Black Bear Gran Fondo cancelled for 2020
Annual cycling event would have celebrated its 20th anniversary this summer, but COVID-19 pandemic forces Grayling Rotary Club to cancel it
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Instead of celebrating its 20th year during the summer of 2020, the Black Bear Gran Fondo – a bicycling event that offers a 100-mile “century ride” option, as well as shorter loops – will not happen this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Grayling Rotary Club – organizer for the annual Black Bear Gran Fondo – met on Thursday, May 14, and made the decision to cancel the event for 2020. This year’s Black Bear Gran Fondo was slated for July 11.
“After watching the developing national and state news regarding COVID-19 for months, the Rotary Club of Grayling is sad to share that they have made the difficult decision to cancel our premier cycling event, the Black Bear Gran Fondo 2020,” the club announced on Thursday. “So much goes into producing and managing this cycling event, and, unfortunately, we could not find a way to ensure the safety of the participants, their supporters, and our volunteers in July, so cancelling the event was the only decision we could make.”
“While this will have a significant impact on the ability and commitment of the Rotary Club of Grayling to raise funds to give back to our community, we hope most participants and sponsors will agree that it is the only responsible course of action,” club officials said. “We will continue to refine and develop our guidelines and procedures for the maximum safety of everyone involved going forward knowing that our world has changed due to COVID-19 and those will be in place for our next Black Bear Gran Fondo. The safety of our riders and volunteers remains our top priority.”
The Black Bear Gran Fondo got its start in 2001 as the Black Bear Bicycle Tour. Organizers wanted to offer cyclists a “century ride” – a 100-mile course – during the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile race from Grayling to Oscoda. The event started in Grayling at 8 a.m. on the Sunday of the AuSable Marathon, and Black Bear cyclists could try to arrive in Oscoda before the first canoes, or they could go at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery.
It didn’t take long for the event to gain popularity with Michigan cyclists.
In 2001, during the first Black Bear Bicycle Tour, 51 riders participated. Close to double that amount took part in the 2002 Black Bear. In 2003 – for the third Black Bear – participation numbers were close to 190. In 2012, the event had more than 330 riders. The Black Bear had more than 270 participants in 2013, more than 250 in 2014, and more than 200 in 2015.
Organizers were planning to end the Black Bear Bicycle Tour after the 2015 event, but the Grayling Rotary Club continued the Black Bear in 2016 with a new name, a new format, and a new day.
Starting in 2016, organizers separated the Black Bear from the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, giving the event its own weekend in early July, and changing the course to a series of loops that did not involve Oscoda.
The Black Bear Gran Fondo now starts and ends at Hanson Hills Recreation Area. Changing to looped courses eliminated the issue of having to arrange transportation for the cyclists from Oscoda to Grayling after the event.
In recent years, the Black Bear Gran Fondo has offered a 100-mile “century ride” option, a 62-mile “metric century ride” (100 kilometers), and a 45-mile loop.
What’s a “gran fondo”?
It’s “a mass participation cycling event that got its start in Italy in the early 1900s. Loosely translated, it means everything from ‘great foundation,’ ‘great distance’ to ‘great endurance.’ Some cyclists ride for the satisfaction and pride of just making it to the finish line. Others want to improve upon their previous times and to challenge themselves. Some ride to win,” according to the Grayling Rotary Club.
The Rotary Club has not announced a date for the 2021 Black Bear Gran Fondo.
“We have not selected a date for 2021 but please know that the Rotary Club of Grayling is committed to continuing this great event with the support of our loyal sponsors and cycling participants,” club officials said.