If you take your cycling pretty seriously but don't care to risk life and limb banging elbows in high-speed bike races, the gran fondo could be what you've been looking for. Often translated from Italian as “long distance” or “great endurance,” the gran fondo is a mass-start, long-distance event. Typically, everyone gets a timing chip and a custom jersey, and there are prizes for the top finishers across several categories.
The best fondos are well organized, with closed roads, mechanical support, and food-and-drink refueling stations along the route—not to mention a well-earned, delicious meal at the finish. Fondos are competitive, yes, but not the way bike races are. They're more like tough but fun group rides; more challenging than centuries, where you can noodle along for a hundred miles, stopping randomly for no particular reason (more Instagrams!).
Not that you can't do those things during a fondo; some do. But fondos are ridden at a much more challenging clip and require solid all-around fitness to finish within the given time cut, if any, or in your personal-best time.
Here are ten of the best from across the country. They vary in distance, difficulty, popularity, and price, but each is well worth considering.