By Brian Lawrence
In the mood to join a group for a nice long bike ride? Or maybe a shorter one? Then you’re in luck, with the Creston-Kootenay Lake Gran Fondo (Italian for “big ride”) set to roll on Oct. 1 — finally back for the first time since it started in 2019.
Organized by the Rotary Club of Creston, this year’s event again includes three routes — the Piccolo, Medio and Gran Fondos — with lengths ranging from 55, 98 and 150 kms respectively.
A Ride to Remember
And the Fondo's route through ever-changing landscapes offers cyclists a truly outstanding experience they are unlikely to forget.
The ride starts from the Creston & District Community Complex in Creston before ascending north along Highway 3A, overlooking the valley floor's idyllic farms and marshlands before then traversing along the stunningly picturesque East Shore of Kootenay Lake. Depending on which of the rides they participated in, participants then turn around at one of three points along the lake and head back to finish the ride in the Creston Valley. (For detailed route maps check out the Gran Fondo's website here.)
“Cycling up the lake road and back is a remarkable journey — to me, that’s the special part of it,” says committee chair Don Low. “The Gran part of it also goes out into Lister. We’ve had people remark that’s also a beautiful spot to ride.”
As anyone who cycles (or runs or walks) on Creston Valley roads can tell you, the scenery is just the beginning of a wonderful experience. “The traffic is not as heavy as it would be in other areas,” Don says. “There is that rural nature, a slightly-out-of-the-way nature. Also, our relatively pleasant climate makes for some really exceptional riding.”
Back to Full Form
The Creston-Kootenay Lake Gran Fondo was started in 2019 the with the goal of drawing tourists to the area. In its inaugural year, over 120 cyclists from across Canada and the United States took part in the event, with the farthest travelling from Guelph, Ont.
Despite a global pandemic, two-year hiatus and having to reschedule the original May 2022 Fondo due to flood risks, registration for the re-scheduled Oct. 1 date has been strong. Organizers are surprisingly pleased to see that a lot of out-of-town cyclists have signed up again — which means they’ll not get to only enjoy the Creston Valley, but also help to support Rotary Club's community initiatives around the area!
“Our hope is that it will grow so it’s predominantly people from out of the area,” Don says. “We want people to come into the valley, support the Fondo, enjoy the ride and help our Rotary club raise money for our local projects.”
And don't fret if you haven't signed up yet. You're in luck! Latecomers can still register until Sept. 29 by clicking the link here.
Whether you ride in the Gran, Medio or Piccolo Fondo, you’ve earned a treat, so why not swing by one of several fantastic coffee shops downtown? I will strongly recommend the turtle cheesecake bar at Buffalo Trails Coffee House, and the ever-changing selection of decadent Luv at First Bite treats at The Fly in the Fibre is also sure to please! Farther out of town, the Mountain Barn Bakery has also developed a strong following for its incredible cinnamon buns!
Your treat only has to tide you over until dinner — and then the tasty options abound! Whether you’re in the mood for an authentic sushi at Red Fin or Sushi Garden, traditional Indian fare at Memories of Indian Cuisine, a seasonally fresh meal from Real Food Cafe or a stylish dinner at Casey's Community House you’re in luck.
Thirsty after your ride? Post-ride brews at Jimmy's Pub and Wild North Brewing Company will be sure to satisfy . Alternatively sampling some wine from one of Creston's famous wineries might be a great way to relax those exhausted legs.
Retail Therapy and More
Along the ride, it’s easy to spot local farms that are offering seasonal produce, such as apples and pumpkins — and they’re well worth a visit to check out the local bounty. For a sample some of the fruit stands and veggie markets in the area, click here.
And downtown Creston may not be big, but it’s packed with unique shops to explore after the ride, from Tigz Teas (an artisan tea and gift shop) to the Grater Good (a kitchen supply store) to Modern Alchemy/Public Vinyl (yes, a boutique and record store under one roof)! Finally, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts will be sure to find their gear fix at both Summit Cycles & Sports and Elevate Mountain Lifestyles.
The List Goes On
Be sure to check out the rest of our blog section including our fall vacation guide or pickup a copy of our Visitor’s Guide for more ideas to keep you busy while in the Creston Valley — from food to fun, boredom isn’t an option!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.