become a global one and finishers of a GFNY World event that come to New York to race are promoted to the second starting corral with a result in the top 10% of their age group (top 20% at the Regional Championships or last year's NYC event). The Him & Her teams and Campagnolo Riders Club are in corral 3 and then it is by age back to pen 11 with late registrats and late arrivals at the back with the Bear riders.

And it makes a difference. By the time those in the back pens are crossing the timing mat at the start line the elite riders will be crossing through the shadow of the bridge alongside the river 200 feet below. That's more incentive to reach the start in plenty of time.

Read our 2015 Report here

Read our 2016 Report here

Read our 2017 Report here

From the GWB, the route loops south initially — which is deepy counterintuitive — before plunging down into Palisades Park underneath the bridge and heading north toward Bear Mountain.

The first climb of the day comes after just 9 miles with the mile-long 390-foot climb up Alpine back to the height of the start line. It averages 7.4% topping out at 9% and you are likely to be in heavy traffic as you crank your way up - stay right to allow faster riders past.

Try and grab a wheel once at the top as groups will form on the flat/falling run along 9W.

From Alpine the route runs parallel to the Hudson all the way to Bear Mountain the foot of which arrives after 40 miles with the summit four miles farther on and 1,200 feet up.

The roads headed north are closed and marshalled by an army of police officers. Enjoy the lack of motorized traffic, but keep your wits about you given the cyclists all around you.

While not mountainous, the road to Bear Mountain is not flat. There are several short but steep ramps away from the river, some lengthy uphill drags and "Baby Bear" — a noticeable climb just before Bear Mountain itself.

There are feed stations at miles 17 and 32, but many save time and make their first stop at Bear.

Bear Mountain is the longest climb of the day at 4.5 miles and 1,260 feet working out at about a 5% grade. It's pretty steady most of the way which helps with keeping a nice rhythm and the climb can be can be split into three.

There is an initial ramp up from the river where the tarmac is in pretty poor condition. Make sure to keep left as riders will be descending at high speed. The middle section is from the traffic circle with a smooth almost two miles miles along Seven Lakes Drive before a right turn onto Perkins Memorial Drive. The final two miles on Perkins sees the steepest sections getting into double digits for a short while before easing off again and then returning to close to 10% near the top. The pay-off is amazing views in all directions as the road spirals around the peak.

The stop atop Bear Mountain was where people started to show fatigue. Credit: Author
The top of Bear Mountain can be thought of as the end of the first of the course's three sections.

After refueling at the summit the second section begins and with it the toughest riding of the day.

Tracks are retraced down Bear Mountain and along 9W — up and over Baby Bear again — before a rudely sharp right turn west into the ridges above the river. While Bear Mountain was a smooth steady climb, the next 10-12 miles are a leg-sapping mix of sharp little climbs, longer drags and twisting descents.

Riders roll along the Gran Fondo New York course. Credit: Sportograf
And, of course, there's already 50+ miles and the climb up Bear Mountain in the legs. If your training was not what it should have been it's likely that this section is where it will start to show.
The initial climb up from the river is a sharp test of how much Bear Mountain subtracted from the legs, but doesn't rate its own name on the route map. Pinarello (2 miles at 4.9% with a maximum of 12%) and Cheesecote (1 mile at 4.6% average, but 18% max) do. The profiles in the race pack don't do these two climbs justice.
The feed station at Ramapo after 68 miles comes at the perfect time to refuel, stretch, take stock and commit to the home stretch.

There's still 32 miles to run, but the major climbing is done and it is time to find some companions of a similar speed to share the load back to Fort Lee. The course is not entirely closed to traffic and you may be sharing the road with cars in this section. The final feed station comes in West Nyack at mile 80.

Eight miles later, the last long slope of the day comes as the course rejoins 9W with a gain of about 500 feet over 4 miles.

Shortly afterwards you descend Alpine — the first climb of the day — back into the Palisades and Dyckman Hill supplies a final sting in the tail to cramping legs before a flat run to the finish line and the party.
Happy Days. Credit: Author
Have fun and good luck.