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Postcard: Taking on the South Dakota Gran Fondo
Vistas of rolling hills will be part of the scenery during the South Dakota Gran Fondo this August. Photo courtesy Mike Knutson

Postcard: Taking on the South Dakota Gran Fondo

Vistas of rolling hills will be part of the scenery during the South Dakota Gran Fondo this August. Photo courtesy Mike Knutson

By Mike Knutson

I always wanted to ride in the Tour de Kota, the epic five-day biking tour of the rolling prairies of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, but I never felt like I was in good enough shape to complete it. Last year, I took the step of training for the Watertown Century ride. After completing the 100-mile ride, I bragged to friends for months about my feat. With some continued training, the Tour de Kota seemed within my grasp.

Then I heard the Tour de Kota had been canceled. Disappointed, I started looking for a ride in a different state—after all, I could only keep talking up my Watertown Century accomplishment for so long. And it had been fun—it was pretty cool that I met people from California, Minneapolis, and the District of Columbia on the ride.

Then my local bicycle club stepped up to the plate. Its members began talking about turning our Watertown Century ride into the South Dakota Gran Fondo. Initially, I was a bit skeptical. Why would anyone pay $90 for a one-day ride in northeastern S.D.?

Ah, but a gran fondo is no ordinary ride, they explained.

According to Bicycle Magazine, Gran Fondo is an Italian “big ride” that resembles a party on wheels. In Europe, small towns along the ride close down for a celebration as riders pass through.

In most cases, gran fondo’s are designed for all levels of riders. Our South Dakota Gran Fondo offers three rides: the Gran Fondo (104 miles), the Medio Fondo (68 miles), and the Piccolo Fondo (33 miles). Registration fees vary by distance.

What really makes the event different from a typical ride is the food and entertainment. Riders who make it to town Friday evening will enjoy South Dakota wine and
cheese reception at the Terry Redlin Art Center. On the day of the ride, it’s all about the food. Riders will start out with a breakfast packed with lots of energy. On the route, organizers have arranged local foods like SDSU ice cream, “personal” pies from the Bird Feeder in Twin Brooks, and homemade donuts from the LaBolt Café, and pulled pork and cheese in Milbank by Valley Queen Cheese, just to name a few.

What I’m looking forward to the most, however, is Post Ride Festival, to be held at the City Park on Lake Kampeska. Open to the public, the event offers a meal
featuring more South Dakota foods and beverages, a band, and other entertainment. Everything is included in the registration fee.

Although I couldn’t complete the Gran Fondo if I were to try today, I’m confident I will get there by Aug. 17. My bigger concern will be that I burn off more calories on the ride than I eat that weekend.

Mike Knutson is a facilitator and community coach through his consulting business, MAK(e) Strategies, in Watertown, S.D.


Bringing riders to South Dakota

For more details about the Gran Fondo, visit

A major emphasis of the South Dakota Gran Fondo is to create an event that draws riders to South Dakota. But it’s not the only ride that meets this bill. People looking to ride across South Dakota should check out the Faces to the Falls ride (early June). And endurance riders may consider the Gut Check 212, 412-mile race on Hwy 212 from the SD/WY border to the SD/MN border.


Send us your Postcard

In each issue of Dakotafire and regularly online at, we will feature a “Postcard”—a short, evocative story about an event, person or place, written as if you were telling the story to a friend. Some ideas: hunting stories, the highlight of a big basketball game, or a moment in history. Story must have a photo to accompany it. Digital images (a minimum of 1000 pixels wide) are preferred; you can also send a photo by mail. E-mail submissions to heidi [at], or mail to
Dakotafire Media, Postcard Submission, PO Box 603, Frederick, SD 57441.

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