By Amy Krzanik
When I first heard that Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass. would host the Berkshires’ first Farm to Fork Fondo
on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24 I thought, “Sounds great!... wait, what’s a fondo?” If, like me, you’re more of a casual bicycle rider and not a competitive racer, a fondo is taken from the Italian “grand fondo” or “big race.” Like its Italian cousins, this local fondo, organized by Wrenegade Sports, will be a timed race where you choose how far to ride (from 12 to 87 miles).
And the “fork” part? Riders get to stop along the route to sample food from local farms, and are invited to a post-ride barbecue, all on Sunday. An additional Saturday night Meet the Farmers Dinner in the Shaker Village’s 1830 Brick Dwelling dining room is also available.
The event coincides with the Village’s annual Country Fair
, which will include local food and crafts, quilt displays, demonstrations, tours, hikes, chicken races and other kids’ activities, and a performance by The Whiskey Treaty Road Show.
The timing was intentional, says Tyler Wren, a former professional bicyclist, founder of Wrenegade Sports and director of the Fondo. He and the Village have been collaborating closely to bring riders an authentic farm experience. “Every [fondo] is a destination event and has a real tourism impact,” says Wren. “We’re pleased with the turnout; 23 states are represented so far. While they’re in town, we encourage [racers] to patronize local businesses and farms.”
To that end, Wren will get help promoting the region from participating farms and producers such as Hilltop and Bartlett’s orchards, Woven Roots, High Lawn, Wolf Spring, Taft and Colfax farms, Turner Farms maple syrup, and Les Trois Emme Winery. Big Elm is donating a pint to every finisher. Six Depot and Maple Hill Creamery will man Sunday’s pre-race fuel-up station.
The Fondo, which Wren started in 2015, has grown from two races the first year, to six races in its third year. (The race in the Berkshires will have been preceded this year by ones in Pennsylvania, Vermont, the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes region and, this Sunday, in Maine.)
The mission of the series is to “highlight and support the symbiotic relationship between cyclists, farmers and beautiful landscapes.” To meet its goal of supporting farmland preservation, Wren and his team collect donations from sponsoring companies and participants, which they donate to local organizations. Riders get to decide which organizations those are. Last year, Wrenegade gave more than $15,000 to local groups.
Other perks of registering for the ride include on-site local and cycling industry vendors, first aid stations along the route, and a free bicycle skills clinic on Saturday night with six members of the Colavita - Bianchi Professional Women's Cycling Team, who also will ride alongside cyclers in Sunday’s race. But register soon
, because the cap is set at 500 riders and Wren says more than 400 people have already signed up.
Farm to Fork Fondo – Berkshires
Saturday, Sept. 23 & Sunday, Sept. 24 (Race Day)
Hancock Shaker Village
1843 W. Housatonic St., Pittsfield, MA
Prices range from $39.99 for the 12-mile ramble to $418.99 for a first-class, 87-mile race with all meals included.