9 February 2016
14 May 2017
1. Graduated from the NYU business school, former Wall Street banker and now co-founder and President of the GFNY, how did you get here? Please, tell us your educational and professional path and the way you became the organizer of the GFNY.

LF: I’ve been a runner since I was 11 years old when I decided to join my middle school’s cross country team. I ran for school cross country and track teams until I graduated from NYU with a BA in Economics in 2002.

Because I didn’t know any running programs outside of school, I joined a gym and started doing strength and spin classes before and after work. I was working long hours for Merrill Lynch in a stressful job in investment banking, but the job wasn’t personally rewarding to me. I started thinking about going to business school to further my career to a role that maybe had more seniority and maybe felt more rewarding.

In one of the spin classes, a few people told me they were doing St Croix triathlon. I bought a road bike and tried to learn how to swim and registered for the 2005 St Croix. It was my first of many triathlons and I spent the time outside of work swimming, cycling or running.

In 2007, I started business school with the intent to go back to Wall Street to a sales & trading desk in Emerging Markets or Foreign Exchange. I thought that transferring to a desk that worked in global issues within finance would make the job more interesting to me. Half way through, I did a summer internship in EM at Deutsche Bank and was really disappointed that even EM or FX jobs weren’t as personally fulfilling as I had hoped they would be. I spent the next semester in study exchange in Shanghai and decided then that I couldn’t force myself to go back to finance.

After earning my MBA from NYU Stern, I was working as COO of a holdings company that owned several sports products and services companies. I learned about opening, managing and helping grow small businesses. At that same time, I met my husband Uli while on a run in Central Park.

That winter Uli told me about granfondo in Italy. We wondered why there wasn’t a cycling marathon in NYC. We made plans for a trip to see his family for the spring and he also registered us for Gran Fondo Stockalper. Stockalper was the hardest experience on a bike I’ve ever had. I loved it and Uli and I decided we must bring granfondo to NYC. A week later I quit my job and started working on obtaining permits and organizing Gran Fondo New York.
2. You weren’t just a former business woman but also an athlete – 7 time Ironman Hawaii finisher- please tell us something about your sport path.

I’ve been a competitive athlete since the age of 11. From my first cross country meet in middle school to triathlons to granfondo, I’ve raced hundreds of races. I love to toe the start line and get the chance to test myself physically and mentally. Endurance sport isn’t just about physical fitness, it’s also about mental strength in overcoming the hard moments during a race. I love the struggle and ultimately battling through it and getting to the finish line. It’s a really satisfying feeling.

3. What do you mean to be the organizer of a big competition like GFNY? Which are your responsibilities?

LF: My husband Uli and I are the co-organizers of GFNY. We have a fantastic partnership because the things that he’s good at and likes to do are things that I’m not so good at. And things that I like to do, he doesn’t like as much. We have some crossover and share that work, but our jobs are also quite divided by our strengths.

I’m mostly focused on organizing and managing the logistics of our race and business things. Uli’s focus is on the communication and with him being a contract lawyer also our contracts and legal things. But we also ask for and give each other input into the other’s work. When we’re on bike rides, we often talk about ideas for GFNY or what’s happening in cycling, whether pro teams, amateur events, new products, new apparel, companies, acquisitions, partnerships, governing bodies, etc.

4. The GFNY is a famous competition, how has the gran fondo has become a series and a successful brand?

LF: Each year, after the end of our race, we were getting messages from our participants like: “That was so fun, can we do that again next weekend?” People wanted to get the GFNY experience again, but the magnitude of not only the logistics, but also the coordination with municipalities to make the event possible was tremendous. It’s not something that we can repeat more than once per year.

Just after our 2013 edition, we started getting inquiries also from race organizers to partner with us. Not just to link each other’s websites or put a banner at each other’s expos, but to copy the GFNY experience to other locations. We started with Italy and shortly thereafter added Cozumel. We continue receiving requests from organizers to organize GFNY World events and evaluate each proposal closely.

Our main focus for anything relating to GFNY is if we’ll like it ourselves as cyclists and event participants. This focus on the positive experience and quality drives our decisions in all we do at GFNY.

5. Biemme – Essence of Cycling, one of the major players in the field of technical clothing for cycling, is sponsor of the GFNY, how was the collaboration born?

LF: An Italian friend of ours presented GFNY to Biemme’s founder, Maurizio Bertinato back in 2010. We didn’t immediately start working together, but kept in touch over the years. When our apparel partnership with a different brand wasn’t working out, we set up a meeting at Biemme in the summer of 2012.

That was a hot day and a long meeting but it was a great meeting. We liked Maurizio Bertinato, he’s very passionate about apparel and has been in cycling for decades. We discussed fabrics and cuts for the GFNY jersey and other GFNY apparel items. We looked at prototypes that Biemme was working on. After the meeting we had a few samples to test, which we loved. It was an easy decision to partner with Biemme.

6. What are the reasons why you chose Biemme as sponsor of the GFNY World series? And why did you choose an Italian brand?

LF: Italy is at the forefront of cycling apparel. The country has an incredible passion for cycling, not just professional cycling but also a rich tradition of amateur cycling. Italy is the mother country of granfondo. Apparel companies from around the world send us samples of their products in the hopes of switching to their brand. Apparel from other countries is not as advanced as in Italy, with either the fabric, cut or sewing.

Biemme offers high quality apparel. And it constantly innovates new products by experimenting with new fabrics, padding and cuts. It’s exciting for us to visit Biemme each summer to plan next year’s race apparel because there is always some new fabric to test, whether it’s the new vest and wind jacket fabric we produced already for GFNY Italia 2015 or the all-new ceramic fabric bib short for GFNY NYC 2016.

Here is a blog post we recently wrote about how we choose the GFNY jersey:

7. Now we talk about numbers. How many athletes take part at the GFNY World series? Which is the most popular race of the circuit?

LF: By now, we’ve had 50,000 GFNY World participants. About 20,000 participants are going to take part in GFNY World races in the 2016-2017 season. Right now GFNY World is growing, and each GFNY World event is growing and the number of GFNY World events is growing.

The largest of the GFNY World is the NYC Championship race, with 5,000 cyclists from over 70 countries taking part. It’s also the world’s most international race with 40% of participants traveling from abroad to take part.

That’s a lot of Biemme jerseys - and other apparel - being worn by people around the world. And this is among our favorite things about GFNY and GFNY apparel. We can be anywhere in the world and we bump into someone wearing a GFNY jersey or bib short or wind jacket and it’s always an exciting and proud feeling that of all the clothing available, this person chose to wear GFNY.