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Outdoor adventures, mostly gravel rides, but not always

Gran Fondo Leavenworth

Located in the heart of the Washington Cascades, Gran Fondo Leavenworth is the perfect mix of pavement, Forest Service roads, and mega mountain passes

By the Numbers

Pyramid
Two major gravel climbs with a flat section on Highway 2 along the Columbia River
Distance
81 miles
Elevation
7520 feet
Moving Time
6h0m
Nutrition
Food and water provided as part of the event
External

I had signed up to ride GFL in 2020 but, like most events, it was cancelled so I eagerly awaited an opportunity to ride it when it was next scheduled.

I woke up to ideal weather conditions for a long ride through the mountains: slightly overcast and not too warm. The morning light was quite pleasant.

Early morning light in Leavenworth
Early morning light in Leavenworth

The ride starts in Peshastin at the elementary school. I rode from the hotel in Leavenworth and arrived a bit too early for my wave but was happy to have had a bit of a warm up ride before we departed.

For this ride I rode the Rene Herse Hurricane Ridge Endurance tires and felt they were the absolute right choice for the route. I was happy to have the extra width on these tough gravel roads.

Number attached, ready to ride
Number attached, ready to ride

My wave departed at 7:55am and the early miles are on pavement. I did a few pulls at the front of the small group before we hit the first of two major gravel climbs.

The climb up USFS 5800 was straight forward and challenging, it was a constant climb with a few 10%+ sections but the road conditions were fine and I felt comfortable throughout.

The descent was something else, it was fast! I don’t love descending gravel at speed and I was in awe as riders zipped past me on their way to Entiat and our major rest stop of the day.

Fast descending Tillicum USFS 5800 Road
Fast descending Tillicum USFS 5800 Road
Sweeping gravel turns
Sweeping gravel turns
Riders descending in the distance
Riders descending in the distance

From Entiat it’s a ~10 mile ride along the Columbia River, definitely not the most enjoyable miles as the shoulder isn’t huge and cars & trucks are going past very fast. I was in a small group of four with two of us doing most of the pulls to get from Entiat to the Swakane Road turn off.

Swakane Road is one of the most unique roads / climbs I have ridden. To even it called it a road is generous. It’s extremely loose sand / gravel with frequent channeling from water run-off. I found it extremely challenging, even stopping a few times to collect myself. The scenery was spectacular, especially the canyons, and so different from the riding I most often do in the Olympics.

The climb up Swakane Road
The climb up Swakane Road

Unlike the first descent, I loved this one. The race director told as as we were preparing to leave to be careful on the descent as the road was rough, which it was, but it was just the right amount of sight lines and shallow grade for it to be a joy to descend. I roared past a lot of riders as the tires gave me tons of confidence to fly down the mountain.

Views descending Derby Canyon USFS 7400 Road
Views descending Derby Canyon USFS 7400 Road

I really didn’t know what to expect from this ride but I was happy with my overall effort. I finished inside six hours which put me in the middle of the pack.

The highlight of this ride was definitely Swakane Road. I would never had ridden this road on my own so the GFL registration was worth it for those few hours alone. I want to ride other Viscous Cycle routes now!

Route

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