The time has come, writer’s block has left me and now I’m going to tell you all about J.A.M and the Grand Fundo!
I know you’re all thinking, “Oh, oh, oh, I’ve done a Gran Fondo, I don’t want to read about that.” But wait! This wasn’t a Fondo. What I’m talking about is a FUNdo!! For the people that missed my crazed social media blitz about the Fundo, it was a fundraiser for a newly formed fund my friends and I created called “J.A.M” (Jeremy, Alec, & Mukunda).
The story goes back to 2002, when I moved to Western Massachusetts from Connecticut to go to college and because of all the amazing cycling resources in the Pioneer Valley. Some of the first guys I met up here would soon become my good friends: Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman. They basically became my “brothers from another mother.” They took me under their wings and helped me get my start in competitive road racing and life outside of my parents’ house.
At the time I met them I was 19, a first year pro mountain biker and I didn’t like ‘roadies’ … I was a mountain biker! Although I did have a road bike (for training) and dabbled in a couple road races (for training!). Before I met them, I didn’t have much passion for road racing. One year later, I was racing for Jelly Belly as a pro roadie, go figure. You could say Al and Mukunda helped me get that done because they made the racing and travel to the races fun and low pressure and taught me countless lessons every weekend from the front seat of Al’s Ford Taurus, to and from the New England races.
Recently, I turned 27 and this is my seventh season with Jelly Belly P/B Kenda as a pro ROAD racer. The guys don’t have to help me as much as they used to, but that help and attention they gave me didn’t stop, it continued on in various forms. In one way or another, we’ve all been helping to develop cycling talent in the Pioneer Valley and creating J.A.M was about putting a name to what we’ve been doing for the last few years. For example, you’ve read about my exploits with Anthony Clark, the young rider I found while I was doing intervals last winter. Mukunda owns, races for and manages a New England development team, Wheelhouse/NCC racing P/B Kenda. Alec also races for and co-manages Wheelhouse racing, coaches several collegiate cycling teams in the Pioneer Valley and is a board member of the NCC (Northampton Cycling Club).
So through those and a lot of other avenues, we all end up bringing riders to the group rides like dogs to a pound and every year we see the same trend. Lots of new riders trying to make it, their equipment and riding gear is constantly broken, their bike fit is atrocious and after a little help, we start seeing the shine in them, like a diamond in the rough. It takes a lot to be a great cyclist, but those little things I just mentioned can derail these riders from ever even making it to the races on the weekends or just seeing the fun in it at all.
So one of the core missions of J.A.M is to eliminate bunk, beat equipment and gear by offering a place where everyone can come “JAM” out, work on their bikes and make them run correctly through a community workstation/office. We’re going to have some partners help us provide equipment, clothing and gear as the program grows and we’re also looking forward to having the riders in for monthly meetings to talk about training, racing, nutrition and general know-how to help them to keep climbing up the totem pole.
Now that the idea and mission was in place, we figured out how we were going to fund J.A.M. Enter, The Grand Fundo.
The Grand Fundo route started out as a project for me this spring when I was riding base miles. Over the years I’ve gotten into this Indiana Jones exploration phase where I try to constantly change it up and explore different roads and routes. This route in particular, the first time I rode it, I knew it was one of the best rides I’d done in Western Massachusetts. Fewer than ten cars passed me on a four-hour ride, it had hard climbs, dirt roads and amazing views! I took my friends on it, we got to talking about how we could fund J.A.M and the Grand Fundo ride was born.
We thought people would be excited to come out and pay for an awesome ride, support the ideas behind J.A.M and in turn we knew we could give them a great day of riding, food and fun! ! So I invited some of my racing pals for a little fan-fare and they came out! Tim Johnson and his wife Lyne Besette, my Jelly Belly/Kenda teammate Brad Huff, my ‘cross teammate Jamey Driscoll and Eric Shildge from Mountain Khakis all rode the Fundo!
The whole ride start-to-finish turned out to be bigger then we expected: tons of riders, family and friends came out to ride in the first Grand Fundo in Southampton, Massachusetts, on July 17th. Over 140 riders registered and at 10 am off we went. The route had 20 miles of maintained dirt roads, which was combated by a SRAM car to help fix flats; we had two rest stops, one of which was an “ice cream truck” rest stop (yes it was awesome). Afterwards we had a huge tent set up overlooking Mount Tom, a pig roast dinner, delicious beer from a local brewery, High and Mighty, and a raffle afterwards to support Pedro’s and IMBA to save mountain biking trails across the country.
Everything ran smooth as silk; nobody that was involved in the Fundo really slept much in the days leading up to it. Overall it was an amazing experience and I’m blown away that so many people took the time out of their weekend to come spend it with us. Brad Huff, Tim Johnson, Lyne Bessette, Jamey Driscoll, Lyne from PodiumInsight, the Wheelhouse racing team, countless friends, family members and riding buddies who helped make it happen, thank you to you all. And to everyone that came out to ride and donated to us, thank you for making it a day that will be hard to forget, see you all next year at the Grand Fundo!