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Head for the (Beverly) Hills: Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia lands in California

The Italian tour takes a spin through Southern California

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On Sunday, the Giro d’Italia brings its Italian-themed grand fondo series to Beverly Hills. With an Italian eye for bling, the Beverly Hills event rolls out on Rodeo Drive with a Lamborghini escort. Riders can choose from two distances, and both courses cruise the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway before climbing into the coastal mountains above Malibu.

The Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Beverly Hills is part of a six-event series that aims to promote Italian culture and the Giro d’Italia in the United States. Gran Fondo events have long been popular in Italy, but the timed mass-start rides are a more recent import to the United States. RCS, which organizes the Giro d’Italia, began promoting its Gran Fondo events in July 2012.

“We also want to be global ambassadors for ‘Made in Italy.’ We promote Italy, the most beautiful country in the world — its land, its history, its excellence,” said Marco Gobbi Pasana, who heads up marketing efforts for RCS. “Together with Italy and ‘Made in Italy,’ we export to the world our way ‘to do cycling,’ a mix of passion and professionalism, high technicality and atmosphere.”

The first ever Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia took place in Pasadena and former world champion and Giro winner Francesco Moser served as the official starter. For 2013, the Giro organizers created a six-event series with Beverly Hills serving as the second-to-last event for this year.

After rolling out on Rodeo Drive, the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Beverly Hills heads to the coast. The course turns north on the Pacific Coast Highway and offers riders views of white-sand beaches as they pedal up the coast toward Malibu. On a clear day, Southern California’s channel islands are visible on the horizon. Just south of Malibu, the course turns inland and climbs into the coastal mountains on Topanga Canyon Road.

After 22 miles, the course splits into two parts. The 48-mile route follows Topanga Canyon inland to Calabasas. Then, skirting the southern end of the San Fernando Valley, the course follows mostly flat terrain south to head home. Riders pass through Encino and Sherman Oaks before arriving at the finish in Beverly Hills.

The longer course, which totals 90 miles, splits off in Calabasas. Riders on this route continue north toward Agoura. Then it’s back into the Santa Monica Mountains for more climbing. The course runs along the undulating Mulholland Drive, a favorite among local riders and motorcyclists. As it twists through the steep coastal terrain, Mulholland offers distractingly beautiful views.

The Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Beverly Hills includes a timed Gran Premio della Montagna (KOM) presented by Speedplay for riders on the 90-mile route. The switchbacking climb on Piuma Road comes around midway through the ride. It runs 5.5 miles and gains a rather sudden 1,744 feet in elevation. The average gradient is 6.1 percent, but a steep section near the summit makes that average more deceptive than usual.

From the summit of the Piuma Road climb, riders descend Stunt Road to Mulholland Drive. Then the course follows rolling terrain into Calabasas. There it meets up with the short course, and it’s a mostly flat ride to the finish.

The Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Beverly Hills offers age group podiums and prizes for overall winners. The Giro d’Italia’s famous Trofeo Senza Fine will also be on display. The gold, looping trophy has the names of the Giro’s winners, and Gran Fondo winners can pose for photos with the trophy at the event’s conclusion. There is also an optional pasta lunch at the Beverly Hills Montage Hotel.

The fully supported ride includes aid stations and technical support by Vittoria. The event also has an official jersey in signature Giro d’Italia pink. With the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Beverly Hills, organizers hope to wed California terrain with Italian style.

“I am very pleased to welcome Gran Fondo riders and fans to Beverly Hills,” said Mayor John Mirisch. “We love having the Gran Fondo here, because as a community we are working toward creating a more welcoming environment for cyclists.”