So I rode in a timed Gran Fondo
The Tour de Waterloo, in beautiful SW Ontario. This was a timed "race", with a laminated number board containing a timing chip that you ziptied to the front of your bike.
There was 50km, 70km and 130 km, and I did the 130 km. The route intentionally hit every local hill (but this is southern Ontario, so they're generally short sharp hills).
Not sure about the experience. I finished close to last at a respectable (to me) 24.9 km/hr. Perhaps the timed aspect of the race changed the atmosphere, but it seemed pretty tense, with no socializing at all at rest stops, for example. Seemed to be very few people doing the 130 km just happy to finish the distance...people were there for speed. Maybe all the socializing was on the 50k and 70k distances.
Anyway, I'm considering doing an organized 160 km ride late July (the tour de norfolk, which should be flatter). However, after this past weekend's experience, I just feel like riding solo now.
At least the number board is proudly mounted on my son's BMX bike.