Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo – Oct 3, 2009

GPS Levi RouteLevi decided it would be a good idea to stage a ride similar to an Italian Gran Fondo.  I’ve ridden in two Gran Fondos in Italy and for the most part he and his crew did a decent job.  It’s pretty much impossible to replicate a Gran Fondo in a U.S. town since nearly the entire population of the Italian town gets involved one way or another.   Besides the mass involvement of the local populace, Gran Fondos are hardcore one-day races.  Levi’s Gran Fondo was a bike ride and not a race.  But it was a lot of fun.

One of my good friends, Ken (Mr Fixie) Emerson, drove another good friend Steve (Mr GPS) Saeedi and me up to Santa Rosa the afternoon before the ride so we could register and get a good night’s sleep.  At the registration area the similarities to a Gran Fondo became evident with several tents with good deals on bikes, biking gear, and nutrition items.

After a nice meal at Luigi’s (I had my favorite spaghetti & meatballs), we headed back to the hotel for another restless night before a big ride; I can never sleep well before a ride.  That morning we biked the two miles over the ride start where Ken met up with at least 50 people who know him from hither and yon.  That guy knows more people than I’ll ever meet.

Next came more Gran Fondofication: a mass start of 3500 riders through the streets of Santa Rosa.  The Gran Fondo (135 miles), Medio Fondo (60 miles), and Piccolo Fondo (35 miles) riders were all launched at the same time which led to massive traffic jams on the streets of that fair city.  I looked for letters to the editor in the local paper Sunday and Monday but noone complained.

I was glad to be riding the Medio Fondo since I had another 140 miles planned the rest of the week-end.  It was a great ride from Santa Rosa along the Russian River, out to the coast, and back to the city.  Levi does train on some beautiful roads.  Ken and Steve rode the Gran Fondo with the big boys and girls so I didn’t see them after the start.

Back at race central there were hundreds of people, food galore, a band, along with rows and rows of tents with even more goodies for sale than the night before.  At an Italian Gran Fondo that kind of activity goes on all week prior to the race but not much English is spoken.  Saturday, I didn’t hear a word of Italian besides Gran, Medio, Piccolo, and Fondo.

After my “free” lunch I hopped on my bike to ride 40 miles down to Novato to meet up with some folks for a Sunday ride down to San Jose, only another 105 miles.  A fun week-end on the bike.  Photos here.

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