Gran Fondo riders enjoy a gradual ascent in Castle Valley before they reach the steep incline in the La Sal Mountains. [Tim Guzman/ Courtesy Poison Spider Bikes]

Gran Fondo is Italian for “big ride.”

This Saturday, 350 riders will take the 60 mile big ride with the Gran Fondo Moab.

The route is an incomplete loop that begins at Swanny City Park, travels north toward the Colorado River and then onto State Route 128 for a gentle rolling course toward Castle Valley. The route then makes a steep climb into the La Sal Mountains and ends with a quick drop into Spanish Valley, ending at Old City Park.

“It is very challenging,” said Scott Guzman-Newton, owner of Poison Spider Bicycles. “This route may not be big in distance, but it is truly a memorable ride, if not downright epic.”

One of the most challenging parts of the course is seven miles of steep switchbacks in the La Sal Mountains. That’s complemented by a twenty-two mile descent that includes another set of tight switchbacks.

“Riders should be extremely careful on the descent, looking for wildlife, potholes and loose gravel,” Guzman-Newton said. “This is not where you should plan to make up time for a faster ride.”

Signs are posted on the route to remind riders to use good judgment on the downhill portion of the race.

“We encourage you to ride and race to the high point of the ride at Geyser Pass Road turnoff,” Guzman-Newton said. This point is 42.4 miles from the start of the race. The top five male and female riders will be timed at Geyser Pass Road. The first male and female rider to make it to the high point of the ride will win $100.

Poison Spider Bicycles, owned by Guzman-Newton his wife Karen, has sponsored the race for the last four years.

“We wanted to show our level of commitment to road cycling in the area,” Guzman-Newton said. “The Gran Fondo Moab is one of the best in the country when it comes to a challenging mountain course.”

Guzman-Newton said that they allow a maximum of 400 riders to keep the event small.

“We like the camaraderie riders are able to get from a smaller event,” Guzman-Newton said. “Riders meet one another out on the road and see one another again at lunch and remember their name.”

The race begins with a mass start at 8 a.m.

“This is a mandatory start time to receive timing and support,” Guzman-Newton said.

A lunch begins at noon at the finish line at Old City Park. All racers should be in by 2 p.m., within the six hour window for the ride. An award ceremony and raffle begins at 2:30 p.m.

There are three aid stations are available on the trail. One is about 20 miles from Moab. The second is at the top of the climb. The last aid station is near the event finish.

“There will also be a mobile support for minor bike help,” Guzman-Newton said.

Registration for Gran Fondo 2014 begins in January 1.