Here's an amusing but fun idea: take the Italian Gran Fondo mass start bike races and bring it to America as a charity ride.
Italian Gran Fondo rides are mass start bike races that mix pros, licensed amateurs like you and weekend warriors like me and put them on a pro racing style course, complete with road closures, police escorts, photographers on motorcycles, feed stations, fans on the sidelines, and apres bike food and drink on a grand scale.
There have already been Gran Fondo style bike rides in the United States, and the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge Gran Fondo around Santa Rosa is even a fundraiser to help the city of Santa Rosa pay expenses related to its annual hosting of the Tour of California.
The Echelon Gran Fondo aims to Americanize this Italian tradition by combining the Gran Fondo with the American charity ride. Cyclists register for the "big ride" and raise funds for a local charity. Unlike a typical charity ride, licensed racers can compete for prizes, and Echelon organizers promise "epic courses" ranging from 30 to 100 miles and "the pageantry of the Tour de France" on roads with rolling road closures, police escort, feed stations and even motorcycle photographers.
The first ride in the Echelon Gran Fondo series takes place May 23, 2010 in Napa, California, with the next beginning in Portland, Oregon.