The Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region on the western-most point of Nova Scotia is home to a vibrant coastal culture of Anglo-Scottish and Acadian French descent. The Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie is Nova Scotia’s first gran fondo and debuted in 2015. The annual event which takes place September 24 and 25 in 2016, gives participants the pleasure of exploring the region.
The three courses on offer bring riders along beautiful rolling coastal and inland roads, passing historic wooden churches and riders will enjoy panoramic views of St. Mary’s Bay. There is the 117-km Gran loop, the 35-km Piccolo Fondo and a 67-km Medio Fondo loop on offer. It is a timed event but is more of a personal challenge and self-paced fun group ride than a race that is open to participants of different levels.
The ride is hosted in the municipal district of Clare, a region rich in Acadian history and culture located along St. Marys Bay. Clare is home to the oldest and one of the largest annual Acadian festivals, the Festival Acadien de Clare. The Musique de la Baie and Les Beaux Vendredis lobster suppers at Belliveau Cove are also cultural events that are unique. The region’s cuisine is also notable with fresh local seafood available and distinctive Acadian dishes like râpure worth trying.
Along the coast, small fishing villages are overlooked by large churches. The course passes through the Pointe-de-l’Église where Église Sainte-Marie is located. It is the largest wooden church in North America with a spire of 56-meters. A chapel was first built on the site in 1774 and construction on the present structure began in 1903. The gran fondo starts at the Vélo Baie Sainte-Marie bike shop in the rural Acadian fishing village of Saulnierville with its wooden church built in 1880. Église Sacré-Coeur has a beautiful view of St. Mary’s Bay and hosts a famous Quilt Expo.
At the Saturday social there will be Acadian musicians, the ‘Baie en Joie dance troupe and during the event participants have the unique choice of pairing dried salted fish with their Gatorade at rest stations.
Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie has given us a top-10 list for reasons why you should check out their event:
- Where else are you going to savour dried fish with Gatorade?
- Get a custom jersey if you register by July 31st
- Practice speaking Acadian French with the locals
- It’s a challenging ride. Who said Clare was flat?
- The spectacular scenery including ocean panoramas, river plains and inland rolling hills
- Meet fellow cycling enthusiasts
- The majestic Mavillette Beach loop
- Experience Acadian hospitality, an infectious community spirit and amazing volunteers.
- Be cheered along the way, enjoy the sounds of cowbells and get treated like a rock star.
- That feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line and then enjoy a great meal including lobster.