COLUMBUS GROVE — Raymond Harner has been a disciplined cyclist since he was 13.
Growing up, and to this day, he has always said his favorite place in the world is Italy.
On Sunday, Harner will be able to combine his two loves when he races in the Granfondo, a 95-mile race through the Alps that more than 2,500 people race in. The ride will begin and end in Marostica, Italy.
“My goal is to ride this thing in under seven hours and to come back alive,” Harner joked. “I will take it easy going down the hills. There are six mountain passes that I’ll be going through. The Alps are really steep and your bike can get over 60 miles per hour. Your wheels have to be true and your brakes have to be in good working order.”
Harner owns and operates CG Pro Bikes in Columbus Grove. He and his wife go to Las Vegas every year for a Fizik Factory convention.
“Since we carry the Fizik brand saddles and handmade racing shoes, the ones made out of kangaroo leather, we got our name with them and they invited me to along,” Harner said. “If you placed an order, they put your name in a drawing and they pulled our name out. So my wife and I will leave on Friday and the race is Sunday. We also get to tour the Fizik factory on Monday.”
Harner got into racing bikes at a young age when he and his brother spent much of their time outside riding.
“It all started when my brother, and I would go and help my dad with his job as a brick mason,” Harner said. “I got strong from riding all of the time, and I got this book on a 10 speed. I learned how to shift gears and from then on out it was like total freedom. I was able to ride anywhere.”
When Harner was 13, he competed in the Midwest Double Century in Wapak. The goal was to ride 200 miles in one day.
“I rode the first 100 miles in six hours and 20 minutes,” Harner said. “The second half was a little more difficult. I actually stopped and ate for two hours. The whole ride took me a little over 16 hours.”
Because Italy is the site of this weekend’s race, Harner is on cloud nine.
“This is a lifelong dream for me,” Harner said. “I’ve gone through some tough things in my life and this is almost like a second chance for me. Italy is my favorite place and they make the best bikes. This is special for my wife and I to go through. I am very excited.”