MSU Gran Fondo rides into downtown


The Gran Fondo by the MSU College of Human Medicine is a non-competitive cycling event that attracts hundreds of riders to downtown Grand Rapids. Courtesy MSU

A cycling event is bringing a festive spirit to downtown later this month.

Gran Fondo

The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine is hosting its second annual non-competitive cycling event in Grand Rapids on June 28, starting and finishing at The B.O.B.

The bike ride will benefit MSU skin cancer research, prevention and awareness.

The Gran Fondo, or Italian for big ride, features multiple courses, rest stops with food and an outdoor finish-line festival at The B.O.B., with craft beer, wine, food and live music. The party at the finish line is open to the public.

Originating from Italy, a Gran Fondo combines long distance recreational cycling, a hint of competitive spirit and a festive atmosphere.

The non-competitive Gran Fondo is open to all people, regardless of their cycling skill level, and people can choose a 12, 15, 40 or 80-mile bike route.

The 12-mile route will wind through Millennium Park, and the 25 mile and 40-mile courses ride along the Grand River Valley, heading west. The 80-mile route takes riders to the lakeshore coastline at North Ottawa Beach in Grand Haven and back to downtown Grand Rapids.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer was chosen as the beneficiary of the event, due to the impact the college could make long term, said Kate Follet, assistant director of strategic initiatives and corporate partnerships, MSU College of Human Medicine.

“It is an area of excellence,” Follet said. “We are doing some really incredibly work in terms of the research. Another is it just impacts so many people and with this being an outside event, there is a lot we can do in terms of prevention messaging with skin health.”

Follet said the event originated when Bob Hughes, an avid cyclist and MSU alum, wanted to create a cycling event separate from the annual Criterium in Grand Rapids that would prompt community engagement.

“He came to us at the College of Human Medicine and was already working on that event and wanted to do something that was more community driven, community focused and build something that is a signature event,” Follet said. “So we sat down with Bob and Brian Walker, who is the head of Herman Miller . . . and had a conversation about what it would look like.”

The MSU Gran Fondo is endorsed by the Governor’s Council as a Pure Michigan FITness Series event, recognized for contributing to the health and well-being of residents in the state.


Follet said that due to company sponsorships, all of the fundraising by riders will go directly to skin cancer research, prevention and awareness.

“The way we do everything in West Michigan, at least when it is done successfully, is to do a collaborative effort, so we really look to our sponsors not only to help underwrite the cost of the event, but to bring some skin in the game,” Follet said. “They are not only bringing money, but also bring people.”

The 2013 Gran Fondo raised more than $100,000 for skin cancer, and the goal for this year is to fundraise $300,000.

Follet said the response from last year was remarkably positive, and the second annual Gran Fondo is on track to have more riders and raise a significantly larger amount in fundraising.

“We were just totally overwhelmed. We had estimated our goal of maybe 500 riders, and we reached that the last weekend in May of last year and then proceeded to add 1,000 riders in the first few weeks in June,” Follet said. “I think people just had an incredible time at the party. People came out to support the big ride.”


Through June 15, riders pay a $70 entry fee and have a required fundraising minimum of $50. After June 15, the entry fee increases to $80.

The top fundraiser will receive a $6,600 Trek Madone 6.5 bicycle.

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