Race Report: Levi’s Gran Fondo

On Saturday, I attempted Levi’s Gran Fondo, a tough but beautiful 103 mile ride through Sonoma County which boasts a 7,500 rider mass start.  Unfortunately, a combination of poor seeding at the start and being a slow climber resulted in a DNF.  I was pulled from the course at mile 75.  Although I would have preferred to complete the ride, I’m not sad or upset with the end result and overall I had a very positive experience.

If you’re thinking about doing this ride in the future, here are a few things to consider:

Cons…

1.  The mass start is a huge CF.  There were supposed to be signs posted to seed yourself based on average speed, but I couldn’t find them.  You start in a mass of 7,500 riders, but not all of them are experienced cyclists.  The event also has 65-mile and 32-mile routes.  The latter is aimed at encouraging beginners to participate.  I fully support the all-inclusive vibe, but it’s very frustrating to find yourself surrounded by riders that don’t understand the rules of the road.  There were also a few bottlenecks at the beginning of the course that caused us to come to a complete stop for a few minutes at a time.  The ride improved dramatically after the Gran route branched off around the 20-mile mark.

2.  The rural roads of Sonoma County are rough.  Expect to ride over potholes all day.

3.  Cattle grates are everywhere.  A rider in front of me was thrown from his bike when he rode over the grates too fast during a descent.  Don’t make the same mistake.

4. Patrick Dempsey did not ride this year.  Cue sad violin music.

Pros…

1. The level of rider support is amazing.  Rest stops were stocked with cold water, sports drinks, Clif Bars, fresh fruit, candy, snacks, PB&J sandwiches, and my favorite, roasted potatoes.  Highway Patrol officers and SAG vehicles passed by frequently so you will never need to worry about being stranded without help.  A kind CHP officer even rode his motorcycle beside me the all the way down the sketchiest descent of the course.

2.  The scenery is beautiful.  The course covers a wide variety of landscapes.  You start in a shaded redwood forrest, then traverse an exposed ridge with cattle grazing by the road, then ride by some more redwoods before cruising down the Pacific coastline.

3.  They allow rider transfers.  The ride sells out quickly, but they allow riders to transfer their entries.  As you can see from their Facebook page, a lot of people try to unload their entries in the fall.

That’s enough talking for now.  Here are some pretty pictures to look at!

The course elevation profile.  Total gain is approximately 9,000 feet.

The course elevation profile. Total gain is approximately 9,000 feet.

View from the back of the mass start

View from the back of the mass start
Last rest stop before the pain begins

Last rest stop before the pain begins

The view from one of my many breaks on the King Ridge climb

The view from one of my many breaks on the King Ridge climb

Still climbing... and getting pretty lonely

Still climbing… and getting pretty lonely

Cows were everywhere

Cows were everywhere

I told you so!

I told you so!

Getting ready to descend to the ocean

Getting ready to descend to the ocean

Shortly before I was pulled from the road.  Maybe I shouldn't have stopped to take so many pictures...

Shortly before I was pulled from the road. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped to take so many pictures…

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