At the start of the summer I had signed Roanne and myself up for the King Ridge Gran Fondo, put on by Levi Leipheimer in his hometown of Santa Rosa, California. The event offers a choice of distances ranging from 40km to 165km, but needless to say I signed both of us up for the long one. It would be a bit of a stretch for Roanne since she had never ridden over 100km on her bike, but I was confident that she could handle it.
Roanne had a work trip to Asia come up in mid September that almost kiboshed her participation, but she was able to arrange her travel so that she flew directly from Tokyo to San Francisco on Friday where I met her with our bikes (Ritchey Breakaway travel bikes, with Roanne's having been built up just a few days prior). We headed north toward Santa Rosa, and after some hotel problems (not worth going into, but low marks on customer service for Holiday Inn Express) we finally landed at a really nice place called the Vintner's Inn that was about 8km outside of Santa Rosa. Highly recommended if anyone is going to be in Santa Rosa! After building the bikes up and a short test ride we headed into town to register and pick up our race packets:
We then grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hotel for an early night. We rose bright and early the next morning and pedaled the 8km to the race start where we saw large numbers (7,500 to be exact) of cyclists lined up and ready to go:
We rolled back down the line and did our best to slot ourselves in, here is a shot of us getting excited for the start:
And here is the view looking forward, that is a lot of people!
The gun fired and people started to roll out, though it wasn't until a minute or two had passed that we started moving. We started easy since it was going to be a long day in the saddle, and before long we were at the first food station where they had a lot of delicious snacks. Soon after some of the climbing started (with almost 9,000 feet of climbing in total for the day), and though I had commited to being Roanne's domestique for the day (after all, I was the one who had convinced her she should do it) I would roll ahead on the climbs and then wait at the top.
Santa Rosa is generally a sunny place, but apparently the one day of rain per year had been scheduled for the Gran Fondo because as we started to climb up to King Ridge it became quite cold and rainy. I moved ahead on the climb as usual, and then paused to wait at a rest stop. Roanne was taking a long time to arrive so I began to get worried but soon after she rolled in, having flatted on the climb and not had a tube since I was carrying them. Bad domestique! From this point on we decided we had better ride together.
The rest of the ride went well, with it warming up a bit as we descended from King Ridge though still being on and off rain. Here is Roanne dancing on the pedals up the last significant climb of the day:
We finally rolled across the finish line at around 5:45, just short of 10 hours from when the gun had gone off at 8am that morning. We had spent a fair bit of time stopped at the feed stations so we were probably on the bikes for about 8 hours. Here we are happy to be done:
After some delicious dinner we rolled the 8km back to the hotel for a total of 181km ridden on the day. Not bad!
Here is a link to our GPS track:
After a well-earned sleep we spent the next day exploring Santa Rosa, including the local history museum which happened to have a bicycle exhibit going on:
It was a great event, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to ride some really fun roads and eat some great food with a lot of fellow cyclists.
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