Gran Fondo, Great Distance

Gran fondo: long distance or great endurance. Although some may be riding for the satisfaction of completion, others want to improve on previous times, and some to win.  Me, I was going to win.  No, but I was going to soak in the experience.  See what it was all about.  I had no idea I was about to be involved in something so GREAT.

The day finally arrived.  Levi’s Gran Fondo.  A 103m ride throughout Sonoma County.  Up Kings Ridge, down to Jenner, Bodega Bay, then up Coleman Valley. 3500 participants. 600+ volunteers. NorCal. Epic ride. Perfect weather. Add a little VIP status and tons of friends, and the day could not be any better. 

The spirit of the Gran Fondo is what I love the most.  The energy of a little friendly competition, the hard ride ahead, but most of all, everyone arriving to attack relative challenges.  Piccolo Fondo, Medio Fondo, to the Gran Fondo… People were out to challenge themselves, gain fitness and strength, and have fun among like minded people.  Santa Rosa was buzzing with activity.  People flocked into the city to participate in this great event.

I arrived in Santa Rosa Friday afternoon and went to Finley Community Center to register.  I was amazed by the amount of people there already to register.  What a great group!  Although I was stoked I could bypass the line with my special, Levi treated, “VIP status”, it was awesome to see so many people excited to be there.  There are few times in my life I can ever be a VIP, so this was one instance, that I could be.  Thanks, Levi.

I was able to connect with Steve Hed, yes, the Steve Hed.  The man needs no introduction.  He is a true genius.  Not only is he Levi’s and Lance’s aerodynamic expert, he designs the best wheels out there.  HED wheels.  What impresses me the most about Steve is his availability and his knowledge.  Not only is he the best out there, but he makes himself available not only to the top-level pros, the up and comers, but also his clientele.  Call up HED wheels, and talk to Steve.  I will be working with Steve for my TT position and I am honored to be doing so.  He believes in me, in Team TIBCO, and in women’s cycling.  A true great guy.

They invited me to dinner with Levi the night before the Gran Fondo.  It was awesome to be able to connect with some old friends, and to meet some new ones! I strategically wore flats to dinner to take this picture!

Me and Levi

Me and Levi

Nothing can quite descripe the ride besides EPIC.  I have never ridden up in Sonoma County, and the ride was amazing.  Kings Ridge is a brutal stair stepping climb, but the views it offers are spectacular.  I was able to enjoy the ride with 3400 people, ride hard, and still appreciate my surroundings.  The rest stops were fabulous, and the support was flawless.  As we cruised through the county, a helicopter was following us!

I managed to be the first woman to cross the line, but not long after me, was Odessa, Levi’s beautiful wife.  What a great athlete.

After the ride, the expo was full of vendors and food and music to celebrate the day, the accomplishment, and life.  I loved seeing the families come out to the park to enjoy the festivities.  Everyone was a winner and everyone could enjoy the day at the Finley Community Center.

I think this concept of a Gran Fondo, although quite established in Italy, has a huge potential for success in the US.  With someone like Levi supporting the idea, we can’t go wrong.  He is a true champion, and I look forward to being a part of this event in years to come. 

The Group after the Ride

The Group after the Ride, and I am among some LEGENDS

 

See you next year at Levi’s Gran Fondo? ABSOLUTELY! Thank you to all the volunteers and the participants.  Thank you Levi for recognizing female athletes as well.

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