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Getting the most out of the Mammoth Gran Fondo

Neil Shirley shares his tips on getting the best out of the Mammoth Gran Fondo

Register Now for the 2017 Mammoth Gran Fondo

For anyone making their first trip to the Mammoth Gran Fondo, the thought “What did I get myself into?” is a rather reasonable question when driving along the Highway 395 corridor that leads to the town of Mammoth Lakes. The mighty Sierra Nevada range that jet up from the Owens Valley floor can be slightly unnerving for even the most gifted of climbers.

Yet, one of the reasons that Mammoth Lakes has become an ideal altitude training location is the fact that in addition to the nearly limitless climbing possibilities, the surrounding area has an abundance of flat and rolling terrain that provide a wealth of riding options. It’s this diverse terrain and nearly car-free roads that has helped land the Mammoth Gran Fondo on my calendar for the past four years.

I’ve personally spent quite a bit of time riding in the area, yet I had never ventured onto many of the best roads used in the Mammoth Gran Fondo due to the fact that finding a convenience store for a water refill and a bite to eat isn’t exactly in the cards. Taking that worry out of the equation opened up an entirely new world of riding on roads with some of the most panoramic views imaginable.

Once rolling out of Mammoth Lakes at the start, the 102-mile loop goes by June Lake, Mono Lake, and out to the east going through rural Benton’s Crossing. The course itself features a total of 6,400 feet of climbing for the 102-mile route and rather than one or two major climbs making up that elevation, it’s a much more manageable dose of two- to three-mile climbs that are spread throughout the route.

Honestly though, there hasn’t been a single year I’ve rolled back across the finish line and thought, “Wow, that was easy”. Not even close. Once you factor in the altitude, mileage and nominal amount of climbing there are no fresh legs back at the finish in Mammoth Lakes.

Over the years attending the Mammoth Gran Fondo I’ve learned a few things along the way, so below are five tips that could maximize your time in Mammoth Lakes.  

1 - Arrive early

Take part in Ride To Thrive Friday morning at 8:30 where a number of current/former pro riders and coaches will be on hand for a panel discussion followed by a 19- or 41-mile ride. Learn about pacing strategies, nutrition, and any other questions you might have. It’s a free event open to anyone registered for the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

2 - Bring the family 

While I spend most of Saturday on the bike, my family has enjoyed venturing to the top of Mammoth Mountain on the gondola, a trip to Devil’s Postpile, and a hike along Lake Mary in years past. There’s no shortage of family-friendly activities to do in the area.

3 - Test yourself.

Remember, unless you’re from high altitude, things aren’t going to feel quite the same when riding around Mammoth Lakes. That’s okay, most of us are in the same boat. Keep in mind that going redline early on in the ride could diminish the overall enjoyment. I suggest riding within yourself on the first couple climbs until reaching the King/Queen of the Mountain at the 67-mile point, then give it your best effort on the 1.6-mile timed section. It’s a fun way to test yourself without pushing the limits early in the day.

4 - Dress accordingly

Be ready for a wild temperature swing between the start to the finish. There have been years I would have paid any price asked for a jacket when descending out of town at the start where temps can be as low as the upper 30s. Things warm up fairly quickly, but having a light jacket that can fit into your jersey pocket is priceless.

5 - Find your group

Unless you really want to enjoy solitude during the ride, be sure to reap the benefits of increased speed and energy conservation a larger group can offer. The nature of the course provides a lot of opportunities for groups to form between the climbs. If a number of riders are just behind you at the summit of a climb, take the opportunity to eat and drink while waiting for the group to catch you. Any energy you can save by being efficient throughout the day will be more than welcome on the 4-mile climb back up to the finish.

Save 15% off registration!

To celebrate getting the most out of the Mammoth Gran Fondo by Neil Shirley, you can save 15% on registration if you enter this week (Sun August 20th to Friday August 25th). Please hurry as this is a limited lifetime offer! 

Use Code : MAMMOTH15 on checkout. Click the button below to register.

For full information about Mammoth Mountain, visit

Neil Shirley shares his tips on getting the best out of the Mammoth Gran Fondo